If the only way you get your football news is through ESPN and/or NFL Network, then chances are when you see the words “Robert Griffin III runs the same offense as Rex Grossman”, either your eyes bulge out of your head, or you laugh yourself into a coma. Rex Grossman is about as athletic after his ACL injury as a slug stuck in tar.
But what people get caught up in, naturally, is Robert Griffin III’s athletic ability and the read-option, which didn’t constitute as much of offense as people think. Ninety percent of our offense are the same plays we ran with Rex Grossman, John Beck and Donovan McNabb, only more efficiently. A highly effective run game and play-action passing have always been the basis of Mike Shanahan’s offense; RGIII’s athletic skillset only heightens and strengthens an offensive mindset that Shanahan has held since he was coaching Steve Young in San Francisco.
One of the plays that has become a bread and butter play since Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is what I’ve called the “TE Leak” play. It is a great way to take advantage of team over-pursuing on the run.
Here, we can see former Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb running the play in Week 2 of the 2010 season versus the Houston Texans.
Off the snap, Donovan McNabb fakes the hand off to Clinton Portis going left, simulating the zone stretch. The linebackers crash the line to stop to the run.
When the linebacker and the defensive linemen see Donovan on the bootleg, they change direction. Number 59 drops into coverage to his left and the d-linemen number 95 tries to get up field. Meanwhile, Fred Davis (circled and wearing his old number, 86) is “sifting through the trash”, so to speak. The receivers, in the meanwhile, are running deep vertical routes to clear out a path.
By time McNabb executes the bootleg and hits his back foot, Fred is already open and the defenders are in chase position.
Fred catches this pass with miles and miles of green grass in front of him. (Watch the video to see the awesome block Clinton Portis throws.)
This was one of the few big plays it seemed that Donovan McNabb could hit with regularity, and it does a perfect job of taking advantage of an overly aggressive defense that’s trying to shut down the run, which should assist in keep defenders out of the box.
One year later, we saw the Redskins run the same thing with Rex Grossman. They line up in the same exact formation that they lined up in with McNabb.
Grossman fakes the hand off, which draws the linebackers in to stop the run…
Grossman isn’t a run threat, so when the defenders recover, they drop into coverage instead of attacking him in the pocket. Because of this, it takes a little longer for Fred Davis to get separation.
But the defender is in zone coverage, so he stops his drop. This allows the Fred Davis to get the proper separation on his route and once again, he has miles of green grass in front of him. Rex under threw this pass, otherwise it would’ve gotten a lot more yardage,
Next, it’s Robert’s turn. This is week 8 versus the Steelers. The Redskins actually line up in a three tight end set on this play, but the routes and the concepts are exactly the same.
Same bootleg action, same reaction by the linebackers. We’re back to having a run threat which means a defender goes rushing to try and crush the quarterback. This time it’s Logan Paulsen who sifts through the trash and works his way open.
RGIII threw a beautiful ball and Logan laid out for it, but they come up just short. See once again how open Logan is.
The Redskins would return to this play after their bye week versus the Philadelphia Eagles. This time, the Redskins line up in the pistol formation with Darrel Young lined up at fullback and Alfred Morris as the deep back. Tiny difference in formation, same exact play and concept.
RGIII has to shorten the boot a touch because of the pistol…
This time, Robert hits his back foot and it looks like Logan’s open with the linebacker trailing. But Robert doesn’t pull the trigger on the throw. It’s possible he thought the linebacker was recovering, but Robert can make this throw, and made a similar throw just a few weeks prior, even thought he didn’t connect on it.
Instead he decided to pull the ball down and run. To make matters worse, after a minimum gain, he nearly fumbled the ball.
This is a throw Robert will get more consistent about making with more time with his receivers and more time develop his talents as a passer.
Want to see it one more time? How about we take a trip to Houston? As you can see, it’s the same formation…
But this time, they’re going to run the bootleg to the left. Because they’re running the naked boot to the left, it takes a little longer for the play to develop, but it still does. Like the plays above, the linebackers get overly concerned with stopping Arian Foster and crash the line. Like with Rex, they know that Rex isn’t really a threat to run with the football, so they don’t attack him. And like all the plays, Owen Daniels gets wide open.
As soon as Schaub finishes the boot and hits his back foot, the ball is out and Daniels has got a lot of green in front of him.
This play ended up being a touchdown for Houston.
Now, of course, this is only one play in the playbook. But, the next time someone laughs when you tell them that Robert Griffin III runs the same offense the Redskins have always run, you can at least show them one case of it being true.