Robert Griffin III Is A Great Signing for the Cleveland Browns

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If Robert Griffin III had a career arc it would look like a short pier. He has just turned 26 years of age and despite reaching peaks that few quarterbacks have reached, he remained unsigned after two weeks of free agency. Hue Jackson’s Cleveland Browns eventually picked him up, but only on a two-year deal with a relatively small guaranteed sum.

Teams are typically desperate for talent at the quarterback position. It’s so difficult to find a quality starter that every avenue is explored. The NFL is so desperate that players such as Brian Hoyer, Josh McCown and Ryan Fitzpatrick are re-used over and over again despite repeatedly proving themselves as incapable at this level. McCown and Fitzpatrick appeared to be in greater demand both this year and in previous years than Griffin was before he signed with the Browns.

Sure, there are obvious concerns. Griffin’s health has been an issue throughout his career. He tore his ACL towards the end of his rookie season and forced his way back onto the field when he clearly wasn’t ready for the start of his second season. Mike Shanahan’s job as the head coach should have been to take control of his team and prevent Griffin from getting onto the field, protect himself from himself as you might say. He didn’t and Griffin’s performances predictably suffered.

Over the first two years of his career Griffin ran a very simple offense. He was reliant on working off of play action, taking deep shots downfield to create big plays. He showed off precision as a passer and intelligence to break down coverages within the structure of that offense.

After Shanahan was fired and replaced by Jay Gruden, Griffin was suddenly being asked to explore other areas of his skill set. In his third year, he was essentially a rookie again because he had to learn a new offense, relying less on play action and more on pre-snap reads to get the ball out of his hands to timing routes. Griffin started the season well, showing off consistent accuracy and generally executing the offense as designed.

He broke his ankle early on in Week 2 though, sidelining him and disrupting his development in this new scheme for the next two months.

When Griffin returned, he was inconsistent. Yes, inconsistent. His stretch of play over the second half of the 2014 season has been presented as a complete trainwreck. For whatever reason, the media in Washington latched onto a handful of negative plays and used them to condemn the quarterback for not immediately picking up Jay Gruden’s offense. Griffin likely suffered from being so impressive as a rookie and having to deal with the dysfunction that appeared obvious during the Shanahan regime. His projected role in Shanahan’s departure and his past performances meant that onlookers wanted instant gratification.


This was the screenshot, via CBS, that took over all discussions surrounding Griffin at the time. The quarterback is in the pocket and has all five receivers open. It’s first down so he can throw it to any of his options and feel comfortable about the yards gained. Griffin didn’t find any of his open receivers. As the screenshot shows, he is moving his feet to try and escape the pocket. He runs into trouble and throws a pass to Niles Paul who isn’t looking for it.

Obviously this is a terrible play from the quarterback, but if you watch enough of the quarterbacks across the league, you’ll find plays that are just as problematic.

Here’s one I tweeted about a few months ago when charting the quarterback catalogue. It was one of 13 sacks that Russell Wilson caused last year. Wilson has time in the pocket and all five of his wide receivers are open. He makes a terrible decision and runs into a sack instead of throwing for a first down. It’s obviously a terrible play, but it didn’t define Wilson’s season, nor will that constant recurrence of self-inflicted errors define his career.

That game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was hugely problematic for Griffin, his following display against the San Francisco 49ers was frustrating too. They were just two games though. Two games for a quarterback who was still adjusting to his new offense and had just returned from a lengthy injury while playing with a supporting cast that wasn’t helping him.

Furthermore, those two games are bracketed by one exceptional display against the Minnesota Vikings and one strong performance against the New York Giants. Even during this season when he was painted as a trainwreck, it was still very easy to see Griffin’s talent.


Griffin’s talent isn’t just physical. Since tearing his ACL he hasn’t been as explosive a running threat, relying more on his ability to throw the ball to be effective. Few quarterbacks in the NFL have the precision that Griffin shows off as a passer. He can fit the ball into receivers with precision to any level of the field, regularly throwing the ball to the perfect spot and not relying on his intended target to bail him out with an adjustment at the catch point.

In the above chart, Griffin’s 2014 season is charted. He threw 194 qualifying passes and was accurate on 162 of them for an extremely impressive Accuracy Percentage of 83.5 percent. 83.5 percent would have tied Sam Bradford for the highest number of any quarterback in 2015.

