Point Counter-point: RGIII and the Future Of the Read Option

July 9, 2013 in Redskins Personnel

John Manuel:

There has been a lot debate during the Mini-camps and OTA's on how can the Redskins prevent any more future injuries to star quarterback Robert Griffin III.  Whose responsibility is it to keep Griffin healthy and on the field for 16 games?  Was running the pistol and read option with Griffin a major mistake by the Shanahans and should they nix it completely once Griffin is ready to go?  Well, it looks like Griffin is going to be ready to start camp and barring a setback a lock for week one.  In my opinion, I can't really put the blame on Shanahan here.  Both times Griffin went down were during scrambles and had nothing to do with what offensive system they had going.  It was unfortunate but Griffin needs to become better at protecting himself even though his playmaking ability is unreal.

Other teams ran similar offenses and their qb's made it through the season without the issues Griffin had.  They pistol and read option at times were unstoppable and I don't think they are the issue here.  Do I think a pro-style offense could be run by Griffin?  Yes, but the college-like offense of 2012 was too good when he was 100% to make any changes.  Where do you stand on the future of the pistol and read-option in DC?                                                                                                                                                         What's your feelings on Shanahan's decision to keep RG3 in the game?

Steve Shoup:

I see the responsibility being shared between the coaches, trainers and RGIII. I don't think much could have been done to prevent the specific plays where Griffin was injured (though I do agree he's got to worry less about the big gain, and just take what he can get), but I do think they should have a better plan for handling him when there is an injury concern.
The Redskins or Griffin have shown little thought for the future with their actions surrounding Griffin. While much is obviously made about who knew what and said what when Griffin re-entered the Ravens game or stayed in the Seahawks game, those are hardly the only instances where the Griffin injury situation was mishandled.
Remember in the Falcons game, the Redskins were reprimanded for not promptly announcing the concussion and declaring Griffin out for the rest of the game like they should have. Whether this was an attempt to mislead the Falcons or just a simple mistake it's an example of the Redskins not being 100% honest with Griffin's injury. The same thing occurred after the Ravens game, when the next week in practice Griffin was on the field and implying that he would be suiting up that week in Cleveland. Instead of letting him rest his knee the Redskins allowed him to continue to put pressure on it, which limits the healing process. The team even allowed him to do pre-game warm-ups and was seen jogging around the field. If that was just misdirection so the Browns wouldn't know what to expect, it was irresponsible and not worth the deception. If they really believed that Griffin should play that week, it was pure delusion on their part. It's definitely not all on the team though as Griffin was actively campaigning to continue playing even when he was clearly injured. Griffin also was resistant to the knee brace and was taking off during practice.
The one area where I think the team wasn't irresponsible with Griffin's injuries was running the read option/pistol offense. While it clearly does expose the quarterback to more hits, it also has a lot of protections for quarterbacks as well. It gives them the ability to read the free rusher, which allows Griffin to  hand the ball off rather than taking a chance of a hit. The Pistol formation also relies heavily on quick shorter passes which makes it harder for the pass rush to get there in time to sack or hit the quarterback. The real issue comes down to teaching Griffin to throw the ball away more often. Quarterbacks will good mobility (not just read-option guys, but players like Aaron Rodgers) typically take a lot of hits/sacks because they try to buy time for a big play (and it obviously pays off some), instead of throwing the ball away when they are under pressure. Griffin had this problem some last year where he'd either take off to run (and these were some of the plays where he got injured) or would run around to buy time in the pocket.That strategy led to a number of big plays, but it also led to more hits on Griffin. This is something that typically gets developed over time, but unfortunately due to the injury issues the Redskins can't afford to wait for Griffin to learn when run and when to simply throw it away.

John Manuel:

I do agree that this franchise seems to not be afraid to mislead everyone on the field like you discussed with Griffin's injuries.  But also off the field with a fake chief but that is another debate we won't get into and kind of a cheap shot by me.  The hope is that the events of the second half of the 2012 season were a learning experience of what they have in Griffin, the offense around him and how to handle.  Just like the past couple seasons have been a learning experience for Dan Snyder on how to run a team correctly with capable decision makers.  Another cheap shot.  Everyone needs to be on same page whenever RG3 returns to the field this time because I sick and tired of the debate of who is at fault.

I have confidence that the coaches and training staff as well as and we can't forget Robert Griffin himself can make this work for a long time.  I can't see the Shanahans dropping the read option or pistol much at all once Griffin is back and fully expect them to have new tricks added to the mix.  Maybe the new tricks is confidence the offense can run more of a pro-style but we will have to wait and see on that.  I love your point on why the read-option really benefited Griffin when most think its a dangerous situation for him.  It was fun to watch guys like Jason Pierre-Paul confused and lost out there!

Steve Shoup:

Yeah that is what I love about the read option, is it really makes opposing defenders have to make a decision here and a lot of times they end up looking like idiots. I know some people are pushing for more traditional style offense, but I don't think that is a good thing. Griffin's numbers in the Pistol or shotgun were far better than under center and I just don't see a reason to change. Particularly for as long as we still have a major question mark at RT.
I know it is good to do it some to keep defenses honest and to ensure that they have to game plan against multiple styles of offense, but I don't think the Redskins should try to utilize it more often. One thing I'd love to see them do more of is to come out in a pro style formation and then if the personnel is mismatched, audible to a pistol or shotgun formation. They could really create some confusion on the defense and have guys out of place. This is where the versatility of guys like Santana Moss, Chris Thompson, Jordan Reed etc. comes in to play. You can line them up in multiple positions and find ways to get the best mismatch versus them.
One thing that worries me is what former Redskin Matt Bowen said in an article for ESPN about how to combat the Pistol approach. While he had a number of various defensive concepts, the most concerning one for the Redskins is to turn up the heat with more additional pressure. While that could lead to a few big plays, with holes created in coverage, it could also mean giving defenders some free extra hits on Griffin. The Redskins need to find a way to slow down any extra free rushers, and this is where the new tricks really need to come into play. If defenses adopt this strategy does this change you opinion on the viability of the Pistol?

John Manuel:

That is a good point by Bowen because you have to think all NFL coaches have worked all off season on ways to stop teams like the Redskins.  But on the other hand its not like guys like the Shanahans are Jim Harbaugh are going to sit back and not be prepared.

One thing we know about Mike Shanahan is that he is going to put the work in to make this offense better.  Even after his firing in Denver Shanahan watched tape and talked to coaches knowing he had to be prepared to once again coach.  And unlike the McNabb year, he has a quarterback who will work with him to maximize both their skills.  I also would like to congratulate the newly married Griffins and wish them the best.

Steve Shoup:

Yeah this is where the chess match sort of starts all over again as defenses adapt and find things that work, the Redskins need to throw in some more wrinkles. This is another area where I see versatile guys come into play and they start to line guys up in different formations to give new looks for the defense. I also think we could see some more creative looks, like say four tight ends or possibly three running backs/fullbacks. It won't happen a ton, but enough that defenses need to prepare for it.


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