Tuesday, March 8, 2016

How can RGIII transform himself (back) into a dangerous QB?

RGIII handled being cut Monday from the Washington Redskins with class.

I expected no less.

Collage and graphic courtesy of the NFL on CBS
"It was a blessing guys. After 4 years, my days as a part of this team have come to an end. I just want to take the time to say thank you #SkinsNation. Thank you for welcoming my family with open arms in 2012. You guys made it truly an honor to play for you and I couldn't imagine starting my career anywhere else," Robert Griffin III wrote on Twitter.

Just like I expected the 'Skins were going to cut him, I fully expect a NFL team will take a chance and pick him up. And I say Griffin can be a successful quarterback again — if he's willing to be a student of football and develop his game. (More on that later.)

First let me say it again, RGIII can be a NFL success story. Or rather, his story at this stage of his short career could be one about a fallen star who falls out of favor with his team and their fans and redeems himself.

It's a long shot. But possible.

Second of all, the Redskins should be grateful for what Griffin brought to the team.

How can I say that?

Thanks to his superb rookie season, RGIII kick-started the 'Skins into a team the NFL again took notice of — even if for only for a 10-6 season capped with winning the NFC East after countless subpar outings.

That also meant the Redskins Nation believed their team could be winners. Even more important, there's no doubt the players themselves realized they could win games instead of grabbing loss after loss from the jaws of victory.

But Griffin's ACL and LCL tears in the Jan. 6, 2013 playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks — a home game in which the 'Skins dominated early — brought all that crashing down.

Being pushed back into the lineup too soon twice — once before he properly healed during his rookie season and again before Game 1 of his next season — put an exclamation point on it all.

Combine that with RGIII going in and out being the Redskins' starting quarterback and being benched and the Heisman Trophy-winning QB once seen as The Next Big Thing who could lead the Redskins back to the promised land of the Super Bowl suddenly was seen — rightly or unfairly — as injury prone, a drama-queen failure, a coach-killer and/or a one-season fluke.

Maybe RGIII is a little bit of all those things. Who knows!

What I know is that without Griffin's dramatic rise to Rookie of the Year and even sharper fall, we 'Skins fans wouldn't be here with Kirk Cousins, who recently signed the franchise tag and like the QB he once backed up, led his team to clinch the NFC East and a playoff berth and in his first season as a starter. The 'Skins may indeed have found the real deal.

Back to Griffin.

The last three years of his four-year NFL experience has to have been the most humbling of his life.

So how can this once all-in RGIII fan say he has the potential for success?

Not unlike what I said in late November 2014 when I advocated benching Griffin, I still see there are ways he can be a valuable QB — either as a work-in-progress starter or the most dynamic second-stringer in the NFL.

Here are the assets RGIII brings to the table: • A very strong arm • precise passer • mobility and • self confidence.

But those same strengths are double-edged weaknesses:

Now more back-foot throwing: Griffin has to learn to step into his passes. He can't throw off his back foot and depend on his arm strength — all that does is lead to disaster. And interceptions. Stepping forward as he passes can help avoid that and take advantage of his laser-sharp throws.

Be a student of the game: RGIII can't depend on his physical gifts alone anymore. The rest of the NFL is just as fast and skilled at their positions.

So Griffin needs to become an intellectual QB — not just an instinctual one. It's not just as easy as learning to read pro-style defenses, he has to avoid depending on his instincts; Griffin has to study football. He has to dedicate himself to obsessively studying film and learning defenses' tendencies. RGIII basically needs to take a crash-course in being a Peyton Manning-like analyst — and stick with it, if he wants to have a long NFL career.

Find the best way to use his mobility: As RGIII becomes a student of the NFL, he needs to figure out which current mobile QB makes the most of his running ability — all while still basically being a pocket passer. I recommend Griffin study and channel Cam Newton, Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson.

The play-option — RGIII's biggest weapon in Washington his rookie year — is longer an option in the league; defensive coordinators have figured out how to defend it for the most part. That means Griffin's next team needs to utilize his passing arm while still finding away to take advantage of his breakaway speed every once in a while.

Hit the gym: Basically, RGIII needs to become a gym rat. He can't be the next Newton or Rodgers without conditioning. Strengthening his body will make Griffin more durable. This is the healthiest he's been since his prime days in college; he needs to stay that way.

A conditioning program focusing on RGIII's leg strength will make him that much faster. Being stronger = being able to take hits. Not that Griffin's next team wants to him to take hits, but if he strengthens his body, he will be less injury-prone. Hopefully.

See a sports shrink: Griffin's wild journey with the Redskins has to have left him second-guessing himself and his abilities. He needs to talk it out with a professional, figure it out. A strong body is only as good as a sound mind that controls it.

Find the "I" in team: Keep a steady diet of humble pie in your interviews, Robert. Take the blame (whether it's yours or not); don't blame others. Share the success stories and give your teammates plenty of attaboys. It's not all about you.

RGIII's road to redemption won't be easy.

But this classy guy can be something as close to as dangerous as he was his rookie season if he devotes himself to self-improvement.

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