Is Robert Griffin III Not Who We Thought He Would Be?

Published: Dec 12, 2013 22:45pm EST
By Lance Rinker, Managing Editor for Konsume Sports

Please Note: This article was updated Dec 12, 2013 @ 10:45pm EST


After the unfettered circus that has been the Washington Redskins head coaching job this season, will anyone of substantial talent or character want it after Mike Shanahan departs? I suppose when the owner of the team is willing to pay whatever he has to in order to lure a coach with the chops and thick skin to coach in Washington, D.C. then sure, someone will take the job. But will they actually believe in what they are doing or are they just on board to cash in?

Part of this circus has been the alleged clashing of egos between head coach Mike Shanahan and owner Dan Snyder. Quarterback Robert Griffin III has also, allegedly, been dragged into this test of wills between the two by being benched for the rest of the season, as to look out for his health and long-term prospects with the organization.

It’s nearly impossible to confirm much of anything in situations like these because no one is going to go on the record to admit this is what is taking place, and also because they are losing and losing badly. Controversy tends to surround and follow struggling teams with questions surrounding the future of their head coach and the starting quarterback.

Kirk Cousins is now the starting quarterback for this team over the final three games of the season and there are various thoughts as to what this actually means. The most obvious answer, and also most logical, is that Cousins is getting this time to shine so he can audition for QB needy teams who may want to trade for him in the off-season. The other possibility that seems to be getting swept under the rug and immediately dismissed by the Redskins and coaching staff is that Cousins is actually better suited for the pro-style game, has a better handle on reading opposing defenses, and is simply a better quarterback than Griffin is at this point in their development.

It’s certainly more than a near certainty that Griffin’s knee injury cost him big time since he was unable to participate in off-season workouts and had zero pre-season to prepare. It’s also obvious that he shouldn’t have been the starting quarterback for this team when the regular season began, he simply wasn’t ready.

All that aside, he’s proven that he isn’t quite ready to have the training wheels come off and develop into more of a pocket passer, or trust the pocket rather, for a more advanced game plan in the NFL. Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan did an amazing job of incorporating certain packages from Baylor that Griffin was familiar with and could run confidently during his rookie campaign. So much so that the read-option offense took the NFL by storm last year and Griffin was able to put together one of the most brilliant rookie seasons by a quarterback in recent memory, earning offensive rookie of the year honors, and helping to lead his team to an NFC East division title and playoff berth.

Defenses caught up to it this year however and now it’s time to evolve and grow as a quarterback, unfortunately Griffin has not shown the ability to do that just yet. There have been many times this season where it’s painfully obvious that he doesn’t quite have a handle on a more pro-style offense, cannot consistently pick up what the defense is doing, and far too often looks to find a hole to run through when his first option isn’t available.

Former Redskins tight end Chris Cooley was painfully blunt and honest when asked about what his observations were on Griffin and Cousins.

“Overall Kirk is a better pocket passer right now. That’s apparent, very easily, that he is able to sit and execute the drop-back offense that we want to run at times better than Robert can. Ultimately RGIII gives you a more explosive element, a big-play style that I think is needed in the NFL [more] than Kirk does. But he’s not very good right now when it comes to getting from 1 to 2 to 3. He just isn’t. I think he fears that he’s going to be sacked, I think he fears everything around him in the pocket.”

Not only is Cousins the better pocket passer and more accustomed to running a pro-style offense, he also has the presence of mind to read what the defense is trying to do, making adjustments as needed, and then find the open man.

“The Chiefs zone-blitzed us four times while Robert was in the game. Four times they blitzed away from our line side, and they had a guy come free. In all four of those instances, one of our offensive linemen was standing with no one to block, away from that blitz. I’m not sure if that’s Will Montgomery, and I’m not sure if that’s Robert. But one of those guys has to be able to pick that up. One time they brought that blitz when Kirk Cousins was in, and the line side changed, and they picked that blitz up.”

Even though word out of Washington is that there isn’t a QB controversy, that Griffin is the undisputed starter going into the 2014 season, and that Cousins is just getting his chance to shine and further prove himself as a capable back-up quarterback, someone really needs to sit back and really figure out if Griffin will be able to develop into that pro-offense quarterback or if he needs the gimmicks, the college style game to succeed in an NFL where defenses are constantly adjusting on a play-by-play basis.

If Griffin isn’t the guy and Cousins happens to be the guy then it shouldn’t matter how many draft picks you gave up for your top pick, or what the perception would be of anyone outside the organization if it turns out your franchise quarterback is actually your backup and the guy you traded away multiple first-round and second-round picks for simply isn’t what we all thought he would be.

Someone has to have the fortitude to stand up and make that tough decision and do it sooner rather than later, especially before it’s too late and fans in D.C. have to suffer through another decade of losing because no one wanted to be the one to have to make the toughest decision that’s possibly staring them right in the face at the moment. 


Comments (1)

  • Michael Owen   Dec 12, 2013 @ 11:49PM
    I agree with the overall assessment here however, the Skins aren't the only one running the read option. Carolina, Seattle, San Fran, the Jets and to some degree the Eagles are all using it to some effectiveness. Yes, the league HAS caught up with it (just as you said they would) but nobody has failed to the degree that the Skins have. So the question becomes, is it personal, coaching or ability?

    IMO, the read option is a fad and will go by the wayside, much like the run and shoot did before too long and these QB's will eventually have to switch to a traditional pro style passing attack. The next big question is: how long can these QB's stay in the NFL in such an offense.

    The reality is that these QB's (Wilson, RG3, Kaep et al) likely will not have long careers due to the many hits they will take. Of all of them, the only one that (to me) has a fighting chance is Cam Newton due to his size and makeup. That said, despite it all, he will NEVER be a pocket QB.

    RGIII is a nice player, but again, in my opinion, drafting him set them back 10 years,

Lance Rinker
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