Ten-Point Stance: Mike Freeman's NFL Notebook Heading into Week 15

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterDecember 11, 2013

USA Today

1. Which RGIII will the next Washington Redskins coach get?

The worst thing that happened to Robert Griffin III, after the ligaments in his knee exploded that one scary day in the playoffs, was Adrian Peterson. Let me explain.  

Peterson, we now know, is Superman. Eight months after his ACL and MCL tear, he scored two touchdowns. There was little noticeable difference in speed, cut-back ability or power. He was the same AP.  

That set the bar. And it was thought that after Griffin had his LCL and ACL repaired, there would also be little drop-off. But there was. Big time.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 17: Quarterback Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins eludes the tackle of free safety Patrick Chung #23 of the Philadelphia Eagles during the first quarter at Lincoln Financial Field on November 17, 2013 in Philade
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Source: pro-football-reference.com

The RGIII of now is vastly different from the player who bedazzled the league just a year ago. So this begs the question: What player will the new Washington coach get? And barring a Christmas miracle, there will be a new coach next year. You can count on it.

Scouts who have watched Griffin closely point to two main things that have changed about him.

First: Several say his cut-back ability has fallen dramatically, which we already knew, but what was interesting was how much they also say his speed has fallen. The highest estimate was 30 percent; the lowest, 10. Even if it was just 10 percent, that's a great deal of speed at the NFL level.

This would explain why Griffin runs—especially on the edges—that would have gone for long gains last season are not this year. Just that 10 percent.

Second: Griffin's passing skill, scouts believe, has improved as dramatically as his ability to run has declined. Don't look at the stats, scouts say, look at the form. "It's incredible how much he's improved," said one scout. "If this continues, and I think it will, he could be one of the game's best passers."

So, the next coach may be getting a player who is totally different than the one who bedazzled the NFL last season. That coach may get a player with reduced speed and cutting ability but who is a far better pocket passer than people know.

The coach will get more Andrew Luck than Russell Wilson.

Scouts believe Griffin will have to play in a different offense than the one he's in now. Far less read-option and far more pro style, where Griffin does a helluva lot more drop-back passing.

There are many aspects that make the Washington job difficult. The owner. The lack of a true general manager. The dearth of overall talent.

The biggest obstacle might be deciphering just what kind of quarterback RGIII truly is.


2. Is Gronk's career over?

These are just some of the injuries suffered by Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski:

I'm sure I'm missing something. I'm sure there have been concussions throughout the entirety of his football career going back to high school. More injuries. More ailments. More everything.

This type of injury history just isn't sustainable for a human being. Doesn't matter how strong or tough a person is or how strong or tough-sounding their nickname is, that type of violence and surgical constant can't continue.

Gronk is just 24, and his career may be doomed not solely because of what has happened in the past, but also what is likely to happen in the future. Considering his huge size and speed and the fact the collisions with Gronkowski are like two Sherman tanks head-butting, this will only get worse.

Whether you hate the Patriots (and many of you do) or not, this has been a truly sad case for a player who, while sometimes a knucklehead, is a truly decent dude. Hopefully I'm wrong and we won't see Gronkowski's career evaporate. But I fear I'm right.


FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 30:  Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots celebrates his touchdown with Aaron Hernandez in the second half against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on December 30, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

3. Just a few years ago...

The Patriots had the best one-two tight end tandem in football. There was talk that one or both would be eternal figures in the sport. There was Hall of Fame talk with Gronkowski. There really was. People called Aaron Hernandez almost as talented. He could have, in fact, ended up better than Gronkowski.

Here we are, just a few short years later. Hernandez is in the hoosegow on murder and weapons charges, and Gronkowski has spent as much time on the injured list as he has on the field.

Think about the possibilities of those two players staying on the field together for years. Imagine if they both could have had the longevity of a Tony Gonzalez. The Patriots would have won two or three more Super Bowls. Tom Brady would have thrown for more touchdowns than any quarterback in history. Bill Belichick might have won more games than Don Shula. They were that good together.

Until they weren't.


TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 24: Mike Glennon #8 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers talks with head coch Greg Schiano during a game against the Carolina Panthers at Raymond James Stadium on October 24, 2013 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

4. Get the hell out

This story (from JoeBucsFan.com) makes me think that Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano has a chance to keep his job. His quarterback, Mike Glennon, is a noted workaholic. Schiano loves that about Glennon, but recently he told him to leave the team facility and go home. Leave. Relax. Go to a damn movie or something.

I wasn't sure if Schiano would ever get it. But that kind of move shows he gets the NFL game or, at least, is starting to. In the NFL, the best coaches know their players. They get them. They know when to prod or bully or pat them on the back. Or tell them when to take a little time off.

Schiano didn't understand that. Now, maybe he does, and it might help him stay employed.


5. What?

No tailgating at the Super Bowl? Really? At a football game? Isn't that socialism? Or at least communism, right? You know what happens when you can't tailgate at football games? Our children lose. Their future kids lose. It starts a chain reaction of losing-ness. Then China swoops in, and boom, there is no more USA. Just a shell of a once-great nation that history will say had its undoing in the year of our lord, 2013, when The Man determined there would be no tailgating.

Enjoy your freedom while it lasts, little sheep.


6. Concussion watch

This (from PBS) is fascinating. The numbers will just confirm what you already suspected about which position gets the most concussions, but it's still interesting to see.

Cornerbacks have received the most concussions this year. Easy to understand why. I've always believed that cornerback is the most dangerous position to play in all of sports, with the possible exception of the fighting sports. They hit wide receivers at full speed. They take on pulling linemen. They tackle increasingly large running backs. No, not a shock at all that they get so many concussions.


7. The weather outside is frightful

Numerous cold-weather games over the past week. If you think it's simply mind over matter, you're wrong. The body gets messed up when in extreme temperatures. This, from MDdirect.org, is a good explanation of what happens to the human body when there's football in frigid temps.


8. Worst ref in all of sports

I almost want to feel sorry for NFL game official Jeff Triplette, but I can't. He's awful. Really, really awful. I almost feel bad until I remember his horrible calls can derail coaching careers and impact the lives of players. Refs make mistakes. That will happen. But Triplette makes an inordinate amount of them. A lot of them. Like, a serial number of them. How he keeps his job is one of the great mysteries of the 21st century.



9. Drew Brees

I know some of the stats Drew Brees is generating are a result of the newer rules. He can make passes easier than, say, Dan Marino did. In Marino's time, corners could arm-bar receivers and not get a penalty. Today, if corners use harsh language, they get flagged.

So I get that. Still, what Brees is doing is pretty impressive. He reached 50,000 passing yards on Sunday night and did it in 183 games, the fewest of any thrower in history. He did it faster than Peyton Manning (191), Dan Marino (193), Brett Favre (211) and John Elway (229). That's not bad. That's not bad at all.


10. Ravens-Vikings

I'm still stunned by this, days later: The fourth quarter of the Minnesota-Baltimore game featured six lead changes. It's the most lead changes in the fourth quarter in a single game in NFL history.


Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.


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