Washington Redskins: russell wilson

Something to prove: RG III

July, 3, 2014
We will be featuring a different Washington Redskins player each day on this list, staying away from rookies or some second-year players still finding their way. This will focus primarily on veterans at or near a career crossroads. Today: quarterback Robert Griffin III.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
AP Photo/Richard LipskiRobert Griffin III needs to work on being a better leader -- and repairing his reputation.
Why he has something to prove: All you have to do is read Mike Sando's excellent, and in-depth piece on where quarterbacks rank in the eyes of executives and coaches to understand. Griffin was considered a Tier 3 quarterback, tied with Andy Dalton at 19th overall. Some of it was based on Griffin’s subpar season due to his knee and other issues. Had he not been hurt, Griffin likely would have been a Tier 2 quarterback -- not bad for his age. But it did happen so now he's not. And some of it is based on his personality. Other NFL quarterbacks and players, Sando wrote, crushed Griffin because of his personality. They feel he's made things too much about himself and does not take blame. That opinion is shared by some in the locker room; one player said at the end of last season that, while he liked Griffin, he did think he needed to take more blame. But, remember, two years ago he was hailed as a savior and praised for his maturity. Coaches and executives fall in and out of love rather fast in this game. Certainly, some of the stories that were, uh, leaked at the end of last season did not help Griffin’s reputation. Success and wins can alter that perception.

For Griffin, this season is as much about getting his reputation back as well as his game. They’re obviously tied together. If he plays well, things that rubbed people the wrong way will be viewed differently. Some will still dislike him, but results are what matter most. We all know some of the reasons why he struggled in 2013, especially the knee and the lack of an offseason. But he also has to show he can become a consistent quality pocket passer. Even if he had never been hurt, Griffin needed to evolve in this area: It’s how you survive long-term in the NFL and he knows that well. Extending plays will always be part of his game and that’s what should still scare teams. Also, if he can’t succeed by running anything worse than a 4.3 in the 40-yard dash, then he never should have been drafted second overall. It was his all-around skills that impressed people, not just his speed.

What he must do: Make big plays again and grow as a leader. Griffin understands leadership, which is why he was actively a part of free-agent recruiting and helped woo DeSean Jackson, among others. Griffin knew that he needed to understand Jackson and his motivation. Not sure anyone will outwork Griffin, either. But Griffin is only 24 and will learn more about leadership as he continues in the NFL. He’ll learn that it's OK to say something was his fault without going into great detail; my guess is you’ll see that more this season. And he'll also learn it's OK if everyone doesn't love you, as coach Jay Gruden pointed out, though I think Griffin is getting this as well.

Griffin is a hard-working player determined to have success. Yes, he has limitations as a quarterback -- all of them do. He, and the coaches, must find ways to work around those issues. But this offense, and Gruden's style, could be good for him as a developing passer. They have more receivers who can win one-on-one battles, which will enable him to work through progressions faster and check to better plays. Audibles alone won't help him succeed; the previous offense had automatic checks that many on offense said could get them out of bad situations (sort of like a pre-determined audible). Growing as a pocket passer -- which means not just throwing from here but also his presence -- will matter much more. The Redskins would be wise not to overload Griffin. He’s still a young quarterback now learning his second passing offense. They have the ability to keep it (relatively) simple this season and then build/add to any success. If the Redskins use more drop-back passes and no play-action, then the line must do its part and Griffin must help them with more decisive throws. The talent and style of the offense could make that possible.

Projection: Griffin obviously is the starter and, I believe, will play better than in 2013. But, the question is, how much better? The Redskins need more help from the defense; we've all seen the boost young quarterbacks such as Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick have received from their defenses. Otherwise, Griffin's mistakes always will be magnified. Griffin looked and sounded like a more confident player this spring, which is a start. He’s had a strong offseason and has a coach with whom he’s not butting heads. Griffin will work once more with quarterback guru Terry Shea this summer (starting July 14). Gruden is inheriting a different quarterback than the one Washington had the past two seasons, one better positioned for success. Griffin now just needs to make it happen. And the franchise needs him to make it happen as well.
A mega-contract shouldn’t be on his mind right now. Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III has other things to worry about: improving in the pocket, returning to the path he was on pre-knee injury, winning games.

Yet, after San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick signed his contract Wednesday -- receiving $61 million guaranteed, though the breakdown of the contract is favorable to the Niners making that guaranteed amount a bit dubious -- it’s fair to wonder what the other young quarterbacks might receive next spring. That is, if teams decide to give them a new contract rather than just extend their rookie deals by one year, which they can do with first-round picks such as Griffin and Andrew Luck. Russell Wilson? As a third-round pick he'll get a new deal.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
AP Photo/Richard LipskiRobert Griffin III has a lot to prove coming off a subpar season.
For Griffin, though, the path is less clear than it is with the others. Wilson won a Super Bowl, though Seattle’s defense was the star. But he’s also a good quarterback. Luck steadily improved and led his team to the playoffs his first two years.

It’s not a huge leap of faith to say Griffin will return to the path many expected him to be on pre-knee injury. He’s had a good offseason; he’s a year removed from surgery and ditched the knee brace and he no longer has friction with the head coach or offensive coordinator. Toss in the fact that Griffin has more explosive talent around him and it’s less of a stretch. He’s still a maturing player in many ways, but his drive is impressive. It would be silly to write him off after last season.

But he’s already had two ACL surgeries on his right knee and he still has to prove he can beat a team consistently with his arm. The read option is a nice change-up, but the long-term money is earned in the pocket. Yes, he’s also coming off a subpar second season. In fairness, the lack of an offseason hurt him considerably. The mistake made by many (myself included) was in thinking last August that it wouldn’t have the impact it did. I can tell you that while certain people were bad-mouthing Griffin behind the scenes late in the season, questioning his ability to improve in certain areas, those same people said not a word about these same things, say, in August. Not a word.

