Here’s all you need to understand about the Washington Redskins’ decision to stick with Robert Griffin III: On the field, things have never been bleaker. By continuing to back a quarterback who has little support in the coaches’ offices and even less in the locker room, the Redskins have sent a horrible message to their players and fans.
Ineffective in the pocket and injury prone, Griffin has played a big part in Washington’s 7-25 mess the past two seasons. And now the Redskins plan to hand him the keys to potentially wreck another one. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me repeatedly while displaying an alarming lack of competence at football’s most important position, well, you get the idea.
The Redskins have had enough time to determine what they have in Griffin. Even a franchise that has finished last in the NFC East six of the past seven seasons and eight of 11 should be able to read large signs in flashing neon lights. It makes no sense to follow someone who has no idea how to lead. Some in the organization get it.
Griffin’s deficiencies as a pocket passer and his out-of-control ego make him a pleasure to work with, football people say, sarcastically. Not only has Griffin refused to accept his role in his failure — “It’s always someone else’s fault,” one Redskins staffer told me during the season — he comes across like he has everything figured out. For a 25-year-old who’s on shaky ground in the workplace, that’s a bad look.
Another problem is that Griffin, according to people who have coached him, hasn’t done enough to refine some of a signal-caller’s most important skills. It’s not that Griffin slacks off. In the weight room, you won’t find anyone who works harder. Of course, there’s a film room, too.
That’s what Coach Jay Gruden was gently poking at the other day — after often verbally crushing Griffin in public last season, Gruden figures to tread lightly moving forward — while saying he will design some “specific things that [Griffin] can do to get better from a quarterback position — mechanic-wise, drop-back-wise, throwing-wise. All that stuff he can work on.”
To stay in the game, every NFL player must work on his craft. As the saying goes: You’re either getting better, or you’re getting worse. What Gruden touched on, however, was more than the old it’s-important-to-stay-on-the-grind mantra. Griffin’s overall approach hasn’t been good enough.
It’s a bad sign that, even while naming Griffin as the team’s No. 1 quarterback for the offseason, Gruden reminded us about Griffin’s poor “footwork and fundamentals.” No matter how hard Gruden tries to conceal his true feelings about Griffin’s performance, his comments betray him. So why is Gruden traveling this bumpy road again? The answer is simple — follow the money.
Under contract next season for $3.27 million, Griffin already has made $17.85 million. Then there are those four high-round picks the Redskins traded for the pick to select Griffin. When you add it all up, it’s easy to understand why the people above Gruden at Redskins Park aren’t ready to accept the Griffin era is over. Putting Griffin atop the depth chart, though, reinforces the belief that the Redskins often make decisions for all the wrong reasons.
Granted, there isn’t a dependable quarterback on the roster. Kirk Cousins squandered his opportunity last season, and someone has to take the first-team snaps throughout organized team activities, minicamp and training camp. The Redskins have a lot of money tied up in Griffin, the thinking goes, so they should give him another chance. And they still could sign a quarterback in free agency or draft one to challenge Griffin.
But why anoint Griffin as the starter? Gruden should have said the job is open. With as awful as the Redskins have been, no one deserves to be handed anything.
There are holes throughout the roster, Gruden is coming off a rough rookie year and his coordinators are unproven. Unless Gruden rebounds quickly, we could be talking Jim Zorn territory here. At least there’s something promising occurring in the front office.
If new General Manager Scot McCloughan is half as sharp as people tell me, he will rebuild the team the right way, one solid draft at a time. Problem is, creating anything from rubble takes patience, and the person who signs McCloughan’s paychecks hasn’t demonstrated much of it. Meanwhile, McCloughan and Gruden will have to hope Griffin magically becomes the franchise savior he once appeared to be. Good luck with that one.
More than six months before kicking off the 2015 season, the Redskins aren’t ready to wave a white flag. But if Griffin remains a starter, they eventually will.