- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 10, 2014

When Jay Gruden made the decision two weeks ago to turn from Robert Griffin III to Colt McCoy, he told the two quarterbacks during a Tuesday afternoon meeting and intended to inform the rest of their teammates the next morning.

That plan didn’t proceed as scheduled. While only a few people knew of Gruden’s decision before the coach wanted to make it public, his choice leaked out through the media shortly before midnight, with Gruden joking a day later that he got 14,000 text messages from a variety of people curious about the veracity of the news.

In the 11 months since Gruden accepted a job coaching the Washington Redskins, it’s clear he’s learned quite a bit about the responsibilities, the obligations and, yes, the burdens of the role. On Wednesday, with uncertainty again clouding the quarterback position because of McCoy’s recent neck injury, Gruden made it clear he’d delay making a decision until later in the week.

“You guys are contacting all your sources available,” Gruden joked during a press conference, “but nobody is gonna know anything this week.”

The dilemma Gruden faces has played out too frequently this season, yet the current situation is one he may not have control over. McCoy confirmed Wednesday he has been diagnosed with a pinched nerve in his neck, though he was able to take a good number of snaps during practice that afternoon.

If McCoy can’t play, that will leave the coach to choose between Griffin and Kirk Cousins — Griffin’s initial injury replacement, who has been the third quarterback since Griffin returned from a dislocated ankle Nov. 2 against Minnesota.

All three shared snaps with the rest of the starters in practice on Wednesday, with the coaches pitting the first-team offense against the first-team defense in order to better evaluate all three quarterbacks’ play.

McCoy said afterward he expects to start Sunday in the Redskins‘ road game against the New York Giants, regardless of the state of his injury. Medically cleared to play, he won’t need to undergo any additional examinations, he said, and it’s not an injury that can worsen if he continues to play.

It’s all about comfort — and, when it comes to the decision, that’s the point Gruden will make.

“Look, it’s a privilege to play quarterback in this league,” McCoy said. “It’s a privilege to play quarterback here. I love it. As long as I’m breathing and as long as I can pick up a football, I’m going to go out there and help my team win. There’s no other way to look at it from my mind, and that’s the way I’m approaching it.”

Griffin replaced McCoy with two minutes remaining in a 24-0 loss to St. Louis on Sunday. If he is chosen to start, it’s unlikely he’ll have been able to make much of an improvement over the performances he had in three lackluster games in November.

As the scout-team quarterback for the last two weeks, Griffin was left to simulate the opposing offense for the benefit of the Redskins‘ defense. That role can allow a quarterback to improve his fundamentals, such as his footwork and the speed of his release — but not other vital parts of the position, such as his timing with his receivers and his comfort in the pocket.

Those are all issues Griffin had during starts against Minnesota, Tampa Bay and San Francisco, all of which the Redskins lost.

“Every guy is gonna work in their own way,” Gruden said. “Hopefully, as you call the same type of concept over and over and over again from training camp, that we see some progression there, we see some development, we see some knowledge and some anticipation — and then we go from there.”

Griffin, permitted by the team to speak to reporters for just two minutes on Wednesday, insisted that his confidence remains “sky-high” and that he’s doing his best to help his teammates succeed.

Asked what he’s learned from the situation, Griffin tersely said he’s “learned a lot, but that’s for me to know.”

“I’m just taking the most of the opportunities that I’m given, and I’m just trying to be here for my guys,” Griffin said.

Gruden, ideally, would like to complete Thursday’s practice before settling on a quarterback for Sunday. That player would have a good chance at finishing out the Redskins‘ final three games — against the Giants, then Philadelphia, and finally Dallas — as the starter.

That was supposed to be McCoy, who was handed the reins to the offense on Nov. 26 with the understanding that continued strong play would allow him to keep them.

The idea, then, that he could be forced from his brief tenure as the starter because of a neck injury was something he didn’t want to even ponder on Wednesday.

“I’m not even letting my mind go there, man,” McCoy said. “I’m really not. I’m just focused on this week, and if I’m healthy, I’ll be ready to go.”

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