The Redskins don’t have to do anything with Griffin’s contract for a couple of years if they prefer. They could extend the deal next offseason (that’s what Carolina did with Cam Newton; he’ll receive $14.87 million this season) and then worry about the next contract after the 2016 season. By then they’ll have a great idea of where Griffin is headed.

It’s tough to compare Griffin to Kaepernick because the circumstances are different. The latter is 17-6 as a starter and 3-1 on the road in the postseason, having played in a Super Bowl. Kaepernick has a much better defense around him -- the Niners were a good team before he started a game. But he was hurt last year by not having good receivers. Griffin took a team that had finished in last place three straight years to an NFC East title. There were other factors, but he was a primary one, injecting a massive dose of hope.

Their stats are comparable. Griffin tops him in several areas, but Kaepernick has a better passer rating. In 29 starts, Kaepernick has completed 59.8 percent of his passes for 5,046 yards, 31 touchdowns and 11 interceptions for a 93.8 rating. In 28 starts, Griffin has completed 62.7 percent of his passes for 6,403 yards, 36 touchdowns and 17 interceptions for a 91.5 rating.

At 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, Kaepernick is built for a long career. The concern some had about Griffin coming out of college is that, at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, he might not be durable. It's still up for debate. Both players are not finished products. Some of the knocks on Griffin -- the need to better anticipate throws, failing to throw to a player who appeared open -- are things I saw from Kaepernick and Wilson at times during the past season and postseason. It just didn’t hurt them as much because their teams could still win without them having great games. (Kaepernick, by the way, has three touchdowns, seven interceptions and a 1-3 record vs. Seattle).

Kaepernick did excel against the blitz this past season, something Griffin did not do after doing just that as a rookie.

But Kaepernick earned his money. The next wave of quarterbacks will soon be in position to get theirs. Whether Griffin gets that sort of cash is up to him, of course. Play well and the franchise that gave up a lot to get him will pay a lot to keep him around.

The Redskins have time to make a decision. But Griffin needs to lay a strong case for himself this fall.
The transformation began when he returned from a knee injury. That’s when Mark Brunell knew something had to change. That’s when he knew he must stop being a scrambling quarterback and start being a pocket passer.

It’s a transition Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III wants to make as well. It was a difficult one to endure last season in part because he did not have an offseason to continue making that switch. But it’s one he must keep working on -- and wants to keep working on -- if he plans to have the career many predicted before his 2012 knee injury.

Brunell, the ex-Redskins quarterback, said the way to make this adjustment isn’t complicated.

“It’s very easy, and this will almost sound too basic, but it’s reps,” Brunell said. “It’s going through OTAs and minicamps and training camp with the mindset of, 'I’m dropping back and absolutely have to find a receiver.’ There are four or five receivers in each pass route and your job is to find the open guy.”

Then again, you’re changing a mindset. So perhaps it’s not so simple.

“It’s not easy at all,” Brunell said of changing the way a quarterback thinks the game. “He’s played a certain way since 9 years old. That’s where good coaching comes in. That’s where study becomes very important. A perfect example is Cam Newton’s development. This year he had more of a pocket presence. He had poise, he was more selective when he chose to run and you could see he really grew. That will be critical for RG III. That’s the type of progress he needs to make.”

In Brunell’s first two years, he ran a combined 147 times and led Jacksonville to the AFC Championship Game in that second season. But in the following August, he suffered partial tears of the MCL, PCL and ACL. He needed arthroscopic surgery and missed the first two games of the season. It’s far different than what Griffin experienced. But the need to rely less on the legs and more on the arm is comparable. So, too, was the style of play.

After the injury, Brunell never again surpassed 49 runs in a season. He might have been more raw as a quarterback than Griffin. In his second season as a starter, he ran 80 times – but also threw 20 interceptions (and 19 touchdowns). After he became less of a running quarterback, Brunell never again threw more interceptions than touchdowns as a full-time starter.

By comparison, Griffin ran eight times per game as a rookie and 6.6 last season (though it increased as the season went on – 5.4 times in the first five games and 7.4 in the next eight). He was hindered by the knee brace, which he won’t wear this season. Brunell, too, wore a brace after his injury.

“I had to sit in the pocket and throw,” after the injury, Brunell said. “I moved a little bit and not nearly as effectively as before. Going into the ‘98 season, I felt better as a pocket passer. It probably took me a year. I never got to the same speed, but it put me in position where I was forced to develop as a passer. In a way it was one of the best things for me.”

Brunell said it took lots of coaching and going over throws he didn’t make in a game. He was forced to explain why he didn’t throw to the third or fourth receiver and instead ran. Then he became more cognizant of this approach in practice. Eventually, it segued into game success.

A key will be using more of his receivers and backs, making sure to hit the checkdown throws rather than taking off and running. It should help that the Redskins have a strong receiving corps, at least among their top three, with Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts. And it will help if tight end Jordan Reed can stay healthy. That would provide Griffin with four legitimate targets.

“You can’t make a living running around all the time,” Brunell said. “You have to develop as a passer. You have to have poise. You have to have a lot of patience to really make it long term. Who are the elite guys now? They are pocket passers. Now you have a new wave of young quarterbacks – Cam and Colin [Kaepernick] and Russell [Wilson] and RG III. They can become both. Russell developed in that area from first year to last year and Cam developed. Colin has a ways to go and RG III has a ways to go.

