In a preseason game last week, Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was repeatedly hit by Detroit Lions defenders until finally he had to leave the game with a concussion.
Because preseason games are meaningless and RGIII’s short NFL career has been marred by injury, many wondered why head coach Jay Gruden didn’t pull his quarterback to keep him out of harm’s way.
Most starting quarterbacks only play a few possessions per game during preseason to begin with. If there’s even the slightest possibility that a quarterback is hurt, the coach will pull them and let their back-ups play rather than letting the starter play through it. And why wouldn’t they? It’s preseason! On Sunday, Marcus Mariota took one hit against the Rams and the Titans pulled him instantly. So why didn’t Gruden do the same?
In a column on Bleacher Report, NFL reporter Mike Freeman shared comments from an anonymous NFL head coach who believes Gruden’s decision to keep RGIII in the game was “personal.”
“I have never, ever, on any level, seen a head coach treat his quarterback with such a lack of respect,” the coach said.
The coach told Freeman:
“What is baffling is that I can’t think of a single head coach in the NFL who would take an injury-prone quarterback, put him behind a very shaky offensive line, in a preseason game, watch him take those kinds of hits and leave him in the game. It looks personal to me.”
This isn’t exactly the sort of press you want before Week 1, but for the Redskins it’s par for the course. Since Gruden took over as head coach before the start of the 2014 season, his tumultuous relationship with RGIII has been extremely public.
On the one hand, Gruden has very openly bashed his quarterback’s ability.
“Robert had some fundamental flaws,” Gruden told NFL.com’s Dan Hanzus after the Redskins fell to 3-7 following a home loss to Tampa Bay last year. He continued:
“His footwork was below average. He took three-step drops when he should have taken five. He took a one-step drop when he should have taken three on a couple occasions and that can’t happen. He stepped up when he didn’t have to step up, and he stepped into pressure. He read the wrong side of the field a couple times.
Griffin, to be fair, hasn’t exactly been a passive bystander through all this. In the past, he has sparked controversy following losses by saying he can’t win games all by himself, which many interpreted as him throwing his teammates and coaches under the bus.
During this year’s training camp Griffin told reporters that he believes he is the best quarterback in the NFL. When this quote blew up, he quickly blamed the media for taking his words out of context and using them for headlines and clicks.
Still, as Freeman notes, it’s rare to hear coaches criticise their quarterbacks as openly as Gruden has. It’s even rarer for an injury-prone quarterback to stay in a preseason game when his line can’t protect him whatsoever.
Already this off-season we’ve seen a player blow his finger off with fireworks, another get his jaw broken over $US600, and Deflategate has dragged on now for longer than an entire season of the NFL. It’s hard to be the most dysfunctional franchise in the NFL, and yet, Gruden and the Redskins are making a very strong case for first place.
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