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It’s not who starts the season for the Redskins at QB, it’s who finishes

Feb 19, 2015, 7:52 AM EDT


INDIANAPOLIS—Jay Gruden’s almost casual announcement at the NFL Combine that Robert Griffin III will be the Redskins’ starting quarterback came as a surprise to just about everyone.

“We’ll go into the season with Robert as the No 1 guy and, you know, it’s up to Robert to continue to grow and mature as a quarterback and as a person,” he said to reporters at Lucas Oil Stadium. “Then moving forward, we just want to see some improvement. It’s up to us as a staff to get more out of him.”

Here is what Gruden said on Dec. 29, the day after the Redskins’ regular season ended.

“Until that position is earned, you have to have a competition,” he said at his postseason news conference. “And I anticipate us having a competition at a lot of spots and quarterback is no different next year.”

So, what changed in the last seven-plus weeks? Unfortunately Gruden’s press conference was cut short so we didn’t have the time to probe into the reasons why the competition was called off.

All we can do is speculate. Perhaps Gruden and new general manager Scot McCloughan got their heads together, watched some film of Griffin, Kirk Cousins, and Colt McCoy and decided that Griffin gave them their best shot. Perhaps front-office politics was involved, with team owner Daniel Snyder and president Bruce Allen, who are said to have pushed for the blockbuster deal that allowed the Redskins to move up in the draft and take Griffin in 2012, persuading Gruden and McCloughan to give Griffin, who struggled mightily at times last year, another shot at the job.

The question now becomes how long a leash Griffin will have. Last year Gruden benched a healthy Griffin in favor of McCoy just three games into Griffin’s return from a dislocated ankle. Will Gruden hesitate to pull a similar move if Griffin struggles again?

The critical thing here is not going to be who starts the season at quarterback, it will be who finishes the season. If Griffin starts the season opener and shows that he can get rid of the big issues that plagued him last year, he could start all 16 games. That is likely to lead to a new contract for Griffin and perhaps his career can get back on track. If it is Cousins, McCoy (who is currently a free agent), or any other QB the Redskins may acquire during the course of the offseason, Griffin could well be headed elsewhere.

A lot of how successful this plan will be depends on how Griffin views it. If he views it as the status quo and keeps preparing the way he has been preparing, with more of an emphasis on strength training and not enough time in the film room (according to multiple reports), he might find himself in a battle sooner rather than later. If Griffin thinks that he’s in for the fight of his life he may raise his level of play to meet the challenge.

There are advantages to not having a competition. Naming Griffin the starter gives him all of the first-team reps during the offseason program and training camp and he can use all of those he can get. Cousins, or whoever the backup ends up being, will have to do what backups do and get ready to play with only very limited first-team reps.

And if Griffin falters, there is a good chance that the backup will get a shot. And that is when the competition will begin.

  1. rfrancis - Feb 19, 2015 at 9:01 AM

    All we can do is speculate. I see this as a collaborative effort where I think Griffin was chosen based on his strength of tape over the years plus his upside. I sincerely hope he can camp in the film room this off season, and with a QB coach who can hold him accountable this time around, I hope he gets it together. If not, Cousins looks like he’s eager

  2. Claire Izabel - Feb 19, 2015 at 9:48 AM

    Right before he announced that Griffin would be the starter, he said “yeah, we went back and reviewed all the games and all the tapes”. I would assume that means that based on the tape, they believe RG3 gives them the best chance to win, no?

  3. goback2rfk - Feb 19, 2015 at 10:02 AM

    RG3 Will get the contract extension this year.. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 years 35 Million. 12 mil guaranteed with option to back out after 2 years.

    • 214hof - Feb 19, 2015 at 11:07 AM

      RGs 5 year option on his current deal is 16 million. No way they exercise that, and there is no way they sign him to an extension before he A) shows progression on the field, and more importantly B) finally completes a 16 game season.

