ORLANDO, Fla. – A little bit of Gruden might do Robert Griffin III a lot of good.
New Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden is likeable like his older brother, Jon. He's upbeat like the famous "Monday Night Football" commentator. But there's little of the fire and bluster, little of the tense edge that gave Jon Gruden his "Chucky" reputation.
That could be perfect for Washington's franchise quarterback.
"When the rush comes," the new coach said here Wednesday at the NFL owners meetings, "I would never, ever stop him from running."
Gruden has spoken about trust in his public comments about Griffin so far, and it's clear trust was lacking between the quarterback and former coach Mike Shanahan. Both Griffin and Shanahan acted like they knew better – and were bent on proving it. Gruden, a former quarterback, may very well know better than RG3. He certainly doesn't come off that way. He wants Griffin to "relax and play."
"It's just his third year in the league," Gruden said. "He's not going to be perfect on every throw."
It might be jarring to think of Griffin as someone who needs a calming influence since he comes across as so cool and collected. Gruden, however, sees his quarterback as a passer who "sometimes puts too much pressure on himself." Gruden wants to take some of that off.
It's not as if Griffin has shied away from pressure – he seems to love it – but that doesn't mean it's always healthy. Gruden, oddly, has a way of deflecting attention despite his famous name and his extremely famous new franchise. While Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly was ringed with reporters and cameras at his breakfast Wednesday, Gruden sat with a few local writers and spoke with a ready grin. It's impossible to think of Shanahan getting so little fanfare.
Gruden has a way of brushing off flammable topics. He assured reporters about Griffin's health – "his knee is stronger" – and told a story about the time it took to rehab his own knee injury as a quarterback. He said his biggest fear about Griffin is "not finding anything he can't do." Most people's biggest fear is that No. 10 is going to get demolished in the pocket and miss the whole season.
Asked what Griffin's primary goal for the season should be, Gruden said, "Trying to figure out ways to win and score touchdowns. That should be his only focal point."
That's coachspeak, but it beats the Shanahan-speak of before, which was abstruse, fodder for intrigue. With Shanahan, it felt like every little development meant something big. With Gruden, it feels like big things don't really mean much. Will he wear a brace? Eh, doesn't matter.
Skeptics (and Shanahan supporters) might argue that the last thing Griffin needs is coddling and enabling. There were reports last season about the quarterback bragging about his close relationship with team owner Daniel Snyder, which probably rankled a few of his teammates. Shanahan said he regretted giving Griffin extra leeway in the January 2013 playoff game in which the quarterback shredded his knee ligaments and still tried to play through it. Now Griffin has his own quarterbacks coach, who is the head coach, and who is trying to make him as comfortable as possible.
But that's how star quarterbacks are treated. Griffin is a star, and one who rushed back from a serious injury to play most of the 2013 before being shelved by Shanahan. The third year is traditionally a good thing for young talents (see: Newton, Cam). The game will likely slow down for him. Gruden called Griffin's perfectionism "a heck of a problem to have."
So if Griffin is as hard on himself as Gruden says, he won't take a mile when given an inch.
Unless he's scrambling.
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