Much of the intense scrutiny on the performance of Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III this season in his return from knee surgery in January has been focused on his running. But that seemed to change Sunday. Griffin and the Redskins struggled in the passing game during their loss at Denver and the question now has become why Griffin has been unable to throw the ball with the same effectiveness he did last season as a rookie.
“There’s a lot that goes into being a quarterback in the NFL,” former Redskins tight end Chris Cooley said Monday. “And there’s a lot that goes into this offense as a quarterback, and it’s putting a lot of weight on his shoulders. They’re not scaling it back for him. They shouldn’t. But he’s also just not himself right now. I don’t feel like he’s fluid. I don’t feel like he’s getting through his progressions like he can.”
Griffin was much more than just a dynamic runner during his electrifying rookie year. He also was an extremely accurate and efficient passer. He threw 20 touchdown passes and only five interceptions last season. He completed 65.6 percent of his passes and he had the highest passer rating in NFL history for a rookie, at 102.4.
Things have gone far differently this season. Griffin has thrown eight interceptions to go with his nine touchdown passes. He has connected on 59 percent of his throws and has a passer rating of 79.2, only the 21st-best mark in the league entering Monday’s play. He threw two interceptions in a 15-for-30, 132-yard, one-touchdown passing performance in Sunday’s 45-21 defeat to the Broncos.
Coach Mike Shanahan said Monday at Redskins Park that there is enough blame to go around for the team’s passing-game issues, without absolving Griffin.
“I think it’s a little bit of everything,” Shanahan said. “You take a look at sometimes it may be a quarterback’s read. Another time it may be protection. Next time it might be a dropped ball. The offense just may be a little bit different than it was a year ago, a combination of all those things.”
Cooley said Monday he thinks that Griffin might be trying too hard to make big plays on long throws down the field.
“I think right now he’s pressing so hard to make a play, especially to make a big play, that on a lot of these play-actions that they dial up, he’s sticking with that deep throw or the deep guy with the belief that, ‘This is the coverage we thought we’d get. This is what we practiced. This is the way this coverage should unfold,’ ” Cooley said. “And it isn’t happening that way, and he’s not getting off his reads fast enough. He’s had a lot of opportunities to make some good throws and missed some guys open.”
Cooley, who was with the team last season in Griffin’s rookie year, also said: “As far as the accuracy thing, I truly don’t have an explanation for you. That was one of his biggest assets last year was how accurate he was. All I can think is that he’s really pressing right now to make that big play, to make that perfect throw. And he’s not just playing football. He’s an incredible football player and he’s an incredibly intelligent, smart human being. He just needs to trust himself. He’s just got to trust his instincts.”