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[Grantland] What Really Went Wrong With Robert Griffin III?

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tshile

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Last week, the Washington Redskins benched quarterback Robert Griffin III. We've heard all sorts of explanations: that Griffin had taken too many hits; that the franchise needed to see what it had in backup Kirk Cousins; that head coach Mike Shanahan was trying to send the message that he's the coach and Griffin merely the player; even that Shanahan was pulling a George Costanza and trying to get fired. There's a kernel of truth in all of those explanations — well, probably not the Constanza theory — but after going back and studying the film from every game of Griffin's last three seasons, I'm certain that Griffin's play was the main reason he didn't suit up Sunday and won't play Washington's final two games.

Despite the torrent of leaks, media reports, and bizarre press conferences, we know very little about how Washington actually came to this decision or about the team's overall future direction. But we know one thing: Griffin will still be Washington's starting quarterback in Week 1 next season. Despite the fact that Griffin hasn't played well, despite the injuries, and despite the dalliance with Cousins, Washington simply has too much invested in Griffin to move on just yet. For now, Griffin's future is still the Redskins' future. But if the quarterback wants to keep his job long term, he must play better. And I think he will.
...
The offseason was filled with promises of Griffin's triumphant return, and while he managed to start the season opener, he was a shade of his former self. It wasn't just his running ability. Everything was off.
...
It's not a question of whether Griffin can do it. It's about consistency. Griffin's inconsistent footwork can't be dismissed, but it is fixable. As LaFleur observed to Keim, it's hard to focus on the fundamentals "when you have so much going on and [are] so focused on the game plan."
...
Despite all that, I'm still optimistic about Griffin's future. He was one of my favorite all-time pro prospects when he came out of Baylor, and, unless injuries ultimately shorten his career, I still believe he'll be a fantastic NFL quarterback. Inconsistent play is the norm for young quarterbacks, not the exception. It's hard to find a person who doesn't think Andrew Luck will be a star (and I agree), but Luck still had a four-game stretch this season in which he threw two touchdowns compared with five interceptions; Colin Kaepernick appears to be playing better now that he has a more complete set of healthy receivers, but he has delivered some clunkers this year, including a game against the Seahawks in which he averaged negative yards per passing attempt after factoring in sacks and interceptions. And it's only rubbing salt in the wound for Ravens and Giants fans to note that, at least statistically, Griffin's 2013 season rates out better than all but two of Joe Flacco's six seasons, and that it took Eli Manning until his fifth season to have a better passer rating than the one Griffin managed this year — a year pretty much everyone declared "awful."
What Really Went Wrong With Robert Griffin III? - The Triangle Blog - Grantland

There's a lot more there worth reading, both good and bad. It goes into his footwork and mechanics.

That gif of the KC game... the whole defense is just watching Griffin's eyes and reacting to them :\
 

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His propensity to take hits was the main rub I had when I watched him play at Baylor. He is all or nothing. And that didn't change much this year, even after the injury. That does not equate to long term success as an NFL QB and was why I was so against the trade in the first place.

I know this is an unpopular stance, but if I were brought in as GM this off-season, first thing I would do is shop Griffin and see what we could recuperate from the trade. There are plenty of teams out there willing to give up picks for him. I would bring in a veteran to compete with Cousins and solidify the OL first and foremost. Cousins is not a world beater, but I believe he can be solid enough with a cast around him...like Russell Wilson or Colin Kaepernick. I am convinced Cousins could be just as good in either San Fran as Kaepernick or Seattle as Wilson.


Edit: Cue in the "Good thing you're not an NFL GM" joke in 3...2...1
 
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Lanky Livingston

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His propensity to take hits was the main rub I had when I watched him play at Baylor. He is all or nothing. And that didn't change much this year, even after the injury. That does not equate to long term success as an NFL QB and was why I was so against the trade in the first place.

I know this is an unpopular stance, but if I were brought in as GM this off-season, first thing I would do is shop Griffin and see what we could recuperate from the trade. There are plenty of teams out there willing to give up picks for him. I would bring in a veteran to compete with Cousins and solidify the OL first and foremost. Cousins is not a world beater, but I believe he can be solid enough with a cast around him...like Russell Wilson or Colin Kaepernick. I am convinced Cousins could be just as good in either San Fran as Kaepernick or Seattle as Wilson.


Edit: Cue in the "Good thing you're not an NFL GM" joke in 3...2...1
You're probably right. Even Jason Campbell, Rex Grossman or maybe even Ramsey might look good in Seattle; that's a solid team with a lot of weapons.

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His propensity to take hits was the main rub I had when I watched him play at Baylor. He is all or nothing. And that didn't change much this year, even after the injury. That does not equate to long term success as an NFL QB and was why I was so against the trade in the first place.

