“That’s the biggest factor,” Gruden said when asked how much weight victories carry on his grading scale. “That is the No. 1 factor and that is it. Obviously you’re looking for production and all that stuff and what he could’ve done. But winning football games is all that matters for a quarterback, and it doesn’t matter if they go, like I said, 12-for-24 for 80 yards and we win or 38-for-45 for 400 and we lose, you’d rather have the 12-for-24. The ability manage the football game, stay away from the turnovers, and get the W is all that counts.”
Griffin on Saturday made his first start since getting benched following a Week 12 loss to the 49ers. Griffin helped lead the Redskins to victory for the first time since Nov. 3, 2013. The Redskins snapped a six-game losing streak with their 27-24 victory over the Eagles.
“We had that losing streak going and we were looking for answers and making changes that we thought would help us win the football games,” said Gruden, who went with Colt McCoy for three games, but went back to Griffin as his starter this week with McCoy now on injured reserve with a neck injury. “And that’s why we made some of the decisions that we made back in the earlier part of the year and now Robert got this win and got the monkey off his back, it’s great to see. He’ll definitely be the starter next week.”
Griffin on Saturday completed 16 of 23 passes for 220 yards. He did throw a fourth-quarter interception, and didn’t have a touchdown pass. But he rebounded from the turnover and directed a scoring drive with time running out, setting up Kai Forbath for the deciding field goal with five seconds left.
The third-year quarterback displayed better pocket presence and decision-making and threw with more decisiveness, which helped keep the offense in more manageable situations, and also avoid sacks.
Before getting benched, Griffin frequently held onto the ball too long, and Washington’s offense failed to produce. He got sacked, on average, nearly five times per game. But his new-found decisiveness translated into a better offensive tempo, and he got sacked only twice.
Gruden said he didn’t work any magic with Griffin during his three weeks on the sideline. The coach surmised that improvement from Griffin stemmed from improved understanding of his responsibilities, the offensive concepts and the Eagles’ defensive plans.
“I think just continuing to watch and continue to play and practice and learn,” Gruden said when asked what made the difference. “He’s still young and he’s still going to have some bumps in the road and it’s never going to be perfect, but I think just continuing to work and study the game and get to know these concepts and how we’re trying to attack a defense started to pay off. We were not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but I was happy the way he competed and made some big throws in crucial times and obviously protected the ball. That was good to see, but I can’t really say that I know the reason for his progression right now. I think it was just he’s getting more comfortable with the terminology and more comfortable with what we’re doing.”
Despite having seen Griffin improve on last Sunday’s relief effort against the New York Giants, Gruden said he doesn’t regret having benched the quarterback rather than letting him work his way through his struggles.
“The decisions were made based on the strong feelings I had as far as what I thought was best for the football team,” Gruden said. “I had no hidden agenda and that’s the only reason why I made the decision that I made. I just thought Robert, at the time that I went back to Colt, I just thought Robert needed more time to take a step back and take a deep breath and sit back and learn a little bit more. It was not the end of his career, I said. I thought he was going to have another opportunity to play again and he has and he’s taken advantage of it. But, going back, I don’t think I – I played it the way that I thought was right, and that’s why I did it at the time.”
Four weeks after giving indications that he had lost faith in Griffin, and after repeatedly sharing harsh critiques of the quarterback’s shortcomings, Gruden has changed his tune.
“I think, like I said, a lot of the talk between Robert and I, of me not liking Robert or Robert not liking me, has been a little misinterpreted or misunderstood,” Gruden said. “It’s obvious I have a great respect for Robert and what he does, and I’m happy with the way he came out and competed last week and I’m glad he likes it here. He likes his teammates and I think everybody has a genuine respect for what he does as a football player and what he’s gone through, and he’s just got to build on this performance. Hopefully against Dallas he can finish off the season on a high note and have something positive going into next year.”
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