Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins haven’t exactly had a preseason that will get fans in D.C. excited for Sundays.
With two weeks to go until the season starts, Griffin has already suffered a concussion, reports have suggested that his offensive line doesn’t like him, and an anonymous NFL head coach said outright that Jay Gruden’s decision to keep Griffin in a meaningless preseason game to the point of injury was “personal.”
For your average NFL team, this is enough dysfunction and controversy for an entire season. For the Redskins, it’s only the preseason.
Gruden and Griffin’s troublesome relationship goes all the way back to last season, Gruden’s first with the team. After the Redskins fell to 3-7, Gruden went off on Griffin in a post-game interview (via NFL.com):
“Robert had some fundamental flaws. 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 struggled through the remainder of season, playing in just nine games total as the team finished 4-12. Nevertheless, at the start of preseason, spirits seemed high. Griffin told the media on the first day of training camp that his injuries were behind him and that he had bought into Gruden’s system.
Griffin: “my focus is to not worry about the past and to focus on the future and the future starts today.”
— Mike Jones (@MikeJonesWaPo) July 30, 2015
RG3 on Coach JGruden’s offence: “Whatever Jay wants to run, that’s what we’re gonna run. I’ve bought in; the guys have bought in.”
— Liz Clarke (@lizclarketweet) July 30, 2015
But spirits quickly soured when Gruden inexplicably kept Griffin in as he was repeatedly pulverized by the Lions’ defence in the team’s second preseason game.
The combination of the game’s inherent meaninglessness and Griffin’s susceptibility to injury left many scratching their heads and wondering why Gruden didn’t take him out when he saw that the line wasn’t doing its job to protect him. Griffin eventually had to leave the game with a concussion, although the organisation at first claimed the injury was only a stinger:
One anonymous head coach in the NFL told Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman that Gruden’s decision to keep Griffin in the game when the line was so bad seemed “personal.”
“I have never, ever, on any level, seen a head coach treat his quarterback with such a lack of respect,” the coach said.
“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.”
Griffin returned to training camp on Thursday, and was later cleared to play in the Redskins’ third preseason game against Baltimore.
On Thursday, Griffin was asked about his in-game decision-making and his extremely indifferent answer was telling of the larger situation in Washington.
“Man, I just work here,” he said.
Amid all of this, reports have surfaced that the Redskins’ offensive line doesn’t like Griffin. Earlier in the preseason, Griffin called himself the best quarterback in the NFL, which rubbed many the wrong way, and Griffin’s linemen allegedly haven’t been helping him up in the preseason.
Today, Gruden addressed the media and said that he’s encouraging his players to block out the negativity surrounding the franchise. Again — it’s still only preseason!
“That’s all we’re trying to preach as coaches, man. Block out the negativity surrounding this franchise, and it’s our job as a football staff and football team to go out and change the perception of this franchise. That’s what we’re trying to do. But we have to go out there and prove it and do it to get the negativity out of here.”
Gruden also added that he didn’t appreciate it when the media called him “fat.”
“That really ticked me off,” he said, referring to CBS Sports Radio’s John Ferrall. “I don’t mind you critiquing my coaching style, but to make fun of my weight, that’s unfair. I’m only 225 [pounds]. But other than that, man, it’s football.”
To make matters worse, the Redskins picked up Griffin’s fifth-year, $US16.2 million option back in April. The option is guaranteed for injury, so even if Griffin gets injured this season — which, if his line really does hate him, could happen fast — he’ll still be on Washington’s books through 2016. If Griffin can stay healthy, the team can cut him before the start of next season and avoid paying him, but Redskins owner Dan Synder reportedly loves Griffin, even if no one else does.
This option means that Gruden is effectively forced to stick with Griffin — you don’t want to pay someone $US16 million to sit on the bench. But with so much evidence pointing at a tumultuous relationship between the two, it’s not going to be pretty. And there’s still two whole weeks until Week 1.
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