There are a lot of NFL teams that display an astonishing amount of incompetency. And, despite league-wide parity and a wide pool of mediocrity, there seems to be one incompetent franchise that stands out above (below?) the rest. Perhaps it is due to the hubris of the owner, Dan Snyder. Perhaps it is karma for using a racist mascot, refusing to change it, and even having the gall to suggest the name somehow “honors” native people. Most likely, as is the case with the rest of the league, there is a disconnect between the front office, owner, and coaching staff, one that threatens to take what was a very promising franchise three years ago and sink it further into the ground.
What is up in Washington?
Let’s start here: Sunday’s Atlanta – Washington contest was Kirk Cousin’s ninth game with two or more interceptions. Considering that he only has five games where he hasn’t thrown an interception, it seems pretty clear to me: this is a trend. Cousins has been the most turnover prone QB in the NFL when he’s been behind center, and Sunday’s overtime debacle certainly did not inspire thoughts of a turnaround.
Lets go back two week’s to the Giants game, the first pick was completely Cousin’s fault, and basically lost the game for Washington. He failed to notice Price Amukamura coming over the middle and basically threw a pitch and catch to his chest. It wasn’t very creative coverage – it was a terrible decision and a terrible throw. The kind you see and think “wait, he’s an NFL quarterback?”
The second pick wasn’t as much his fault – a throw well behind his receiver, but a catchable ball – that got launched into the air for an easy lob catch. While it can be hard to blame the quarterback for these types of interceptions, it wasn’t a good throw in the first place and there were plenty of other balls that deserved to be intercepted.
Nonetheless, it begs the question: what the heck is Washington thinking? Robert Griffin III, who missed most of preseason and assumedly lost his starting spot due to a concussion, was cleared to return to playing 12 days before this game. Thursday, he was inactive as the third QB on the depth chart behind… Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy.
I know Griffin hasn’t inspired confidence since his rookie year, but it also begs the question: is he really worse than Cousins and McCoy? Having seen all three in fairly extended action, my answer would be a clear cut, resounding, NO! For all the criticisms of Griffin as a pocket passer, he still has a better arm than either Cousins or McCoy and he at least brings something dynamic to the table with his legs. His health is obviously an issue, but looking at the roster and the first three games, a power rushing attack that uses features of the option and centers around easy throws and reads off of play-action seems like it could work… just like it did his rookie year.
Which is funny: because on Thursday, Phil Simms remarked on the broadcast that the offense Griffin ran his rookie year “doesn’t exist in the NFL anymore.” Apparently, Simms hasn’t watched the Seahawks, Eagles, or 49ers in years.
The fact is: the option offense is still very much alive in the NFL. Jay Gruden just doesn’t want to run it. Since he took over the head coaching job in Washington, he has done his best to run RGIII out of town. He forced Griffin into an offense that didn’t fit his skills, forced him to take chances, and watched him fail. Gruden took an offense that worked well for pocket passer Andy Dalton (who, I might add, has the privilege of throwing to A.J. Green), and just assumed it would work for Griffin too. He ignored the differing skills between the two quarterbacks, and, more importantly, ignored the fact that you need blocking to be a pocket passer. The offensive line was a disaster. Without the quick reads and option threat to slow down the opposing rush; Griffin got mauled and couldn’t stay healthy. Regardless of your opinion on Griffin, his skill set, and his offensive abilities in the NFL, this is objectively not the best way to develop a quarterback.
Meanwhile, over in Seattle, Russell Wilson is still excelling in a read-option offense that relies heavily on a power run game for its effectiveness. Last year, in the NFC Championship Game, the read option was what sparked Seattle’s turnaround and eventual comeback (that, Russell Wilson’s magic water, and apparently, God). So it is definitely still a viable NFL offense, and the power running tandem in the Washington backfield combined with very good deep receivers in Pierre Garcon and (eventually) DeSean Jackson, they’d appear to have the perfect set up for it. And (cough, cough) DID the last time they made the playoffs.
This brings us to where we are now. The Washington Professional Football Team is currently starting a quarterback who has thrown 2 or more interceptions in almost half of his games. The former top-5 overall pick didn’t even dress this week, and Washington still hasn’t recovered from shipping out all those draft picks. They are lying in a football grave of their own creation, and, I assure you, neither Kirk Cousins nor Colt McCoy is the answer. I don’t think either of them is close to as talented as Griffin.
What’s next? Is Griffin going to sit on the bench all year? Is Washington owner Dan Snyder really going to choose an unproven and mediocre head coach over a potential franchise quarterback? And if he doesn’t, is he going to continue to pay him millions of dollars to sit on the bench? Washington has already picked up his option for next year, meaning he may be a $16 million benchwarmer.
I, honestly, have no answers. Well, besides firing Gruden, finding a new head coach and an offensive coordinator who will tailor an offense to Griffin’s considerable skill set, working on teaching Griffin to minimalize risks like Wilson in the option, and work on developing his pocket passing skills instead of setting him up to fail, all while allowing that impressive and expensive defense keep you in games as you work out the offensive kinks. While I doubt they’d have the same success, this is the exact blueprint Seattle used to win a Super Bowl and make it within one play of winning another. In this situation, the lack of development falls squarely on the coaches’ shoulders, not the players’.
For my part, I just hope we see Chip Kelly trade for him. Nowhere would suit Griffin better than the college-style offense Kelly and the Eagles run, and no Quarterback in the NFL (that isn’t already on a read-option heavy team) is more suited to running that offense than Griffin. To me, it’s a match made in heaven. I love watching RGIII play, and I just hope he gets another chance in a different organization that will actually give him a chance. The NFL needs an exciting player like Griffin back on the field, and I for one would love to go back to not caring about Washington’s football team.