About a Talented Quarterback and a Talented Writer

By Jack Limpert

There’s a lot of sports buzz in Washington about Robert Griffin III: Is the talented quarterback the main cause of the Redskins’ problems? After Sunday’s 27-7 loss to hapless Tampa Bay, Griffin made the mistake of seeming to blame his Redskin teammates, and the Washington Post sports section has been full of analysis and speculation. Hidden away in a short piece on page two was this assessment of Griffin from legendary quarterback Steve Young:

“I’ve talked to his previous coaches, people I really trust and admire, that know quarterbacks,” Young said. “He doesn’t put the time in.”

Translation: He’s got a lot of talent and he thinks that’s all you need to be successful.

As an editor, I knew a few writers with the same problem. The prime example: The guy came to the Washingtonian after writing some high-profile newspaper stories and he wrote the smoothest prose of anyone I ever edited—it just flowed. His stories were good and he created talk. But I always felt that we were selling the reader short, that under the smoothness and flow there wasn’t all that much real content.

One day I went to his office and before I walked in the door I heard him on the phone: “Yeah, it’s going okay. I’m pretty much on cruise control.”

I came back a few minutes later and we talked and I didn’t mention my eavesdropping. But it stung. Most of us were working hard to make the magazine a success and our most talented writer was on cruise control.

I didn’t try to change him. He was a successful writer. At his college paper, he likely had been a superstar and he’d been hired by a big paper and done well. But he’d been on cruise control long enough that I didn’t think I could light a fire under him.

Was it a mistake not to push him? Maybe. But we were both middle-aged, experienced journalists and I thought he was set in his ways. I always thought writers could learn and people could change but only to a point.

The naturally gifted quarterback who doesn’t put in the time? Maybe he’s young enough to change.

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