However, a few weeks into their second offseason together, the two are singing the same tune. Familiarity should lead to improvements, they agree. All anybody wants is better execution and more wins. The rest will take care of itself.
Speaking shortly before teeing off at linebacker Ryan Kerrigan’s Leukemia Golf Classic at Lansdowne Resort on Monday, Gruden said he believes that Griffin — who battled injury and inconsistency in his first season under the coach — will make a leap forward in his development this season.
The coach praised Griffin’s understanding and football IQ. He said Griffin already has seemed sharper mentally during the film studies they have shared. Soon, the actual practice sessions will get underway, and the coach hopes things carry over onto the field.
“Going into Year 2 in this system should be a big jump, you know,” Gruden said. “You’re not really thinking about who’s where, what’s my footwork. Everything should come a lot more natural for you, and hopefully, we see that transition from year one to year two in this system with the terminology and knowing where to go with your footwork and anticipation of getting the ball out quicker. Hopefully, that comes.”
Gruden’s optimistic tone differed from his stance late in the 2014 season when he offered harsh criticisms of Griffin’s play, and entered the offseason saying that Griffin would have to compete with Colt McCoy and Kirk Cousins for the starting quarterback job.
The coach changed his tune in February, however, declaring Griffin the starter for the offseason workouts and training camp. General manager Scot McCloughan has since said the starting job is Griffin’s to lose.
Washington officials last month decided to pick up the fifth-year option on Griffin’s contract, meaning they retain his rights for next season. That contract for 2016 (which will be worth around $16 million) is fully guaranteed for injury, but not performance. If Griffin plays poorly, the team can release him without penalty.
Commenting on the decision, Gruden said, “Well, you know, we exercised the option, so it is what it is right now. He’s our starting quarterback, so hopefully, we show improvement at the quarterback position — along with every other position, for that matter. But right now, in Phase II [of workouts], the little things that we can do with them, they’re all doing well.”
Shortly after, Griffin arrived at the resort to ride along and watch teammates and his coach play.
Echoing Gruden’s sentiments about the early stages of the process in Year 2, he said, “Yeah, just knowing what coach wants and growing together. We’re all in this together. We know that. We go out there as a team and we come off that field as a team, so whatever happens is under our control and I look forward to continuing to grow with him and the rest of the team.”
Griffin continued, “You definitely feel a difference. But the day you stop changing and adapting yourself and growing as a player is the day that you shouldn’t be playing anymore. So every year, you step on that field, you find those things that you want to work on, you listen to your coaches, you work on the things they want you to work on and you become a better and better player. You continue to water that Chinese bamboo and chop at that wood. We’re looking forward to allowing that tree to sprout up and I look forward to it.”
Griffin didn’t have much to say about the fifth-year option, however. Asked if he took that move as a boost of confidence, he offered little insight.
“Nah, I’ve said it before: I’m not focused on next year, focused on this year.”
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