One of the main retorts to Griffin’s ability to throw the ball is that he can’t find receivers to throw it to. This is an overblown issue that stems from the circulation of that image and the lack of patience that Washington showed in his development. The second part is bizarre considering the crap they watched Kirk Cousins put on display over the first half of the 2015 season. If you understood how Griffin’s career had developed over the first 2.5 years, you would understand that inconsistency was expected and his value should have been measured in ability.

Like with rookies, you want to see if he has the ability to do what is asked of him and you  presume the consistency will come with time.

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Griffin isn’t just a quarterback who can run and throw the ball far. He wasn’t just a physical freak coming out of college. His technical prowess and intelligence made him worthy of being the second overall pick in the 2012 draft. That technical prowess and intelligence wasn’t consistently on show in 2014, but it was still there. This play against the Minnesota Vikings was extremely impressive. Griffin stepped up in the pocket to evade the incoming edge pressure while manipulating the coverage downfield with a subtle pump fake.

That pump fake pushed the outside cornerback to the post route in the endzone and drew the slot cornerback inside to the curl route, creating space for DeSean Jackson outside. If you look closer at the endzone angle of the play, you’ll notice that Griffn’s foot is tripped up by his left tackle as he steps forward and he is hit as soon as he releases the ball from the defensive end. The hit was flagged as illegal.

Delivering the ball as he was being hit was a constant obstacle for Griffin to work against. Bill Callahan wasn’t in Washington during the 2014 season, so the team’s offensive line was nowhere near as effective as it became over the second half of the 2015 season.

Case Keenum can’t make that play. You won’t find Brian Hoyer doing it, Ryan Fitzpatrick might but with a lot less control and Josh McCown is more likely to drop his eyes and run into trouble. It’s hard to even find examples of Brock Osweiler showing off such subtle control in his play, and he just got paid a billion dollars.

It’s not like that play was a once-off either.

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Against this blitz on Third-and-4, Griffin stands tall in the pocket and shows off the poise to deliver the ball as two defenders arrive in his face. He located the correct receiver and threw the ball on time to the correct spot on the field. This was 100 percent a “pocket” play, athleticism had nothing to do with the outcome.

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On this play, Griffin executes a clean quick dropback before delivering the ball with precision and timing to DeSean Jackson. Jackson catches the ball between two defenders for the touchdown. Griffin had to place the ball perfectly to avoid leading Jackson into a huge hit from the arriving safety but to also put it out of reach from the undercutting cornerback.

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A common criticism of Griffin is that he can’t read through progressions. It’s the go-to move for those intent on criticizing black quarterbacks. It goes completely against the evidence on the field. On this play, we can see Griffin’s eyes focused on the left side of the field when he gets to the top of his drop. He brings them back around to the right side just in time to deliver an accurate pass to DeSean Jackson. Griffin absorbs a huge hit because the Washington pass protection failed to account for the delayed blitz from the linebacker on the second level.

From the same game you can see Griffin drop a deep ball to DeSean Jackson down the right sideline after coming off his first read, but his most impressive play of this kind came against the New York Giants.

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On this play, Griffin converts a third down by cycling through his reads quickly. He is able to deliver the ball just before the defensive linemen close around him. Griffin didn’t appear to ever actually want to throw it to his third receiver, instead using a pump fake to that option to clear out his passing lane. That allowed him to lead Andre Roberts back towards space, away from the defensive back trying to cover him. This was hugely important because it allowed Roberts to turn away and turn a good gain into a great one with his feet.

When Griffin gets time in the pocket he does show off that he has the ability to use it. He also shows off an understanding of down-and-distance, understanding when to get rid of the ball to best exploit the defensive play call.

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On this play from the San Francisco 49ers game, the defense sends a heavy blitz after the quarterback. They have sent more bodies than the offense can block so Griffin knows that he is going to take a hit. He also knows that he has to hold the ball long enough for his receivers to get downfield so they can cross the first down marker. Griffin finds Andre Roberts as his outlet for a first down and delivers the ball at the perfect time. It comes at a cost though. He is hit both high and low by two defenders. He set his feet and stood tall, taking that hit to get the first down by throwing a perfectly-placed pass with velocity to comfortably beat the safety.