“He can get there. He’s one of the best young quarterbacks in the league and he got there because he’s a great athlete and he’ll be coached well. He’ll be fine. Other young quarterbacks couldn’t get to that point. He won’t be one of those guys. He’s smart.”

Random thoughts: Redskins' schedule

April, 24, 2014
Taking another look at the Redskins' schedule and how it should help the Redskins' defense, among other thoughts:
  1. It’s hard to imagine Seattle taking a big step back and probably not San Francisco or Indianapolis. The Colts play in a bad division and the 49ers have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. So let’s assume, barring injury, that all three teams remain among the best.
  2. Beyond that, however, is there a team you can say, for sure right now, will be a playoff team. Philadelphia? I would think so. But its defense still has holes and while the offense should be explosive, does anyone trust Nick Foles just yet? Is it that hard to see the Eagles taking a step back?
  3. The point is, it’s hard to tell from one year to the next who will do what. For proof: The Redskins in 2012; the Redskins in 2013.
  4. Remember how tough that opener looked in 2012 at New Orleans? The Redskins scored 40 points in a win; the Saints struggled for weeks and clearly weren’t the same team without suspended coach Sean Payton. Or this stretch later in the season: Philly; at Dallas on Thanksgiving; Giants; Ravens. The Eagles ended up being horrible and the Redskins won all four. This stretch was why Washington couldn’t get off to a slow start. Well ...
  5. This is why I don't pick records based on who I think they'll beat, but more by what sort of team are they. I was, uh, a bit off last season picking 10-6. Then again, who wasn't off?
  6. And last season, anyone with the Redskins on their schedule had to worry a little bit. Reality? Not so much. The Eagles were supposed to be bad; they weren’t. Atlanta was supposed to be a Super Bowl contender. Uh, wrong. Dallas was supposed to be mediocre and Oakland was bad. OK, some of it was right.
  7. Point is, it’s hard to know all the trouble spots with this schedule. Will Arizona be good again (10-6, but missed the playoffs)? I like what Tampa Bay has done, but who will play quarterback? The same question can be asked of Houston, Minnesota, Tennessee and Jacksonville.
  8. The absence of elite quarterbacks, compared to last season, will help the Redskins. But a lot also depends on Foles’ growth and which Eli Manning shows up: Elite and Future Hall of Famer or Overrated Manning Who Throws Interceptions.
  9. Last season, a few teams had quarterback questions, but not like this season. Philadelphia had Michael Vick and though he’s now gone, when the season opened he was clearly the starter. Oakland had questions about its quarterback and Minnesota’s was shaky. But that was it. The other teams had firm starters.
  10. In fact, Washington played eight games in 2013 against quarterbacks who ended up in the top 10 in passer rating – and 11 games against the top 15.
  11. This season? They have seven games against quarterbacks who finished in the top 15. Of course, one who did not? The Colts’ Andrew Luck. But the point is, there’s a big difference in the level of quarterbacks they’re facing. It makes a difference. The Redskins’ defense has plenty of work to do, but facing fewer high-quality quarterbacks will make their task a little easier.
  12. Four of their first nine games are against teams with serious quarterback questions. If the defense does not improve, it’s an even bigger failure than 2013. And they’ll be out of excuses. Of course, the Redskins face six of the top-10 defenses from 2013 (but also six teams who ended up in the bottom five, with two games against both Dallas and Philadelphia). Jacksonville finished low in the standings, but could be improved and be a pesky opponent.
  13. For selfish reasons I’m not a fan, at all, of the Monday night game against Seattle followed by a trip to Arizona. Through a reporter’s eyes: I get home from a Monday night game around 4 a.m., and never quite catch up on sleep. I love Arizona, but a West Coast game means a red-eye flight coming back. I know, you don’t care and you shouldn’t. But now you know – and I still wouldn’t trade this gig for anything.
  14. But even for players that’s a tough one. The Monday night games take a little more out of you and then having to fly four hours a few days later can take a toll.
    It’ll help the Redskins to have a Thursday night game before facing Seattle. But it’s not as if the Seahawks’ defense is all that tricky; they do some things to fool teams, but mostly what they do is execute at a fast pace. They also will play physical with receivers; that’s what works best against Washington’s DeSean Jackson. I love watching this defense. There's also that Richard Sherman-DeAngelo Hall angle plus the Robert Griffin III-Russell Wilson storyline.
  15. The bye week after nine games isn’t bad at all. A midseason break. It worked two years ago for Washington, of course. Regardless of when the bye is, coaches will put a positive spin on the timing. This year the bye breaks up a stretch of four road games out of five.
  16. It’ll now be fun to see what Houston does with that first pick. The Redskins could be facing either Jadeveon Clowney or Johnny Manziel in their home opener.
    It’s always fun when they play Dallas in the season finale, especially if anything is on the line. But it’s not like the Cowboys ever go into that last game needing anything, right?
    And it’s always fun covering a Redskins-Cowboys game on Monday night. But one question the beat reporters face after such a game in Dallas: Do you go to the hotel for an hour’s nap or go right to the airport? The return flights are a bit early. Not a complaint; just reality. Like I said, there’s no other job I’d want.
  17. One more: Here's a good look from Sports Illustrated's Peter King at how the schedules are made.

Redskins mailbag: Part 1

February, 28, 2014
The offseason already feels a bit long -- and we haven't even hit free agency yet. The draft is still more than two months away. That means there are future decisions that must be debated and discussed. So in Part 1 of the Washington Redskins Mailbag, we take a look at compensatory picks, an option in case Brian Orakpo leaves, Chris Baker's contract, receivers in the draft and more. Enjoy.


