Speaking to the media for the first time since making the decision to bench Robert Griffin III and turn to Colt McCoy, Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Wednesday that he made the move because after surveying Griffin’s body of work, and comparing it to that of McCoy, he surmised that the face of the franchise simply hasn’t played well enough for Washington to compete, and that the original third-string quarterback gives the team the best chance to win.
“We’re searching for answers on offense, No. 1. And it starts at the quarterback position, quite frankly,” said Gruden, whose offense has mustered only one touchdown in each of the past two outings while also being putrid on third downs. “Colt was 2-0 as a starter – really 1-0 but he came in in relief in the second half of the Titans game – and due to our recent struggles offensively I thought I’d try a change at the helm. We’re not trying to pin – I know it seems like it, but we’re not trying to pin all the problems offensively onto Robert – but we just feel like Colt deserves another opportunity, being that he had a lot of success as a starter.”
Gruden on Monday expressed “intent” to stick with Griffin as his starting quarterback. But he admitted on Wednesday that he knew in the back of his mind that it was time for a change.
He watched all four of Griffin’s full games this season, then watched the two games that McCoy has appeared in, and watched the six games Kirk Cousins had played in.
The lack of confidence, poor command of the offense and lack of rhythm with which Griffin played stood out to Gruden as signs of a quarterback who is not ready to start in the NFL.
“I’d like to think he’s gotten himself better as far as a drop-back passer is concerned, and some of the things I’ve asked him to do,” Gruden said. “Since I’ve had him, I think he’s gotten better. It hasn’t shown on the field. I think it’s shown in the meeting room. it’s shown on the practice field from time to time, but he’s not at the stage yet where he is a starter for us right now, for whatever reason, he’s taken a little bit of a step back these last couple weeks, the offense has, not just him.”
Gruden broke the news to Griffin and McCoy on Tuesday.
“He wasn’t happy about it,” Gruden said. “Like I said, he was very upset, he wanted to have more time and the chance to play himself through this slump, so to speak. But I decided to make the change to Colt, and that’s the bottom line.”
With confidence ranking among Griffin’s biggest stumbling blocks this season, the popular school of thought is that a benching will further damage him mentally. But Gruden disagreed with that notion, and said that if Griffin approaches the situation properly, good will come of this decision.
“I’m hoping as a pro, I’m hoping it helps him. It helps toughen him up, it helps fuel the fire in his belly,” he coach said. “That’s what I hope. And I hope he comes out here and prepares like he’s going to play, because he has to. He’s the backup quarterback, and that’s what quarterbacks do.”
Gruden admitted that he doesn’t fully understand why progress has not come for Griffin. He doesn’t have any problem with the quarterback’s work habits or preparation, he insisted. But there is a disconnect.
“He’s had a couple injuries, obviously. I don’t think that had anything to do with it. I just think when you’re talking about pass concepts, you’re talking about the game of football, there’s a lot that has to do with repetition, confidence, and knowing where people are when you get rid of the football, and right now it’s just, for whatever reason right now it’s just not quite clicking as fast as it should be. Doesn’t mean he’s not going to be a great quarterback one day, here or somewhere else or whatever. It just means that he needs a little bit more time to go through this.”
Gruden declined to predict the future. He said he believes Griffin still has a bright future in the NFL, but wouldn’t say if he envisions it with the Redskins or not.
“I’m not going to stand up here and say we’re going to sign him to a 15-year contract or we’re going to trade him or whatever. I’m not going to predict it,” Gruden said. “All I’m doing is coaching the quarterbacks I have the best way I know how. And that’s all I can do. As far as the future, the next year, the year after that, Bruce Allen and myself and Mr. Snyder and the staff we’ll talk about what’s in store. But I have nothing against any one of the three quarterbacks we have. I have a lot of respect for all three of them. Ultimately it’s my job to make the decision on which one is the best to help us win, and like I said, this week it’s Colt.”
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