Jay Gruden regrets last three losses but doesn’t second-guess starting Robert Griffin III
What’s increasingly clear as Jay Gruden nears the final quarter of his first season as an NFL head coach is that he doesn’t look back and doesn’t play favorites.
With Washington dropping to 3-8 on the heels of three consecutive losses, Gruden made his second quarterback change of the season, benching Robert Griffin III for backup Colt McCoy.
There was an argument to be made for sticking with McCoy after he engineered come-from-behind victories over Tennessee and Dallas. But Gruden chose to restore Griffin to the starting job at that point, and the Redskins’ two-game winning streak was snapped.
Asked Wednesday if he regretted going back to Griffin after the Dallas game, Gruden said: “I have regrets that we lost those games, yes. I don’t have regrets of making the decision to go back to Robert. …
Gruden noted that Griffin had been Washington’s starting quarterback all through the preseason and had been assured that once he recovered from the dislocated ankle he suffered in the first quarter against Jacksonville, he’d be reinstalled as the starter. Once the coaching staff got medical assurance Griffin was fully fit, then, it was time to hand him the offense.
“So I have no regrets in that regard,” Gruden said.
But once Griffin struggled against Minnesota, and then struggled to move the ball in losses to Tampa Bay and San Francisco, Gruden said he made the decision to turn to McCoy based strictly on merits — presumably without weighing the investment Washington’s front office had made in Griffin in terms of draft picks, salary, marketing and coaching expertise.
“I came here with a clean slate,” Gruden said, “and I want to play the best players, period, whoever they are: First-round picks, sixth-round picks, free agents. I don’t really care who they are, where they came from.
“Obviously the history of Robert and the talent that he has at quarterback, [I was] very excited to coach him when I first got the job, and I still am. I’m not giving up on Robert. It’s just we haven’t been successful. But the past is the past. We’re moving forward and we’re trying to do what’s best for the Redskins this year and for years to come.”
Of Washington’s three quarterbacks, McCoy, 28, has played the least this season but boasts the highest passer rating (107.0), with an 85.7 completion rate (36 of 42), one touchdown and one interception.
Griffin’s passer rating is 85.7. He has completed 83 of 119 throws (69.7 percent), with two touchdowns and three interceptions.
Redskins react to Robert Griffin III benching
Washington Redskins running back Roy Helu Jr. was walking to breakfast Wednesday morning at Redskins Park when he learned via a headline on television Robert Griffin III was being benched. Coach Jay Gruden had informed all three of his quarterbacks the day before he would be starting Colt McCoy for Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts instead, but he didn’t officially reveal his decision to the rest of the players until a team meeting later Wednesday.
By then, word was out, and Helu, like a handful of his teammates who spoke during the open locker room, expressed surprise over the move yet vowed to press on regardless of who is playing quarterback.
“I think it’s not as much of a distraction because we’ve had some switch-overs with Robert being hurt,” Helu said. “Once Colt was announced the starter, some of the guys were just, ‘Okay, we’ve just got to keep going.’ He’s proven himself with the one game under his belt that we played Monday night a couple weeks ago.’
Helu was referring to a 20-17 overtime victory over the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on Oct. 27. McCoy completed 25 of 30 passes for 299 yards and rushed for one touchdown in his only start of the season. Griffin then started the last three games, all losses.
Fullback Darrel Young is one of the players closest to Griffin, and he said he spoke with the 2012 No. 2 overall pick after learning of the benching.
“Anytime you see your starting quarterback go down, you’re obviously just like, ‘Man, it sucks, just being in that position,” Young said. “I feel for him. Like I said, I know what type of guy he is. You always want to see the best for the guy, so hopefully, I hope Colt goes in there and does what he can do, and we just go out there, and we just win the game. That’s what it’s about.”