I know this is an unpopular stance, but if I were brought in as GM this off-season, first thing I would do is shop Griffin and see what we could recuperate from the trade. There are plenty of teams out there willing to give up picks for him. I would bring in a veteran to compete with Cousins and solidify the OL first and foremost. Cousins is not a world beater, but I believe he can be solid enough with a cast around him...like Russell Wilson or Colin Kaepernick. I am convinced Cousins could be just as good in either San Fran as Kaepernick or Seattle as Wilson.


Edit: Cue in the "Good thing you're not an NFL GM" joke in 3...2...1
It has nothing to do with being unpopular. Even if you assume that paying what it cost to get Griffin with high picks was a monumental error (it's far too early even to characterize it AS an error, much less one of high magnitude), you would just be compounding one 'error' with another. The second you even make it clear you're open to moving him, you drastically devalue him. It would signal to potential suitors that we've given up on him. No team gives up three #1 picks for a QB, then tries to dump him in year three, unless they've conducted a full assessment and determined he will never be a starting QB. You all reference the McNabb trade, and that it should have raised 1000 red flags that a division rival was willing to give him away to us. You are right on that front. And teams would have the same suspicions if we were to put Griffin on the market.Those concerns coupled with the rational concerns about his knee would serously lower any compensation we would get for him.

As previously stated, my main concerns with this kind of plan is that it is based on a lot of assumptions. That year 2 is the 'real Griffin' and what we saw in year 1 was just a mirage or mass hallucination. That Griffin's career will be a short one and that he can not learn to play smarter and take care of his body (he played on one leg this year but was not reinjured btw). Then there's the next leap, that if he does learn to play smarter, that means no running which means he is no longer a special QB. And that because he didn't 'read defenses' at Baylor he will never develop at the NFL level (of course he read defenses at Baylor - perhaps not using a systematic traditional NFL method - but no QB drops back without the requirement to assess, where is the weakness, what is the best option to get the ball downfield on this particular play with what I'm seeing in front of me). And then there is all of the 'character' stuff we hear. He's a 'coach killer'. He's 'arrogant' and 'stubborn'. Blah blah blah blah blah.

Sorry, but I think the vast majority of all that is nonsense. There was only one new factor going from season 1 to season 2 and that was Griffin's knee injury. I'm going to apply some logic and until proven otherwise, make my own assumption, that it was attempting to come back from a total knee repair too soon that resulted in a much less effective RG3. And that's all it was. And I've been saying it before the cited article was written - folks keep referencing Griffin's horrible season, but he wasn't 'horrible'. A few of Griffin's stats:

Lead 15th ranked passing offense, dead middle of the pack.
Threw for over 3200 yards in 13 games.
60.1% completion % (better than Flacco, Luck, EJ Manual, Eli Manning, Kaepernick, Matt Stafford, and lots of other guys)
16-12 TD to INT ratio
INT % of 2.6 (puts him at 19th spot, ahead of many of his QBing peers)
QB Rating of 82.2

Compared to his first season, those #'s don't constitute a good RG3 season, but they are smack dab middle of the pack #'s for a 2nd year QB, and for a guy coming off a major injury, I'd say our descriptions of Griffin's horrible season are grossly overboard and don't reflect reality. Another reason not to hit the panic button.

Stick with Griffin. He's gonna make ya proud some day.
 

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But what if Snyder hires someone who isn't a fan of RG3? Wants to run a conventional offense and does not want to be hindered by a learning curve that may or may not produce a great QB? All the good we've seen from Griffin comes from the ability of the coaching staff to disguise his flaws with a scheme that worked when his athleticism was not hindered. I don't have high hopes, but as long as he's a Redskins' QB I will root for him. Won't stop me from criticizing him.
 

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What if what if what if. Stop with the hypotheticals. Just look at the facts. Robert was not 100% this year and his overall play was compromised because of it. he was forced to stay in the pocket, read the secondary to make plays with his arm. He failed to make the adjustment to that. That was evident from his dramatic drop in completion percentage. His first year was off the charts, and that's something that usually doesn't just disappear. He lost that accuracy due to his own doubts about running and extending the play. He could no longer do that. But what he does have going for him, is a strong running game. That is the QB's best friend. and once he buys into his own "new role" in that offense, then his accuracy will return, and we will see him make the adjustments that were not there this year. He'll never be the same guy we drafted, his world class speed is gone, but he can get back world class accuracy and coupled with a world class running game, we should be just fine.
 