Positional outlook: Quarterbacks

February, 3, 2014
A little glimpse ahead and a quick look back at each position, starting with quarterbacks:

Robert Griffin III

The skinny: It’s too early to jump off his bandwagon after one tough season. The problem with 2013 is what he accomplished in 2012, setting the bar at a ridiculous level. It’s now back down, at least until he proves he can become an effective quarterback in the pocket. He does not have to be restricted to the pocket, but he does have to improve -- not just in throwing the ball, but in knowing how to move around and escape pressure. Griffin’s ability to extend plays remains huge and a major weapon (as it was for Seattle’s Russell Wilson and San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick throughout the postseason). But he must become a more consistent passer. An offseason devoted to footwork and other fundamentals should help. Griffin must buy in to Jay Gruden; Griffin always did what was asked of him in the past, but when you buy in it can elevate your game. He also must accept realize he’s far from a finished product. Gruden’s demeanor (as well as that of offensive coordinator Sean McVay) could help a lot as well. I’ll be curious to see how much explosiveness Griffin regains the further he gets from the knee surgery -- and without the brace (if he ditches it, that is).

2014: Starter.

Contract status: Signed through 2015, though a team option is available for a fifth season.

Kirk Cousins

The skinny: Cousins has told the Redskins he would welcome a trade and it’s hard to blame him considering Griffin remains the future. I’m sure the Redskins will listen to offers, but will any team make a deal worthwhile? In three starts, Cousins showed some good and bad. He was more decisive with his reads and getting rid of the ball than Griffin. But inaccuracy, and the occasional forced pass, led to interceptions. He showed poise in the pocket and a willingness to make tough throws, which can lead to big plays or mistakes. But he struggled in his final start and still has a lot to prove. How much would he improve given more playing time? That’s a question any team checking him out must answer. One executive (whose team is not looking for a quarterback) said Cousins could start for some teams right now and, he said, the Redskins might be able to get a “second or third for him.” Cousins’ ceiling is not as high as Griffin’s, but he has shown he can help.

2014: Backup.

Contract status: Signed through 2015.

Rex Grossman

The skinny: Did not play for a second straight season and served mostly as a mentor and player-coach for Griffin and Cousins. He’s a smart guy who helped in this role. But in Jay Gruden’s three seasons with Cincinnati, the Bengals kept two quarterbacks on the active roster each time. Grossman’s time in Washington could be over. You have to wonder if he’ll follow Kyle Shanahan to Cleveland. Shanahan won’t have any coaches who know his playbook so it would be helpful to have a quarterback who does.

2014: Likely gone.

Contract status: Scheduled to be a free agent March 11.

Redskins can learn from Seahawks

February, 3, 2014
1. Talent matters when it comes to compiling a defense, but Seattle is proof of how you can get the most out of that talent, especially defensively. They did it without a lot of first-round picks; they did it without spending a lot of money. It’s why the Redskins need to limit (quit) the blame game when it comes to any defensive problems.Certainly some issues played a part in what happened here (and, yes, turnovers killed the entire team this past season). The Seahawks are proof of what goes well when the organization is on that so-called same page and, when it came to the Redskins' defense, I'm not sure that was always the case. Still. It can be done without: spending a lot on players and no first-round picks. Not that Seattle lacked first-round picks, but the Seahawks’ defense has thrived without many of them.

2. Seattle’s starting lineup includes five players selected in the last three drafts – only one in the first round. The Seahawks did a good enough job that you forget about the big miss on linebacker Aaron Curry as the fourth overall pick in 2009.

[+] EnlargeEarl Thomas
AP Photo/G. Newman LowranceSafety Earl Thomas is one of just two first-round picks starting on the Seahawks' defense.
3. The Seahawks’ starting defense includes two former first-round picks (safety Earl Thomas, 2010; linebacker Bruce Irvin, 2012). That’s it. The Redskins last season had five former first-round picks. But three of them were drafted by other teams. Way of life here. So the Seahawks have more picks in Rounds 4-7 (six) among their defensive starters than players selected in Rounds 1-3 (four). They also had a former undrafted free agent in Chris Clemons. Not every coach -- including good ones -- are strong at developing talent. They'd rather have players already developed (who wouldn't?). But the point is that you can get there this way and be successful. I don't know if outside linebackers coach Brian Baker is adept at doing this, but I know inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti has been in the past.

4. This has become my favorite phrase the past couple of weeks, but I’ll use it again: draft and develop. Seattle’s defensive starters include nine of its draft picks. The Seahawks not only won a Super Bowl, they did it in inexpensive fashion. Their one big free agent, Cliff Avril (who does not start, but plays a lot), was key. Though he didn’t record a sack his pressures in the past two games resulted in huge plays -- the tipped pass for a pick against San Francisco and Malcolm Smith's return for a touchdown Sunday. The point: use all avenues to improve, but you don’t need a lot of free agents to succeed.

5. I like that players such as Kam Chancellor play special teams. My guess is that he hasn’t lost the drive that turned him from a fifth-round pick in 2010 to a starter and Pro Bowler. Meanwhile, the Redskins had a sixth-round pick (Bacarri Rambo) who was not a good special-teams player. Nor was fifth-rounder Brandon Jenkins. Sean Taylor used to love playing on special teams. When guys have that sort of hunger, it trickles down. When you don’t -- and when you have veterans who would rather not be on there -- it also trickles down.

6. It’s not just playing with a hunger, it’s preparing with one. That’s what turned London Fletcher from an undrafted guy into what he became. The Seahawks have multiple players like that; even former first-round pick Earl Thomas, whose talent is enhanced by his preparation. Phillip Thomas, a fourth-round pick by Washington last season, had a reputation in college for preparing a certain way. I don’t know if he’ll develop into a good player, but it gives him a shot.

