Robert Griffin III is back in the NFL news cycle, and it’s not comforting to him or anyone who wants to see him succeed with the Washington Redskins. Actually, it’s a wonder Griffin has not just asked to be traded. Seems it would at least offer a little relief from the steady drama.
A few days after ESPN reported that the Redskins may select Marcus Mariota of Oregon with the fifth pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, but that it would not signal an end to Griffin’s tumultuous run in D.C., former teammate and current TV commentator Ryan Clark said on the network that such a choice would be the end of Griffin in Washington.
On ESPN’s First Take, Clark offered the kind of insight only a former player and teammate can on this always-fluid situation. Simply, he said, Griffin is “not (coach Jay Gruden’s) guy.”
“(Gruden) was supposed to come in and deal with RGIII and make him a better football player. When you have a player like RGIII, with his skill set, which is much like Marcus Mariota, you have to make the offense something that they are comfortable with. You have to build the offense around him, much like the Shanahans did in RGIII’s rookie year, when he was the rookie of the year over Andrew Luck, he was the rookie of the year over Russell Wilson, and he really performed well in that offense.”
But that did not happen, and that was alarming to Clark. Instead of playing to Griffin’s vast strengths, Gruden tried to make RGIII play to his system. Finally, someone is saying what should have been said long ago—that Griffin’s problems were as much the coach as it was him and a substandard offensive line.
Clark: “But you can’t come there and say, ‘Hey, you know what, Robert? We’re gonna make you run what we want to do.’ As a coach, you have to kind of listen to him, see what he wants to do, and build your offense around him.”
He added: “When you give up what you gave to get an RGIII at a No. 2 pick, you make things work for him. You don’t make him change his game to fit what you want to do. And I think that’s where Jay Gruden went wrong last year.”
Makes sense. It’s not like Gruden had established himself as the late Bill Walsh, who developed and mastered the “West Coast Offense” and plugged in quarterbacks to run it. Gruden was a rookie coach whose ego prevented him from moving off his comfort base to embrace a multi-talented athlete like Griffin. And to make it worse, Gruden’s unprofessional critique of his quarterback to the media remains a slight Griffin likely still cannot fathom.
Clark: “Now, you bring in a new GM, so RGIII’s not his guy. So, he wants to come in and build the team the way he wants to build it. And also Jay Gruden, as you saw from last year — the media reports where he would say RGIII took a five-step drop when he was supposed to take three, or he looked the wrong way this many times in the game — he showed the world that [Griffin] wasn’t his guy.”
At the scouting combines last month, after all but saying Griffin was gone, Gruden announced that he was the No. 1 QB going into training camp. Huh? It did not go with all the disappointments he expressed in Griffin prior to then. Clark said declaring Griffin the starting quarterback was a ruse to diffuse the issues within the team around Griffin.
“He’s not his guy,” Clark said of RGIII. “They want to go in a different direction.”
For his part, all Griffin can do is get healthy and see what happens. But his confidence in Gruden’s confidence in him has to be minimal.
Clark: “And to hear this early. . . has to be disheartening to RGIII. And even if they don’t draft Marcus Mariota, it could create some problems in the locker room and in that building.”
Problems? The Redskins are used to problems. Griffin was ridiculed for a selfish disposition, not accepting blame for the team or his woes. But Clark said, based on his experience with Griffin as a teammate last year, Griffin “was a team guy despite what a lot of people say about him.”