The Continuing Dysfunction Of The Washington Redskins

There’s one thing I can say about my beloved Washington Redskins—they may always let me down, but they’ll never abandon me. Even in February, they’re still making news and keeping themselves on the frontburner. So when I should be following college hoops, the NBA and the NHL, it’s the Redskins who are today’s topic.

Head coach Jay Gruden announced RG3 will enter training camp as the clear #1 starter. No open competition as previously promised, and it begs the question of whether the Washington Redskins have any idea what they’re doing as an organization.

Washington Redskins historyThe purpose of this is to focus on organizational dysfunction, not one’s opinion of RG3, but you can’t separate the two completely. Regular readers of have read my previous posts on all facets of his game and career, but for anyone new, I’ll sum it up as concisely as I can:

*I am huge fan of Robert Griffin III, not simply because he’s the quarterback of my favorite team, but because I simply like him and admire his family for their service to this country. I think he’s good guy and has gotten an unfair rap in the media for missteps that are fairly minor.

*I think criticisms of his play the last two years fail to consider that he’s had a torn ACL and dislocated ankle, each extremely serious injuries. The last two seasons he was healthy were 2011 and 2012—and he has a Heisman Trophy and NFL Rookie of the Year to show for it.

*The flip side, is that I’m extremely dubious that he can stay healthy. You need only look at his physical build to understand why.

*I’m also really concerned about where he’s at mentally right now. RG3 himself used the phrase “at war with myself” to discuss trying to decide whether to take off and run or to stay in the pocket. The consequence was that he looked extremely tentative and the repeated poundings he took were more unsafe than anything he did outside the pocket.

*The result of this is that right now, if I was coaching the Redskins and had to go win a football game, I would start Colt McCoy. I just don’t feel like RG3 is in a good place and I fear he never will be again, at least not in Washington.

That brings us to our current context. After a season in which Jay Gruden repeatedly crushed RG3 in public, benched him and all but shouted to the world “I don’t like this guy”, the organization sent out an offseason letter to season-ticket holders not even mentioning the quarterback as one of the team’s building blocks for next year. No quarterback was listed in a group that included Alfred Morris, Ryan Kerrigan and others.

All of that clearly suggests a team—which has a new general manager in Scot McCloughan—going in a different direction. Then comes the events of this week in which the head coach puts himself clearly behind Griffin as the starter.

Whatever you think should happen with RG3 and the quarterback position, all of this suggests a team that doesn’t know whether it’s coming or going. That’s been the case all too often, especially with this quarterback. It’s an inability to make one core decision and then follow it up with subordinate decisions that are consistent. It’s called “dysfunction”, which is the most commonly used term outsiders use to describe the Washington Redskins organization.

It goes back to when RG3 was drafted in the spring of 2012. Daniel Snyder and Bruce Allen wanted him. Mike Shanahan didn’t. So after picking a multi-talented quarterback with a unique skillset, the Redskins follow it up by drafting a more conventional quarterback in Kirk Cousins the same year. That’s dysfunction.

RG3 came into the league at a time when more quarterbacks were starting to run and the read-option was starting to be used at the NFL level for the first time, at least on any consistent basis. Tim Tebow did it in his famous run with the Denver Broncos in 2011. Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick relied heavily on their legs. And though Andrew Luck doesn’t run the read-option, he also relied on his running (and still does) far more than is generally realized.

What was clear when it came to quarterbacks like RG3, was that if you were going to build around them it to be an organizational commitment at every level. You needed to still an offensive system tailored to his talents, rather than jamming him into an orthodox NFL set. You would need to acquire a backup quarterback of a similar skillset, to ensure continuity in the case of injury.

Given this, the Redskins had two choices in the spring of 2012. One was to stay at #6 in the draft, invest in defense with their early picks, and then take Kirk Cousins later. Another was to trade up, draft RG3 and go all in. What wouldn’t work would be to first take RG3, then take Cousins and create organizational inconsistency. Naturally, that’s exactly what the Redskins did.

If I were in charge, I would re-sign Colt McCoy, who has good mobility and can also run read-option. Make it clear that this is the offensive system. Have an open competition for the quarterback position. If RG3’s head is in the right place, he’ll clearly win it. If he doesn’t, a change of system won’t be required for McCoy, and you have the option (no pun intended) of making quarterback changes during the season without wholesale disruption.

That’s what I’d do. But what I want more than anything is for the Washington Redskins to decide what they’re about offensively. Trying to turn RG3 into a pure pocket passer and forgoing the use of his incredible talents elsewhere is just stupid. If you don’t want to use his skillsets, just let him go and quit the public bashing. If you do want him, then go all-in and make a commitment. The dysfunction has become tiring and unfair to everyone involved.