Do Not Blame RGIII

| December 14, 2013 | 1 Comments

I did not expect to see fans so quickly turn on Dan Snyder. 4 years ago, Redskins fans unanimously begged Dan Snyder to get rid of Vinny Cerrato and Jim Zorn. Bring in a coach who had all the power to build the football team his way, with a General Manager who could structure contracts to the benefit of this team in the salary cap, and stay out of it. Dan Snyder hired Bruce Allen to be his GM, and Mike Shanahan to worry about all things football with the Washington Redskins.

For 4 years, fans have watched as Dan Snyder sat back. Snyder has even become more in touch with his fan base. Yes, home game experiences at FedEx Field are still way too expensive and not a whole lot of fun (the no-standing rule really sucks), but concession prices and stadium policies are not specific to Dan Snyder’s wishes. Remember, this is a guy who, as a kid, attended games at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium–the place literally rocked. But even with the 4 years where Snyder wasn’t really involved, Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen found a way to damage the Redskins by dumping guaranteed money into the uncapped 2010 season costing the Redskins $36M in salary cap over the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

But Snyder stuck with his coach and GM, and did not interfere–unless you believe he spent more than Mike Shanahan was willing to give up in order to get Robert Griffin III, who Shanahan seemingly didn’t want. Let us not forget, Mike Shanahan did not have to go out to dinner with RGIII in Texas. He did not have to attend and stay to watch RGIII’s pro-day. He didn’t have to joke around and smile and laugh on the side of Baylor’s indoor facilities with RGIII. Shanahan did not even have to call Robert Griffin III’s name over the phone when he announced his draft pick to the NFL–he could have called anyone he wanted. The fact of the matter is, Shanahan wanted RGIII, and he was enamored by the kid with no reason not to be.

Griffin burst onto the scene in 2012 with one of the most spectacular rookie seasons ever. He wowed with his incredible athletic ability and completed throws over unaware defenses and aided one of the most dominant run games the Redskins or Mike Shanahan have ever had. Everything was great until RGIII was hurt against the Baltimore Ravens, and injured himself worse against the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs. None of the plays RGIII was hurt on were the fault of the coaches. All three plays were designed to stay in the pocket and pass. The first, Robert took off. The second, he scrambled outside on goal and jumped in the air to throw back across his body, falling on his bad leg. The third, a low snap in the horrible field left RGIII’s foot planted while his body turned and his knee collapsed. The game dictated decisions. But coaches could have sat Robert after the Baltimore game. He was a warrior, he fought through. All parties involved there deserve some of the blame and should take responsibility.

Now this idea that RGIII is RGMe because he had a documentary that his sponsors organized and he was “all in for week one.” These aren’t selfish things. Robert was specific all the time about wanting to get back on the field, and get back with his teammates. Then comes the preseason, when Robert thought he should be in games when he knew it was still too early. Fans were worried about him coming back week one, let alone in the preseason. It wasn’t time. Hindsight has everyone thinking RGIII should have been practicing and playing in the preseason, but do not be so foolish to believe that should have been the case. It should not have.

Robert has struggled all season. This is not his fault. Not having an offseason did not allow Robert to work with his teammates in order to build a rapport, a trust, timing, and chemistry. This shows up on the football field plenty as Robert’s accuracy is off. It is not always high or low throws, but a lot of times either leading a little too far or throwing a bit behind. It’s a matter of being able to hit your wide receiver in stride, and Robert cannot do that this season because he did not have 8 months of work with his receivers.

But here is where coaches should catch the blame. Robert Griffin III clearly was going to have confidence issues and not be in sync with his receivers. Kyle Shanahan thought it would be best if he ran a lot of bunch formations in order to work rub routes so that a guy could come open off of a legal pick play. The only thing Kyle seemingly has not accounted for is opposing defenses to play sound in their assignments. This is why Robert’s best game may have been when Jordan Reed torched the Chicago Bears and was able to work soft spots in the zones. Kyle has also refused to spread the field. When he has, Robert has connected pretty well with his receivers. This is most apparent in the up-tempo ‘Turbo’ offense, which Kyle refuses to stick with even though the offense has shown the ability to be rather successful running it.

Kyle has also sold out and kept the read option and Pistol as a primary focus of this offense. The Pistol may be there because Robert is not extremely comfortable under center (gee, this would have been the year to get him into that role), but it does not help to have a heavy backfield with max protect and two man routes with receivers who have struggled to create separation versus defenses who see it on tape ad nauseam. Defenses are not biting up on Alfred Morris to get themselves out of their assignments (in large part because they know they can beat the offensive line) and when the option is for Robert to keep the ball and throw, he can not find a window because defenses just have to stay sound. There is not a diverse route tree either. Kyle has kept it simplified and has restricted the whole team. Again, in the game versus the Bears, Jordan Reed’s route running–and route tree–were the difference makers in the game.