7. Seattle’s defense plays fast and with a hunger that few other teams possess. It’s hard to emulate unless you get the right collection of players. But Seattle’s formula included constantly looking for such players, which is why the Seahawks made so many transactions early in Pete Carroll’s tenure.

8. By the way, Carroll is a defensive coach. He hasn’t harmed Russell Wilson's development. It’s why, when the Redskins were looking for a coach, my thought was to not write off one side of the ball for candidates. Good head coaches come from any side; maybe Jay Gruden will be one for the Redskins. But it’s why you should never limit yourself in a search (the Redskins did not, though it seemed like they favored Gruden from the get-go).

9. I also know that having John Schneider there helps tremendously. There are other successful organizations that do things well and do it a little differently (though the draft would be a common thread) so there’s more than one way to get there. It's wrong to think only Seattle has that formula, but the Seahawks are the franchise du jour. But for the most part there’s an organizational blueprint that is followed by the best teams, the ones who consistently win. I don't think the Redskins have always been on that same page. That's not to say they missed on everyone because they haven't; they just haven't developed enough lower-round picks to build depth or provide low-cost starters.

10. What Wilson did so well Sunday night is what Robert Griffin III needs to mimic: Hit the plays that are available, including those slant routes. They sustain drives. Wilson wasn’t always perfect in the playoffs on these routes (watch the New Orleans game when he missed them a few times by throwing behind the receiver). But in the past two games he was on target with those passes, especially on third downs. He also extended plays (in the playoffs and all season) and consistently hurt teams when doing so -- by throwing the ball, not running. Wilson knows how to operate in the pocket and he threw with a terrific (and consistent) base. Wilson ran 11 times for 42 yards in the postseason, including 3 carries for 26 yards Sunday night. The ability to run is helpful and needs to be used, but if it's a constant crutch then it's not a good thing.

RG III's sales took a hit

January, 31, 2014
Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III's popularity took a definite hit this past season -- but he remains a popular player. Griffin, despite a subpar season and some critical stories, ranked fourth on NFL Players Inc.’s Top 25 player sales list.

Of course, that represents a fall after what his jersey did during his rookie season when it set records for sales at NFLShop.com since the league started tracking such matters in 2006 -- and there was no doubt about his popularity then. Last year, ESPN reported that sales of Redskins merchandise increased 250 percent on fanatics.com, owed largely to Griffin's presence.

But, according to NFLShop.com, Griffin ranked fifth in jersey sales from April 1 to Sept. 30 this past year. But he dropped out of the top 10 when their next rankings came out earlier this month (though he's fifth on their website for most-searched jersey). The numbers mirror his struggles on the playing field this past season.

And for those keeping score on how he compares to Andrew Luck, the player selected above him, the Colts quarterback ranks 10th on the NFLPI list, though I'm sure he's eased his, uh, pain by dwelling more on consecutive playoff appearances and not jersey sales. But Griffin does trail other young quarterbacks in Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick.

Regardless, here's the list of the top 25 players based on overall sales of all licensed products from online and traditional retail outlets from September to November 2013 that was released Thursday:

1. Russell Wilson, Seahawks
2. Colin Kaepernick, 49ers
3. Peyton Manning, Broncos
4. Robert Griffin III, Redskins
5. Tom Brady, Patriots
6. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
7. J.J. Watt, Texans
8. Drew Brees, Saints
9. Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
10. Andrew Luck, Colts
11. Richard Sherman, Seahawks
12. Clay Matthews, Packers
13. Adrian Peterson, Vikings
14. Wes Welker, Broncos
15. Victor Cruz, Giants
16. Eli Manning, Giants
17. Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins
18. Calvin Johnson, Lions
19. Dez Bryant, Cowboys
20. Jason Witten, Cowboys
21. Troy Polamalu, Steelers
22. Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
23. Patrick Willis, 49ers
24. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
25. Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers

