John Keim | ESPN.com
ASHBURN, Va. — Jay Gruden hasn’t studied him, but he has watched him. He’s seen Robert Griffin III‘s dashing runs and big plays. He’s seen a quarterback that can move in the pocket and hit big plays downfield. And he’s seen a quarterback he says he’s anxious now to have.
As Gruden’s tenure with the Washington Redskins starts, there’s no doubt that Griffin is his quarterback.
“I see toughness,” the new Redskins coach said Thursday. “I see a guy that wants to win and I see a strong leader. I see every trait a quarterback has to have to be successful.
“Why wouldn’t you want to coach a guy like that? I’m excited to coach him. Hopefully he’s excited to play here.”
Griffin was unavailable for comment on the hiring Thursday but did post his reaction on Twitter:
Excited about the hiring of Coach Jay Gruden. Can’t wait to get to work with him & the guys!
— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) January 9, 2014
In 2012, Griffin enjoyed one of the best debuts for an NFL quarterback, with 3,200 passing yards and 815 more rushing. He accounted for 27 touchdowns, including 20 through the air, and was only intercepted five times.
But this past season, Griffin was under fire for his play, and then for his character. He was never the same quarterback, whether because of defensive adjustments to the Redskins or because of his surgically repaired right knee. He lost an offseason of work, and it showed.
Late in the season, though, he was portrayed in a negative light in a series of anonymous source-based articles. In the end, Griffin clearly lost trust in the previous coaching staff.
As a former college quarterback — and one who played professionally — Gruden understands the importance of this relationship and the trust it needs.
“It has to be genuine,” Gruden said. “He has to believe it. I’ll let him know I’m a trustworthy guy. He also has to understand I expect a lot from the starting quarterback. I expect him to come in and prepare and work hard and I expect him to take the blame on some throws. I expect him to be a great leader. I expect him to do everything to be great. As long as he’s working his butt off I will provide him everything he needs to be successful. If he doesn’t like a play, I won’t call a play. I will make sure he’s comfortable with everything we’re doing.”
Gruden has not yet spoken with Griffin, who stayed far from Redskins Park during the process by vacationing in Hawaii. Redskins general manager Bruce Allen said Gruden’s experience playing quarterback, in addition to his people skills, will put Griffin at ease.
“The quarterback position is the most important in sports,” Allen said. “The demand on the quarterback is unique. To have someone who will be in the room with him every day is a comforting feeling for the organization.”
Though Jay Gruden’s brother and ESPN “Monday Night Football” analyst Jon is an outspoken critic of the zone read option, there’s an excellent chance it will remain a part of Washington’s playbook. The Bengals even used it on occasion with quarterback Andy Dalton.
Griffin was not a fan of it, at least not after he hurt his knee as a rookie. The injury came on a scramble, but Griffin was not happy when coaches continued to call the play in subsequent games.
But he recognized this season the importance of the play to his game.
“I love it,” Gruden said. “It’s part of football now. It’s something you have to get your defense prepared for and it’s something that has a place in the National Football League.”
- Covered the Redskins for the Washington Examiner and other media outlets since 1994
- Authored or co-authored three books on the Redskins and one on the Cleveland Browns