If Washington’s quarterback depth chart were determined by on-field performance, Robert Griffin III would be firmly entrenched at third string.
Although coach Jay Gruden insisted after Thursday’s preseason game against the Lions that Griffin will remain the starter, that game showed once again what we’ve seen throughout Gruden’s tenure as Washington’s coach: Colt McCoy and Kirk Cousins are simply playing better football than Griffin.
So far this preseason, McCoy has a 131.6 passer rating and has led Washington’s offense on three touchdown drives. Cousins has a 118.3 passer rating and has also led Washington’s offense on three touchdown drives. Griffin has a 54.6 passer rating, and Washington has yet to score a touchdown with Griffin on the field.
You can argue that the preseason is too small a sample size to draw any conclusions, and that Griffin is playing against better defensive players than Cousins and McCoy are. But Griffin’s sub-par performance goes beyond just this year’s preseason. Last year Griffin started seven games, Cousins started five and McCoy started four. Washington wasn’t a particularly good team no matter who was starting, but according to ESPN’s QBR system, which combines both statistics and film study into one number on a 0-100 scale, Griffin was easily the worst of the three. McCoy had a 46.9 QBR, Cousins had a 46.5 QBR and Griffin had a 33.5 QBR. The Football Outsiders DVOA system, which uses play-by-play data to assess quarterbacks, similarly had Griffin as by far the worst of Washington’s three quarterbacks.
Given all that, it’s surprising that Gruden is so adamant that Griffin will continue to start. Perhaps Gruden is still intrigued by the great promise Griffin showed in his rookie season. Perhaps Dan Snyder has told Gruden to give Griffin a chance. Perhaps Gruden just doesn’t think McCoy and Cousins are legitimate NFL starters.
But at some point, on-field results have to matter. And Griffin simply isn’t getting results.