The rookie quarterback’s most recent lesson entailed distinguishing that fine line between knowing when to try to make a play amid a deteriorating situation, and when to concede temporary defeat and move on to the next play.
Griffin and his coaches can thank the Chicago Bears for the latest object lesson. On Saturday, in the second preseason start of his professional career, Griffin took his lumps while trying too hard to make something out of nothing.
In a couple instances, Griffin subjected his body to unnecessary pounding because he didn’t simply throw away the ball more quickly. The most crucial mistake came late in the first quarter with the Redskins deep in their own territory. Griffin was sacked and fumbled the ball because he tried to get off a pass to an open receiver rather than tuck the ball as Chicago’s Israel Idonije hit him from behind.
In all, Griffin — who a week after playing well against the Buffalo Bills was far less impressive against the Bears, completing 5 of 8 passes for 49 yards — was sacked three times. But although the Redskins’ offensive line remains battered and bruised, Griffin — after reviewing the game both on his own and with his coaches — admitted that the sacks were his fault, not the line’s.
“We had three sacks. I told the offensive line today, kind of joking, ‘We’ve just go to work on a few things, and throw the ball away when we don’t have the screens and don’t get those sacks,’ ” Griffin said. “You never want them to feel bad about those type of things when it’s your own fault. So when it comes to those things, I’ve got to get the ball out of my hands, know when to make a play and when not to try to make a play, and just say move on to the next down.”
Griffin has appeared unflappable at times, staring past converging pass rushers and going through his downfield reads. And despite his impressive speed, Griffin hasn’t been in a hurry to tuck the ball and run. But honing his judgment ranks among the priorities on a to-do list that will naturally take some time to check off, Shanahan said.
“You put him in different situations,” Shanahan said. “Third downs, a couple screens we had called were covered. We took a couple sacks instead of throwing it away. Every time he goes into a game situation, it’s going to be a constant learning experience and you just hope you don’t make the same mistake twice.”
On one play, Griffin took a shot from Bears defensive end Julius Peppers after protection broke down and the quarterback backpedaled around the backfield while trying to buy his receivers time. Griffin finally threw the ball away, but not soon enough for Peppers to slow up and avoid hitting him.
On the fumble, Griffin began to tuck the ball but then noticed running back Alfred Morris open in the flat. He thought he could reload and get off a pass as Idonije breathed down his neck.