INDIANAPOLIS – Although the collective bargaining agreement has prevented new Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden from speaking to quarterback Robert Griffin III about football, they've discussed quite a few things over the last six weeks.
"[The] house, furniture, the stars," Gruden joked. "Whatever. His Twitter account. All the fun stuff."
The relationship between a coach and a starting quarterback is critical to a team's success, but the way Gruden and Griffin interact early will be especially vital. The connection between Griffin and former coach Mike Shanahan fractured over the last year and is considered one of the larger reasons why Shanahan was fired on Dec. 30 after four seasons with the Redskins.
Players won't be able to receive a copy of the Redskins' playbook until offseason workouts begin on April 7. Until then, Griffin will be tasked with staying in shape and learning from a subpar season in which he struggled to recover from knee surgery.
"I think the one thing about him is that he's a very fiery competitor, a good, solid leader, and he's excited to get to work," Gruden said. "He obviously has a ton of talent that we have to try to continue to mold and get him comfortable in the offense."
Griffin underwent surgery to repair two ligaments in his right knee three days after the 2011 season ended, and Shanahan and the Redskins delayed his return in order to ensure he was healthy. He wasn't physically able to take part in football-related activities during offseason workouts, and he was restricted to passing drills during training camp and did not play in the preseason before making his return Sept. 9 in a home loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
"I played quarterback, and I can't imagine missing all of the offseason, all of training camp, all of the preseason and all of a sudden, 'OK, you're playing,'" Gruden said. "That's hard. You know, they put a lot of faith in him – as they should, because he's their guy – and I think that set him back a little bit. That's a very difficult position to play, as we all know, but when you miss that much time leading up to your first game, it's difficult for anybody."
Griffin played in only 13 games last season and, in a fairly controversial move, was benched for the final three games by Shanahan. He completed 60.1 percent of his passes for 3,203 yards and 16 touchdowns, but he threw 12 interceptions and fumbled 11 times, losing four of them.
"The first year he played, he didn't throw any interceptions and he hardly ever fumbled," Gruden said. "The turnover ratio was unbelievable, and that's part of the reason they went to the playoffs. Last year, I think it took a little bit of a dip – more interceptions, more fumbles – so ball security [will be] No. 1."
That's not all Gruden plans to change. While the Redskins ran an overwhelming majority of their plays out of the pistol formation last season to allow for greater flexibility in the running game, Gruden is planning to have Griffin under center more frequently.
He hasn't committed to a specific style of offense, but as the offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals the last three years, he figures to deploy a variety of looks.
"We want to give him some chances to see the field a little bit more with some drop-back passes, and we'll see how he handles it moving forward," Gruden said. "I don't think it was a total wash last year. I still think he did some good things, and the more you play, the better you're gonna get. You learn from experience, both good and bad."
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