Greg Cosell’s Film Review: Robert Griffin III still has improvement to make as a quarterback

Shutdown Corner

My comments this week that Tampa Bay's Mike Glennon is a more advanced NFL quarterback than Washington's Robert Griffin raised some eyebrows, but there's a lot more to it than the one quote.

Remember, before last year's draft, I said I liked Griffin a little more than Andrew Luck as a prospect. Griffin has a strong and mostly accurate arm. There’s nothing wrong with the way he throws the football. The issue he has faced is mastering the subtle nuance of the position. That is not surprising considering he played in a spread offense in college and when he got to the NFL the Redskins built an offense with the pistol formation and read option elements because of his speed and movement. Then he missed out on an entire offseason because of a knee injury, so he gets a bit of a mulligan for this season. He lost a ton of learning time.

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There are things Glennon has shown, as far as progression reading and pocket skills, that are advanced for a rookie. I don’t know if Griffin can do those things, because he has not been asked to do them.

The final interception in a loss to Philadelphia showed his inexperience and challenges with the nuances of the position.

On a third and 1 in the final minute, Pierre Garcon ran a quick slant to Griffin's left. The tight end and slot receiver Santana Moss to Griffin's right ran quick outs, and the receiver wide right ran a deep route to occupy the safety. These are three-step drop timed routes, and in the shotgun it's a quick rocker step for Griffin. He takes the snap, he looks to his left – the ball should be thrown right as Garcon makes his break. He’ll get tackled right there, but they have to gain just one yard. That’s why they called this play.

When Garcon turns his head around, the ball should be on him. And he'd get a first down. But by the point Garcon gets his head around, Griffin is looking to the other side of the field. You can’t go from one side of the field to the other on three-step timing. After he does that, he has nowhere to go with the football. He’s done. The timing of the play is gone.

Griffin starts to plant and for whatever reason he didn't register that Garcon was open, even though he was. That could be inexperience.

Griffin should have thrown the ball out of the back of the end zone, but threw an interception that ended the game.

Last season Washington was extremely successful with their terrific run game elements, meshing the read option with the zone run game. The passing game was able to work off that. The defense was consistently deceived and the quick one-read throws were there for Griffin more often than not. The Redskins' in-breaking routes were consistently open because the second-level defenders – linebackers and the in-the-box safety – would hesitate and be paralyzed by backfield action. There wasn’t a lot of reading going on for Griffin. Those routes were there and they were effective.

He had no offseason, and the Redskins are running the same offense. For a number of reasons, it hasn't been as effective. When it 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.

But sooner or later, your quarterback has to make throws from the pocket. Eventually all successful NFL quarterbacks have to do that. But what the film shows is Griffin still needs work in that area. That doesn’t mean he won’t be a great quarterback. But that’s where we are now.

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NFL analyst and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell watches as much NFL game film as anyone. Throughout the season, Cosell will join Shutdown Corner to share his observations on the teams, schemes and personnel from around the league.

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