In spite of Robert Griffin III's benching in favor of Kirk Cousins, there is no doubt that RGIII is the future of the Washington Redskins organization. That being said, the offense looked out of sync with Griffin under center but was mostly crisp for Cousins against the Atlanta Falcons, stirring up a bit of a quarterback controversy.
Though two starts are hardly enough to put Cousins ahead of Griffin on the depth chart, they are enough to prove that Cousins is a better fit in the Redskins offense.
Cousins is more of a prototypical quarterback, at least in terms of experience and ability to read a defense from the pocket. Griffin is viewed as a dual-threat quarterback, possessing solid passing skills and electric speed in the open field.
Coming off of his offseason knee surgery, Griffin was visibly hindered by the bulky knee brace and was thus less mobile.
The offensive scheme with Griffin under center thrived on the read-option, moving the pocket and play-action passing in 2012.
Without his trademark speed, Griffin was no longer a threat to take off and run for 20 yards on a quick burst. The brace affected his gait and made him slower on rollouts.
Result? Washington's offense had fewer wrinkles and could not thrive through the threat of Griffin being successful through the air and on the ground.
A staple of the Redskins offense in 2012 was a moving pocket—getting RGIII rolling out to stretch the defense, opening passing lanes and buying time to throw.
Absent from the Redskins offense this season has been that moving pocket.
From the very beginning of the season, Griffin was taking straight drops from under center, oftentimes cutting his drop short or settling into an already collapsing pocket.
Chalk it up to a combination of Griffin's mechanics being less than sound and the offensive line failing to block efficiently, but it led to a number of unnecessary hits and poor throws.
Once Cousins got the start, the moving pocket came back into play, and the first-half offense looked great against the pitiful Falcons defense.
However, Cousins is more comfortable taking snaps from under center and taking straight drops. His credibility from under center and working in a traditional pocket-passer role opened the offense up to move the pocket.
Griffin was inconsistent in completing passes from under center and never looked comfortable rolling out on the few times the play demanded it.
Simply put, because Griffin wasn't connecting on passes from straight drops and was noticeably uncomfortable on the move, defenses did not have to concern themselves with stretching coverage or accounting for Griffin's running ability.
Perhaps it is Griffin's mobility that is at the center of the issue.
Kyle Shanahan's offense is largely the same as the system he ran during his time with the Houston Texans, which relied on stretching the field with the pass.
Prior to drafting Griffin, through Rex Grossman, John Beck and Donovan McNabb, the Redskins offense consisted of Houston's downfield passing attack and Mike Shanahan's patented zone-blocking ground game.
Upon drafting Griffin, the offense did not change but rather added new wrinkles to incorporate Griffin's athleticism.
Washington's offense didn't adapt to Griffin so much as Griffin adapted to the offense.
Remove the read-option and designed run calls from the Redskins offense and it remains largely unchanged from the offense implemented in 2010, when McNabb was under center.
McNabb, a mobile quarterback, albeit past his prime, was forced to be a pocket passer despite a career completion percentage of 59 and a history of spotty accuracy.
McNabb threw for the third-most yards of his career but also threw for the fewest touchdowns since his rookie season and the most interceptions of his career before being benched in favor of Grossman.
Say what you want about McNabb's post-playing career, but he was absolutely misused.
He, like Griffin, was put into an offense built for a pocket passer, which McNabb never was and Griffin has not yet shown himself to be.
Griffin has an excellent arm, great accuracy and an ability to extend plays that made him so exciting as a rookie.
He does not, however, have the ability to read the field the way a prototypical quarterback is expected to.
Cousins came from a pro-style offense at Michigan State and thus could be expected to adjust to the Redskins offense as it was built rather than with the tacked-on read-option and pistol formation.
The Redskins ran 129 read-option plays in 2012, which is 13 percent of their offense for the season.
While it was an ingenious way to utilize Griffin as a rookie, it was not the long-term plan for the offense. With Cousins in the lineup, there is no read-option, and the offense runs smoother.
The offense runs as it was intended by the Shanahans when they implemented it in 2010.
It isn't a wholly different offense, but it was built for a quarterback like Matt Schaub or in this case Cousins, not a dual-threat quarterback who rose to prominence in a spread offense with little or no playbook.
Unlike Baylor, whose head coach, Art Briles, fits the offense to the quarterback rather than forcing the quarterback into an established system.
Not that the Redskins should reach into the college ranks for Griffin's former coach, but if they intend to make a run with Griffin as their franchise quarterback, they need to commit and find someone who will build the offense around his abilities.
For what it's worth, Cousins gets to show off for prospective trade partners in the final games of the season, though it comes at Griffin's expense. It's one of the few instances where the quarterback on the sidelines is under more pressure than the one on the field.
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