Robert Griffin III may be injured, but the offensive scheme is not to blame.
The pistol and the read-option injected a new dynamic into the NFL last season, and the Washington Redskins were at the forefront of this. Even with Robert Griffin III's injury, it makes no sense for the Redskins to abandon its concepts.
When Griffin's knee buckled under him in the playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks, questions were raised about the QB’s ability to stay healthy within Mike and Kyle Shanahan’s scheme.
These were the same questions raised before the 2012-13 season began, and they are no more relevant now than they were then.
Obviously, Griffin’s health is the most important aspect of this conversation. If he isn’t healthy, he shouldn’t play. No more sideline insistence that he should be put back in the game or underplaying the seriousness of his injuries. Choosing to get out of bounds or slide earlier is also paramount.
Yet, crucially, these things also have nothing to do with the offensive scheme. They are decisions only Griffin can make. The read-option, too, grants the quarterback the responsibility of making the final call.
Griffin’s decision-making was widely praised over the course of 2012. Of course his initial instinct is to try and make a play; it’s part of who he is as a quarterback, and his speed allows him that option. Again, these are choices he alone can make.
When Griffin sent a text message to ESPN’s Trey Wingo, he cryptically stated that “I know where my responsibility is within the dilemma that led to me having surgery to repair my knee and all parties involved know their responsibilities as well.”
While his choice of words was no doubt informed by various legal constraints, it left room for others to make assumptions regarding the distribution of blame. Griffin admits fault, but “all parties involved” allows for idle speculation, which is of course part of the offseason merry-go-round.
Could he have been making a veiled dig at his coaches for exposing him to too many hits? Maybe he blames them for allowing him back into the Seahawks game, or even for letting him have any part of that contest? These were the underlying themes of anything written on the subject, but they are ultimately redundant.
Should the Redskins change their offense to protect Griffin?
It didn’t help that the text message was sent to Wingo in March, which was then followed by a period of silence which really stretched through to organized team activities and Griffin addressing the media then.
Nothing fuels conjecture like a statement with no response, so there has been plenty of time for articles demanding a change to the Redskins offense, or that the relationship between player and coach has soured.
Jason Reid wrote for The Washington Post that “we know changes are likely because Griffin is tired of being banged around like a pinata in the spectacularly successful—but highly risky—college option-style offense primarily responsible for Washington winning its second NFC East title in the past 21 years.”
Reid refers to the Wingo text message for his evidence, but these assumptions are damaging to the Redskins and instead serve only to fan flames in the offseason.
Everything comes back to the injuries sustained over the course of the season. All occurred as a result of scrambles or rollouts and all could have been prevented had Griffin been more safety-oriented.
Broken plays are inherently dangerous—quarterbacks know that better than anyone.
Designed runs, however, gained nothing but positive yards. Yes, the play where Griffin lined up at wide receiver against the Pittsburgh Steelers was borderline idiotic—even more so after he took a big hit from Ryan Clark—but the sheer variety of options available to the Redskins actually protects the quarterback.
Removing the designed runs entirely would weaken the attack, both on the ground and through the air. It makes it predictable and gives Griffin less time to throw. Pocket-passers tear ACLs too—just ask Tom Brady.
The threat of Griffin making a play with his feet grants Washington breathing room. Those running plays don’t even have to be called very often; knowing they exist will be enough to keep defenses honest.
That’s not to say that there haven’t been discussions about the best way to proceed. Addressing the media at OTAs, Griffin stated, via NFL.com, that “the only thing that needed to be repaired was my knee. Me and Mike hashed everything out, we talked. We're moving forward from it. We're on the same page."
Again, the initial impulse is to assume that Griffin was the instigator of this conversation; that he wanted better protection in order to prolong his career. However, there’s no reason why Shanahan couldn’t have been the one to call him in and demand Griffin take steps to slide and get out of bounds.
Shanahan admitted to The Washington Post that the offense was “going to try to protect Robert as much as we can,” but specifics were not forthcoming. And nor should they be.
Despite having more film on the team, opposing defenses at the end of the season still struggled to contain the Redskins. Shanahan revealing his offensive plans just to placate reporters at OTAs would have been a ridiculous thing to do.
The pistol and read-option could burn out in a couple of years and leave Griffin no choice but to become a pure pocket-passer. He has the talent, intelligence and arm to do so.
However, it’s not going away just yet. The addition of players to the league like E.J. Manuel and Geno Smith means there could be more of it this year, not less.
Griffin’s competitive nature means that he can be his own worst enemy when scrambling. That extra yard is always on his mind, but he has to be more realistic. Sacrificing a first down to avoid a career-ending injury is absolutely fine.
Should Griffin have been taken out of the Seahawks game? Of course. It was short-sighted and selfish to leave him in.
Should the Redskins abandon a successful offensive scheme that had precisely zero contribution to Griffin’s injuries, solely based on some dissenting voices in the media?