- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Where Robert Griffin III once brought promise, now the offer is hope.

Our confidence has been replaced by optimism, assuredness exchanged for wishfulness. A battle rages in our head, where doubt and skepticism threaten to drown out more-positive inner voices.

Rookie of the Year campaigns followed by two mediocre, injury ravaged years can have that effect.

But Washington’s NFL team has doubled down on RG3, picking up his fifth-year option and naming him the starter entering training camp — actions that were uncertain, if not unlikely, when last season ended.

Like 2012, it’s all history now as RG3 enters his fourth year overall and second season under coach Jay Gruden. Griffin left an indelible impression on Gruden but has an opportunity to counteract that bad memory.

“Playing in the same system for the second year, usually the second year you have a little bit more confidence,” Gruden told reporters Tuesday after the first offseason practice this year. “There’s a little bit more of an air about you that you should show improvement, lots of improvement — hearing the concepts and seeing the plays over and over again and dealing with the pressure and all that good stuff. I think Robert’s going to be fine.”

We don’t know if that’s the whole truth or a half-lie, but Gruden can’t say anything else. He went too far in publicly dissecting the quarterback’s performance last season and must offer full support to soothe RG3’s psyche.

Griffin undoubtedly has talent; Gruden’s job — along with that of new quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh — is to extract it and develop it. Helping him set goals and boundaries is one step that, apparently, needs a little more direction.

For instance, RG3’s main focus should be evolving as a passer in the pocket. That’s where the vast majority of his success will be found. Conversely, he should be judicious in the number of times he runs. Scampering is a fine option when all else fails, but not as the first or second choice.

It’s unclear whether RG3 totally grasps that.

“You have got to be true to who you are, and right now I’m a 25-year-old young man who can do a lot of different things,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “I’m not going to limit myself to just being a dropback passer. But if Coach Gruden and [offensive coordinator] Sean McVay asked me to be a drop-back passer in any given situation, my job is to make sure that I can be.

“If they ask me to make a spectacular play — which they never will — but if it presents itself, then I have to be able to do that as well. When you get into casting yourself into a certain role, you can limit yourself as a player, so for me, I don’t really even worry about it anymore. I just focus on what I know I can do. As long as I’m able to be the athlete that I can, it’s my job, my duty to make sure that I do it.”

Surely RG3 needs to be a drop-back passer in more than “any given situation.” And while he’ll never be “just a drop-back passer,” there’s no shame in that game.

Tom Brady is as immobile as quarterbacks come and he owns four Super Bowl rings. Eli Manning, another passer who’s virtually stationary, has won a pair of Super Bowls. There are corpses that move better than Peyton Manning, but he was the MVP in Super Bowl XLI.

Those guys can’t help being pocket-bound. But even the best running quarterbacks inflict most of their damage through downfield passing, not spontaneous scrambling.

No one combined the two better than Hall of Famer Steve Young, a two-time league MVP and MVP of Super Bowl XXIX. He won six NFL passer-rating titles and ranks third among quarterbacks with 4,239 career rushing yards.

In November, Young said coaches told him that RG3 doesn’t put in the time studying film. Young said athletic quarterbacks know they can always run when needed, so they’re not as desperate and reliant on film study. They count on their legs to bail them out.

Considering RG3’s build and injury history, he needs to develop another strong suit. He should yearn to be a masterful drop-back passer, not merely a drop-back passer. Work in the film room is the quickest route and he said that’s not a problem.

“You know you have to dedicate yourself in those ways and it’s not about really standing up and talking about it and saying what you do, ” Griffin said. “…But I’ve always been focused in that way to hit the film and make sure you’re getting better.

Again, we hope that’s true and we hope he gets better.

That’s all we have left at this point.

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