The Washington Redskins had to hire a coach who can turn Robert Griffin III into a superstar quarterback. They've invested a ton into Griffin, he has unbelievable talent, and if there's a reason for long-term hope in the franchise, it's RG3.
The team hired Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden to be its next head coach. And, via NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Griffin is putting out the word that he hopes Gruden's offense doesn't feature more of him running the read option. That was former coach Mike Shanahan's base offense the last two years with Griffin.
From what I’m told, RGIII wants to play in a pro-style offense, rather than run read-option plays all the time. Should work with Jay Gruden
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 9, 2014
There are a lot of different layers to that report.
Griffin's camp put some pressure on Shanahan and the Redskins before, mostly regarding public revelations about their strained relationship. Gruden hadn't even been officially announced by the Redskins before Griffin's desire for a new offense was reported. This didn't necessarily come from Griffin or anyone close to him, considering Rapoport doesn't say who his sources are, but it's interesting that it came out so quickly.
The other obvious question is how successful Griffin can be in a conventional offense. Nobody is saying Griffin doesn't have the skills or the acumen to be in a pro-style offense, but he hasn't done it. Let's revisit what NFL Films' Greg Cosell said about Griffin and his development in a post last season:
"When it (read option) doesn’t work, you need to have a drop-back passing game that isn’t dependent on deception, but route combinations in which the quarterback uses progression reading. If it's man coverage, work this side of the field. If it's zone, work that side of the field. That is basic NFL drop-back passing.
"Griffin is more than capable of doing this. I’m not suggesting he’s not. The Redskins just haven’t done it. Then when you get in a game in which he has to be a drop-back passer, he struggles. That came to fruition last week at Philadelphia.
"This is not an indictment of Griffin's career. His skills are not even in question. But he hasn’t developed the subtle pocket skills that are necessary to become a high quality NFL quarterback on a week-to-week basis. It's a disciplined craft position and you’re going to need to be able to do a lot of things. You’re going to need to progression read and work the pocket. Griffin is not good at working the pocket to buy time. He either throws it, or the throw’s not there he leaves.
"It’s understandable. It’s like what 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is going through. Griffin is not well schooled in the concepts of an NFL passing game. This is perfectly normal, because he's a young quarterback. And he missed an entire offseason. Nobody should be surprised."
To go away from the read option would be interesting. Griffin was spectacularly effective in that offense in 2012, winning NFL offensive rookie of the year. The Redskins won the NFC East. Then he hurt his knee in a playoff game at the end of that season, and missed an entire offseason of development. The Redskins returned in 2013 with a similar, basic offense and it didn't work as well. Also, running the read option puts Griffin, who has had two major knee surgeries, at more risk of getting hurt.
In response to a general question about the trust between coach and quarterback, Gruden sounded ready to work with Griffin.
"As long as he's working his butt off, I will provide him with everything he needs to be successful, and I will give him with every avenue," Gruden said in his introductory press conference. "If he doesn't like a play, I'm not going to call a play. I'm going to make sure he's comfortable with everything we're doing so he can go out and game day and succeed."
Assuming the report is legitimate and Gruden doesn't want to alienate his star quarterback as soon as he starts his new job, the Redskins will have a more conventional offense for Griffin to run. And Gruden's success or failure as a NFL coach will be largely determined by how successful Griffin is in that kind of system.
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