Robert Griffin III's future in the NFL has been an offseason journey defined by someone else. The Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams haven't shown serious interest. The Houston Texans chose Brock Osweiler. The New York Jets have been focused on Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Denver Broncos have made Colin Kaepernick a priority. All of this has left Griffin where he is now – spending his days working out in Texas, waiting for a phone call and a chance to compete.
Maybe for the first time this offseason, a real opportunity is coming into focus. But the team that could provide it – the San Francisco 49ers – must first part ways with Kaepernick. And that has left Griffin in an already familiar offseason holding pattern, surrounded by a swirl of speculation.
With that in mind, here is what is real, according to multiple league sources:
• After giving Case Keenum a first-round tender, the Los Angeles Rams are sitting tight with their current group of quarterbacks. Despite reports, they have not made a serious overture this week toward Griffin.
• The Jets have been focused on letting the Fitzpatrick situation play out, confident his market will dry up and temper his salary demands. Despite some reports, they have not made a serious run at Griffin.
• A few teams that had potential for attractive backup slots (the Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles) went elsewhere with their plans.
• The Broncos have made Kaepernick their top priority. And even if Kaepernick doesn't land in Denver, the prospect of Griffin going there would be dicey. Why? Head coach Gary Kubiak has a close relationship with Mike Shanahan, Griffin's former coach. Shanahan has been highly critical of his former quarterback at various times. There's little doubt Kubiak would lean on Shanahan's scouting report before any recruitment took place.
None of this is to say that circumstances can't change with these teams. But the road that's currently illuminated for Griffin is going in one direction and that path leads to the 49ers and Chip Kelly. Make no mistake, Kelly is a huge factor in where the pursuit goes. The reality is that Griffin suits Kelly's offensive scheme better than any quarterback he has had in the NFL. And that alone makes Griffin a viable and attractive option. Especially considering that Griffin is likely to seek only a short-term "show-me" deal, which is expected to be relatively cheap and incentive-laden.
Lest anyone forget, Kelly is very familiar with Griffin. He recruited him at Oregon with the intent of building an offense around him. And he continued to watch his growth and struggles from within the NFC East. That knowledge is key because it removes part of the free-agent equation of having to do the all-important work on scheme fit. Kelly knows Griffin can fit and run his offense. The question is whether he still has the ability to rebound and grow exponentially after his fast start and subsequent flameout in Washington.
Kelly isn't going to make the same mistakes at quarterback that he made with Sam Bradford in Philadelphia. If he's going to fail this time around, he's going to do it with a stable of quarterbacks who have the skills to run his system correctly. Kelly believes Kaepernick can do that, but he's not going to force a player to remain who doesn't want to be part of the turnaround.
With Griffin, he doesn't have to. Even in the worst-case scenario, the 49ers could bring Griffin in and draft a quarterback to groom. If Griffin isn't the answer, he can play the role of a veteran bridge quarterback while showcasing himself for another team. Of course, that's not what Griffin prefers. He wants a chance to be a starter in a system that suits his style, and with a coach who has confidence in his ability to run the offense. In a few days, a Kaepernick-less San Francisco could present opportunity. Griffin has sat and watched other quarterbacks receive theirs, while waiting patiently for his own. Out of the swirl of speculation, this is a fit that makes sense – for both sides.