PAY HEED To RGIII

| January 24, 2013 | 25 Comments
 Ric Tapia/iCoN sMi/CorBis/ESPN The Magazine

Ric Tapia/iCoN sMi/CorBis/ESPN The Magazine

As an otherwise unspectacular Friday night gave way to Saturday morning, Twitter timelines, cell phone screens, and ESPN’s Bottom Line were suddenly ablaze: Breaking News . . . Redskins trade for the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL draft, sending first-round picks in 2012, 2013, and 2014 along with a second-round selections in 2014 to the St. Louis Rams.  With the Colts almost assured of selecting Stanford’s Andrew Luck No. 1 overall, the trade meant that Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III would be the next quarterback of the Washington Redskins and, hopefully, solve a decades-long void at the NFL’s most important position.  The symbolism was almost too perfect – as the news rang out about the trade, Saturday, March 10th was barely a few minutes old – a new day, in more ways than one.  As we all know, that draft pick did turn into RGIII, and the ride that followed can be described as nothing else but magical.  In one season, a 22-year old kid changed the face of a franchise, a feat that is plenty spectacular in its own right.  What’s more?  He changed the face of the NFL in the process.

Imagine for a second that for whatever reason, the trade between the Redskins and Rams never went through.  As MWM and the front office explained after their 4th round selection of Kirk Cousins, the Michigan State quarterback was the second-rated quarterback on their big board.  The coaching staff worked closely with him at the Senior Bowl and felt comfortable with his leadership qualities and his propensity to run their offense.  So, in a world where the Redskins do not draft Robert Griffin III with the second overall pick, it seems likely Redskins fans would have seen Captain Kirk running the offense long before his debut in relief against the Falcons.  Although we will all forever remember Kirk’s game-tying two-point conversion dash against the Ravens, the gameplan against Cleveland suggests a Kirk Cousins-led offense would have looked much more similar to the Kyle Shanahan model we saw from his Houston days through his first two years as Nick Crozier in the District.  That means no pistol, no zone-read, and less sleepless nights for every defensive coordinator in the NFC East.  So what, right?

As it does every January, the NFL playoffs have taken center-stage over the last few weeks and occupied the collective conscious of every football fan in America.  With each passing round, we’ve been inundated with stories from ESPN, FOX, and CBS chronicling the amazing feats of San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick and Seattle’s Russell Wilson.  Frame after frame of footage, and admiringly breathless commentator after admiringly breathless commentator – cough, Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, cough – explained to us how these two quarterbacks, their head coaches, and their offensive coordinators had revolutionized the offensive side of the NFL game.  Absent in all of this talk?  One mention of Kyle Shanahan and the Burgundy Bullet, RGIII.  Again, so what, right?

Following a deflating week 9 loss to the Panthers, the Redskins were a pedestrian 3-6, their playoff hopes again in the toilet.  The shining light in what seemed like another season of darkness – Robert Griffin III and the offense Kyle Shanahan built around him had legitimately taken the NFL by storm.  RGIII was putting up record numbers for a rookie at the quarterback position and twisting sophisticated NFL defenses into pretzels in the process.  As every Tom, Dick and Harry with a microphone tells us every week – “The NFL is a copycat league” – so someone was bound to try and duplicate the Skins’ offensive innovations.  Oddly, the copycats were unlikely admirers.

At the midpoint of the NFL season Pete Carroll and his Seahawks were 4-4, and fighting to stay in the playoff conversation.  Carroll’s pedigree is defense.  A collegiate safety at the University of the Pacific, he found his coaching niche in the NFL on the defensive side of the football, coaching defensive backs for for the Bills and Vikings before later becoming the defensive coordinator for the Jets and 49ers.  True to his background, Carroll built his Seahawks team around a solid defense and an offense that successfully ran the football and controlled the clock.

Through the first half of the 2012 campaign, not much had changed.  Seattle’s defense was stingy and Marshawn Lynch wore down opposing defenses.  Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson had been a nice surprise – a somewhat overlooked 4th-round pick, Wilson was a capable athlete with good leadership skills who was adept at managing the game and keeping Carroll’s defense fresh.  Then, something changed.  Instead of asking his rookie quarterback to manage the offense, Carroll increased Wilson’s responsibilities, incorporating zone-read aspects to utilize his agility and elusiveness, while also creating tougher reads for opposing linebackers on play-action.  With a larger role in the offense, Wilson and the Seahawks flourished, finishing the season by going 7-1 and barreling into the playoffs as one of the NFL’s hottest, and scariest teams.

