Washington Redskins Have a Major Problem in Robert Griffin III
Griffin was signed to a four-year, $21.1 million contract with a $13.8 million signing bonus and, less than two months into the season, was named as the team's offensive co-captain.
During Week 14 of his rookie season, Griffin suffered what was initially described as a Grade 1 LCL sprain in his right knee. He returned just two weeks later and led the Redskins to a victory over the Eagles in Week 16.
While there has been some controversy as to whether or not Griffin should have ever returned to the field late last season, one thing is for sure: The Redskins' $35 million quarterback whom they began building a team around almost immediately upon his arrival in Washington is simply not the same player they drafted and may never be that player again.
The Redskins' 2012 offensive strategy was based around the read-option, and Griffin and company gave opposing defenses fits for most of the season.
The Redskins led the league in rushing yards per game in 2012, while Griffin himself ran for 815 yards and seven touchdowns.
Griffin was front and center of a new breed of incredibly athletic young NFL quarterbacks who were just as much of a threat to run for 50 yards as they were to throw for that distance.
But that has all changed for the Redskins this season.
Griffin’s mobility is a shell of what it was just last season and the Redskins have had to change their entire offensive strategy in order to account for a quarterback who is no longer able to run the read-option, no longer able to run the football and, at this point, is even having a difficult time escaping pressure from 300-plus-pound defensive linemen.
Griffin had 26.2 passing attempts per game and 8.0 rushing attempts per game during the 2012 season. So far in 2013, his passing attempts per game have nearly doubled to 44.5 and his rushing attempts have been cut in half to 4.5 per game.
The problem is that Griffin has been significantly less efficient both running and throwing the ball this season. Griffin's 65.6 completion percentage in 2012 has dropped to 62.9 so far in 2013. Griffin also had a 102.4 passer rating in 2012, and his rating has dropped to just 89.6 in 2013.
During the first two games of the 2013 season, Griffin had had just nine rushing attempts for a whopping 25 yards, which is an average of just 2.7 yards per carry. His 2012 average was 6.8 yards per carry.
Griffin’s reduced productivity in 2013 has of course led to a reduced level of productivity for the entire Redskins offense.
The Redskins led the league in rushing yards in 2012 with an average of 169.3 per game, but they currently rank 15th in the league with an average of just 91 yards.
The Redskins have also scored a combined seven points during the first halves of each of their first two games (they scored seven points during the first quarter against the Eagles in Week 1).
Although the offense would go on to score 14 points during what was essentially mop-up time of last Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers, Griffin led the team to just seven points during the first three quarters of the game—against the same Packers defense that was lit up for 34 points by Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers offense just seven days earlier.
The Redskins' offensive line could certainly share part of the blame in the team's poor performance on Sunday. Although Griffin was sacked just once, he was under constant pressure in the pocket from a Green Bay defense that blitzed him on seemingly every passing play. However, this was also the type of pressure that Griffin used to easily avoid with his legs last season which was at least part of the reason why Griffin and the entire Redskins' offense was so difficult to defend in 2012.
The problem for the Redskins is that they have had no other choice but to implement an offensive strategy that is far different to anything Griffin has experienced during his playing career.
The Redskins have had to abandon the read-option and, essentially, any thought of Griffin running with the football at all. This has led to an offensive scheme created for a drop-back pocket passer; a scheme that would be second nature to a guy like Tom Brady or Eli Manning, but would seem almost other-worldly to a player like Griffin.
Griffin is simply not a drop-back passer. His is not big enough, he is not accurate enough, his throwing technique is average at best and he is simply inexperienced at sitting in the pocket and trying to win football games by throwing the ball 45 times per game.
Reconstructive knee surgeries can take a great deal of recovery time. Perhaps Griffin has once again returned to the field a bit too soon.
But whatever the case may be, if Griffin’s days of running the football and escaping pass rushing pressure as if he were Houdini are over, he is going to have a very difficult time playing quarterback in the NFL.
For the Redskins to have any chance at turning this thing around one of three things will likely need to happen:
First, Griffin will continue to strengthen his surgically repaired right knee to the point where he is once again able to run the read-option and escape pass rushing pressure. However, this may not be physically possible for Griffin depending upon what type of permanent damage he has done to his knee.
Second, Griffin needs to dramatically improve his pocket passing ability and essentially turn himself into a completely different type of quarterback.
Third, the Redskins may need to place another quarterback under center.
We can debate all day about which option may be best for the Redskins both short- and long-term, but one thing is for certain: Robert Griffin III in his current form has no chance of leading the Redskins back to the playoffs this season.
Something has changed in Washington—Griffin’s mobility on the football field—and it has caused a domino effect throughout the entire Redskins offense.
This is not your Redskins’ offense of 2012…and it may never be again.
Unless otherwise noted, all statistics for this article came from nfl.com, espn.com and pro-football-reference.com.
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