As was often the case, his supporting cast negated the play. A holding penalty on Kory Lichtensteiger sent the offense moving in the wrong direction.

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This Third-and-20 play shows Griffin make a slight adjustment with his feet in the pocket to react to the penetration on his right side. That penetration gives Connor Barwin a chance to come off his block and close on the quarterback in the pocket. Griffin delivers the ball very quickly to get rid of it before Barwin arrives, throwing it with great velocity and precision 20 yards downfield. As he so often did that season, Andre Roberts dropped a perfect pass from his quarterback.

These are plays that Griffin needs to make more consistently but they are plays that he makes about as often as those who continue to get opportunities as part of the carousel of quarterback misery.

Where Griffin can separate himself from those players is with his precision as a passer.

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Not only is he more accurate on short and intermediate routes than other players who were available this offseason, he is arguably the most impressive deep passer in the NFL. Griffin can make throws that most quarterbacks can’t and he can make them with impressive consistency. Even when he misses, he rarely misses wildly. That is typically a sign of a passer who is in full control of the ball and is comfortable with his arm talent.

There is no doubting Griffin’s ability as a passer. He is on a different level to the Josh McCowns, Ryan Fitzpatricks and Brock Osweilers of the world. Griffin doesn’t need Hue Jackson to revive his career or rebuild him as a player, he just needs his new coaching staff to embrace him by showing patience and constructing a system around him that plays to his strengths. The same things that every successful quarterback in the NFL relies on.

21 Responses to “Robert Griffin III Is A Great Signing for the Cleveland Browns

  • This article is on point. It’s really hard to believe how quickly and brutally the local media and many fans piled onto the narrative that Bob is a crap QB and person. Meanwhile Kirk Cousins was actual flaming garbage for most of his career, during which time he got nothing but love. Not hard to see what that’s all about…

  • Ben Moore
    2 years ago

    Well, RG3 holds on the ball too long and takes too many sacks. You said his OL was bad. I’m not sure about that – on Pro Football Focus, it was rated as one of the best pass blocking units. PFF also had a table showing how long it took on average for each qb to release the ball or take a sack, and RG3 was one of the worst. Pro Football Reference had a study showing that the sack rate is the statistic with the highest year-to-year correlation for qbs changing teams.

    NFL teams have GMs, coaches and assistants studying film, and $5 million salary hit for 2016, 29th or 30th lowest among QBs, was what RG3 commanded on the market. Are you saying you’re some genius that saw something that they overlooked?

  • Pat Walsh
    2 years ago

    This article is what I’ve been telling people regarding Griffin. The local media in DC most notably Chris Cooley & Jason Ried used negative comments about RG to drive callers and readers to their media platforms, some callers/ commenters would defend RG some would agree with their negative remarks but it always generated clicks and phone calls due to RG’s visibility after his rookie year. The media here is still doing it. RG is the one subject that generates comments, page views and calls in large numbers for these media outlets.

    What those guys started with their negativity seeking attention in the media, turned into a which hunt mentality with callers, commenters and the press. Every possible issue regarding Griffin was magnified, over reported, repeated and debated.

    Gruden never tried to tried to install a Griffin friendly system after the ankle injury and seemed to loose patience with RG far too quickly. After the Tampa game He became the leader of the lynch mob that had initially been formed by a couple of mediocre journalists in hopes of advancing their careers. He eventually benched Griffin and installed Cousins after allowing Griffin to be concussed vs Detriot in the 2015 preseason game when T Williams was out. Letting a backup LT try to block the Lions right DE one on one. The back up LT was cut days later and Griffin never played for Wash again. I’m not saying this was done deliberately to injur RG but this is the way it happened.

    As for the fans turning on him I’ve never seen anything like it – a kind of fever driven by page view hungry media that created a lynch mob or which hunt mentality. A fair amount of that still goes on.

  • This is a total opinion piece from an RGIII sycophant. The only stat he provides is meaningless. I don’t think anyone doubts he can throw the ball to wide open receiver, the issue is in the real world he can’t get the ball to his receivers consistently and with anticipation. In 2014 RGIII attempted 214 passes and completed 147 for a completion percentage of 68.7; not bad except Colt McCoy with the same team and the same time in the offensive system had a completion percentage of 71.1

    • An opinion piece as opposed to what? You are saying the stat he provides is meaningless but don’t even know what it measures clearly. It isn’t about throwing the ball to wide open receivers, it’s about throwing an accurate ball, catchable ball to the wr, is that meaningless?