In a Rookie of the Year race that seemed pre-ordained to come down to #1 vs. #2, Luck vs. Griffin, the favorite now seemed to be the kid that former N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien shunned to Wisconsin in favor of Mike Glennon.  Would Pete Carroll and the Seahawks have been so bold in their offensive adjustments without the Burgundy-clad savant in the District and his boy wonder offensive coordinator?

Just down the coast, the 49ers were heading into their week 10 tilt with the NFC West rival Rams at a strong 6-2, looking primed for a return to the playoffs.  Holding the reins of the offense was former number one overall pick and incumbent starter from a team that finished painfully short of representing the NFC in the Super Bowl last season, Alex Smith.  After starting the game 7-8 for 72 yards and a touchdown, Smith was knocked out of the game with a concussion.  Running the gameplan installed for an offense engineered by Smith, second-year backup Colin Kaepernick finished the game for the Niners and performed admirably, throwing for 117 yards and improvising when the pocket collapsed to rush for 66 yards.  He showed flashes, but was he ready to command a Super Bowl contender?

Head coach Jim Harbaugh traded up in the 2nd Round of the 2011 draft to select Kaepernick, a dual-threat quarterback out of Nevada who had run Chris Ault’s patented pistol offense with record-setting success.  In his tall lanky quarterback, he saw game-breaking potential that his current starter did not have.  However, prototypical Harbaugh quarterback, Kaepernick was not.  From his playing days in NFL stops like Chicago and Indianapolis, to his days coaching Andrew Luck at Stanford, Harbaugh employed a pro-style system with I-formations, power running, and drop-back quarterbacks.  To appropriately use all of Kaepernick’s talents, there would need to be a change of philosophy.  Turns out, Harbaugh also found some game tape of an NFL offense running concepts that looked strikingly similar to the offense his young backup had excelled in as a college standout.  With Alex Smith still recovering from the concussion suffered against the Rams, Kaepernick got the start on Monday Night Football against the vaunted Chicago Bears defense.  After throwing for 234 yards and two touchdowns, he took hold of the quarterback position for the 9ers and he has yet to let go.

In a scheme that looks strikingly similar to the one we’ve grown accustomed to #10 running to perfection, Kaepernick has flourished, leading his team to the Super Bowl in New Orleans and setting an NFL record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a single game in the process.  As he trademarks “Kaepernicking” this week as he and 9ers prepare for the Harbowl in Nawlins, let’s hope Colin and the boys from the Bay give the appropriate nod to their counterparts in the nation’s capital.

Is there any empirical proof that the Seahawks and 49ers shifted their offensive philosophies because of the success Robert Griffin III, Kyle Shanahan and the Redskins offense were having in Washington?  Not one bit.  But, it’s our contention that the imprint left by RGIII this year did not simply cover the area affectionately known to its residents as the DMV.  Instead, the Robert’s play, and the offense that was crafted around him changed the way “football people” in the NFL looked at the offensive side of the football and gave players like Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick not just an opportunity to play in the NFL, but to become superstars.  While no one on the national stage or from those respective franchises is acknowledging that connection, it bears discussion and acclaim.  As so many folks in the District, Marlyand, and Virginia have already learned, Robert Griffin III is not just a quarterback, he is a movement – a revolution.  To all those who grab hold of his cape and take flight – remember – pay heed to RGIII.

HAIL

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25 comments
blong4ever
blong4ever

I guess if you guys want to claim you brought the Pistol to the NFL that's your opinion but the fact is a lot of NFL teams were already running it. Here's Cam Newton running a read option last year. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfi3Y1G124M So you could say Shanahan should pay tribute to the Panthers for realizing it was a viable play in the NFL. It's a Chris Ault design and we have a 4 year study leading us to the Superbowl. Who is to say running the pistol/read option wasn't part of Trent Baalke/Jim Harbaugh/Greg Roman's plan when they drafted him? No QB has ever put up the stats that Colin Kaepernick did in college, 10k yards passing and 4k yards rushing. The pistol/read option was part of our playbook before we had seen the Redskins play a single snap. And I do think we run it better because our QB doesn't take a pounding when running it. He amassed 181 yards against the Packers with taking only 1 decent hit. Even then Kaepernick is so big it doesn't look devastating like when RG3 gets hit. RG3 needs to learn to avoid the middle of the field whenever possible and slide early and often. The Read Option will work in the NFL if you don't kill the QB for 16 games.