Redskins, Seahawks took different paths

January, 21, 2014
Pete Carroll and Mike Shanahan started new jobs in the same offseason. Four years later Carroll is in the Super Bowl; Shanahan is unemployed. Why did the Seahawks improve while the Redskins did not? Seattle won nine games combined in the two years before Carroll and a combined 38 in the next four years, while the Redskins won a combined 12 games in the two years before Shanahan and a combined 24 in the ensuing four years.
  • The Seahawks had two first-round picks in 2010 while the Redskins had two picks in the first four rounds. Seattle landed two excellent starters in tackle Russell Okung and safety Earl Thomas. Washington took tackle Trent Williams and linebacker Perry Riley. Williams is a Pro Bowler and Riley is a starter, good in some areas but who struggles in others.
  • The Seahawks hit on lower-round picks in 2010, selecting cornerback Walter Thurmond in the fourth round and safety Kam Chancellor in the fifth. Chancellor’s physical style sets a tone in the box, and Thurmond is an excellent slot corner and might as well be considered a starter. Seattle also took starting receiver Golden Tate in the second round. The Redskins whiffed on the rest of their 2010 class, none of whom were on the roster this past season.
  • Wilson
    Among the players Seattle unloaded in the 2010 offseason: corner Josh Wilson, who signed with the Redskins a year later; and defensive lineman Darryl Tapp, who played here this past season. The Seahawks wanted big, physical cornerbacks. Wilson was too small for them. Seattle clearly had a blueprint.
  • In 2011, the Seahawks had nine picks (the Redskins had 12). Seattle found three more starters in guard James Carpenter (drafted as a tackle in the first round); corner Richard Sherman (fifth round); corner Byron Maxwell (sixth round; a replacement for the suspended Brandon Browner) and outside linebacker Malcolm Smith (seventh round). Eight of the nine remain on the roster.
  • Meanwhile, the Redskins drafted 12 players, finding one good starter in linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and another starter in end Jarvis Jenkins. It wasn’t a bad draft, but it wasn’t a game-changer either. Nine of the 12 remained on the roster in 2013.
  • Wilson
    Both teams found quarterbacks in 2012, with Seattle getting Russell Wilson in the third round and the Redskins trading two future first-rounders and a second-rounder to swap positions with St. Louis to get Robert Griffin III. I agreed with the move, so I’m not going to second-guess it; besides, it’s not as if Ryan Tannehill, a player they liked, has torn it up in Miami (though, yes, they would have had more picks). There is no way Seattle could have anticipated what Wilson has become, and the Seahawks had also signed Matt Flynn. But they quickly saw what they had in Wilson.
  • Both quarterbacks obviously made tremendous impacts as rookies. Griffin’s knee injury and other issues led to stumbles in 2013. But when he struggled, so, too, did the Redskins. When Wilson struggled, he could rely on the run game and defense to win. Big difference when you don’t have to carry a team -- and that’s because of how both were built.
  • Seattle drafted 10 players in 2012 -- eight played defense; three are starters (end Bruce Irvin, linebacker Bobby Wagner, and J.R. Sweezy, an end in college but now a starting offensive guard). The Redskins also hit on running back Alfred Morris in that same draft, and quarterback Kirk Cousins looks like a good backup who might yield a draft pick in return some day. But aside from them and Griffin? So far, nothing.
  • This past season, of the Redskins' top five defensive backs (including No. 3 corner David Amerson), four were picked in the first two rounds of their respective drafts. Of Seattle’s eight defensive backs, only one was drafted before the fourth round.
  • In the 2013 draft, Seattle added no starters, but that’s not a surprise given the Seahawks’ talent level. The Redskins added Amerson, who was their No. 3 corner, and tight end Jordan Reed. But nobody else provided any help. Even on special teams.
  • All totaled, of the starters listed on Seattle’s current depth chart, 16 were drafted by them or signed as an undrafted free agent. That includes nine defensive starters, and the lone two who weren’t drafted by them were acquired in trades, including end Chris Clemons. Of the four offensive players not drafted by Seattle, one was signed off a practice squad; another was acquired in a trade (running back Marshawn Lynch) and only one was considered a bigger free agent signing (tight end Zach Miller).
  • Seattle built a team that could withstand the loss of receiver Percy Harvin, who has caught one pass this season after being acquired in a trade. He might play in the Super Bowl. They signed pass-rush specialist Cliff Avril, who recorded eight sacks, but was not a starter.
  • Seattle, under general manager John Schneider's strong guidance, is just more proof that you can succeed without having to spend big money. And the Redskins are proof as to what happens when you don’t successfully draft and develop.

NFLN survey/franchise player: Redskins

January, 16, 2014
Peyton Manning had a phenomenal season -- and the same can obviously be said about his career. So it’s no surprise that NFL players tabbed him as the one player they’d want to build a team around.

I don’t have a problem with that because of Manning’s excellence. But I am surprised that New England’s Tom Brady received 21 fewer votes than Manning and 15 less than Andrew Luck. Brady’s stats aren’t eye-popping, but considering the situation at tight end and receiver in New England, what he did was quite impressive. He threw to a cast of no names and has them one win from the Super Bowl.

With Manning, you get not just a coach on the field, but also on the practice field and in the meeting rooms. It’s been that way for a long time. Manning makes many players look better. Brady helps many players win. Given what Manning did this season, it’s hard to go away from him. But there shouldn’t be a big gap between he and Brady.

Also, if I were taking a quarterback with more than five years left, I’d take Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers. A young quarterback? It’s hard to go against Luck, bad playoff interceptions and all. My reason? Durability to go along with immense talent.

I’m also surprised that Calvin Johnson received 37 votes. There’s no doubt he’s one of the top players in the game, but if you have your choice of any player to build around it has to be a quarterback. And Johnson received 26 more votes than Drew Brees.

Redskins angle: The only Redskins player to receive a vote? Running back Alfred Morris, who received one. A year ago at this time, even with Robert Griffin III’s knee injury, he would have received a decent amount of votes. Griffin was at the top of the new age quarterback: the multi-dimensional threat capable of leading a more dynamic attack.

The Redskins’ offense went from inconsistent and turnover prone in 2011 to one of the most feared a year later and it was largely because of Griffin. So, naturally, many would have wanted to build around him. Now? He lags behind other young quarterbacks. In addition to Luck, Seattle’s Russell Wilson (five) and San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick (one) received votes.

Morris is not a player I would build around, much as I like him. Not as The Guy to build around if I had my pick, that is. He offers the ability to have a strong running game, but to build around I’d like him to be more of an all-around threat or more explosive. That said, with Griffin and Morris, the Redskins still have a chance to build something offensively.

