Jay Gruden wanted Robert Griffin III to succeed, but he felt he had no choice last week other than to bench the Washington Redskins’ once-apparent franchise savior despite the wide-ranging consequences. And while it’s unclear whether owner Dan Snyder and President and General Manager Bruce Allen are in lock step with their coach, it’s helpful to examine what convinced Gruden that the franchise must part ways with the 2012 offensive rookie of the year. By making the bold move, Gruden has set the tone for Griffin’s future as the offseason draws near, and the power of Gruden’s assessment will be crucial as he tries to persuade Snyder and Allen to follow him.
Although Gruden had doubts about Griffin before coming to Washington in January, Griffin was his unquestioned starter from the offseason workouts through training camp to Week 1 of this season. After working with Griffin for more than 10 months, however, Gruden is now done with him, according to people within the organization.
Through three preseason games and five starts in the regular season, Gruden has seen enough to realize Griffin at best is a long-term project as a pocket passer. Griffin was too deliberate reading defenses and displayed poor footwork and an alarming lack of pocket presence for a signal-caller in his third NFL season.
Also, Gruden’s assessment goes deeper than Griffin’s play. He has major concerns about Griffin’s decision making off the field, which has come to light through conversations with team officials at Redskins Park.
To Gruden, Griffin seemed more concerned about enhancing his brand than about honing his pocket skills. Often, Gruden rolled his eyes after being informed about the life lessons the 24-year-old offered on social media. Gruden became frustrated that Griffin, even after Gruden benched him, failed to acknowledge his role in his failure.
If it were up to Gruden, the Redskins would make a clean break in the offseason, taking whatever they could get for Griffin in a trade. But despite Griffin’s awful performance — he hasn’t won a game in more than a year while being benched in successive seasons — the situation may not be so clear-cut for Snyder and Allen, who had key roles in the decision to trade four high-round draft picks for the opportunity to select Griffin.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Snyder and Allen were tempted to give Griffin another shot at reclaiming the starting job. Or they could take a hard-line approach in trade talks, hoping to recoup a portion of the king’s ransom it took to get Griffin. In either scenario, the Redskins would wind up as losers.
In the NFL, the head coach-quarterback relationship is the most important on the team. A productive one can help provide the foundation of a championship organization. Conversely, it’s a bad idea to force a coach to work with a quarterback in whom he has no confidence.
If Gruden were merely aggravated about Griffin’s miscues, Gruden could work through that. Early in Brett Favre’s career with the Green Bay Packers, Mike Holmgren often wanted to strangle Favre for his blockheaded play. During their days with the New York Giants, Bill Parcells repeatedly blasted Phil Simms on the sidelines. Terry Bradshaw and Chuck Noll had such a contentious union that they barely spoke for 20 years after Bradshaw retired.
But Holmgren, Parcells and Noll all believed they were working with quarterbacks capable of achieving greatness. Gruden does not share that view about Griffin.
If Griffin were willing to remain in the background, perhaps Gruden could tolerate having him on the roster as a backup next season. But Griffin craves attention. The spotlight always finds him — or he makes sure it does.
The belief around the league is that for Griffin to have any hope of reviving his career, he must get his priorities in order. To say the least, the Redskins won’t have a ton of leverage in trying to trade Griffin.
Considering Gruden’s firm stance, though, trading Griffin is the logical option. And if Snyder and Allen drag their feet or tell Gruden he must give Griffin one more chance, then Gruden may have to come up with an exit strategy even faster than Mike Shanahan did.
Realizing he faces a formidable challenge, Gruden is eager to roll up his sleeves. To help Gruden get the job done, Snyder and Allen should remove the albatross around his neck.
For more by Jason Reid, visit washingtonpost.com/reid