The Cleveland Browns - seeking an answer at the quarterback position since Bernie Kosar was jettisoned for diminishing skills - will have another high draft selection hoping to change his and the Browns oft-traveled path of mediocrity at the position.
Come late July, Robert Griffin III won't be playing free safety on the scout team (as he did in Washington). In Cleveland, Griffin will attempt to follow the resurrection plan set in place by Browns head coach Hue Jackson.
Jackson was the central figure in bringing Griffin III following a lengthy meeting and workout with the 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Award winner.
After gaining his release from the Redskins on March 7, 2016, the Browns were one of four teams that inquired on the quarterback. Evaluating all the early off-season options, the Browns front office had lukewarm interest in Griffin III, but were curious -- Cleveland had nothing to lose in taking a look at the signal-caller.
At the insistence of Jackson, Griffin III was brought into Cleveland to meet and work out for Jackson.
Jackson, known as a players coach, is known as a tough and demanding leader, yet understanding, called a communicator by many former players.
"I learned more from Hue (Jackson) than anybody I played for in this league. He got me to look at the game in a different way, got me to work and prepare like a professional, he's able to get through to guys, motivate them, teach them," Chad Johnson, former wide receiver under Jackson said.
It was this Jackson that met with Griffin III for more than an hour in Cleveland.
"Hue (Jackson) talked to Robert (Griffin III) about more than football. They discussed life, obstacles, adversity and maturity in playing in this league. When Griffin III came in, he was skeptical like many have been due to the issues which have surrounded the Browns, but by the end of the day with Jackson, Robert (Griffin III) was impressed, left believing he would be in a good place with Jackson and the Browns, " a source close to the situation told theOBR.
As unconventional as the meeting between Griffin III and Jackson was, the workout would mirror the earlier discussion. With Jackson and associate head coach - Offense, Pep Hamilton on the Browns indoor field in Berea, Ohio, Griffin III was scripted plays. The vast majority of these were to gauge the health of a knee which suffered a torn ACL and LCL in the 2012 season, as well as the strength of an ankle Griffin III dislocated during the 2014 season.
Those plays had Griffin III on the move, continuously rolling to the left and right, all to see how well the athletic Griffin III would move.
The beginning of the workout was rocky, as Griffin III's footwork was inconsistent. Jackson wanted to see Griffin III get his body square as he made throws on the run.
Jackson knew if Griffin III demonstrated the ability to play on the move, he'd have a legitimate chance to see whether Griffin III could find his lost productivity at the professional level.
"Hue (Jackson) worked Griffin III, maybe more than we have viewed a coach work a veteran. Robert (Griffin III) was very receptive and he really lit it up with his accuracy once he gained a comfort level on the field and with Jackson," a team source tells theOBR.
Following the meet and greet, Sashi Brown, the Browns Vice President of Football Operations maintained an open dialogue with Griffin's agent, Ben Dogra. The Browns had conducted background work on Griffin III, including some interesting metrics which would come into play.
Film study showed Griffin III, as a drop-back, pocket-passer got the ball out of the pocket/his hands in 2.81 seconds on average. When on the move, Griffin III got the ball out in 2.14 seconds -- a considerable improvement.
Furthermore, Griffin's accuracy percentage, deep-ball accuracy, under pressure and play-action percentages were within the top five-percent in the league. In the pocket, Griffin's percentages drastically dropped, showing up as nothing more than an average NFL QB at best.
Griffin III didn't enter the NFL as a drop-back passer. His game was based on athleticism, a streamlined and directly explosive offensive system while at Baylor University.
Following early success in Washington in the Shanahan (Mike Shanahan - head coach / Kyle Shanahan - offensive coordinator) offensive system which had him on the move often, a serious knee injury, turmoil with the offensive coordinator and a change at head coach (Jay Gruden) as well as scheme and health derailed Griffin III's career.
"The changes in Washington weren't the best for Griffin III. He had never been a pocket-passer, certainly not a drop-back type guy, his exposure was fairly limited. This was something we learned Robert (Griffin III) wanted to learn, but was cut-off at the pass by the Redskins coaching staff prior to the change," the source continued.
Jackson beamed about Griffin III's athleticism, his ability to hit targets while on the move, his ability to quickly get the ball to the receiver. As much excitement Griffin III provided, the reality for Jackson and Hamilton was to get him into the building and begin the process of refining Griffin III's mindset and ability to process in the pocket setting.
"Getting Robert (Griffin III) to be a little more patient, to trust what he knows and having a running clock in his head were very important in the early sessions -- both film and on the field. It's been an up and down process, which was expected. Nobody believed this would be a quick transformation," the source said.
Griffin, as well as the other quarterbacks on the Browns roster (McCown, Davis and Kessler) spend numerous hours in the film-room with Jackson and Hamilton reviewing plays, identifying the proper protection and direction of a play. Jackson harped continuously the importance of getting the ball out of the pocket quickly.
Once on the practice field, Griffin III would be instructed to be 'quicker' with the ball. As time passed, Jackson saw improvement, though baby-steps, the quarterback was being rebuilt.
Jackson quickly found out Griffin III, when comfortable and confident, performed at a high rate. When the quarterback was taken out of his element, playing exclusively from the pocket, his confidence and productivity were shaken.
Throughout the spring and early summer OTA sessions, Griffin III would display strides of improvement, then battled inconsistency. Jackson and his offensive staff anticipated the up and down performances and have been pleased with the work ethic, demeanor and confidence level Griffin III has displayed.
At the onset, the expectation level of the Browns has been to develop Griffin III's skill set and if/when he's ready, he'll be on the playing field. Throughout the early OTA sessions, veteran Josh McCown has performed better on the practice field, giving Griffin III a barometer to exceed (McCown and Griffin III have a good relationship).
As training camp approaches in late July, Griffin III only needs to continue with the program installed for him by Jackson and let his natural ability and improved mental preparation meet on the road.
For the Browns, that would be a success.null