Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Jay Gruden-Robert Griffin III gridlock

There are three important questions plaguing the Washington Redskins as another dreadful season winds down.

Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden confers
with quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Should Jay Gruden returns as the head coach next season? What's up with quarterback Robert Griffin III? And will RGIII be back next year?

In short, yes, I believe it's in the Redskins' long-term best interest for Gruden to coach the team next season. While I've addressed why Griffin has been such a disappointment and struggled in a previous op-ed, I have some brief insight on what he needs to do to improve.

Finally, yes, I don't see that Washington has any choice but to stick with Griffin. At least for one more season.

I'll address my first and third answers in a bit more detail. And I have come to another conclusion on how the 'Skins can get Griffin to be a successful QB.

Gruden's future in Washington: 

ESPN's Adam Schefter put it best this week: The Redskins need some sense of stability, so there's no point in firing Gruden and starting over yet again with another head coach.

Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden reacts
from the sidelines. (Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports)
There hasn't been a lot of coaching stability, much less any success, in many years. Sadly, the last time that happened was Joe Gibbs' four-year Second Coming and before that, it was Norv Turner's mediocre tenure.

Joe Gibbs during his second tenure as the Redskins' head coach, 2004-2007.
Since Gibbs retired the second time in 2007, the 'Skins have changed coaches like rock legend David David Bowie changed his hair color in the 1970s. One of those coaches was screwed over after one year (Marty Schottenheimer) so owner Dan Snyder could hire a successful college coach who failed miserably at the NFL level (Steve Spurrier) while Gibbs' replacement was an equally surprising choice who just wasn't head coach material (Jim Zorn).

All that being said, the Redskins need to dedicate themselves to a coach to truly see what he can do with this miserable team. It's not as if the 'Skins can do any worse; they only have a room for improvement.

The only way to determine if Gruden is the man for the job and and can make Washington better is for Snyder and general manager Bruce Allen to stick with him — even if that means piling up more losses. Keep in mind Gibbs and Schottenheimer lost their first five games (Gibbs during the 1981 season and Schottenheimer in 2001) before they started turning their teams around. Gruden deserves the same opportunity. How can we know if Gruden can create a winning tradition if he isn't given time to prove it?

What RGIII needs: 

As much as it pains me to say this, Griffin has been a massive disappointment since his phenomenal rookie season two years ago.

While RGIII certainly needs to prove himself as a passer, I disagree with the popular assertion he needs to be forced into being only a pocket passer.
Could Robert Griffin III succeed if he used
Roger Staubach's play as a template?

True, in the NFL, a great quarterback only proves his greatness with his throwing arm and the decisions he makes. But as I've said here, Griffin is a great runner — so let the man do some running. Sure, he needs to develop a pass-first mentality and find his groove as a pro QB, but I firmly believe RGIII can be a deadly passer without coaches hampering his speed and natural athleticism.

I give you two modern examples of extremely effective quarterbacks who know to pass and make plays with their feet — Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson. I'd love to see Washington create an offensive scheme where Griffin could do some thing similar.

There are two QBs from the 1970s who also knew how to balance accurate passing with their natural talent for scrambling — Fran Tarkenton and Roger Staubach. There's no reason RGIII and the Redskins can't take pages from any four of those QBs' playbooks to make Griffin the franchise quarterback I know he can be.
Robert Griffin III, 2014

RGIII's future in Washington: 

Griffin has been benched the last two seasons and injured in all three of the years he's been in the NFL. Aside from his dynamic rookie season when the Redskins went 10-6 and were the NFC East champs, RGIII has a losing record as a starter (4-13).

Now what team in its right mind would want to trade for such a quarterback? If Washington traded Griffin, they wouldn't get much in return. NFL teams in need of a QB are either better off with what they already have or should take their chances in the draft.

Based on Griffin's record and health the past two seasons, the Redskins are better off keeping him on the roster — at least for the 2015 season. The 'Skins should treat that as a one-year audition to see if RGIII should stay in Washington or move on. And that means Gruden and Griffin need to figure out their coach-quarterback dynamic, be professionals and make their relationship work.

The Redskins' immediate future: 

The best decision Gruden can make now is decide who will be his starting quarterback for the last three games and stick with him — no matter what. (Gruden has named Colt McCoy as the starter against the New York Giants, but will he finish out the season?) Stability at quarterback will be a welcome change to the Redskins, especially their offense.

The best the 'Skins do is play for pride and be the NFC East spoiler. If they beat Philadelphia at home in week 16 and/or the dreaded Dallas Cowboys to end the season, it does nothing nothing but complicate the playoff picture. Winning a game or two would give Washington some much needed confidence to show the Redskins they can actually do it. (Kinda like when they beat the Cowboys on Monday Night Football with McCoy as the starter!)

And wouldn't it be awesome to end the season with a home victory over the Cowgirls? Considering how much of a nightmare the rest of 2014 has been, beating Dallas twice would be just what the Redskins — and their fans — need.

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