Gruden met Tuesday with the quarterbacks individually, and planned to inform the entire team of his decision at a meeting Wednesday morning.
Gruden’s decision comes less than 48 hours after the coach stated that it was his “intent” to start Griffin despite three straight losses, including back-to-back dismal performances by the 2012 NFL offensive rookie of the year.
Gruden on Monday gave himself some wiggle room, saying “It’s Monday afternoon at 3 o’clock, and right now, we have every intent for Robert, but we’ll look at the tape and make our evaluations here shortly.”
Asked then if he believed Griffin still gave the team the best chance to win, and what led him to believe so, Gruden avoided answering the question.
“We’re still in the process of evaluating this tape,” he said. “We’re evaluating all of our guys right now, and our starting lineup is not etched in stone right now for Sunday’s game at Indianapolis. We’re going to evaluate everybody today and tomorrow, and have a plan moving forward, starting Wednesday.”
Griffin has played only four full games under Gruden, but he hasn’t come remotely close to displaying the promise of his rookie season, when he set franchise and league records for passer rating and rushing yards.
Griffin struggled in the preseason and again in the season opener against Houston, as Washington mustered only one touchdown in a 17-6 loss. Griffin was injured six plays into Washington’s Week 2 matchup with Jacksonville, and he missed the next six games recovering from a dislocated left ankle.
He showed signs of rust in his return against Minnesota, which Washington lost, 29-26. But instead of making improvements following the Week 10 bye, Griffin regressed. In a 27-7 loss to 1-8 Tampa Bay, he threw for one touchdown and two interceptions while throwing for 207 yards and posting a quarterback rating of 73.3. Then on Sunday, Griffin completed only 57.9 percent of his passes for just 106 yards. Washington again managed only one touchdown (a run by Alfred Morris).
Gruden had been frank in his assessment of Griffin’s play the past two weeks, saying he “not even close to being good enough to what we expect from the quarterback position.”
Meanwhile, Griffin’s teammates also have begun to lose confidence in him. Wide receivers Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson both had been publicly critical of the passer and the ineffectiveness of the offense. Gruden said that he understood the frustrations of the two wideouts.
The coach had serious reservations about Griffin’s ability to develop into a pocket passer after he struggled mightily in training camp and the preseason, people with knowledge of the situation said. But he held out hope that with more game action, improvements would come.
However, fed up with the mounting losses, lack of progress and in fear of losing the locker room, Gruden decided this week to pull the plug on the Griffin experiment.
Griffin’s benching marks one of the fastest falls from grace that the franchise has seen. The team gave up three No. 1 picks and a second-rounder for the rights to draft him second overall in 2012.
Griffin dazzled with his legs and his arm, running a read-option-heavy offensive attack that then-offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan tailored to the strengths Griffin had exhibited while winning the Heisman Trophy at Baylor in 2011.
But after tearing ligaments in his knee at the end of the 2012 season, Griffin stated that he wanted to move away from the read-option plays and develop into a traditional pocket passer that used his legs to extend plays rather than risk another career-threatening injury.
Shanahan and then-coach Mike Shanahan obliged and changed the offense, but Griffin struggled in the transition. His relationship with his coaches had started to deteriorate. He took offense to how Mike Shanahan said he needed to learn to slide to keep himself healthy instead of accepting partial blame for the injury.
Griffin and the Shanahans’ relationship only worsened over the course of the 2013 season and ultimately the coach benched Griffin for the final three games of the season, saying he needed to ensure the quarterback would enter the offseason fully healthy so he could work on improving his game. But Shanahan was fired, and General Manager Bruce Allen hired Gruden to fix Griffin and return him to his former glory, and surpass that.
Gruden gave Griffin more responsibility, including having him more extensively read defenses and make calls at the line.
Griffin this season managed only two touchdown passes, while throwing three interceptions and losing two fumbles in five games. He also was sacked 20 times while posting an 0-4 record in the games he started and finished.
Uncertainty looms over the quarterback’s future. He has one more year remaining on his rookie contract, and is owed a base salary of $3.69 million for next season. The contract includes an option for a fifth year, and Washington would have to exercise that option by May. But such a move would guarantee Griffin a salary of upwards of $15 million in 2016.
The Redskins could decline to pick up the option and let Griffin play out his final season, but they could risk ongoing distractions behind the scenes.
If Washington were to cut Griffin, they would have to absorb a salary cap hit of $6.71 million for 2015.
McCoy opened the year as the third-string quarterback, but moved up to No. 2 on the depth chart with Griffin injured. In Week 7, he replaced a struggling Kirk Cousins and led Washington to a comeback victory over Tennessee. The following week, he helped the team beat Dallas in overtime on “Monday Night Football” at AT&T Stadium.