But he still must master decision-making, moving through progressions and reacting to defenses — all at full speed.
“You don’t have to be a genius to get it all,” offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said Wednesday. “If you work at it — which he no doubt does — you’ll get it from a mental standpoint. But it’s not about just understanding it. It’s repping it, and you can’t get enough of those reps.”
Over the past few weeks of practice, Griffin has looked both exceptional and rather like a rookie. He has directed long, steady scoring drives, picking the starting defense apart. And he has had drive-killing miscues. But those ups and downs are to be expected. The payoff will come, coaches said.
“First of all, he got here and we’ve thrown a lot at him,” quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur said. “You can tell he’s a very intelligent guy, and you guys saw he has crazy athletic ability, a big arm, and it’s just a matter of time before it all comes together for him.”
Everyone from coach Mike Shanahan to Kyle Shanahan and LaFleur to veterans such as Santana Moss and London Fletcher have expressed surprise at how quickly Griffin has picked up the offense.
That aptitude was a big factor in Mike Shanahan’s decision to name Griffin his starter on May 6. But all of them, and Griffin himself, will tell you that his muscles, more than his mind, still have much to learn.
The Redskins conclude their full-squad minicamp Thursday and disperse to their offseason homes until late July, when training camp begins. But that five-week break will be anything but a vacation for Griffin. Sure, he’ll go back to his home state of Texas. But he’ll take no break from training, studying and throwing.
“I want him to relax and stuff, and not just be stressed out about it all the time, but it’s too hard a position” to take a break, Kyle Shanahan said. “To me, it’s one of the hardest positions in the world. It’s a lot. There’s only really 32 people on the planet who can do it, and according to most people, only 10 of those guys are what people want. So . . .
if it’s not something you’re working at every day, you can’t just show up and get it done.
“If your body isn’t constantly going through those reps . . . just constantly for that muscle memory, you’re going to get in that pocket in the heat of battle and you’re going to be thinking,” he added. “And once you’re thinking, you’re going to be hit.”
Kyle Shanahan said he won’t give Griffin an extensive to-do list for his time away from Redskins Park. His instructions are simple: Throw, study and throw some more.
Griffin said following those instructions won’t be a problem. He would have done so even had he not been told. Already, he has set up times to get together with his receivers — some who also live in Texas and others who do not — so he can remain sharp and develop better chemistry with them.
“I’ve just got to continue to focus on football. That’s what it’s all about,” said Griffin, who considers the upcoming season far too important for him to take a break. “This is the longest year of your life, supposedly, for rookies coming straight out of college, going right into combine training, pro days, minicamps, OTAs. It just keeps going. I’m not going to be sad about it or be mad about it. I live a blessed life, and I’m going to go out and make sure I continue to live that blessed life.”
Griffin’s coaches aren’t worried that he will regress in the time before training camp. He has been working with the team for only five weeks, and plenty of growing pains await in training camp, the preseason and the regular season. But they believe Griffin possesses the skill and drive necessary for success.
“When you’re a quarterback in the National Football League, there is a lot of improvement, a lot of areas you’re going to work on, and that’s what he’s done,” Mike Shanahan said. “. . . You know it’s the constant growing experience, but he embraces it. You can tell he enjoys the challenge, and that’s why he’s getting better and better.”