Earlier this week, former Washington coach Mike Shanahan said he talked to Rams coach Jeff Fisher about quarterback Robert Griffin III, and that Shanahan encouraged Fisher to pursue Griffin. Omitted from that specific conversation was the question of whether Shanahan said anything to his former quarterback, John Elway, about Griffin.
Shanahan has now gone on the record again. Among other things, he tells Jenny Vrentas of TheMMQB.com that the former Broncos coach did not speak to the current Broncos G.M. during the current offseason about Griffin.
“I talked to John one time last summer over at the house, but that was not just about Robert, it was about football in general,” Shanahan said. “I don’t really remember our conversation, except that I said I think Robert will go back to running the offense we ran in 2012, which is not the offense we ran in Denver. I told John that we ran strictly an offense that Robert was used to, or that he had run when he was at Baylor, and we didn’t do a lot of the principles that we did with Denver except for the zone running scheme. That was about the only thing that we had in common, so it was hard to say how Robert would do in the Broncos system when it was so different than the system we ran with John. And that was the length of our conversation. But I didn’t talk to John [about Griffin] this offseason. I had not one phone call by anybody this year, didn’t speak to anyone about Robert, except when I called Jeff.”
It’s understandable that Shanahan wouldn’t admit publicly to sharing specific concerns with Elway about Griffin’s non-football characteristics. Still, Elway reportedly got a bad report about Griffin from someone. If it came from someone other than Shanahan, it’s hard not to imagine Elway calling Shanahan to either confirm or debunk it.
Regardless of whether Shanahan was privately candid with Elway, Shanahan was publicly candid about the style of play that is suited to Griffin. Shanahan thinks that Griffin needs to run the kind of offense with which he had success in 2012, with heavy doses of a read-option attack that Griffin specifically wanted to transition away from in 2013 and beyond. Shanahan believes Griffin won’t be able to become a drop-back quarterback, but that he could be successful in an attack that allows him to run.
The challenge becomes running in a way that keeps the quarterback healthy. And that’s a matter of instinct, especially for a guy who has been playing a certain way for years. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson knows how and when to slide, when and how to get out of bounds, and hoe to position himself in a way so that any hit he absorbs isn’t a devastating, injury-causing blow. In 2012, Griffin showed that he’s unable to do that.
“Robert did take too many hits,” Shanahan said of Griffin’s rookie year. “One thing I didn’t do a very good job of is trying to emphasize to him that you can’t take a hit; you’ve gotta slide, you are too valuable. But was hard for him, because that’s not what he did in college. He was such a good athlete, and he was used to being faster and quicker and sometimes bigger. But in the NFL, these guys all can run and they all can hit, so you have to give yourself up. He was very competitive, and he didn’t want to do that.”
It remains to be seen whether Browns coach Hue Jackson uses the read-option or whether Jackson tries to make Griffin into a pocket passer. If it’s the former, Griffin may burn bright once again, until he gets injured. If it’s the latter, Griffin may end up losing the competition to become the team’s starter — or if he wins it he may end up getting benched.