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Thursday, January 9, 2014
RG III gets a fresh start

By John Keim

Robert Griffin III was part of the lure, making the Washington Redskins' head-coaching job a little more attractive to Jay Gruden. One thought from his side: If he could turn Andy Dalton into a productive passer, what could he do with Griffin?

He's about to find out. And it will take both of them to make it work.

Robert Griffin III
Robert Griffin III gets to push the reset button early on in his Redskins career, but he must buy into what Jay Gruden will sell.
For Griffin, it's a fresh start, a break from a regime that, in the end, he did not embrace -- and wasn't sure if it embraced him. After he was benched, Redskins corner DeAngelo Hall said Wednesday night on Fox Sports, Griffin told teammates that he didn't think coach Mike Shanahan liked him. We don't need to rehash all those issues right now; suffice it to say trouble started brewing late last season, simmered in the offseason, and resurfaced during the summer and season. It could have worked had the Skins won. But a bad start and inconsistent play only made it worse.

Regardless, Griffin needed a change, potentially a refreshing one for him. Now he'll get a coach who some say does a good job selling what he wants done. Now he has two coaches with even-keel demeanors in Gruden and Sean McVay, assuming McVay will be the offensive coordinator, as we hear will happen. That matters. It also helps that McVay already knows Griffin and that Gruden was a successful college quarterback.

Will it work? Don't know. But these are reasons why it could.

For Griffin, he'll need to buy into what is being sold. Though he ran everything the previous staff asked him to, there was doubt as to whether he ever bought in. When that's the case, you can only improve so much. If Gruden gets him to buy in, Griffin could have a blast. But Griffin can't just assume his rookie success will return because the Shanahans are gone. He does have to buy in; he does have to mature as a professional. Of course he does; he's only 23.

Here's what Gruden's agent, Bob LaMonte, said that was one of the factors that convinced Gruden to take the job: "As he analyzed the four jobs, the quarterback he found the most intriguing would be [Griffin] because he has such big upside to him."

Let the love affair commence. Again. But Gruden must convince Griffin what he's doing is for the best.

"The biggest thing for him and Gruden is instilling confidence in the offense," said former Redskins tight end Chris Cooley, now part of their game-day broadcast . "That's what they have to do with Robert. If they make him feel confident as a player, then they'll love him. That's what he lacked more than anything. It was the continued doubt of what he could do and what he should do in this offense. They have to confidently say, you can be the best quarterback in the league.

"Everyone saw him struggle with that [this season]. He didn't trust himself."

Griffin will have plenty to prove after his reputation took a pounding this season. Is he a diva? Is he a leader? When you speak to players about him, they recognize that he has to mature, that he has to accept more blame for bad plays. There were definite concerns about whether he saw himself as entitled -- and that's why some feared what might happen if they hired his college coach, Art Briles.

But one player who expressed all of these fears also stressed this: "I like Robert."

I heard frustration about things, but not hostility. When you're 3-13, frustration erupts. It's certainly not something that can't be mended with a strong (and low-key) offseason, a lot of hard work and on-field success. Watch how fast the frustration then melts away.

Griffin was given a quick reset on his career. He'll be healthy entering next season. He'll have a new coach, a new chance to build the trust he lacked over the past year. This is what he needed and wanted. There's no more drama. Now he just has to produce.