Theismann: Shanahan did RGIII a favor by benching him

Robert Griffin III and the Redskins' 2014 training camp experience got off to a soggy start. (Mike Jones/The Washington Post)

Robert Griffin III and the Redskins’ 2014 training camp experience got off to a soggy start. (Mike Jones/The Washington Post)

RICHMOND — As he surveyed practice on Day 2 of training camp, former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann was convinced that Mike Shanahan did Robert Griffin III a favor by benching him with three games remaining in a season gone horribly awry.

In short, Theismann liked what he saw of Griffin’s work during Friday morning’s session — struck particularly by the quarterback’s sure-footed ease of movement.

“I think Mike wanted Robert to be able to have an off-season and be healthy,” said Theismann, 64, who led the Redskins to victory in Super Bowl XVII. “And that’s exactly what he has done. He’s moving better. He’s more fluid than he was certainly a year ago. I think he’s moving better than he did as a rookie.”

Theismann spoke from the vantage point of a two-time Pro Bowler as well as a quarterback who suffered a catastrophic leg injury — more gruesome even than what knocked Griffin out of the NFC playoff game against Seattle on Jan. 6, 2013. His occurred nearly 30 years ago, during a Monday Night Football game against the New York Giants at RFK Stadium in November 1985, when a hit from linebacker Lawrence Taylor snapped his lower right leg like a twig.

Theismann tried returning to football, but his pro career was over.

“When anybody gets hurt, you try and accommodate — physically and mentally,” Theismann said. “I found out when I broke my right leg, and I tried to come back, I developed soreness in my arm that I never had before because my arm was trying to make up for the lack of power in my leg.

“So in Robert’s case, when you have a bad right knee, it’s your push-off leg, so all the sudden if it’s not 100 percent, and you don’t feel and believe it’s 100 percent, you start changing your delivery a little bit and then it starts to compound itself. Then, with the losses we had — and one thing after another, after another — the entire house of cards collapsed last year for this football team.”

Last season’s Redskins finished 3-13 (3-10 under Griffin) and dead last in the NFC East just one year after winning the division.

With Griffin seemingly healthy, Theismann said he’s cautiously optimistic about the team’s fortunes this season.

He predicts the biggest gains on special teams — “horrific a year ago,” Theismann noted — under the unit’s new coordinator, Ben Kotwica. The defense, in its fifth season under Jim Haslett, should have the continuity to carry the team until the retooled offense catches up. And Griffin, surrounded by an upgraded receiving corps, ought to be able to get rid of the ball more quickly, he noted, which should help with his protection.

“I think he’s much more understanding of his value being on the field as opposed to not being on the field,” Theismann said.

Have a Redskins question? Send an e-mail to mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question,” and it might be answered on Tuesday in The Mailbag.

More from the Post:

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Skip Bayless thinks Redskins will win NFC East

RGIII is on the same page with new coaching staff

Jason Reid: No more excuses for RGIII

Gruden: Rookies ‘did okay’ on Day 1

Observations from Day 1 of training camp

Alfred Morris expects run game to remain important

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