ninersrule
ninersrule

Roman mentioned that the 49ers started working on the Pistol offense last year in Training Camp and then through out the season. They then used it against teams this year while Alex was still the QB because the 49ers knew that CK7 wasn't ready to be a every down player yet. Then when Alex Smith went down CK7 proved he was more than ready. I can care less which team was the first to use it more. The fact of the matter is Roman did not throw the pistol offense in because the Redskins had it they did it because their QB changed and that system played to his strengths.

admin
admin

Run it better? Don't think so.

RGIIIbroughtinnovation
RGIIIbroughtinnovation

This is funny!! No one in their right mind can dispute who brought the pistol to the NFL and who showcased it. No one cares about who invented or who they taught it to. Bottom line, Kyle, Mike and Robert were brave enough to run it. Innovators Jerry, innovators!

blong4ever
blong4ever

You can have the exclusive tag if you want it. It's just part of our offense. You can even have the first tag if you want, we'll take the tag of who runs it best!

Boss_Hogg
Boss_Hogg

Wow, where did all these salty 49ers fans come from? Lighten up dudes, your team is in the Super Bowl. RGIII and Kyle have utilized the pistol since week one. The 49ers ran a pro style offense until Alex Smith got injured. Therefore the Redskins were the first NFL team to exclusively run the pistol offense and turn it into a household name for NFL fans. Go back and watch the MNF game against the Giants. John Gruden practically creamed all over the air about RGIII blazing a trail in the NFL.

blong4ever
blong4ever

That's not even a quote and obviously the 49ers had been working on the pistol for some time. It didn't just pop onto the seen against the Packers. It's something I believe they started working with last year. Redskins have ZERO impact on what the 49ers are doing other than the coaching staff has impressed the importance of limiting contact on CK. You guys have a bright future, especially when you get your defensive studs back off the injured list. Look to your own future instead of trying to leach some glory from us.... We pay tribute to Chris Ault for the Pistol and his teaching of it to CK. 49ers show tribute to the Redskins, no chance. Once RG3 gets healthy maybe you guys should send him out West to learn how to not take a beating every week.

ST21
ST21

Yep Kap ran a play here or there... Completely different than using it as a whole offensive system. Ault already said the Redskins ushered in the pistol to the NFL.. Come on smarten up. One play vs a whole system from day 1. Skins went out of the way to hide the offense through camps and the pre-season. And if we want to get really technical the Skins are running the pistol/zone read with some air raid.

ST21
ST21

I must of missed the part in the article that says "Shanahan invented the pistol".. What do you not understand....? Excerpt from http://www.registerguard.com/web/sports/29328916-41/ault-offense-pistol-kaepernick-quarterback.html.csp ...Ault never expected the concept to bleed into the NFL, at least until he watched the Washington Redskins early this season. There went Robert Griffin III in the Pistol, his offense, running something similar to Samurai. The Redskins lined their alley guy up closer to the quarterback, but the idea remained the same. Washington made the playoffs for the first time since 2007. This did not seem to surprise Trent Dilfer, a retired quarterback turned ESPN analyst. “I remember making a statement, off the cuff, that this would be the next big thing,” he said. “Here you’ve got all the biggest, baddest dudes playing quarterback, and once that happened, the game had to adjust.”... Less typing and more reading.

blong4ever
blong4ever

Also Colin Kaepernick was running the pistol/read option even when he wasn't starting. I can't find the highlight of his 17 yard run vs the Packers week 1 but week 2 he has several highlights vs the Jets. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BAwp0zO76E

blong4ever
blong4ever

Next you'll be telling us 49ers fans to pay homage to Shanahan for inventing the West Coast Offense... Redskins own no claim to fame for the pistol/read option, they are just one of the teams using it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9E2et9nkqM Very first highlight has Newton running the read option from a pistol while RG3 was still in college...

Matt
Matt

Hahaha you redskins fans are a joke. Not relevant since 94? I don't remember you getting to the conference championship game last year. Maybe if RG3 actually knew how to run the pistol like Kaep he wouldn't keep the ball and pretend to be a running back instead of sliding. I think the entire country is tired of hearing about RG3. Wilson, Luck and Kaepernick were more impressive this year.

