He reached a conclusion after watching the film: Robert Griffin III needed some work. Ron Jaworski noticed footwork that needed fixing, an inconsistent delivery and balance that produced negative throws.
Then Jaworski reached another conclusion after attending his pro day. All those flaws had disappeared.
“It taught me two things: He’s coachable, and he wants to get better,” said Jaworski, the ESPN NFL analyst and former quarterback. “That’s critical when you go to the next level.”
Thus Griffin had made his first transition to NFL quarterback. But that transition now will begin in earnest, with a rookie minicamp next weekend. It won’t end for quite some time.
Yes, rookie quarterbacks have fared better in recent years, but there’s still an education process.
“Every rookie QB struggles, and they’re not complete until after about their fourth year,” said former Indianapolis general manager Bill Polian. “In their first year, they’re flummoxed by the speed of the game and the complexity of it. They just barely survive.”
Here are the adjustments Griffin faces:
NFL defenses obviously will be more complex, with last-second changes common and traps set by savvy coordinators. In Baylor’s spread offense, Griffin often was asked to only read half the field vs. simplistic schemes.
“He has good field vision, [but] he’ll have to read coverage for the whole field,” said ex-NFL scout Dan Shonka, now the head scout and general manager of Ourlads draft coverage.
Jaworski said, “You’re talking about a guy of high intellect. He’ll understand a pro-style offense. [But] it’s hard to get it down.”
Along with that, he’ll have to make more NFL-type throws — as opposed to a steady diet of bubble screens in the spread. In the Redskins’ offense, there’s a premium on attacking the middle of the field where the openings are more narrow.
“I didn’t see a lot of those deep NFL-style comebacks [on film] — those 20-yard passes to the far hash where you have to throw lasers,” Jaworski said. “But at his pro day, he made those throws with ease and accuracy.
“There were throws he was late with [in college], but I can also show you Peyton Manning being late on throws. It doesn’t bother me.”
Lining up under center
Griffin did this at Baylor less than 20 percent of the time. Even if the Redskins use more shotgun, he’ll still be under center more than in college.
“The snaps under center are irrelevant,” Jaworski said. “It probably took me two days to get that down.”
It may even help Griffin, according to Ty Detmer, a former Heisman Trophy winner who operated out of the shotgun a lot in college as well.
“It helps you make a quicker read,” Detmer said. “Your eyes are working from the snap where in shotgun your eyes are down catching the snap, and you have to get them back up again. It doesn’t seem like it takes that long but in a quarterback’s mind processing it is a little while: Did they end up rotating the safeties or was it a blitz?”
Running the ball
Griffin is a passer first, but he will run. The former track star ran for 2,199 yards in college.
“He has to learn how to run the ball in the NFL; getting out of bounds, getting down early and taking less hits,” said former Redskins general manager Charley Casserly, now an NFL Network analyst. “College quarterbacks usually don’t worry about taking hits. In the NFL you have to worry about it.”
Here’s one example of a pass play in the West Coast offense, courtesy of ESPN analyst Jon Gruden’s “QB Camp” shows: “flip right double-X jet 36 naked wagglet seven X quarter.”
Griffin said he could give an equally long play call from his Baylor playbook, but those in the West Coast are consistently longer.
“The one thing I have to work on and that will take time is the verbiage. In the West Coast offense, it’s extremely long,” Griffin said. “But it’s something I’ve been picking up on lately. Once we get to the end [of training camp] it’ll be like reading the back of my hand."
Shonka said, “He’s smart enough that he won’t have a problem, but there’s so much of it.”
During the offseason Griffin worked with former NFL quarterbacks coach Terry Shea to improve his fundamentals, starting with his footwork.
“I built him from the ground up,” Shea said. “I stressed how important his alignment was, getting that lead foot to direct him not at the receiver but where the ball was going to be caught. … He learned it very quickly.”
Griffin knows he’ll be a work in progress.
“Yeah, I’m a rookie,” he said, “but I won’t use that as an excuse.”