Quick takes: Coaches, playoffs and QBs

January, 6, 2014
  1. Of the jobs left, I’d put only Detroit ahead of Washington for the same reason as most others: The Lions have a more established talent base. They do have salary-cap issues (three players will count more than $13 million against the cap this year) so they’ll have to restructure and/or release players. But you know a little bit more of what you’re getting from this group – on both sides of the ball. Both the offense and defense ranked in the top 15 in scoring. I wonder if the Lions’ experience with Jim Schwartz will make them go with a former head coach in this hire – like a Ken Whisenhunt or even Jim Caldwell – as opposed to someone such as Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.
  2. Minnesota, Cleveland and Tennessee all have major flaws, too. The Browns would be more interesting if not for the fact that they just fired a coach after one season. They have a high draft pick and money to spend. But talk about a culture of dysfunction. The Vikings don’t have a young quarterback worth building around; their owners are based in New Jersey (which can be a good and bad thing) and were just hit with an $84.5 million penalty when a judge ruled they cheated their partners in an apartment complex. It’s hard to cast Tennessee as a great job. The Titans' quarterback, Jake Locker, remains questionable and their ownership is unproven.
  3. The Redskins have major flaws as well – and a 15-year track record under owner Dan Snyder, which features chaos every few years and seven double-digit loss seasons since 2004. He has not proven he can build a winning organization. But his willingness to spend has attracted coaches in the past (it’s why Mike Shanahan came here) and will do so again. Yes, some will no doubt stay away from this job as they’ll consider it a bad spot. But money always matters – not just for their contract but for the desire to spend in free agency, etc.
  4. Clearly, more than money is needed to build a good team. I think the smartest thing is to hire good people and let them do their jobs. I’d say that for the next coach, too.
  5. Four of the eight teams that played in the first round of the playoffs hired coaches within the past two years. And three of them had first-year coaches: Kansas City, San Diego and Philadelphia. It’s not as if there is a common formula for their hires. The Chiefs grabbed the proven head coach; the Chargers a coordinator and the Eagles a dynamic college coach. I’ve heard some teams were not interested in hiring a coordinator with no head coaching experience to be their guy.
  6. Of the past 15 Super Bowl champions, six were led by coaches in their second stint as a head coach (Mike Shanahan, Tony Dungy, Bill Belichick, Tom Coughlin, Jon Gruden and Dick Vermeil). Six were won by assistants in their first job (Bill Cowher, Brian Billick, Mike Tomlin, John Harbaugh, Mike McCarthy and Sean Payton). And of the last 15 teams that have lost the Super Bowl, 12 have been led by coaches in their first job. The three in their second job? Dan Reeves, Bill Belichick and Mike Holmgren. All totaled, 18 coaches with their first team have led their teams to the Super Bowl.
  7. The point: If you build the right organization you can win, regardless if they have prior head coaching experience or not. It’s not enough to just get what you consider to be a good coach; the infrastructure is of utmost importance.
  8. It’s also noteworthy that of the four quarterbacks left in the NFC, three can hurt you with their arm or their legs: San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick, Carolina’s Cam Newton and Seattle’s Russell Wilson. Kaepernick extended plays in Sunday’s win over Green Bay time and again. There were times he might have missed an open receiver to take off running, but the majority of his runs bailed the 49ers out of a bad spot. It’s why you don’t give up on Robert Griffin III when he’s one year removed from doing the same. Quarterbacks like this take you places -- if they figure it out. But with each quarterback left, the common denominator is this: a great defense. The Redskins were too reliant on the need for Griffin to do a lot because they failed to build anything solid to offset his growing pains. Kaepernick struggled this year, too; he's now in the second round of the playoffs.
  9. Here’s an update on the coach search from Sunday night. As of that time I had not heard yet whether or not the Redskins had reached out to any of the Bengals' assistant coaches: Jay Gruden, Mike Zimmer or Hue Jackson. I would expect them to do so soon.
  10. When Caldwell interviewed in Detroit, he also met with Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. I would be surprised if something like that happened here, unless it was during a second round of interviews. Griffin’s desire was to get away and stay out of the coach search, knowing the perception of his situation. But considering his position, he is and should be a primary topic in these interviews.
  11. I still refuse to believe the Redskins never reached out to Bill Cowher about their coaching vacancy. I understand he doesn’t want to coach, but there’s no way someone such as Snyder takes that as gospel, especially if he hears that second or third hand. Just look at who he’s lured here in the past. Doesn’t mean Cowher formally interviewed for the job. As I said last week, it would also make sense for Snyder to talk to as many experts as possible to get a feel for any potential good young coaches.
Age: 43

Position: Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator

[+] EnlargeDarrell Bevell
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsDarrell Bevell has been an assistant in smaller markets during his entire NFL coaching career.
Recent background: Bevell has served as the Seahawks’ offensive coordinator the past three seasons. His offense ranked 23rd in points per game in 2011 (28th in yards). But in the past two years they’re ninth and eighth, respectively, in points per game (and 17th both years in total yards).

Past stops: Bevell started his NFL coaching career as a Green Bay offensive assistant in 2000. Three years later he became their quarterbacks coach and three years after that Bevell was named Minnesota’s offensive coordinator. Quarterback Brett Favre posted a career-best 107.2 passer rating under Bevell in 2009, when the offense finished No. 2 in points per game (In his five years with Minnesota, they were 26th, 15th, 12th, second and 29th in points per game). Bevell was not retained when interim coach Leslie Frazier became the head coach for the 2011 season. He started four seasons at quarterback for the University of Wisconsin.

What I’ve heard about him: Seattle coach Pete Carroll expects Bevell to be a head coach in 2014. While the Seahawks’ offense has been inconsistent, what’s impressed many is that they’ve still been productive despite playing most of the season minus receivers Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin and half the season without tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini. Bevell is considered matter-of-fact and not flashy, but open and honest. One ex-NFL general manager said he likes Bevell and thinks he’s a good coach, but said his personality is not that of a head coach.

