Offense can stay same after quarterback recovers
His legs made him special, prompting the Redskins to change their offense. Then Robert Griffin III went about changing the game. It wasn't just the zone read option. It wasn't just the scrambles. It was all of it, and it rejuvenated the Redskins' offense.
That, of course, was before another ACL reconstruction on his right knee, a repaired lateral collateral ligament and a repaired medial meniscus.
Which leads to the question: When Griffin returns next season, should the Redskins change their offense? Those who have been involved in the game offer a mostly one-word answer: no.
"If you drop the option, that's strategic, but to not have this guy not run? He's going to run," said former NFL general manager Charley Casserly, now with the NFL Network. "So I don't know that you eliminate anything there. Honestly, I don't know what you can change."
Said one NFL defensive coach: "That's who he is. You can't protect him. If you ask him to just drop back and sit in the pocket, he can't do it. That's not in his makeup."
It's not that this coach thinks Griffin can't throw from the pocket, but it's not what he does best. And what made him special -- pushing the Redskins to make a trade to move up and draft him -- was his multidimensional ability.
Washington's offense featured Griffin on option runs, whether a speed option or off the zone read. It confused defenses and led to big plays off zone read play-action passes or even runs. It helped create lanes for running back Alfred Morris. And Griffin rushed for 815 yards.
The Redskins say Griffin was more protected on zone read option runs than when he's just dropping back in the pocket. Indeed, Griffin was not hurt on designed runs this season.
"Some things they can clean up and do differently between the scheme and him understanding what the concerns and issues are," said Rich Gannon, a former NFL quarterback and current CBS analyst. "That doesn't mean he won't get hit again. You can't control that. What you want to avoid are the unnecessary hits, him getting pulled down on the sidelines, him not getting out of bounds or diving in the first quarter and exposing himself."
Former NFL quarterbacks coach Terry Shea, who worked with Griffin before the 2012 draft, said he wouldn't scrap the zone read either. But he would limit how often they run it, and he would make sure Griffin knew to hand off almost every time.
"Robert is an instinctive player, and that's a winning quality," Shea said. "You don't ever temper that. To ask him to change his style isn't the right way to go. But they can control the number of opportunities he has."
The defensive coach said Griffin's speed works against him in some situations. Yes, it makes him dangerous and scares defenses. But it also might lead him to think he can score anytime he takes off.
"The guys who run a 4.6 or 4.7 [in the 40], they know they won't outrun everybody," the coach said. "Robert's mind will tell him he can beat that guy to the corner."
Throwing the ball away more, which one Redskins player predicted before the surgery, is also on the docket.
"Everyone's been telling him don't take so many hits," the defensive coach said, "but that's what makes him the quarterback he is, the ability to use his feet and his instincts."