“You guys will grow together,” Mike says he told his son.
When Indianapolis selected Luck at No. 1, Washington didn’t hesitate. The Redskins had their quarterback.
But a new challenge emerged: The offense Kyle had honed required a pocket passer, and it was Griffin’s mobility that made him special. This time, however, he wouldn’t force a quarterback to accommodate his scheme; he would design plays to fit Griffin, taking advantage of his speed and easing him toward becoming an elite passer.
The process was taxing, but his father’s words again echoed in Kyle’s mind: work and time. He spent hours last spring studying video of zone-read offenses: Cam Newton in Carolina, Tim Tebow in Denver, Vince Young in Tennessee. He also did what he’d done in Tampa Bay, scanning defenses for weaknesses. Kyle didn’t interview other coaches or watch college film; he only wanted to see how it worked in the NFL.
“It kind of rejuvenated me,” he says.
The days turned to weeks, then months. Some days were better than others.
“I’d be like, ‘Man, I’m done with this.’ ” he says. “Then we would do something different, and I’d be like, ‘All right, this could work.’ ”
Kyle admits that he had no idea whether this offense, which relied on pre-snap motion, a reliable running game and an avoidance of turnovers, would succeed. It was asking a lot of a rookie.
“Now, everything is good,” Griffin says, months after those first meetings. “We know the system, he knows how I learn things and how to get me in the right situations. But at first, it was a grind.”
“As a coordinator, I’m seeing him use everything he has; use all the tools around him,” Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss adds.
In the regular season’s first week, Griffin and Kyle led the Redskins to a 40-32 win against the New Orleans Saints. Their comfort grew from there, Kyle tinkering and Griffin adapting.
Washington is now 6-6, with an offense ranked seventh in the league. In Monday night’s win against the New York Giants, Kyle and Griffin showed a diverse, methodical approach that didn’t abandon the run, wasn’t one-dimensional and showcased the marriage of Kyle’s ideas and Griffin’s abilities.
From that has come trust.
“He’s never told me something,” Griffin says, “that wasn’t true in the game.”
Faith has come from the head coach’s office, too. Nearly three years after his father studied Kyle, waiting to see how he handled himself, Mike says his son now has his unconditional confidence.
“The one thing I don’t worry about is our offensive staff,” Mike says, sitting in front of a bank of flat-screen televisions in his office on which he sometimes watches assistant coaches’ meetings with their position players.
Kyle says Mike has let him call “every single play” since he was hired, though Mike retains oversight of the game plan that Kyle and line coach Chris Foerster build each week, including power to alter or eliminate plays and formations. That happens less often now.