- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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RICHMOND, Va. -- When Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was a rookie, the word we heard most from coaches: revolutionize. Griffin would transform the position because he could run and throw; he was a dynamic, explosive player and the Redskins would use every ounce of that ability. They also talked about how in three or four years Griffin would look back and realize how much he had learned about playing the position. But the word revolutionize stuck.
Now? The word we hear most is this: time. Griffin needs time to develop. It’s a wise approach because the coaches and the organization are right. Griffin does need time. He is a young quarterback who still doesn’t yet know all that he, well, doesn’t know.
While Griffin might want things fast, the coaches understand where he’s at in his development. Not all that goes wrong in practice on a pass play is his fault -- far from it. But Griffin is learning a new offense and still needs to grow as a pocket passer. It’s not about his ability to read a defense, it’s about the speed at which this happens. Teammates spoke about this last season as well, saying that as he improves on his pre-snap reads it’ll speed everything else up. That takes time, especially for someone who played in a different sort of scheme in college, where it wasn’t as sophisticated (nor were the defenses).
On Saturday, general manager/president Bruce Allen said Griffin needs time. Monday, coach Jay Gruden reiterated that idea. But Gruden also made it a point this offseason that they need to develop Griffin in the pocket. So what we’re often seeing in practice are growing pains. That could mean holding onto the ball too long or not going through the proper progressions -- a normal part of a young quarterback's development in a new passing game. It could mean being a little bit off on his throws. (Not everything is his fault either; the protection must improve and provide him a higher level of confidence in the pocket. The receivers must do better getting off press coverage than they did Monday.)
Griffin’s 2012 season obscured reality: He still has to grow as a quarterback. He would benefit from defensive improvement, limiting the burden on him and the offense. But 2012 also showed how good he could be while still learning and growing.
What you don’t see in practice is the ability to extend plays like he would in a game. That’s the thing about Griffin: His speed looks good again so he’ll be able to make plays while still developing.
There’s no more talk about him revolutionizing the position. That’s probably a better word to use at the end of a career than in the beginning. Now the Redskins are treating him for what he is: a talented young quarterback who needs to get better. It's right to expect a better year in 2014 than he had last fall. It's also right to expect a few bumps along the way. The expectations, publicly at least, have been tempered to allow Griffin the ability to develop. This is a big year for Griffin given what he endured last season; he needs to remind everyone why he was drafted No. 2 overall in '12. How much time will that take? How patient will the Redskins be if he's not growing as they'd like? For now, the Redskins express confidence in where he's going and profess being realistic in how long it will take.
“[Tom Brady] definitely has total control over the offense and that’s one thing we want to get Robert to,” Gruden said, “where he has absolutely total control over what’s happening on every play, where he doesn’t mess up on a progression, where he knows exactly if he’s covered he’s going here to run or he’s going right to left, whatever it is. Just total command of the game. There will be growing pains, but ideally I want him to have just total understanding of every possible play and every coverage scenario and where to go with the football. It’ll come for him. It’ll take some time but it will come.”