  4. zatoichi7 - Feb 19, 2015 at 10:55 AM

    ha! i don’t believe for one second that this decision was based on reviewing all the game tape. that is NOT what tandler said happened, he said “perhaps” it happened. the key sentence in this article to me is “If he (griffin) views it as the status quo and keeps preparing the way he has been preparing, with more of an emphasis on strength training and not enough time in the film room (according to multiple reports), he might find himself in a battle sooner rather than later.” when asked last year if griffin watches enough film, gruden replied that he could probably do more, and then speculated that he could be doing it at home. shanahan also says that griffin does not spend enough time in the film room. time will tell. i think griffin has all the potential in the world, but he needs to take advantage of this opportunity and kick his preparation into high gear.

    • timwillhidetimwillhide - Feb 19, 2015 at 11:37 AM

      I guess Rich should have bin paying attention when Gruden said they watched all the film.

      • bangkokben - Feb 19, 2015 at 12:17 PM


        You have to choose to believe what you a) want to believe or b) what you believe is most logical.
        Gruden is a straight shooter but many of the things he says are contradictory. For instance he looked at the film after each game and noticed Griffin’s flaws and decide that enough was enough and benched him for Colt McCoy. Now he has seen the same film and decided that Griffin is #1 after saying that there would be a competition at the end of the season. C’mon man. What happened? A new perspective on the same film? A belief that Griffin’s film wasn’t worse than Cousins film? NO!! The belief that Griffin has a higher ceiling than Cousins and that Gruden was hired to get Griffin to that ceiling.

        • timwillhidetimwillhide - Feb 19, 2015 at 1:21 PM

          The difference is this time Gruden said THEY WATCHED THE FILM. That implies the GM was involved and Im sure he noticed like most people that understand the game of football that the OLINE CAN’T HOLD A BLOCK LONGER THAN 2 SECONDS. Instead of just blaming the QB.

        • bangkokben - Feb 19, 2015 at 1:56 PM

          Tim this is case of you believing what you want to believe. There were numerous reports/analysis during the season of how Griffin held on to the ball too long. He was sacked 1 out of every 7 or 8 dropbacks which is record breaking so even with a complete line rebuild – which won’t happen – he has to improve on getting rid of the ball. Cousins with the same line got sacked at a much better rate than Griffin. Cousins has his own issues. Griffin if he gets his head out wherever it is has superstar potential; Cousins does not. This is not based on GAME film. Maybe some other film, but not game film.

      • brucefan1 - Feb 19, 2015 at 12:41 PM

        Agreed. It was actually GRUDEN who said “we went back and watched the game tape”. That’s a recorded quote.

        That said, it’s gotta be tough for Gruden, or any Redskin involved in sorting out the QB question, because WHATEVER they say, there’s always gonna be a group who question their veracity. How frustrating of a feeling must that be to be called a liar (or a tool…or a hypocrite…) no matter what you announce?!

        But IMHO there has to be a compelling reason in Jay’s mind for announcing that info now. Otherwise it would have be much less controversial to just be non-committal and say there was no anointed front-runner for the starting job and there would be the expected open competition for it. Very few people would have questioned that answer (except maybe those die-hard haters who want Griffin off the team – NOW! LOL).

        But just like all questions concerning this team, we will just have to let things play out and see where the chips fall.

        • captblood3000 - Feb 19, 2015 at 12:47 PM

          They could be shopping that #5 pick in case Winston or Mariotta falls to them. It would best if they got multiple offers.

        • bangkokben - Feb 19, 2015 at 1:33 PM

          Why now? To give Griffin every chance to succeed. They get a QB coach, coach give a ‘vote of confidence,’ now Griffin will get every rep with the 1st team.

      • captblood3000 - Feb 19, 2015 at 12:44 PM

        No one’s ever paying you to go to the Combine, Tim. Ever wonder why?

    • bangkokben - Feb 19, 2015 at 12:09 PM


      Hopefully he will hit the film room like never before. I do believe however, that in his mind if he can get his body to where it was coming out of the draft, he’ll be fine. I hope for his sake he get’s there and get’s there quickly and then dedicates himself to film study.

      • ET - Feb 19, 2015 at 3:09 PM

        Griffin could stand to learn a thing or two from Breeland, Cousins, and Keenan Robinson regarding time spent in the film room, and study habits in general. Those three always seem well-prepared (even if their execution is sometimes lacking).

  5. timwillhidetimwillhide - Feb 19, 2015 at 11:40 AM

    I’m willing to bet the GM watched all the Film and made his Evaluations and Recommended that RG3 be the starter

    • bangkokben - Feb 19, 2015 at 12:19 PM

      Not by performance.

