When Robert Griffin III took the opening snap of his 2013 NFL campaign without a snap of preseason work, many wonder whether the Redskins had rushed him back. General manager and vice president Bruce Allen said Monday that those second-guessers were correct.
Allen told ESPN 950 in Richmond that Griffin should not have been Washington's opening-week starter last season, citing his franchise quarterback's lack of practice time.
"What you saw last year was almost a little disrespectful to the game of football," Allen said, per John Keim of ESPN.com. "It's impossible to ask a player to perform well during the regular season if you haven't practiced."
Because of a torn ACL suffered in Washington's 2013 NFC Wild Card Round loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Griffin was unable to participate in a majority of offseason activities. He did not participate in organized team activities or minicamp, and only began taking reps with his teammates in August. Despite getting limited practice time and zero preseason reps, Washington decided to make Griffin its opening-week starter.
The results weren't pretty.
Griffin, the 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year and one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in football as a rookie, floundered. He looked rusty and tentative for almost the entire season. His numbers dipped across the board, criticism mounted for him and coach Mike Shanahan and the Redskins finished a miserable 3-13.
Griffin finished 32nd among the 45 quarterbacks who made at least 100 passing attempts last season, according to Football Outsiders' DYAR metric. He more than doubled his interception total, saw his touchdown passes dip from 20 to 16 and cut his rushing total by more than 300 yards. After scoring seven times on the ground as a rookie, Griffin failed to run into the end zone once in 2013.
Shanahan benched Griffin for the final three games of the regular season in favor of Kirk Cousins. The Redskins moved on from Shanahan, with whom Griffin had a contentious relationship, and hired Jay Gruden this offseason as its next head coach.
Allen said that Griffin is in much better shape this season from a preparedness standpoint.
"Last year at this time, he was still rehabbing his knee, and he wasn't allowed to practice or work in team drills," Allen said. "We put him on the spot by trying to do that. And this year he's had a full offseason, his knee is 100 percent, knock on wood, and he's had all [the practices], and that's how you get ready to play a football season."
The Redskins will have to hope a full offseason leads to improved performance. To satisfy the terms of their trade for Griffin, they sent the No. 2 overall pick in May's draft to the St. Louis Rams. St. Louis selected former Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson. The Rams were also able to trade up to acquire receiver Tavon Austin in the 2013 due in large part to the picks they received from Washington in the Griffin deal.
Should Griffin fail to return to 2012 form—or even better—the Redskins could wind up the loser in one of the most lopsided trades in recent history. That would have seemed like a blasphemous sentence when Griffin was lighting the world on fire two years ago. But one critical injury and lost season later, the Redskins head into this season at something of a crossroads.
Allen and everyone involved with the decision-making that delivered Griffin to the nation's capital are crossing their fingers the preparation will pay off. If not, they might wind up with a meeting similar to the one Shanahan had last December.
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