Players have grown used to the quarterback carousel surrounding the Redskins in the wake of the fourth change this season. Griffin opened the season as the starter before dislocating his ankle and giving way to Kirk Cousins. When Cousins proved ineffective, Gruden went to McCoy to start the second half of a 19-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans and the following week against Dallas.
Now comes another change two days after a conference call in which Gruden said it was his “intent” to start Griffin against the Colts.
“I guess anytime there’s a change, hopefully you make a change thinking it will give us another little boost,” tight end Niles Paul said. “Hopefully Colt can come in and do what he’s been coached to do and not make mistakes, and the defense will do the same thing in return.”
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On the day after he is benched, Robert Griffin III has little to say to reporters
Robert Griffin III entered the locker room at Redskins Park late Wednesday afternoon, backpack over his shoulder and lunch in hand inside a plastic container. As he approached his dressing area, a horde of media members began surrounding the quarterback in anticipation of Griffin’s reaction to Coach Jay Gruden benching the 2012 No. 2 overall pick in favor of Colt McCoy.
Reporters asked Griffin for a moment of his time. He kindly replied that those requests first needed to be cleared through Tony Wyllie, the Washington Redskins’ senior vice president for communications. In that brief exchange, Griffin provided no indication he objected to speaking.
Wyllie subsequently informed the media that Griffin would not be issuing any statements, indicating later he perhaps would do so next week. Griffin then left the locker room briefly, and it remained unclear whether it was his wish not to speak to reporters about his playing situation or if he was not permitted to talk.
“He’s not speaking,” Wyllie said, without clarifying who was making the decision.
Later it was, “No means no.”
Griffin and Wyllie spent a few minutes immediately outside the doors to the locker room talking privately, presumably to reconsider if Griffin would be answering questions.
Shortly after re-entering the locker room, Wyllie said: “It’s his decision.”
Then Griffin came in and out of the locker room multiple times. Before departing for good, Griffin spoke with reporters about, among other topics, his Thanksgiving plans and the composite-toe shoes he was wearing. But nothing about being benched for a third-round pick who’s on his third team in five years with a career record of 7-15 as a starter.
Just another bizarre episode for a franchise that’s all but cornered the market on the absurd.
“I mean, you’ve got to prepare yourself for it, and just know what to say and what not to say,” wide receiver Santana Moss, in his 14th season in the NFL, said of another round of peculiar circumstances in Ashburn. “Everybody wants that one punch line that you can have, that one little thing that someone said about someone, and it is what it is.
“I’ve been here long enough. I’ve been in New York [with the Jets], so I know how it goes, and we’ve just got to give you all what you want, and at the same time not too much,” Moss continued with a chuckle. “That’s what I do. I just try to give you all enough. You all need a story. You all have a job, just like we all have a job. You hate to offend anybody because no one wants to be talked about or looked at wrong. Just give what you need, and don’t get blown out of proportion.”
It would have been nearly impossible to do that in the aftermath of Gruden’s conference call in which he said it was his “intent” to start Griffin Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. The first-year coach made those comments less than 24 hours after Griffin threw for 109 yards on 11-for-19 passing in a 17-13 loss to the San Francisco 49ers during which he was sacked five times.
Gruden spoke with all three Redskins’ quarterbacks, including backup turned starter turned third-stringer Kirk Cousins, Tuesday, at which time he revealed McCoy would be making his second start this season. McCoy’s only other start yielded a 20-17 victory over the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on “Monday Night Football” in which he completed 25 of 30 passes for 299 yards and rushed for one touchdown.
The rest of the team officially learned of Gruden’s decision Wednesday during a meeting, but by that time, news of Griffin’s benching had become public knowledge.
“I don’t know how it got out, but unfortunately it got out,” Gruden said. “I was asleep when I got the 14,000 texts. Unfortunately, in a big market like this, things like this are going to get out, and that’s just the way it is. I’ve accepted that. I don’t want there to be any moles or anything like that, but agents, players’ wives, family members, they talk, and they have everybody on Twitter accounts now, so it’s hard to keep secrets nowadays.”
