One of the main storylines over the past month for the Washington Redskins has been the question of what they will do with quarterback Kirk Cousins. Will the team sign him to a long-term deal or will they place the franchise tag on him? The former Michigan State Spartan is in demand in the nation’s capital and his every move, as well as the teams, is being watched anxiously by fans.
Before Cousins was named the starter back in the 2015 preseason, fellow quarterback Robert Griffin III was the player most-watched, on and off the field. His every move was scrutinized and judged. But having been relegated to third-team duties the entire season, he stayed out of the public eye and honed in on his craft as a quarterback. And looking for a second chance to prove that he can be a front line, franchise quarterback again, Griffin would spend most days throwing every play in the team’s playbook for an hour or more after each practice.
Was he hoping to show teams across the league that he could put the work in to get better and learn the playbook? What team or teams would be a good fit for the former Heisman Trophy winner and 2012 NFL Rookie of the Year (ROY)?
For Griffin to be successful at his next stop he will need to find a team that will utilize his strengths. And not in a way so much that they build their offense around him but rather play off his strengths… such as his athletic ability and his deep-ball accuracy.
The former Baylor Bear will also need a coach who is willing to watch him go through the necessary growing pains in a new system. For whatever reason — and it’s water under the bridge now — Griffin was not allowed the same luxuries that Cousins was this past season to grow and not have to look over his shoulder.
The knock on him over the years has been holding onto the ball for long periods of time in the pocket as well as not going through his progressions fast enough. Some of this was clearly Griffin’s fault but some of it could be blamed on the lack of continuity at the time by the organization. This was during the (head coach) Mike and (offensive coordinator) Kyle Shanahan era and there was already some upheaval within the organization between team management and the coaches.
To be blunt, Cousins benefited from Head Coach Jay Gruden being in his second year and understanding what he wanted to do as a coach. The team finally had a true football mind in General Manager in Scot McCloughan. And do not overlook an offensive line coach who was a former coach himself in Bill Callahan and a quarterbacks coach who was former player himself in Matt Cavanaugh.
This was the first year that the team had the aforementioned pieces in place and Cousins took advantage of the opportunity he was given and ran with it.
For the Griffin naysayers, look at his second year in the league. It was obvious that he rushed back from the severe knee injury he sustained in the Redskins 2012 playoff loss to Seattle. He was a shell of himself from his ROY campaign and basically played on one leg throughout the 2013 season.
The irony is that he was relegated to staying in the pocket due to not having his former burst and speed. On top of that, the Redskins offensive line that year was simply not very good outside of left tackle Trent Williams and center Kory Lichtensteiger. As a matter of fact, they are the only two starters still on the roster from that offensive line. Offensive linemen Josh LeRibeus and Tom Compton were on the roster as well. This means that from the team’s first depth chart, issued back in August of 2013 to the present day, there are only four linemen left from the 14 on that roster.
That year, even dealing with all of the complexities, Griffin threw for more completions (274) and more yards (3203) than his rookie of the year season, when he completed (258) passes for (3200) yards. And this was done in only 13 games in that he was pulled from the lineup to “keep him safe in meaningless games.”
To further prove he stayed in the pocket that year, he rushed for almost two yards less than his rookie year and also did not record a single rushing touchdown all year after doing so seven times in 2012.
As mentioned before, wherever he goes he will need several factors working in his favor.
There are at least two teams that could be players for Griffin and it would make perfect sense for him to go to either.
1. The Los Angeles Rams
This makes perfect sense on a lot of levels. The Rams are moving back to the City of Angels and what better way to galvanize a fan base looking toward to professional football in the fall?
Griffin would come to a team that would need a new face of the franchise and a dynamic personality to help fill seats and perform well on the field. His brand power would be embraced by Hollywood rather than scoffed at like it would be in other more conservative markets.
On the field, he would inherit a team with a great running game with backs Todd Gurley and Tre Mason on the roster.
The Rams also boast a super-fast playmaker in wide out Tevon Austin and could acquire another big time receiver in the draft or free agency.
The Rams’ defense also is a force to be reckoned with. The pieces would be in place for Griffin to not have to be the savior of the franchise but rather a big piece of the puzzle for a team playing in the most brutal division in all of football (the NFC west).
2. The Denver Broncos
The Super Bowl Champions may be without the services of legendary quarterback Peyton Manning who is contemplating retirement. Back up signal-caller Brock Osweiler played well in his relief of Manning midway through the season and had most people thinking the Broncos had their heir apparent.
But to be sure, Osweiler also had a few struggles along the way after teams started to game plan for him.
Could Griffin be in play for a team he rooted for growing up?
This would be a situation where he would follow a first-ballot Hall of Famer in Manning as well as play for one in General Manager John Elway. Those two could possibly pull greatness out of Griffin not to mention an organization and fan base that is steeped in tradition.
The Broncos also possess a head coach in Gary Kubiak who played the position as Elway’s backup right there in Denver. As a head coach he has gotten the most out of all of his quarterbacks and is known as a player’s coach. The list of offensive field generals that he has coached is impressive. He was the quarterbacks coach for Steve Young (‘94), John Elway (‘95-’98) and Manning (this past season) when they won Super Bowls.
He also coached Matt Schaub in Houston for the Texans and Joe Flacco in Baltimore with the Ravens.
Kubiak could be just what Griffin needs to rekindle his career.
Regardless, it will be interesting to see how things play out over the next few months for the former face of the Redskins.