      • Joe Greene - Feb 19, 2015 at 5:20 PM

        Yep. By far the worst of the 3 QBs, but he’s the owner’s pet so he’s going to continue to get preferential treatment.

  6. alextwrs - Feb 19, 2015 at 11:45 AM

    This is gonna come back and bite Gruden in the ass. I suspect he will be fired by week 10.

    • bangkokben - Feb 19, 2015 at 12:30 PM

      It may but I don’t see how it hasn’t already. Gruden was giddy after Griffin’s ankle injury – sure the ‘skins just demolished the Jags for his first win as an NFL head coach but he lost his starting QB in the process and maybe for the season. Gruden was absolutely ticked off after the Vikings loss – a game that slipped away; Griffin’s first game back. The following week Gruden rips Griffin after #10 equates himself with Peyton Manning. He ripped a starting quarterback like one I have never seen before – I’m in my 40s. The next week he benches Griffin after a poor performance against San Fran. Then after the season Gruden says that the quarterback position is like any other and will be decided by competition. Now, Griffin is back to being the starter and it is Gruden’s job to make him into an adequate one. Tell me how this is all Gruden’s decision.

      • Joe Greene - Feb 19, 2015 at 5:21 PM

        It clearly isn’t his decision, but he’ll get fired for it anyways since we know Snyder isn’t going to fire himself by selling the team.

  7. zatoichi7 - Feb 19, 2015 at 12:55 PM

    i stand corrected. just watched the presser and gruden did say they reviewed the game tape. still stand by the rest of my statement, i don’t believe the decision was based on that tape. i agree with bangkokben on the reason for naming griffin the starter now, and will add, as tandler notes, the number of first team reps he will receive in camp to that equation…

  8. kenlinkins - Feb 19, 2015 at 3:59 PM

    IMO The Redskins have just made their first mistake of the year. The correct answer to the question of “Who is the number one QB” is ” We will sort that out in training camp”. Why would the powers to be even touch that subject right now? IMO the Redskins need to get RG3 OUT of the spot light, not push him back into it in Feb! Center stage is the last place to want a QB who didn’t preform, has BIG questions about his study habits and proved to be gun shy in 2014. RG3 is not the first high priced QB to have to play behind a poor pass blocking team, that can come with the job. What message does this send to the rest of the team concerning output / performance? That poor results will not remove you from being “front and center” and that starting positions are now “Handed Out” and are not rewards for hard work and results! This head coach needs to get a whole lot smarter before the season starts. That answer was just dumb!

    • Joe Greene - Feb 19, 2015 at 5:22 PM

      Great point. Bob is atrocious in dealing with the spotlight, he just got past another issue where he actually like a freaking child on Instagram, and immediately the owner forces him back into the spotlight where he’ll fail like he always does.

      • redskinsinrichmondva - Feb 19, 2015 at 6:03 PM

        You want to complain about others acting like children on social media? Talk about throwing stones in a glass house.

  9. nomaan78 - Feb 19, 2015 at 9:01 PM

    The starting QB should have always been RG3. The team sucks as a whole. The offensive line is terrible. And the defense even worse. Yet you expect RG3 to carry the team alone on his back like he is really Black Jesus. He is a talented athlete and a very good QB. RG3 had his struggles through his injuries, and learning a new offensive system. But he still has the most potential, and perhaps GM sees that. Now the Redskins must surround him with a real team. One that can protect him, and keep the game close enough to pull out victories. RG3 didn’t get injured running the ball, both his knee and ankle injuries happened scrambling due to bad O-line play. I believe Cousins is very good too. His interceptions dont truly reflect the real QB. With good coaching and better protection Cousins doesn’t throw all of those interceptions. With all that was spent on RG3 and everything RG3 has gone through. I would hope that showing faith in the QB will bring the best out of RG3. The Redskins should do everything in their power to help RG3 and make sure he doesn’t go elsewhere and make them look like fools. They have talent at QB in RG3 and Captain Kirk. Now work on the rest of the team. I have a good feeling that RG3 will bounce back with better protection, and if the defense improves it will take pressure off of RG3 and the offense. HTTR!!