But speaking of Alfred Morris, there have been too many times where he has had a relatively easy first half with a lot of yards, only to be shut down in the second half (even with a lead). This is not the Mike Shanahan formula for winning, and it is not a formula for anyone to win. And while on the topic of running the football, Kyle Shanahan said earlier in the year that he would call less read-option plays because teams were taking it away from us, but that has not stopped Kyle from dialing up the dreaded pitch play that requires a tremendous job making tacklers miss by the running back.

Lost in all of Robert’s already bad timing with the receivers (not something that is Robert’s fault, as I’ll further prove here) is that this offensive line is not at all capable to look competent in pass protection. Will Montgomery and Chris Chester have been horrendous trying to pass block, and Tyler Polumbus may be even worse than ever before. Pressure isn’t beating these guys because Robert is holding the football for too long, these guys are often getting beat right off the snap of the football. I said in week 6 of this season that the Redskins had made at least one defensive lineman look like a Pro Bowl player each game, and it has continued to the point that I wish we could demand every offensive lineman on the Redskins not named Trent Williams hand over half of their game checks for being so terrible at half of their job. Just because Mike Shanahan is known for some very good offensive lines does not mean he can not build a horrible offensive line.

I also said early in the season that “if I didn’t know any better, I would think the Shanahans are sabotaging RGIII.” Now knowing that Mike Shanahan was really ready to quit after winning the division in 2012 before playing the playoff game against the Seahawks, I do not think I was anywhere near absurd to have suggested such a thing. This offense has not catered one bit to RGIII, especially coming off of a knee injury. Mike nor Kyle have orchestrated a scheme to aid Rob in being successful this season. When they should spread the field, they bunch form. They have not made Rob have to look his man off. It is not that Robert cannot read defenses, it is that coaches have not given him the challenge of doing so with these bunches. Instead of running bootlegs (where the line can sell run blocking where they look good and perform well), there is a playaction max-protect from the Pistol. Instead of running Alf when he is the hot hand, they have shut him down and forced RGIII to throw screens to the WR when edge rushes have dominated Tyler Polumbus and linebackers and nickelbacks have stayed responsible to their assignments.

I also have it on good notice from someone familiar with the Washington Redskins that Mike Shanahan is one of many coaches who runs his practice where the offense is facing the right defense for every playcall. While I want to focus on this eventually and how it has hurt the defense, this post is about the offense and why Robert is not to blame. In practice, he is seeing the look he wants every single snap. He can hit his man exactly when and where he wants to. The coaches never throw an unknown look at the offense, and why should they? They call the opponent’s defense every game, right? No? Oh. Well then, it is nonsensical to believe they have not built this team through practice to fail.

Now Robert is benched, because he is taking too many hits. Mike Shanahan will not admit to you that he built a bad line. He is living off of his reputation. The fact is, in 2012, this line was masked by Robert’s athleticism and threat as a runner who could make you pay for biting up and hitting just over the soft spot in your zone. The fact is, the line was built to run the stretch zone and got masked by Robert and Alf tearing defenses up for being aggressive against a line who could not stop them, and running the read option. In 2013, that is not the case. Robert is not taking too many hits because he holds the football too long. Max protect that does not do its job is getting Robert hit. Defenses sending DB blitzes to the soft side of the offense are hitting Robert. Constantly running the playaction out of Pistol that takes the back out of a play as a blocker is getting Robert Griffin III hit. None of these things are the fault of the QB, but of the coaches.

No, this team is not good. Robert is not at all scotfree. He has made some poor decisions and exposed himself to unnecessary shots on the sideline. But coaching can mask or eliminate most, if not all, of these problems. They did last year. All the counter-punches Mike and Kyle bragged about in the offseason do not exist. Even looks we saw in the preseason (TE-wide; TE-wide with Leonard Hankerson in the slot) have not showed up much, if at all, in the regular season. Even if you think I’m insane for thinking the coaches have tried to sabotage Robert Griffin III, you would be remiss to think coaches are not to blame for the struggles of the offense, and of the franchise quarterback coming back from a devastating knee injury.

Find me on Twitter @Sean_Bishop

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Robert and the offense looked better in spread formations but they rarely ran them.  The tight formations made it easier on defenses.  Why no Double TE w/ Reed & Davis?  No 9 or go routes from the WR, it's a 3 step drop and prevents the QB from taking hits.  The holding the ball too long thing kills me cause young QBs do that as well as players that are mobile and have the ability 2 extend the play (Big Ben, Cam, Wilson, etc).  Manning & Brady are immobile therefore they have a quicker release.  Shanny & Son along w/ the rest of the staff were awful 3/4 yrs. 

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