A closer look at Robert Griffin III’s mechanics

Plenty has been made about the Washington Redskins‘ decision to fire Mike Shanahan and hire Jay Gruden. There has been debate about scheme changes and philosophical differences between the two coaches, but ultimately, the Redskins’ success will come down to how the players perform on the field. Robert Griffin III shoulders a huge burden as the quarterback; his success and failures will have the biggest impact on the team’s results. Griffin is coming off a down sophomore season after his knee injury ended his outstanding rookie campaign. Griffin struggled with his mechanics during the 2013 season as he adjusted to playing with a knee brace having rushed back from his knee surgery.

Griffin spent time this offseason with quarterback coach Terry Shea, who worked with Griffin to get him ready for the draft in 2012. Griffin’s mechanics were out of sync last season, causing him to throw out of rhythm and inaccurately, a big contrast to his rookie season. Having rewatched Griffin’s mechanics from his rookie and second season, there are plenty of noticeable differences.

dropback comparison 1a

The first thing I noticed was his drop. In 2012, Griffin took a big initial drop step to help him drop back deeper and get further away from the line of scrimmage. But this past season, Griffin’s initial drop step wasn’t quite as large. This may well have been a result of Griffin’s adjustment to his knee brace. While only a minute detail, it changed the depth of Griffin’s drop, which has a knock-on effect of changing his position and timing of even the simplest of throws. Getting deeper on his drops could also help the offensive line, giving defenders more distance to travel to reach him.

base comparison 1a

Once he reaches the top of his drop, you can see a drastic difference between Griffin’s base from 2012 to 2013.

In 2013, you can see Griffin’s feet are much further apart than they were in 2012. Having a wider base allows the quarterback to be more stable in the pocket. It also allows a quarterback to shift his front foot and open his hips quickly to speed up his delivery, instead of taking a delivery stride.

front foot 1a

With the wider base, Griffin has his front foot planted already roughly where it needs to be to deliver the ball.

front foot 1b

All it takes is a small shift of his front foot to open his hips and allow him to throw the ball.

The wider base works for plenty of NFL quarterbacks, but Griffin wasn’t able to consistently transfer his weight correctly from his back foot over his front foot without a proper delivery stride, partially because of his knee injury.

One of the things Griffin emphasized with Shea was working with a narrower base. That will allow him to more naturally step into throws and transfer his weight over his front foot. Looking back at 2012, this is what worked well for Griffin.

front foot 2a

Here’s Griffin at the top of his drop. Watch his front foot as he takes his delivery stride.

front foot 2b

The narrower base forces Griffin to take a big delivery stride, slowing down his throwing motion slightly.

front foot 2c

But that stride allowed Griffin to transfer his weight over the front foot and deliver the ball consistently.

To me, it appears the switch to a wider base in 2013 was an attempt to speed up Griffin’s release, but with his struggles last season, reverting back to a narrower base seems like a sensible decision. There are plenty of other ways to speed up a quarterback’s release. The other key aspect Griffin worked on with Shea was where he held the ball. In 2013, Griffin held the ball too low, forcing him to waste time winding up to throw.

wind up 2a

Here, Griffin holds the ball at about the middle of the numbers of his jersey and away from his body. That creates a longer path to bring the ball back in his wind up.

wind up 2b

As he winds up, Griffin’s elbow and the ball drop even lower, slowing down his release. This is a similar problem, although nowhere near as drastic, that Tim Tebow suffered from. Griffin has spoken about holding the ball higher, at the top of his numbers, to help compact his release.

In the below photo from the team’s official website, we can see how Griffin has already begun addressing these issues:

2014

Here you can see Griffin’s base is narrower than last year, but still solid. He holds the ball at the top of the numbers, and takes it back over his shoulder, instead of a slow, low wind up. Those two mechanical fixes should help Griffin greatly as the season comes around. But he will need as many repetitions as he can get with those mechanics in place to help form muscle memory and stop him from slipping into the bad habits he had last year.

Mark Bullock is The Insider’s Outsider, sharing his impressions of the Redskins without the benefit of access to the team. 

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