ESPN "Monday Night Football" analyst Jon Gruden visited with me for a few minutes Monday morning to discuss the important topics surrounding the Washington Redskins. He's a fan of both the quarterback and the coaches.
In general, how important is it for a coach and quarterback to get along -- and what does that really mean?
Jon Gruden: First of all, I don’t know what’s true and what isn’t. There’s a lot of modern-day self-induced smoke. So I don’t know if there’s a rift or isn’t. But it’s important that you get along professionally. You don’t have to be best friends, you don’t have to have the same interests, but professionally you have to, I think, trust each other and have a great daily working relationship. There’s an awful lot at stake. They guy touching the ball every play and the man calling the plays, they have to unite and professionally work together.
You used the word trust and that’s a word we hear a lot when it comes to this relationship. How do you develop that?
Gruden: I just visited with the Redskins. I know Mike [Shanahan] and Kyle [Shanahan] worked for me in Tampa and here’s a young quarterback that’s not playing very good and it’s the first time he’s been faced with adversity and now people question his leadership and various reports of him not wanting to show bad plays. There’s a lot of things that I didn’t hear when I was over there.
From an X and O standpoint, what have you seen from Robert Griffin III?
Gruden: Second year in the league. It’s a hard business to sustain success, hard to be successful to start with. When you talk about the offense they ran last year, they caught a lot of people by surprise. They saw some vanilla defenses and they capitalized on that. Now the whole offseason, teams have gone to extreme measures to take away some things they had success with last year. He also is coming off a serious injury and missed time to develop other parts of his game. Those are harsh realities of why we are where we are. Don’t forget they’re averaging over 400 yards a game. They’re last in special teams and they’re not very good on defense. It’s not just Robert Griffin. That’s all I hear. I want to bang my head against the wall.
It always comes back to the quarterback no doubt. People talk about his mechanics; do you see things there that in the offseason you’d think can be fixed?
Gruden: He’s a young quarterback who was never in a pro-style offense. When you watch him play at Baylor, I don’t recognize any of those plays. I’m not recognizing a lot of plays they run in Washington. What he and Colin Kaepernick have to do is win a game in the fourth quarter. Both have had their hands on the ball with a chance to win in the last two weeks. Kaepernick didn’t get it done against Carolina and New Orleans and Robert didn’t get it done at Minnesota and Philadelphia. That’s why everyone is wondering, ‘Hey, what’s the deal? You guys are on the cover of all these magazines, we expected you to dominate in those situations.’ For both of these guys to take the next step they have to play better when the chips are on the table late in games.
You talked about the zone read before the season and longevity of quarterbacks. Do you still feel the same about this package?
Gruden: I see several teams run the zone read. It’s OK if it’s part of your system, but if you rely on it to be the primary component the quarterback will get beat up. Our quarterbacks didn’t wear the same shoulder pads as linebackers and running backs. They’re the only guy that can’t play with a sore right shoulder and they’re really the only guy on the team that can ill afford to miss practice. The rest of us can’t practice without our starting quarterback. That’s the only thing I worry about. A jammed finger, sore right shoulder puts them in the shop. That’s one reason I’m not a big fan of this style of offense in this league.
There’s a lot of talk about Griffin using half-field reads. Is it hard to go from that to becoming good at making full-field reads?
Gruden: I was in a West Coast offense and we were in a half-field read about 99 percent of the time. To me he might build something in on the back side. Griffin’s one of the few quarterbacks in NFL history to throw for 5,000 yards and run for 1,000 in his first two seasons. In history. So this is a unique style of offense. They’re having production. I won’t sit here and say he’s playing terribly but I won’t say he’s playing great. There’s a big reason why they’re 3-7 and part of it is him and part of it is the rest of the team. There are a lot of things going on. There’s a lot of pressure. People handle things differently and I just think it’s important that Griffin handles this time like he’s handled all the other times. I have confidence in him as a person. The core of Robert Griffin, I have confidence in that kid. I think he has to take this as an opportunity to get better. Adversity, whether you like it or not, will hit all of us and you deal with it. That’s what I want to see him do.
There’s a lot of talk about whether this staff should get a fifth year. What do you think?
Gruden: I know Mike’s as good as there is in football. Be careful what you ask for. ... You change coaches, that means you’re changing offense. A new coach might change quarterbacks too.