Potential fit: Bevell has done excellent work in Seattle. They’re still playing with a young quarterback who was a third-round pick and they haven’t played much with their true starting lineup. Yes, Russell Wilson would have gone in the (late) first round had he been a couple inches taller. Still, he’s a young quarterback and Bevell and the Seahawks have done a good job winning with him (yes, with a great defense). It was Bevell who wanted Wilson to start right away over Matt Flynn, so he has some conviction and doesn’t appear afraid to make what was considered a gutsy move after they traded for Flynn. It's not like every team was raving about Wilson before the draft, either. I like that Bevell is younger. But I’d very much worry about his low-key personality in this organization. That’s not the sort owner Dan Snyder wants or needs; I think it would make it harder for Bevell to thrive in Washington. Also, several coaches from the past have talked about working in a big market; Bevell has been in Green Bay, Minnesota and Seattle. I'd worry about him being overwhelmed by the demands of the job in Washington, from maneuvering inside the organization -- knowing how to handle the owner is only part of it -- to dealing with outside pressures.

Suggested reading: A little bit on his offensive philosophy. Really, the first graph is the one that’s applicable. … A little bit more on his philosophy regarding audibles, from his Minnesota days. … A year ago, Bevell said, “We’re a running team.”… Too much verbiage? ... Vikings' loss was Seahawks' gain. ... An interesting look on his time in Minnesota.

Redskins Mailbag

November, 7, 2013
Running the mailbag Thursday because of the early game this week. So here you go with some Robert Griffin III talk, Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan and Leonard Hankerson.


RG III's dad: Mum's the word

September, 2, 2013
Robert Griffin III’s dad will no longer talk to the media, writes the Washington Post’s Dave Sheinin, a talented journalist who wrote a book about the quarterback. This is a good move by Griffin’s dad and, honestly, long overdue. It’s not his fault that many people asked him for interviews; he accommodated just about any request. Can’t blame him there at all.

And I know why many kept going back to him: He was honest about what he thought, and there was a sense he was speaking for his son, or at least providing insight into his son’s thinking. Because Griffin III was, and still is, largely off limits, this was a perceived window into his thinking. Initially my thought was: We don’t hear from the parents of other players, but then I googled “Adrian Peterson’s father” and, voila, there was this article (did we really need his dad to say Peterson was upset about getting only five second-half carries in a close game?). It’s headline grabbing when the father of a player knocks the team or coach. And when journalists know someone is willing to go hard like that, they will return to the source when the story shifts.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin Jr.
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezRobert Griffin Jr., left, father of QB Robert Griffin III, is no longer granting interviews to the media.
No parent wants to see their son get hurt, no matter the profession. So Griffin’s dad was like pretty much every other one in that regard; he wants to see his son maximize his talent and, in a brutal profession, earning potential. But Griffin is not the first player returning from this sort of surgery; though after this offseason it just feels that way. Yes, his dad has a ton invested in him. Certainly, there are other moms and dads who are equally invested in their NFL-playing sons who are never asked anything.

Yes, Griffin is more high-profile, and there are many debates about the offense Washington runs with him. It’s a little different situation, I get that. I’m also guessing Andrew Luck’s dad has thoughts on how his son was used last season behind a weak line. Maybe the Colts could use him differently, too? The debate on how a player is used is not unique to Griffin. I don’t know if Russell Wilson’s mom likes how he’s being used (his dad, who was heavily involved in grooming his son’s athletic talents, died in 2010). I don’t know if Colin Kaepernick’s parents like how he’s being used. In Griffin Jr.'s case, we have to remember: He's a dad, not a coach.

Griffin Jr. should be celebrated for being heavily involved in his son’s life, and for having a great relationship with him (best man at his wedding). Instead, it became more about his words on the Redskins’ offense or about coach Mike Shanahan. By all accounts his dad is a friendly man and wonderful parent (he would often steer his son to more autograph seekers at camp, so he’s cognizant of his son’s responsibilities as well). You don’t want that to get lost in this narrative. Instead, when his dad spoke it fueled controversy, real or perceived. I don’t know if any sort of Griffin fatigue is setting in or not (certainly, I’m sure it is outside the Redskins’ fan base, which, you’d have to admit, is not surprising). But I do know it’s good for his dad to stay quiet. We know what he thinks on this topic. Now it’s time for his son to do all the talking. I think I can safely say for everyone: It will be nice when that talking is about his actions on the field and not what he meant by this tweet or that comment. Instead of reading between the lines, I'm eager to watch him play between the lines.
ESPN's #NFLRank project made it clear how it views the young quarterbacks -- and Robert Griffin III falls behind Indianapolis' Andrew Luck and San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick when it comes to the top 100 offensive players.

But only by a couple spots. And part of the problem in evaluating Griffin for this season lies in his surgically repaired right knee. Griffin was ranked 46th, while Luck (41) and Kaepernick (42) were ahead of him. But Seattle's Russell Wilson was one spot behind Griffin. All but Kaepernick were rookies last season.

The Redskins' second-year quarterback posted more impressive statistics than the others. Griffin threw for 3,200 yards, 20 touchdowns and five interceptions and ran for 815 yards in starting 16 games. He posted a passer rating of 102.4. Griffin still needs to grow as a passer -- he did not have to read routes in college the way he must in the NFL. But that won't necessarily improve his accuracy; it will help him make more plays downfield or be able to work through his progressions faster. Compared to the other two rookies last season, Griffin entered as the most raw passer. Yet he limited his mistakes by being smart and had a knack for keeping passes out of harm's way.

Luck, meanwhile, threw for 4,374 yards, 23 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. Kaepernick, entering his third season, threw for 10 touchdowns to three interceptions and led the Niners to the Super Bowl. Wilson threw 26 touchdowns to only 10 interceptions and helped the Seahawks beat the Redskins in the wild card round.

The interesting thing will be to see how this group ranks next season.