- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 6, 2012


A quarterback like Robert Griffin III can make a coach like Mike Shanahan feel young again. You could see it in Shanahan’s eyes Sunday as he talked about the new face of the Washington Redskins franchise. You could hear it in his voice, too. You might even describe him as giddy (to the extent that any going-on-60 coach can be that).

It was like he’d just gotten a new toy to play with — the greatest toy ever invented. It was like he was auditioning for the part of Smiling Bob in that commercial for, well, you know. This was one happy man.

And who can blame him? After trading an arm, a leg, and two extremities to be named later for the right to draft RG3, he’d just gotten his first hands-on look at him in a three-day rookie minicamp and … wow. When does the season start?

Shanahan was so excited, he even said he was “excited” at the prospect of keeping three quarterbacks on the roster — Griffin, fellow rookie Kirk Cousins and holdover Rex Grossman — something he didn’t do last year. Who thought we’d ever see the words “excited” and “Grossman” in the same sentence? But that’s what RG3 does to you. He’s like an injection of steroids directly into a coach’s imagination.

Speaking of which, there’s no telling what Shanahan and his faithful companion Kyle will come up with for this kid, but I can hardly wait to find out. And from the sound of it, Shanny can hardly wait to find out, either. “I think we can do some things that haven’t been done,” he said. And he thinks this, of course, because, as he also said, Griffin “can do some things I believe no one else has done.”

This is going to be a fascinating experiment, this Griffin-Shanahan marriage. How far will Mike push the envelope, given RG3’s unusual talents? We’re talking, after all, about a quarterback who not only has all the conventional attributes you’re looking for — a strong arm, laser accuracy, smarts — but also the ability, because of his 4.4 speed, to run the option and do any number of other defense-challenging things.

Rest assured, Shanahan will try to extract every ounce of specialness from Griffin, everything that makes him different from other quarterbacks. The coach said he’ll adjust the offense to RG3’s strengths, to the “things he’s comfortable doing.” It would make no sense to do otherwise. You wouldn’t hand Yo-Yo Ma a tambourine and say, “Go to it, buddy.” And you wouldn’t ask Griffin to conform to the scheme Grossman and John Beck, in all their limitedness, ran last season. You might as well just fit him with a strait jacket.

Shanahan should be secure enough, even considering his recent struggles, not to be too concerned about What Everybody Else Thinks. So don’t be surprised if you see pitch plays become a staple of the Redskins’ offense. Heck, just think of all the ways you could deploy Griffin. If Shanny really wanted to get avant garde, he could run a two-quarterback attack, something that mostly has been confined to high school ball. How exactly would a defense deal with that, with Grossman (or Cousins) and RG3 on the field at the same time — and Robert lined up as a running back or in the slot or out wide? Tom Coughlin’s head might explode. At any rate, it would pose all kinds of problems in the red zone, particularly.

This much I do know: Some potentially ground-breaking stuff could be happening during the closed portion of practices this year, stuff the Redskins will be springing on unsuspecting opponents on Sundays. Oh, to be a fly on … the blocking sled. (Maybe Shanahan should hold every workout in the new bubble; that way even satellites won’t be able to spy on what he’s doing.)

See how easy it is to get caught up in the RG3 euphoria? Two weeks from now, when OTAs begin, there’ll probably be reports that he can drop kick a field goal at full gallop (but only if a fourth-down gamble goes awry). In fact, that might have been what Shanahan was hinting at when he said, “He’s got something you can’t teach. He can make plays when everything breaks down.”

OK, I’m kidding. But just barely.

We tend to think of this as the beginning of the Robert Griffin III era, but it’s also, truth be known, the beginning of the Mike Shanahan era. Shanahan has been here two years, sure, but they were years in which the Redskins went 6-10 and 5-11 and only further deflated the fan base. Some progress has been made, roster-wise, but in many ways the Redskins have been like a plane sitting on the runway, waiting to take off.

What was keeping them from getting airborne? They didn’t have any gas in the tank — the fuel that only a top quarterback can provide. They have it now, though. It’s written all over Shanny’s face. This is the guy we’ve been looking for. This is the guy.

• Dan Daly can be reached at ddaly@washingtontimes.com.

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