The first thing Griffin noticed about the playbook was how huge it was — a three-ring binder, five inches thick, stuffed nearly full with pages. White with a Redskins logo on the front, its contents were tabbed for easy flipping and divided into chapters — cadences, snap counts, protections, plays, red zone offense, two-minute offense and more.
“They wanted to throw the whole offense at me, just so I could see — these are the possibilities,” Griffin said. “They wanted to confuse me. They wanted to make things hard, to see what I could handle.”
The Redskins had drafted another quarterback, Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins, in April, a decision widely criticized by analysts on ESPN and the NFL Network, but it gave Griffin a natural study partner.
During much of May, the rookies roomed together at a suites hotel a mile and a half from Redskins Park, where they spent most of their evenings in their living room, on opposite sides of a coffee table, poring over their playbooks and taking nightly quizzes.
The quizzes, devised by Kyle Shanahan and quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur, were designed to reinforce material in the playbook, not unlike the tests conceived by high school math teachers.
“It was just making sure we knew the route combinations, the protections,” Griffin said. “What was paramount was that you get it in your brain — it’s stuck there, so you can pull from it. It’s stuff like, ‘What protection do you have on 24-Jet?’ Some of [the answers] don’t come to you immediately, so you look them up in the playbook and write them down, and that makes you learn it.
“They were long quizzes, play after play after play. What’s your protection on that play? What’s your ‘hot’ on this play? What’s your primary read? What do you do against this coverage, [or] against that coverage? It’s an extreme attention to detail, and I loved it.”
The quizzes weren’t graded, but each morning Shanahan and LaFleur went over them and corrected the answers Griffin and Cousins had gotten wrong, making sure the young quarterbacks knew the right answers — and why they were the right answers.
On the practice field, the first thing Griffin would do after running every play — from the simplest handoff to the most complex throw — was to confer briefly with Kyle Shanahan, who would ask Griffin what he saw: What coverage was the defense in? Where were the safeties? Did all your receivers run the right routes?
The Shanahans appeared genuinely stunned by Griffin’s aptitude. Mike Shanahan noted the lack of a single busted play or wrong formation during the entire three-day rookie camp — Griffin’s first practices under the Redskins’ scheme.