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But what if Snyder hires someone who isn't a fan of RG3? Wants to run a conventional offense and does not want to be hindered by a learning curve that may or may not produce a great QB? All the good we've seen from Griffin comes from the ability of the coaching staff to disguise his flaws with a scheme that worked when his athleticism was not hindered. I don't have high hopes, but as long as he's a Redskins' QB I will root for him. Won't stop me from criticizing him.
Here is the thing...Every QB has flaws. So every system out there has to be designed to cover up for those flaws. Every offense has to be built to hide them or account for them. So every coach is used to doing that. That is part of coaching...figuring out what your players do well and don't do so well, and designing a system to account for both.
 

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Here's the thing. You take one of the world's best athletes (post-knee repair or not, that's still who he is), add in that he's as smart as they come, who also has an impeccable character and work ethic, and you're telling me that an NFL coach worth his salt cannot mold him into a star? I'd say that says more about a prospective coach than it does about Griffin. Griffin has beaten out every competitor he's ever faced - his whole life. I'm not going to write him off after one mediocre season coming off a total knee repair. I have no problem with you criticizing Griffin. But being unwilling to cut the guy at least a minimum of slack after he's tried to come back so quickly from such a major injury - that strikes me as a little quick to bail on the guy. You started the RG3 era saying how stupid the Redskins were for giving up so much to get him. He then went out, won ROY honors and led the Redskins to their first NFC East championship in forever. I don't think one season erases the promise we saw in year one. Maybe time will prove the decision to give up so much to get Griffin an ill-advised one. But it is WAY too early to say that. And I have to ask - don't you want to find out? Besides - there's no guarantee no matter how many picks the Redskins were to get for RG3, that we make good decisions or end up with the right players with those picks. If history has shown us anything, it's that.
 

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Exactly, which is why you won't see John Fox install the read-option for Peyton any time soon.

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Here is the thing...Every QB has flaws. So every system out there has to be designed to cover up for those flaws. Every offense has to be built to hide them or account for them. So every coach is used to doing that. That is part of coaching...figuring out what your players do well and don't do so well, and designing a system to account for both.
OK, but when the system depends on your QB being more athletic than anyone else on the field...what happens when that QB is not the most athletic?
 

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Here's the thing. You take one of the world's best athletes (post-knee repair or not, that's still who he is), add in that he's as smart as they come, who also has an impeccable character and work ethic, and you're telling me that an NFL coach worth his salt cannot mold him into a star? I'd say that says more about a prospective coach than it does about Griffin. Griffin has beaten out every competitor he's ever faced - his whole life. I'm not going to write him off after one mediocre season coming off a total knee repair. I have no problem with you criticizing Griffin. But being unwilling to cut the guy at least a minimum of slack after he's tried to come back so quickly from such a major injury - that strikes me as a little quick to bail on the guy. You started the RG3 era saying how stupid the Redskins were for giving up so much to get him. He then went out, won ROY honors and led the Redskins to their first NFC East championship in forever. I don't think one season erases the promise we saw in year one. Maybe time will prove the decision to give up so much to get Griffin an ill-advised one. But it is WAY too early to say that. And I have to ask - don't you want to find out? Besides - there's no guarantee no matter how many picks the Redskins were to get for RG3, that we make good decisions or end up with the right players with those picks. If history has shown us anything, it's that.
As you know, I have not bought into the hype since day 1. I give more credit to Shanahan and Kyle than I do to Griffin for his success last year. Griffin is an extremely talented athlete. He proved in college that his athleticism could carry him into the pros. He proved his rookie season that given the right scheme, provided he's healthy that he can succeed because of his athleticism. He has not proven he can stay healthy. For a QB with such a dependence on physical ability, he plays way too recklessly for me to ever believe he will last long in the NFL. I don't think he will be a successful pocket QB. If I am wrong, I will be happy to see him prove it. That means we really do have a great QB.

Like I said from the beginning, if you want a flashy QB who will fill stands and win a lot of games, you got him in the form of RG3. If you want a QB who will championships, it is my estimation RG3 is not that guy.
 

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OK, but when the system depends on your QB being more athletic than anyone else on the field...what happens when that QB is not the most athletic?
You change the system.
 

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The problem I have with your assessment is that we HAVE seen Griffin be a tremendously accurate passer. Folks act like all Griffin did in year one was run around and out-athlete people. Sure, there was some of that. But he also completed almost 66% of his passes as a ROOKIE, including 20 TDs to just 5 INTs. His 2013 season he was slightly less accurate and threw more picks. He clearly pressed, frequently held onto the ball for too long, and wasn't as effective. One might also look at the quality of his protection and WRs in that equation too - although no one wants to talk about that piece of the puzzle. But even in a down year, to say 'he will never develop into an accurate pocket passer' - there's really no basis for that. You could argue he has already demonstrated he is an accurate pocket passer. If a 60% completion rate in your worst year makes you 'inaccurate', there are a lot of inaccurate passers in the NFL. All of those completed passes, in 2012 and in 2013, were made because Griffin can fit the ball in tight places, because he has great hand-eye coordination, and because he has a great arm. They weren't completed because he is a 'world class athlete', has sprinter's speed, or because he's a 'flashy' QB. They were made in spite of the fact that he 'can't read a defense'. They were made because he is a damn good passer. Period. I think we're going to see Griffin silence all his critics in the coming years, and make all of the overhyped 'concerns' about who he is and what kind of a player he is going to be look pretty silly.
 

