Without getting too deep into it - I'm upset even acknowledging it -, the word "sabotage" has been throw around a lot this week in regards to Jay Gruden's handling of Robert Griffin III. First, fans felt Gruden "sabotaged" Griffin by letting him play for four series. Then, as if enough thought hadn't been put into it, fans felt Gruden "sabotaged" Griffin by not calling read-option and bootlegs. The idea that a head coach would purposely sabotage a player that directly affects his team's outcome is absolutely preposterous. I won't analyze it any further than that. Instead, I'm going to take a look at a simple play concept Jay Gruden uses to help the quarterback (a novel idea, right?). It's a simple play-action post. While the play won't always look the same because it can be run out of so many formations, the concept will look the same.1. Kirk Cousins was able to throw for about 40 yards on two plays using this concept vs. the Browns. On this one, the Browns are in nickel and have three defenders in the middle of the field where Cousins wants to go with the ball (two LBs, 1 S). The play-action is designed to draw the middle defenders up and then throw the ball right over their heads or in a window provided. The Browns are in a Cover 1 man here. In order for this to work, you need (at least) one of three things: a good fake, a productive run game, or a dangerous running back. As Kirk Cousins makes his play fake, it draws the three defenders close to the line of scrimmage. When the safety sees Je'Ron Hamm break on the out route, he follows him since he has him in man coverage but when the LBs realize it's a play-action, they're just lost in space while Andre Roberts runs his route in behind them. Look at the space that was generated by the play-action. Those LBs are suppose to be sinking underneath that route. They are no where close. Roberts flattens out his route so he doesn't run into the deep safety. The throw is a little behind but the ball gets there and Cousins/Roberts hook up for a sizable gain. 2. Later in the game, the play was called again but this time it's Rashad Ross on the post route. On this play, the play-action also drew the LBs up towards the line of scrimmage opening up a large part of the field behind them. Ross flattens out his route to stay away from the safety and catches the pass for a good gain. 3. Jay Gruden also called it for Robert Griffin III against the Lions. The play-action pulls the LBs up. Ryan Grant is on the post. When the LBs notice it's a fake they try dropping back just like on the previous plays but they also open up a window for Griffin to fit the ball in. Griffin is looking for it. As the LBs drop back, they open up a window as they separate in their drop. Grant is about to run into it. Griffin doesn't like it. He ends up rolling to his right and dumping the ball off to RB Matt Jones. Now, this isn't a terrible play because he rolled out, didn't get hit, found a secondary receiver and gained yards. With that being said, Griffin could have had the first down if he just trusted the play and this has been an on-going theme where I've been waiting to see improvement. The more first downs Griffin misses, the more often he's going to be put in 3rd down situations where defenses can pin their ears back and go at him.
If this concept looks familiar, it should. It was Robert Griffin III's bread and butter in 2012. It was presented in the form of a read-option play action though where Griffin didn't have to take his eyes off the defense to carry out the play-fake. Alfred Morris would cross his face, Griffin would pull the ball and the LBs could do nothing but watch as they came up on the run and Griffin threw a ball either past their head or over their head to the receiver running the post behind them.
But it's not like he can only run it from read-option......
Sabotage him? Absolutely not. The last Head Coach who tried to publicly sabotage Robert Griffin III landed in NFL purgatory and he was a two-time Super Bowl winner. Jay Gruden's resume is quite lighter than that. When you look at the tape, I don't see how you can derive any conclusion other than the guy needs more reps. Even the things that Griffin used to thrive on, he appears to be struggling with now. While his mechanics look improved, every snap he takes looks more daunting than the last. The big bright star that was oozing with potential appears to be drying up and Gruden is trying to get Griffin as many reps as possible to salvage anything he can to put a product on the field with some semblance of an offense.
Maybe Griffin didn't have his starting LT, his #1 WR or #1 TE but this is the NFL and any given Sunday you have to play the hand you're dealt. The excuses need to stop. Griffin has had a built-in excuse for everything that has gone wrong since 2012. It's time for him to step up, shoulder the responsibility and rise up or bow out.