    • 214hof - Feb 19, 2015 at 10:06 PM

      Your delusional. First of all Rob got injured scrambling for extra yards and got blindsided by Nagata trying to dive for extra yardage.(reckless play) Then in the playoffs against the Hawks, he roll to the right seen SHEman coming, pulled the ball up quick and threw a TD pass and re-injured his knee in the process. Went to the sidelines ignored Dr. Andrews, slipped passed the trainers, told Shanny he was fine and literally crumble taking a snap from center. At no point was any of the the”bad O line’s “fault. And the ankle injury just proves he’s made of glass… A non contact play where Rob tried to make too much happen and landed funny. Also not the O-line’s fault.

  10. nomaan78 - Feb 19, 2015 at 9:19 PM

    I think GM watched RG3’s game film going back to college and then his rookie year. It was an easy decision to name him starter. GM says combine doesnt say too much about a player its all already on film. His past two years of struggle have been due to injury and the teams struggle as a whole. Its difficult to evaluate him with how bad the team was, and because of his injuries, while he was expected to learn a new offense. GM did say develop your own players. So why would he give up on RG3 in his first year of power?

  11. acefwh - Feb 19, 2015 at 9:19 PM

    They are setting Robert up to fail miserably. He’ll drop his guard now thinking he’s got the job and relax when he should be all in on the film work. He’s done and Washington will be drafting a QB in 2016….UNLESS Cousins has some come to Jesus moment that cures his tendency to throw picks….I also don’t believe Kirk spending time with Jon Gruden in Fla was coincidental…..Cousins will emerge as the starter or Skins will be drafting a QB in 2016 and no I am not a hater because I LOVE the REDSKINS!!!! HTTR

  12. tralfaz10 - Feb 19, 2015 at 9:39 PM

    I think that this is a great move by Gruden. You gave up 3 #1’s and a #2 to get him. He had one good year. Who’s to say that he can’t do it again. Pick a QB and go with them. Don’t play a guessing game until August. By picking a number one right now, you can let Matt Cavanaugh take extra time with Robert instead of being split with three QB’s. Robert has the talent. He just needs to stay healthy and get his head on straight…hence the Cavanaugh hiring. The news of hearing you are going to be a father wakes you up as a kid….which is what RG3 is. But I expect better things this year.

  13. ajbus1 - Feb 19, 2015 at 10:19 PM

    I agree with the last couple comments here. This has the mark of a real GM and I think this answer was influenced by McCloughan. You have to pick a guy and stick with him. No playing games, confidently say what you’re gonna do and do it. It also jives with the “developing your own” philosophy. This is also the last chance to see if they’re gonna get anything out of him. This rebuild is gonna take McCloughan a few years so better to figure out right away if you’re gonna continue to build around Griffin or not.

    All that said, this could just be a ploy to keep the QB questions to a minimum. They also have to have continuity in the locker room even if the guy they’re rolling with isn’t ever gonna be the long term answer. Can’t have the rest of the team wondering what the direction is and answering questions about it either. The title of the article sums it all up best.

  14. goback2rfk - Feb 19, 2015 at 10:27 PM

    Rob will get that 5th year option. watch.

    • 214hof - Feb 19, 2015 at 11:50 PM

      Well we’ll see sooner rather than later, I believe May is the dead line for the option. I just don’t see how it’s justifiable to pay a guy 16 mill before they see what he can accomplish THIS season. The Skins are NOT going to pick up the option simply because even if Rob can improve on lasts years performance(Hope so…hard to be any worse) and show a better grasp of the system, they will not have to pay anything close to 16 million a year keep Rob.

    • fwhalstead1 - Feb 20, 2015 at 5:51 PM

      Explain this? Seriously…i am not being flippant I really want you to sell the why on this. If you were his agent what would you sell the GM to convince him to exercise the option BEFORE this season even starts? He’s not played a complete 16 game season yet. His play the last 2 years has been abysmal and you can’t use injuries as an excuse because that will fail to sell the GM on giving him this option. Now Dan Snyder is very STUPID so I am not saying it’s totally impossible but I want to hear your rationale on WHY the Skins should give him 16 million for 1 year.