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Colt McCoy doesn’t plan to change approach despite change in roles
This week began like any other for Colt McCoy. He came to Redskins Park on Monday to get in some film study of the previous game, and then he came back on Tuesday, typically a players’ day off, to work out and watch video of the upcoming game, just as he always does.
McCoy’s situation changed late on Tuesday, when he learned from Coach Jay Gruden that he would take over as the starting quarterback, replacing a struggling Robert Griffin III.
But McCoy — a fifth-year veteran, who earlier this season helped Washington to two of its three victories — aims to go about his business as if things remain the same, although Gruden touted him on Wednesday as the quarterback that gives Washington the best chance to win.
McCoy and the Redskins hope to dig their way out of this 3-8 hole and salvage the season in some way. But he said he aims to simply play the role of game manager, not superhero.
“I don’t want to get into ‘Who’s better? Who’s not?’ ” said McCoy, a 2010 third-round pick of the Cleveland Browns who has 22 starts under his belt. “For me, as a quarterback, I think Jay expects us to make the right decisions with the football, get us in the right plays when he asks us to get us in those plays vs. blitz, vs. different coverages that we see, go to the right place with the football — just make good decisions. The way I approach it, we have great receivers, we have great tight ends, good running backs. Our running game has picked up over the last few weeks, which I think is a big positive for us. I just want to go out there and distribute the football, be smart, score points.”
McCoy entered the season as the third-string quarterback, but he moved up to second once Griffin dislocated his left ankle in Week 2. Until the third quarter of Washington’s Week 7 game against Tennessee, he had received only limited practice reps with the starting offense. McCoy still managed to lead Washington to a 19-17 comeback victory, however, completing 11 of 12 passes for a touchdown. The following week, against Dallas, he completed 25 of 30 passes for an interception and no touchdowns, but he did rush for a touchdown and directed the Redskins downfield for a field goal in overtime.
Griffin returned to action the following week. But some Redskins players wouldn’t have had a problem with McCoy remaining the starter for the final game before the bye.
Now that he’s back for a second stint as the starter, McCoy said he again feels support from his teammates.
“I think my teammates have responded well,” he said. “I know they’re confident in me.”
Gruden said he plans for McCoy to close out the remaining five games as the starter, but allowed him some wiggle room in case he struggles.
“I’m prepared to give Colt every opportunity to keep the job, yes. That’s not an issue for me,” Gruden said. “I think the best man gets the job, and if you open the door for somebody to play, by injury or lack of production, that’s what happens sometimes, the guy does well. That’s what we hope happens with Colt.”
McCoy, meanwhile, said he’s not thinking of the stretch run, believing the simple approach will best serve him.
“I’m taking it one day at a time,” he said. “I’m not thinking about tomorrow or the next day. Just focus on my approach — focus on being confident, figuring out what I have to do to get myself prepared to play Sunday.”
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Redskins injury report: Jason Hatcher and E.J. Biggers held out of practice
Defensive end Jason Hatcher did not practice on Wednesday because of an injury to his right knee. Meanwhile cornerback E.J. Biggers didn’t practice while being monitored for concussion-like symptoms.
Hatcher had offseason surgery on his left knee, but hadn’t previously had problems with his right knee. It wasn’t clear what kind of injury Hatcher had suffered, or when it took place. He declined to talk to reporters on Wednesday, saying that he would do so on Thursday, as he does every week.
Biggers left Sunday’s game with a concussion and is still going through the league protocol for head injuries.
Left tackle Trent Williams practiced in a limited capacity after missing Sunday’s game with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee. Also limited: tight end Jordan Reed (hamstring), nose tackle Chris Baker (sternoclavicular joint), Silas Redd (rib), safety Ryan Clark (shoulder).
Cornerback Bashaud Breeland practiced fully despite receiving treatment for a back injury.
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