Coach: Benched RG III must ‘work on craft’
Updated: November 26, 2014, 9:25 PM ET
By John Keim | ESPN.com
Why Bench Griffin Now?
ASHBURN, Va. — Redskins coach Jay Gruden said his decision to bench Robert Griffin III comes down to a simple reason: The team keeps losing, and the young quarterback looks indecisive and hasn’t played as confidently as he once did.
I just think he needs a little bit more time in this system with the verbiage and the plays to sit back, take a step back and learn, and when he gets back in there he’ll be a lot more decisive, hopefully, and ready to roll.
– Jay Gruden, on Robert Griffin III
But what it means for Griffin’s future remains uncertain, and Gruden said that part hasn’t been determined.
Gruden decided on Tuesday to start Colt McCoy this weekend against the Indianapolis Colts and informed the quarterbacks. The Redskins have won only one of Griffin’s five starts this season, although in one of them — a 41-10 win over Jacksonville — he left in the first quarter with a dislocated ankle. The injury sidelined him for six games.
During that time, McCoy led the Redskins to a comeback win over Tennessee and started in an upset win at Dallas. Washington has since lost three straight games, all started by Griffin, in dropping to 3-8.
Gruden said Griffin needs more seasoning and that it’s best for him to do so on the bench. Gruden said that doesn’t mean Griffin is done in Washington. It would be hard to get much value for him if the Redskins traded him in the offseason — one executive said Griffin might fetch a late-round pick.
Griffin is under contract for one more season. The Redskins have to decide by May 3 whether they want to offer him a fifth-year extension.
“I’m not putting the blame all on Robert,” Gruden told Indianapolis reporters during a conference call. “It seems like that when you make a change like this at the quarterback position. Robert has done some good things at quarterback, but I just think he needs a little bit more time in this system with the verbiage and the plays to sit back, take a step back and learn, and when he gets back in there he’ll be a lot more decisive, hopefully, and ready to roll.
“But right now, I just felt moving forward for Indianapolis that Colt would give us a better chance this week.”
Said Griffin as he left the locker room Wednesday: “I’m fine. I’ll be strong.”
The Redskins like that McCoy knows the offense well and gives them a better chance to move the ball consistently. But Gruden said he’s not sure whether McCoy will start the rest of the season. He also said Griffin will be the No. 2 quarterback, with Kirk Cousins remaining as the No. 3.
“This is a game-by-game league, man,” Gruden said. “We’re focused in on Indianapolis, and we’re going to play with the Colts and see how it goes. I expect Colt to prepare like a pro, I expect Robert to prepare like a pro, and I figure both of them will be ready to play, and they have to be ready to play.
“That’s what quarterbacks do, they prepare like they’re the starter and when their number is called, they have to go out and produce. And if you don’t produce, then you have to maybe take a step back. It doesn’t mean you’re out of the league forever. It doesn’t mean you’re out of graces. It means that we’re just going to give another guy an opportunity and go from there.”
Gruden said Griffin was not pleased with the decision. But Gruden didn’t expect him to be happy about the switch. And, the coach said, it was not personal.
Griffin has been sacked 20 times in his four starts, while the other two quarterbacks have been sacked a combined 13 times on 146 more pass attempts.
“A lot of people are making it out me vs. Robert. It’s not at all,” Gruden said. “I have a lot of respect for Robert as a quarterback and Robert as a person. We just want him to take a step back, work on his craft a little bit more, study the game a little bit more so the next time he’s in there he’s raring to go and has a little more faith and confidence in what he sees.”
Gruden met with general manager Bruce Allen and owner Dan Snyder about the decision, though it was an ongoing process and not one specific sit-down to inform them of the move. Gruden also said he did not regret starting Griffin when he returned from his dislocated left ankle for a Week 9 game against Minnesota.
“If we reversed the clock, obviously knowing what we know now, I’d stick with Colt,” Gruden said. “But Robert was our starter all through training camp, all through OTAs, all through preseason. When we got the word he was 100 percent, he looked good in practice, he was the starter. So I have no regrets in that regard.”
Regaining the starting job will take time and an offseason — if he remains in Washington. The Redskins wanted Griffin to become more of a pocket passer, relying more on his arm than his legs — even after he extends plays. And they want him to regain his confidence.
“He’s just got to have the confidence and swagger that made him who he is,” Gruden said. “That comes with time. It’s not easy for these young quarterbacks. Not too long ago, you didn’t even think about playing a rookie quarterback until he was three years in, sitting on the bench, and then you bring him in slowly.
“A lot of these young guys have been forced into action. Andrew Luck’s the exception. They’ve had some struggles. It’s not going to be perfect all the time. You can’t give up on him, we’re not giving up to him.”