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The post-Mike Shanahan effect is real, and its positivity can hardly be overstated. This group of players has been freed from the overbearing meddling of an intractable coach whose demeanor alienated many.
Regular readers will know this author was never at all enamored with Shanahan as head coach in Washington. That's why this period feels like a true breath of fresh air.
Yet hiring Gruden is a decision that is easy to be skeptical about. His credentials are far from top-notch, considering his uneven output as offensive coordinator for the Bengals. He was also thoroughly outcoached by San Diego Chargers defensive boss John Pagano in last season's AFC playoffs.
Gruden was hired with Griffin, and not the team, in mind. The continued willingness to accommodate Griffin could be very dangerous for this franchise.
However, even for a perennial skeptic such as this scribe, it's easy to be encouraged by some of Gruden's early moves. The decision to sign genuine difference-makers like Jackson and Hatcher, regardless of age, shows a commitment to a quick turnaround.
Meanwhile, taking care of the less glamorous details, such as roster depth and special teams recruitment, proves an eye is also being kept on sustaining success for the future.
With power returned to the general manager, where it should be, along with a head coach who is willing to work with others, Washington has functioned smoothly this offseason.
However, all the good work will be for naught if Griffin doesn't make the grade. The key to that process is striking the right balance.
Gruden has already started tipping the scales away from gearing things solely to Griffin. He has signaled his intention to all but abandon the read-option, per Sports Illustrated columnist Don Banks:
Personally my belief is the read option is better as an element of surprise. If you're making it a major focal point of your offense -- though they had success with it -- that's problematic. You want to have some of it, no question, because it's the way to get the numbers back in your favor offensively. And with a quarterback like him, why wouldn't you have some of it?
But we're trying to develop him as an all-around quarterback. And I don't know if they had that (as a goal). I'm sure they did a little bit, but I think that's the clear intent moving forward, to develop him as an all-around quarterback. That's part of his growth, from '12 to '13 to now.
It's a bold, and perhaps necessary, move that will make or break this team in 2014. Mobility is part of Griffin's game; it's what makes defenders second-guess.
His ability as dual-threat playmaker cannot be eliminated all together from the offense. At the same time, Gruden is right to increase the focus on Griffin's pro mechanics.
But this is a balancing act that will decide the future of not only Griffin but this team. If Gruden tiptoes his way across the tight rope and makes Griffin a better traditional passer, then Washington is ready to win now.
But if Gruden stumbles, and Griffin continues to struggle with recognition, reads and accuracy, Washington's current rebuilding plan will crash land with a sickening thud.