SkinsSquad
SkinsSquad

Did the creator have success with this offense in the NFL? No, he didn't and that's all they're saying. K. Shanahan did and other teams followed the path. Nothing against the qbs running it.

Alf46
Alf46

Clearly you miners fans aren't grasping the article. It doesn't talk about who knew the offense first, Kaep or RG3, it talks about who ran it first in the NFL. Bunch of donks. Don't come and try to say us Skins fans are grasping for anything. This is the first time sine 94 you guts have been relevant and you can thank the red ski s for having the balls to install the pistol offense first. Kaep was nothing but a bench player and if it weren't for Alex smith having a concussion and your catch having the balls to install the pistol once he realized it WOULD work after watching the ski s do it. Why would have anyone but Kaep run it? Go back to the Bay Area and enjoy your Super Bowl. I was pulling for the Niners until seeing how ignorant the fans are.

RiggoDrill
RiggoDrill

Nobody is reaching for anything, facts are facts. It doesn't matter who trained Kaepernick because that is not what this article is about. Keep trying to twist the argument to make yourself feel better 9er fans.

lolskinsfans
lolskinsfans

The length in which the skins fans are reaching for some semblanc of notoriety is hilarious... Lay the foundation for a scheme that required no alteration to adapt to pro ball,....first qb to blah blah... The fact remains kaep was trained under the creator, it gets no more direct than that, two kaep was drafted last year making him the first pro player to know the pistol, application not withstanding kaep had the system down and mastered a year before it was even in mum-rah shanahans ideas for the season list.... kaep needs to pay heed to NO one for a playstyle he already knew and used a full year before r-g-knee was drafted... Lol I can't wait for the first time machine, so the guy who invented it and the guy who tested it are told to pay homage to the first guy to wear a hat while time traveling and destroys his knee in the process

ST21
ST21

Actually hundreds of coaches have visited Nevada to learn the Pistol from Chris Ault. It's well known that Roman went to Nevada so you are not bringing anything new to the discussion. I could bring up that Shanahan had been exploring ways to incorporate the zone read into his traditional offense since 2006. Ideas and learning about a scheme are what every coach does every off-season. Fact is the Redskins were the first team in the NFL to base a majority of their offense out of the Pistol starting from game 1 of 2012, Not the Seahawks, and not the 9ers. Harbaugh did not select Kaepernick with ideas of running the Pistol offense. Delusions? Even Chris Ault acknowledges the Redskins brought started running it as a base offense first. http://www.registerguard.com/web/sports/29328916-41/ault-offense-pistol-kaepernick-quarterback.html.csp

alex
alex

Lol. What delusions. This is the kind of stuff that makes people wonder about Redskin fans. ST21 Harbaugh actually sent Greg Roman to Nevada to study with Ault in 2009. THREE YEARS AGO. Long, long, long before Shananhan or any Redskin fan had ever heard of Griffin. Long before the Shananhan's started researching the pistol last year.

ST21
ST21

I'm guessing 3 San Fran fans struggle with comprehension. Which player did what in college is irrelevant to the conversation since the piece is about what has happened in the NFL. Point of the article is the Redskins had the balls to use the pistol sets as their main offense before any other team in the NFL.Pete Carroll came out and said he put in the zone read game because of the Redskins success with it. Harbaugh's background was not in the pistol zone read either and Kap was wasting away on the bench. The Skins laid a blueprint for San Fran to copy that helped put Kap in the game to have success.

Michael
Michael

CK played the pistol in college. The original captain of the pistol offense is actually in San Fran... not in DC.

tyler
tyler

You are aware Colin played a few years of college ball with the man who originated the pistol formation right? Making Colin the first QB to utilize the formation, and more importantly the first professional to be adept at it. Seems like Rg3 and the skins owe their success to Colin more so than vice versa.

Niner Fan
Niner Fan

Hey genius, CK7 ran the offense before RGIII even knew what the hell it was, CK7 played under the mastermind of the pistol/option in Nevada.

Allaine
Allaine

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!

Mahons21
Mahons21

Except they had Wilson rated above cousins. Imagine Claiborne/Barron, and Jenkins/Glenn and Wilson annd two first round picks.

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