Former Redskins coach Joe Gibbs predicts that Mike Shanahan and Robert Griffin III will get the team turned around and that with a couple wins, Washington will be right back in the thick of things and could have another strong season.
In an interview with The Post prior to being honored Thursday night at Michael Wilbon and James Brown’s Celebrity Roast and Toast to benefit the D.C. College Access Program, Gibbs said Shanahan’s experience both with team management and quarterbacks will enable him to direct the Redskins to a rebound from their 0-2 start.
The Redskins last season made a dramatic leap from 6-10 in 2011 to 10-6 and won the NFC East to reach the playoffs. Gibbs has been in the exact same situation and understands both the pressure to maintain that success and the challenge of doing so.
When he came back for his second coaching stint in 2004, Gibbs’ Redskins went 6-10, and the following year, they too went 10-6 and reached the postseason. But duplicating that success proved difficult as Washington went 5-11 in 2006. And that wasn’t the first time that Gibbs had seen a team have a great year one season and struggle the next. It’s all part of the ever-changing NFL, the former coach said.
“The wild thing about the NFL that is maybe hard sometimes for people to grasp is, ’87 we won the Super Bowl, had kind of a dream year. The next year, we come back, we didn’t go to the playoffs,” Gibbs explained. “It was one of the worst years we had. One year doesn’t guarantee you the next year. But I do think it shows the promise of everything, and winning the division last year I think was a huge statement. I think the good news for the Redskins is everybody in the division has gotten off to kind of a shaky start here. So, all I think we’ve got to do is hit a couple here, get a couple wins and they’ll be off and running.”
Gibbs believes that Shanahan has all the pieces in place and will push all the right buttons to orchestrate a turnaround.
“I think in this case, in what you’ve got in Mike, he’s been through it before, he understands the psychology,” said Gibbs, who led the Redskins back to the playoffs in 2007. “Teams are a lot like people. As a group, they can be overconfident, they can need encouragement. I think Mike, you know, you’ve got somebody at the helm that has been to Super Bowls, he’s won them. His life has been in sports. I have absolute confidence in our group there. You’ve got Bruce, and Dan has done a great job putting all this together. I just think that over the long haul, what you’re going to see is a great coaching job. I think what we witnessed last year, I think the talent they’ve put together, too, to win the division in the NFC East is a huge deal. I think, we did that last year and we’re going to bounce back and get rolling again here.”
Gibbs expressed confidence in how Shanahan has handled and will continue to handle Robert Griffin III in his comeback.
“Coach Shanahan has worked with some of the best in the world, and his past history, I think that helps because you know quarterbacks do have a lot of pressure on them and certainly that’s part of it, particularly with a young player,” Gibbs said. “We know RG had a great year last year and I’m sure that they’re going to get him back in the groove and he’s going to get rolling this year. I feel really good about it. I think he’s healthy and you’ve got the right coaching staff working with him.”
Earlier Thursday night, former Redskins center Jeff Bostic said that Griffin is “just average” without his legs and questioned whether the quarterback had enough pieces in place for Griffin to succeed as a drop-back passer.
“If Robert Griffin is not able to run the ball, I think it takes a big part of their offense away,” Bostic said. “I think it takes the dynamic away. That’s what made him the legend in one year. His ability to not only run the read, but read it, keep it, hand it off and make explosive play: his ability, once he was in the pocket, the ability once the pocket broke down with his speed and athleticism to get away from oncoming rushers.”
Bostic added, without his legs, Griffin is “average right now. Because who’s his dynamic receivers? Santana Moss at 41? Is it Garcon? Is it your tight end? They really need a go-to receiver. I know they addressed a lot of needs last year, but you still have some gaping needs. I think one of them is a No. 1 receiver and No. 2, you need to maybe add another tackle to your lineup, try to bolster your offensive line. They’ve been handcuffed with this salary cap penalty. You don’t think $18 million is much, but it’s a lot.”
Gibbs, however, believes that Griffin has the ability to lead the Redskins regardless of if Shanahan uses him as an option threat, or a pocket passer.
“I think first, he’s a great athlete. He’s very talented. We all know that,” Gibbs said. “I think also, he has a great arm. I think he’s comfortable in the pocket. If they choose – and obviously, he’s going to make plays with his legs anyway. If they choose to run option with him, we all saw that’s also a real threat. So, I think the coaching staff will use him the right way, and it’ll be interesting to see how the year will play out.”
Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesday.
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