In the 24 hours after Washington’s 20-point loss to Tampa Bay, quarterback Robert Griffin III stood accused of throwing his teammates under the bus in his postgame remarks, wide receiver DeSean Jackson sniped back on social media and Coach Jay Gruden sought to prevent mutiny on a listing 3-7 ship.
Dissatisfaction with the team’s error-strewn performance dominated talk radio the day after fans booed the team’s stars and deserted FedEx Field in droves as the Redskins’ gaffes mounted: three turnovers, six sacks and defensive lapses that allowed 36- and 56-yard touchdown catches that made the humiliation complete.
After telling players in a Monday morning meeting to put a stop to any comments that could be construed as bickering, Gruden turned his focus to the very real problems on offense, defense and special teams that led to a loss he conceded was “a major step backwards.”
Gruden offered his sharpest criticism yet of Griffin, saying he was “not even close to being good enough” against Tampa Bay and enumerating the fundamental flaws with the third-year quarterback’s mechanics. It was Griffin’s second game back from a dislocated ankle that sidelined him for seven weeks.
“His footwork was below average,” Gruden said of Griffin, who threw one touchdown pass, missed opportunities for two more scores by badly overthrowing Jackson and was intercepted twice. “He took three-step drops when he should have taken five. He took a one-step drop when he should have taken three, on a couple occasions, and that can’t happen. He stepped up when he didn’t have to step up and stepped into pressure. He read the wrong side of the field a couple times.”
Gruden also said Griffin “stared down” wide receiver Pierre Garcon on his seventh throw of the game, which telegraphed his intent to linebacker Johnthan Banks, who picked off the ball and returned it 19 yards for a touchdown.
Asked how Griffin could struggle so at this stage in his career, Gruden said he felt the quarterback might be speeding up his play unnecessarily as a result of the adrenaline of game situations. Gruden also suggested Griffin complicated situations at times by trying too hard to be great rather than dependable and consistent.
“Sometimes you don’t need great,” Gruden said. “He is obviously very competitive, but we just need him to do what he’s supposed to do — just take your drops the right way and throw the five-yard stick route when you’re supposed to and do the best you can. Sometimes he worries about a little bit too much, but he is a great competitor and we’ve just got to try to get him better.”
Washington’s seven points Sunday represented its lowest scoring output since the 17-6 season-opening loss in Houston, and it came against a defense that until Sunday had given up an NFL-worst 30.2 points per game.
Gruden added that Griffin was taking coaching well and understood that there was much he could have done better Sunday. Reining in his postgame remarks was part of it, the coach suggested.
Griffin’s first words during his postgame news conference amounted to an unequivocal mea culpa. He took full responsibility for the six sacks, conceded he needed to play better and vowed to do so.
But later, when he said that great NFL quarterbacks such as Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning didn’t play well “if their guys don’t play well,” some media outlets construed that as “throwing his teammates under the bus.”
Amid the mini-uproar, Griffin insisted Monday via social media that wasn’t his intent. Gruden chastised him nonetheless, telling reporters that Griffin needed to focus on his own job — “his position, his footwork, his fundamentals, his reads, his progressions, his job at the quarterback position” — and let him (Gruden) worry about his teammates’ play.
Former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann said in an interview Monday that what Griffin needs above all is the patience to develop in Gruden’s system.
“The one thing people have to understand: Robert will not be the same athlete he was two years ago,” Theismann said. “He will never be the same athlete; it’s not going to happen. He can’t. He has to develop a game beyond athleticism and escapability, and that only comes with time.”
And Griffin, Theismann noted, has played just 13 quarters through 10 games.
“He’s basically starting over from a familiarity standpoint in this system,” Theismann said. “No one doubts or questions his work ethic. This is the question: Can you be what we need you to be to have an effective offense? Can you deliver on Sunday?”
Griffin’s performance was hardly the only factor that enabled Tampa Bay (2-8) to snap a five-game losing streak on Washington’s home turf.
The offense was called for four false start penalties and one illegal formation. While Griffin invited some of his six sacks by holding onto the ball too long as a result of indecision, the offensive line failed him in other instances.
Washington played most of the game without its Pro Bowl left tackle, Trent Williams, who was injured on the Redskins’ second drive and was replaced by rookie Morgan Moses. Gruden said Monday Williams is being listed as “day-to-day” with a sprained ankle and sprained medial collateral ligament. Left guard Shawn Lauvao, who also exited the game early, is questionable for Sunday’s game at San Francisco with a concussion.
And Washington’s defense failed to muster enough pressure to bother the Buccaneers’ journeyman quarterback Josh McCown, whose two-touchdown day produced a passer rating of 137.5.