Jason Reid: It’s time for Robert Griffin III to stop taking hits and learn to get down

The Post Sports Live crew tackles Monday night's Redskins-Browns preseason game, and discusses quarterback Robert Griffin III's performance and what he needs to improve on. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)
Jason Reid
Columnist August 20

After the Washington Redskins moved to remake Robert Griffin III’s style of play, it was fair to ask whether the dual-threat quarterback could be effective working primarily in the pocket. But a more important question emerged this week: Will Griffin’s recklessness torpedo the process to change him?

For the franchise, Griffin turned back the clock Monday night in a bad way, again displaying too much bravado while scrambling during the 24-23 victory over the Cleveland Browns at FedEx Field . Although Griffin said he suffered only a thigh bruise, things could have been much worse. A franchise quarterback who already has had two reconstructive knee surgeries must play smarter, which people close to Griffin continue to tell him. They’re still waiting for him to get the message.

Jason Reid is a sports columnist with the Washington Post. He joined the Post’s Redskins team in 2007 after 15 years covering many beats at the Los Angeles Times. View Archive

It’s time for Griffin to show he finally understands a new approach is in order. Ultimately, Griffin may not possesses what it takes to make the transition — but he should give himself the best chance to succeed. To do that, his tired hero act must end.

Griffin replayed it during the first quarter Monday, displaying little progress in his decision-making on the run. On one of three scrambles, Griffin executed an efficient quarterback slide. His other two created questions whether the quarterback would make it through the quarter, let alone a 17-week regular season.

Instead of sliding, Griffin took on multiple would-be tacklers and was knocked around like a piñata — three Browns players delivered blows — along Cleveland’s sideline. Griffin’s other curious decision was an awkward maneuver in which his right leg was pinned underneath him while he was dragged down.

The Post Sports Live crew previews what to watch for in Saturday's Redskins game against Baltimore. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)

During his rookie season, he made similarly dangerous moves. At that time, Griffin said he wasn’t wired to give up on plays. Despite the risk of injury, Griffin vowed to always fight for extra yards. On the field, Griffin said, he had to give everything he had.

A concussion and a knee injury that required major surgery prompted Griffin to revise his thinking, or so he said. He’s entering his third season, and based on Monday’s performance, it appears Griffin still is stuck in the past. That’s not the way to impress a new coach, especially one who, in large part, was hired to help Griffin take a big step forward.

Coach Jay Gruden didn’t hide his frustration, acknowledging he was concerned about Griffin’s risk-taking. “It’s something we have to continue to talk to him about, how important he is to this team and this franchise,” Gruden said after the game.

“When he gets out of the pocket, he needs to protect himself. He’s got to pick his shots and learn to get down.”

Griffin’s teammates also have seen enough. “Three guys got shots on him on one play,” cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. “Was it tough to see? Absolutely. . . . He wants to show everybody how tough he is, probably more than he needs to.”

Trying to be too tough got Griffin into this situation. Each time Griffin stretches for a few extra yards or takes on a defensive player when he could have stepped out of bounds, he risks suffering another major injury that could set back the struggling franchise even further.

In 15 seasons, Washington has had eight head coaches (one was an interim), finished last or tied for last in the NFC East seven times — including six of the past eight seasons — made only three postseason appearances and won one playoff game. Confident Griffin would be a game-changer, Washington paid the steepest price in NFL draft history to select him.

The Post Sports Live crew wonder whether both Bryce Harper and Johnny Manziel's immaturity will affect their play, after the Cleveland quarterback was seen flipping off the Redskins' sideline during Monday night's preseason game. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)

Washington is counting on Griffin to provide a big return on its investment. It won’t happen if he’s out of the game.

Griffin is bright. He understands his importance to the organization. He gets that fans, who took to social media during and after the game to comment about his poor decision-making, fear his stubbornness may result in a career-ending injury. Addressing his problems sliding, Griffin on Twitter responded, “[I] got it right the third time.”

To his credit, Griffin stood in front of his dressing stall Wednesday and answered questions about his missteps. He said what the team and its fans needed to hear.

“It’s that intensity you have for the game, [which] makes you who you are,” Griffin said. “[But] for me, the second game of the preseason, I just can’t do that.

“I acknowledged that in the tweet and with my teammates, my coaches and with the fans. I understand that. I’ll have to get better at managing those situations.”

Problem is, Griffin has made similar reassuring comments before. Words don’t matter. Actions do.

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