Entering his third season, Robert Griffin III has much to prove. After his rookie campaign, Griffin was carrying injuries to his ACL and LCL as well as the distinction as the biggest young star in the NFL. Last season was a different story. Griffin never looked like his rookie self, and the Redskins suffered because of it. Mike Shanahan was out, and a new regime came onto the scene.
To this point, it’s been unclear just how head coach Jay Gruden would use Griffin’s athleticism in his offensive system. Gruden may like the read option, but he’s also very aware that he needs to do his part in keeping Griffin out of harm’s way.
“We’ll have sprinkles here and there,” Gruden told WSPZ-AM via the Washington Post. “It’s not going to be a major part. I want to make sure we have other things that we can do besides the read option because it takes a toll.”
The read option takes a toll on any quarterback willing to run it, but the effect is even greater for a player like Griffin. Because he’s so willing to use his legs to move the ball down field when his receivers aren’t open, Griffin already sees more than his fair share of hits beyond the line of scrimmage. That being the case, there’s little reason to make him the subject of even more hits.
Another point to consider is the style of hits that a quarterback takes in a read option offense. When Griffin scrambles out of the pocket and takes off down field, he has the opportunity to slide to avoid a big hit. He doesn’t have that option if it’s up to him to deliver a catchable pitch moments before taking a shot from a linebacker. It’s that high risk situation that scares most teams with top tier quarterbacks away from the read option. Although no one would mistake Griffin for a top tier passer after last season’s performance, it’s still believed that he has a bright future with Washington, and Gruden doesn’t want to put that future in jeopardy.
The Redskins would be wise to develop Griffin’s passing skills. It’s likely that his scrambling skills won’t be available forever, or even for much longer if his knee can’t hold up. It’s a passing league, and it’s great that Griffin has the ability to extend plays with his legs, but much like Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh, Griffin needs to use his legs to get the ball down the field through the air instead of taking off on the ground.
The Redskins need an effective passing attack to be competitive in the NFC East, and while the read option may give them some easy yards, it’s not the ultimate solution, and Gruden is very aware of that point. Although it’s tempting to use the read option with such an athletic passer, Gruden is wise to stay away from it.