Griffin: Return to running ways was ‘what I had to do’

Robert Griffin III

Robert Griffin III was willing to run against the Cowboys. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Robert Griffin III said he felt like he had no choice but to take to the ground in an attempt to spark his struggling offense this past Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys.

Griffin, since coming back from reconstructive surgery to his right knee, had taken a more conservative approach to running the ball. In the first two games of the season, he played almost strictly as a drop-back passer, attempting 49 and 40 passes while scrambling just five and four times, respectively. Washington’s offense struggled early in games and only racked up yards in the second halves.

In Week 3, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan worked in more bootlegs to move the pocket and prevent Griffin from being a stationary target. But the quarterback still maintained a pass-happy workload of 50 pass attempts and six rushes.

The end result was the same – losses and a lack of explosiveness on offense.

The Redskins beat the Raiders with passing 31 times and running only three times. But seven of the 24 plays scored came from the defense.

Assessing the situation, Griffin – who had opened the season saying he wanted to develop into the kind of quarterback who used his legs primarily to extend pass plays rather than routinely take off running – decided that things had to change.

The Redskins’ offensive line wasn’t suited for a drop-back passing attack, and defenses took advantage by coming after Griffin because of the lack of the threat of his legs. The lack of Griffin’s contributions also diminished the impact of Washington’s rushing attack.

And so, against the Cowboys, Griffin took on a more aggressive approach, not only running with less hesitation, but also looking to pick up additional yardage rather than skipping out of bounds at the first threat.

“I felt that’s what I have to do,” Griffin said. “That’s what I’ve always had to do. You’ve got to use every ability that you have. Broke the pocket a couple of times, broke the pocket and hit some guys downfield as the defense was closing in on me, and then there were times when you just take off and go, and a healthy mix of that and a healthy mix of just executing the plays that are called.”

Griffin on his postgame radio interview Sunday said he was “just really focusing on being the playmaker that I know I can be and not letting anybody else tell me how to play this game.”

Asked on Wednesday what he meant by that, Griffin explained: “It just means, you can’t lose faith in who you are. You can’t lose confidence in what you’ve done to get you to the level where you’re at. Kyle [Shanahan] will say on a number of plays, ‘You never forget what got you to where you are,’ and that’s all I’m saying. It wasn’t a shot at anything else, or at the coaches or anybody. It was just saying, ‘I’ve got to be the guy that I know that I am.’ ”

Griffin said he didn’t feel pressured to return to his running ways, or give into the outsiders questioning his health since he wasn’t running the ball like he did last year. Instead, Griffin believed his role as a playmaker and leader of the offense required him to generate plays with his legs – as well as his arms – again.

“The league does evolve, but at the same time, I have to be that guy. There’s no pressure. None whatsoever,” he said. “You’ve just got to go out and play football, and that’s what I was talking about after the game: just getting back to being me. I know how to play the game. Listen to your coaches, go through that whole thing, and just go out there and play and have fun. And that’s what it’s about. It’s not that there’s pressure to be a certain guy, have a certain amount of numbers. I couldn’t care less about the numbers as long as we win. If we win games, all is good.”

Because of the renewed mind-set, Griffin stopped looking to slide or immediately dart out of bounds. He ran to pick up first downs and more. Twice he flirted with defenders and darted out of bounds, drawing late hits that gave his team an additional 15 yards.

Asked about his running style Sunday versus previous weeks, Griffin said, “Yeah, the yardage was different and it was one of the questions I got after the game. Really it was just talking about running the ball. Everyone wants me to slide and get out of bounds, and really, I can’t listen to that. It’s not that you ignore it. I understand that people are concerned. But at the end of the day you have to go out there and play with your instincts.  … I just let my instincts take over, rather than run out of bounds so everyone doesn’t get mad at coach or something like that, or at me, or whatever they want to say. It was just more instinctive and just playing football.”

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