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You change the system.
To a system the QB has never run? I thought you were changing the scheme to fit the QB?

Either the kid runs a spread offense to fit his style or he adjusts his play. Given this season's performance, I would say the kid needs a lot more time to be able to fit a changed system. His only success last year and this year was when we ran a lot of read option...Chicago and San Diego this year.
 

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The problem I have with your assessment is that we HAVE seen Griffin be a tremendously accurate passer. Folks act like all Griffin did in year one was run around and out-athlete people. Sure, there was some of that. But he also completed almost 66% of his passes as a ROOKIE, including 20 TDs to just 5 INTs. His 2013 season he was slightly less accurate and threw more picks. He clearly pressed, frequently held onto the ball for too long, and wasn't as effective. One might also look at the quality of his protection and WRs in that equation too - although no one wants to talk about that piece of the puzzle. But even in a down year, to say 'he will never develop into an accurate pocket passer' - there's really no basis for that. You could argue he has already demonstrated he is an accurate pocket passer. If a 60% completion rate in your worst year makes you 'inaccurate', there are a lot of inaccurate passers in the NFL. All of those completed passes, in 2012 and in 2013, were made because Griffin can fit the ball in tight places, because he has great hand-eye coordination, and because he has a great arm. They weren't completed because he is a 'world class athlete', has sprinter's speed, or because he's a 'flashy' QB. They were made in spite of the fact that he 'can't read a defense'. They were made because he is a damn good passer. Period. I think we're going to see Griffin silence all his critics in the coming years, and make all of the overhyped 'concerns' about who he is and what kind of a player he is going to be look pretty silly.
Accurate passer when he runs a system that doesn't require him to throw the ball a lot. Last year he was not asked to throw the ball nearly as much as this year and you saw the drop off when he was asked to throw more. We saw way more mistakes. Look, I am not discounting Griffin as a good QB. I am saying his athleticism helps him get in position to make those throws. And then there are the mistakes you don't see in the statistical line. He's a head case. His drop off this year is as much mental as it is physical. he tries to do it all himself. And that is what I don't like about him. He thinks it's all on him, but where would he have been last year without Morris?

Look, we will never agree here John. We've been through this before. I still think this kid is nothing more than a possible perennial playoff contender. I liken him to that of Randall Cunningham when he was in Philadelphia. Very reminiscent. Randall was a good QB, but he never won anything other than a few playoff births.
 

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I don't think 'the system' needs to be radically changed. We saw Griffin run a less risky version of the pistol this season. He didn't get killed or re-injured. We just weren't very effective in the passing game. There were a lot of reasons for that. But I don't know that watching this season, I was led to conclude that Griffin will never again be effective in a read-option style offense, that we must convert him to a traditional pocket passing offense, or anything like that. Griffin rushed for almost 500 yards in 13 games in 2013. And that's with a knee brace on, and likely not at 100% (claims to the contrary notwithstanding). Had he finished the season, he'd have likely come pretty close to his 2013 rushing #'s. Not bad for a 'cripple' who will 'never be the guy he was' post-injury. Griffin did have a down year, but again, faced with no off-season, wearing a brace, and facing tougher competition, I think there are alternative explanations to what we saw other than that Griffin is not who we thought he was and will never succeed under center. There are other compelling explanations for why we did not see the same success this year. A lack of a consistent #2 and #3 WR, working behind one of the worst lines in the NFL, having to play from behind nearly all year due to a horrific secondary and the worst special teams unit in the league. There were a lot of contributing factors beyond simply trying to pin it all on Robert.
 

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There were a lot of contributing factors beyond simply trying to pin it all on Robert.
Not so naive to think this team's woes were 100% on Robert. Robert's problems? 98% on Robert. Again, as a fan of the Redskins, I have no choice but to root for his success, but I am not so confident he's the one to take us there...that's all I am saying.
 

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Matt Flynn would have loved it. :)
Funny part, Matt Flynn is about to take the Green Bay Packers into the playoffs with a win over Chicago this weekend. :laugh:

And maybe if we trade Griffin, pick up a few picks in the offseason for 15, we can be as lucky as the Rams and draft Famous Jameis! :movefast:
 

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