      • fwhalstead1 - Feb 20, 2015 at 5:56 PM

        P.S – that equate to 1 MILLION per game….

      • redskinsinrichmondva - Feb 21, 2015 at 7:48 PM

        Out of all the QBs that have been drafted between 1970 and 2004, only a quarter of those QBs have started five seasons worth of their games. Even if you just look at 1st and 2nd round QBs during that span, less than 40% of those QBs have started five seasons worth of their games.

        Even if Griffin is just an average QB, the Redskins should sign him. QBs that can start for your team don’t grow on trees. Why waste a draft pick on another QB when:

        1. the current Redskins aren’t Super Bowl contenders,
        2. the Redskins already have a QB who has had some success in the NFL;
        3. that QB is only 25;
        4. that QB was a highly-touted, 2nd overall pick who has the physical tools and upside for playing QB; and
        5. QB production tends to fluctuate from season to season, making last season’s production a bit unreliable for predicting future seasons?

        • acefwh - Feb 22, 2015 at 10:03 AM

          He hasn’t earned a 16 million dollar 1 year option…even if you include the 2012 season…now if you said extend him for 3 years at 16 million based on his play coming up this year should he show improvement then I’d agree….but 16 million for 1 year based on what he’s done on the field overall knowing he’s not PHYISCALLY the guy you drafted…that would be like putting 5000.00 rims on a 500.00 car…stupid ppl do it but that doesn’t mean they are smart to do so….

  15. redskinsinrichmondva - Feb 20, 2015 at 12:53 AM

    “Not by performance.”

    Saying that Cousins performed better than Griffin for the season is valid, but that’s not saying much when you are using a sample size of five starts to make that claim — especially in an unpredictable sports league such as the NFL.

    • 214hof - Feb 20, 2015 at 7:33 AM

      Rob 9 games, 147/214-68.7%, 1694 yards-7.9 yard average, 1-300+ yard game, 4 TDs to 6 INTs, 4 fumbles lost

      Kirk 6 games, 126/204 61.8%, 1710 yards-8.4 yard average, 2-300+ games, 10 TDs to 9 INTs, 2 fumbles lost

      • Joe Greene - Feb 20, 2015 at 7:40 PM

        Yep, it’s amazing how many people like to ignore the numbers when it comes to Bob. It’s clear that the better QB, by a mile, was Kirk.

        Don’t forget the sack%, 3.8 for Kirk and 13.4 for Bob.

        • redskinsinrichmondva - Feb 21, 2015 at 11:06 AM

          “Yep, it’s amazing how many people like to ignore the numbers when it comes to Bob.”

          This is what I typed below your post:

          “Again, the numbers aren’t useful in predicting future performance. Most QB stats in the NFL (even the advanced metrics) aren’t consistent, and production can vary in-between half seasons.”

          Keep in mind that Cousins and Griffin played about a half season worth of games in the 2014 season (both with between 150-350 pass attempts).

          Do you have a rebuttal to this argument?

    • redskinsinrichmondva - Feb 20, 2015 at 10:51 AM

      Again, the numbers aren’t useful in predicting future performance. Most QB stats in the NFL (even the advanced metrics) aren’t consistent, and production can vary in-between half seasons.

      • 214hof - Feb 20, 2015 at 11:37 AM

        This is a NUMBERS based league weather you choose to agree or not. Stop me if you heard this before, What have you done for me lately? That’s what this ” business ” is about… Numbers. I can see why you would choose to discount the numbers in projecting future successes or failures as 2012 Rob had most fans thinking “wow” and ” He’s only going to get better.” But we kno how the played out… Decreases across the board, not just in one season, but two back to back pitiful performance.

        • redskinsinrichmondva - Feb 20, 2015 at 12:47 PM

          “I can see why you would choose to discount the numbers in projecting future successes…”

          Because, for one important reason, of the (paltry) nature of the sample size they’re based in. I said this already. Stat studies on QB stats also show this.

          “But we kno how the played out… Decreases across the board, not just in one season, but two back to back pitiful performance.”

          If you want to include Griffin’s 2013 season in your analysis; I hope you also include Cousins’s 2013 season, in which he posted a 69 adjusted net yards per attempt index (league average is 100; Griffin’s that season was 93).

