Washington Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan named rookie Robert Griffin III the team’s starting quarterback Sunday after an impressive showing by the Heisman Trophy winner at the Redskins’ three-day rookie minicamp.
With Washington plagued by inconsistent quarterback play for the better part of the last 20 years, Griffin’s official elevation doesn’t come as much of a surprise.
Until Sunday, however, Shanahan had remained noncommittal about how quickly the Baylor product would assume the most important role on the team. The Redskins selected Griffin with the second overall pick of the draft after giving up first-round picks in 2012, 2013 and 2014 as well as this year’s second-round pick.
But, the usually guarded Shanahan needed only five practices and three days of working with Griffin to proclaim him, ‘the guy.’
“He’s the starter. Period,” Shanahan said.
The coach later added, “Any time you pick a player with the second pick of the draft and you give up another two No. 1’s and No. 2 and you move up four spots, you’ve got a game plan in mind. We’re going to adjust our system to what he feels comfortable with, and we’ll watch him grow, and we’ll do what we feel like he does the best. . . . One thing the NFL is not used to his someone with his type of speed and his throwing ability, and I think that we can do some things that people haven’t done.”
Shanahan said the ‘game plan’ will consist of Griffin leading the Redskins’ first-team offense beginning with organized team activities, which start May 21 and run through mid-June. Nine-year veteran Rex Grossman, fourth-round pick Kirk Cousins and Jonathan Crompton, who spent last year on the Redskins’ practice squad, will battle for the second- and third-string jobs.
Fellow rookies and second-year pros said Sunday that Griffin spat out wordy play calls and set up teammates in formations as if he were already well accustomed to doing so.
“They’re throwing it right at him, but he’s picking it up nicely and every day his timing is getting better and he was making throws on time,” second-year pro Aldrick Robinson said.
Shanahan said that in the three days of practice, the quarterback never got a formation or play call wrong. “I’ve never had that in all the minicamps I’ve been involved with,” said the coach, now in his 28th year in the NFL.
Griffin played down his rapid start. Instead, he credited work with the playbook and in the film room for the success.
“Actually, the verbiage is a lot easier than you think. I’m not saying anybody could do it. But it’s different when you have 14 words on a page and you have no idea what those words mean,” Griffin said. “So when you get in the playbook and you get in the film room with the coaches, and you actually know what that means, it just makes it that much easier.”
Griffin also said that “even if you are supposed to be the starting quarterback, you’re still bottom of the barrel and you’ve got to prove yourself. I can’t come in flamboyantly. And I don’t plan to. Come in and earn the guys’ respect. Even if they say you’ve already got it, you still have to go out and earn it.”
Griffin and Cousins — taken three rounds later, with the seventh pick of the fourth round — were paired as roommates during the rookie minicamp and are expected to remain roommates in training camp and on the road this season.
Many draft analysts had projected that Cousins would come off the board late in the second round or some time in the third. But he fell to the fourth round, where Washington snatched him up, believing he would provide them a talented backup to Griffin. Some analysts and former league executives have since said the move could add needless pressure on Griffin and possibly spark a controversy if the No. 2 overall pick struggled.
Shanahan dismissed such notions, however.
“As you guys can tell, I’m not too worried about reactions,” the coach chuckled on Sunday. “We didn’t move up in the draft to make [Griffin] second or third-team. . . . But, if we lose a guy, if we lose one guy, that guy’s one play away from being the starter.”
Griffin also dismissed any perceptions of controversy, saying “there are no issues there. We ate a burrito together. Not the same burrito — just to clear that up — but it’s a good experience. . . . Having two rookie quarterbacks growing together is a good thing.”
Cousins also played down such talk and said he and Griffin are working toward the same goal.
“At the end of the day, they’re focusing on both of us and getting us ready to play in games this fall,” the Michigan State product said. “I think the focus is that whoever is going to go in as a backup, they’re expected to play as well as the previous guy that was in the game. Whether I’m in as a starter, backup or third string, when my opportunity comes, I’m expected to play at a high level.”