          2013 was with a different coach, roster, and style of offensive play. You want to figure out how the QBs will perform with the *current* coach, roster, and style of offensive play.

        • 214hof - Feb 20, 2015 at 1:59 PM

          So what exactly are you trying to argue? That the front office is to stubborn/prideful to admit Griffin was the wrong choice? Or that production aside, Rob actually gives the team the best chance at winning? I don’t see what the big deal is with letting them actually compete for the starting job, if cousins wins then he has a whole season to play his way in or out of contract. With Griffin, the writing is already on the wall.

          Griffin is a talented athlete no doubt about that. You can argue about the upside/potential that Rob might have. But they’re all “ifs”… Truth is Rob has regressed every year since 2012, and I don’t see him bouncing back in 2014.

        • redskinsinrichmondva - Feb 21, 2015 at 12:38 PM

          “Truth is Rob has regressed every year since 2012, and I don’t see him bouncing back in 2014.”

          I’m guessing it’s *because* Rob regressed in the 2013 and 2014 seasons why you believe this, correct? If not, then ignore this post.

          But if so; I already posted the reason why using the 2013 season is problematic, and I also posted about the generally inconsistent nature of QB production. Several good, Pro-Bowl, and Hall of Fame QBs had great single seasons only to “regress” in QB production the following season or seasons. And here’s some food for thought: QBs with a similar to or lower adjusted net yards per attempt index than Griffin in their combined 2nd and 3rd seasons (95 or lower) include Troy Aikman, Terry Bradshaw, Drew Bledsoe, Jim Plunkett, Kerry Collins, Warren Moon, Randall Cunningham, Drew Brees, Phil Simms, Jake Plummer, Vinny Testaverde, Jeff George, and Trent Dilfer. Plenty of success with those QBs, and none of those QBs had the kind of rookie season that Griffin had.

          This is not to say that Griffin is a good, Pro-Bowl, of Hall of Fame QB. It’s to say that using Griffin’s regression for your argument isn’t useful. Predicting QB performance is hard. Again, the stat studies show this.

  16. sidepull - Feb 20, 2015 at 7:20 AM

    Cousins is better than Griffin as a professional and as a QB. He has demonstrated he can do the work required to improve his ability to be a starter, film room etc. Once DC ships him off and keeps the bust i predict Cousins will be a very good NFL QB. The discussion around here will be how we could be so stupid and not see it coming. It will make the initial trade to the Rams for Griffin look like nothing wen you have to watch Cousins light it up under a functional organization that does not mollycoddle its players and knows how to develop a QB..

  17. skinsgame - Feb 20, 2015 at 8:16 AM

    There is no fear that Griffin will hold the spot. He has proven himself incapable of basic fundamentals and is unable to stay healthy. That’s just what it is. It doesn’t make anyone a “hater” if Griffin plays lousy. Hopefully he comes out and plays to his alleged super star potential, but I don’t see it.

  18. VK - Feb 20, 2015 at 11:12 AM

    Rg3 is a joke of a “QB.” He had ONE OK year in which they ran an offense the NFL had never seen before. What happened when D-Coord got enough tape on Rg3? Performance Plummet. In a prostyle offense he is completely lost. Blame the Oline? Sure the line needs an upgrade. But Even if the line gave up 5 sacks a game..what did Rg3 do with the other 50 plays where the line gave him enough time? He did nada. His backups..both..somehow put up plenty of yards and completions with the same line in the same offense. Rg3 has zero vision, zero feel for the pocket, he’s injury prone, reckless, holds the ball too long, cant make timing throws, cant read a defense, terrible footwork, no progressions and my favorite…cant slide. Somehow this Joke is the best option. Are you joking? KC may throw picks but hes working on improving that. What has Rg improved?? His Logo? His Brand? Keep quoting the Bible RgGarbage. The NFL exposes all and Rg3 has been exposed. There is no way he stays the starter unless Gruden wants to tank the season. Im sure our WR’s love when RgGarbage cant make a simple 10 yard throw. Get rid of this bust. 3 years of hope for ONE player. Skins sacrifice the entire season and team for one bust who thinks he’s at the level of Manning, Rodgers. Maybe RgJoke should try comedy. Archives

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