  • TempleBrown
    2 years ago

    How many passes did Colt throw ?

    • Kirk is overrated as a Quarterback, he is and will always be an average Quarterback. His good stats and wins were against BAD teams. RGIII would have fared better. The Coach should have been let go instead of RGIII, future will confirm this.

  • I think picking up RG3 was a solid pick. It now begs the question “how will we draft?” I think we will trade out of the 2nd pick to the Cowboys or Chargers for their 1st round pick and gain maybe a second round pick, third rounder and future picks. We will not use a pick on a QB, but on the kid from Oregon. We may move up and snatch Treadwell or use our 32nd pick on Docston. As for QB, I think we will go with Cardale Jones in the late 2nd early third. This seems to be more logical because there would be no QB controversy and the kid would have to sit and learn. You cannot do that with a 1st round pick in today’s NFL.

  • This is one opinion of RGIIIs time with the Redskins. Here is another opinion. One I feel is more accurate and more rooted in reality.

    • Buahaha first of all this idiot without stats or film but armed with just opinion is Cooley the greatest tight end (NOT!!) butt buddy….hmmm I wonder what the opinion influence is. This clown lost me when he said something about stellar performance and Andy Dalton, Dalton went into beast mode after Gruden left. Gruden is gone after this season. Get it right.

  • RealMan
    2 years ago

    When things don’t work out, why does someone have to be a villain? It was time for a change, and RG3 will have an opportunity to make some people come around, or get even worse. I’m pulling for the young man!

  • NobleMike1180
    2 years ago

    It’s my belief that the Jacksonville game where he dislocated his ankle, was the game where he showed that he was starting to understand the system. Again I am aware it was the Jaguars. With that being said, Kirk did the same things against bad teams last year. So my analysis, because of the time that Kirk got to run the offense and the FULL confidence of the coaching staff, he was granted more time to succeed. Full disclosure, I am a fan of Robert Griffin’s. Kirk had a great season. No doubt about it. I won’t knock him for it. But Washington fans after that game in which he came back against the BUCS(Seriously, the Bucs) saw him as this great hope. I didn’t I saw a bad team give up a lead like bad teams do. I don’t care for the record against winning teams thing because I think ultimately a win is a win. With that being said, the eye test told me that this was an illusion(Kirk’s good season). Green Bay’s defense was horrible. I feel like if Kirk was a good people think he is, he does better or makes a play that says “Yeah okay, he might not win this game but we’re in good hands.” If someone saw that, please let point it out. RGIII with one leg beat Dallas for the the chance to get into the playoffs and led Washington to 14 points against Seattle in a playoff game. No matter what, he was doomed from the start. All this is coming from a guy who has cheered for the burgundy and gold most of his life decided after hearing DC sports radio and other national media tear this guy apart to root for this guy and the Browns.

    This guy is a good QB. I’m not excited about the Browns and their whole deal but sometimes they make the best stories.

    Cian great film break down. I’m a cross between a hardcore and casual fan meaning I can’t breakdown film but I’ve generally been right on my gut feelings on players. Your analysis backs up my eye test.

    I am curious about your opinion regarding Colin Kaepernick vs RGIII. I consistently tell people that RGIII did more with less. Am I off base or am I too biased to give an informed opinion?

  • I’m so glad to that someone stepped up & broke down those plays for everyone to see. No one can say this was a pie-in-the-sky guy. He was & is a very good QB. I have never seen or heard a coach tearing apart a member of his team to the public or media like Gruden. I lost all respect for the guy to put a player down like he did w/Robert. Personally I think Gruden is the one that has a “power” thing & it was his mission to break RGIII. And to continue spewing his crap against Robert after he was released was totally out of line. If he is such a great coach & is so savvy to know what RGIII needs to do to become a NFL QB, why didn’t he fix things? I worked in the oil & gas industry for 38 yrs and often received calls wanting to ask about a former employee. We were not allowed to say anything truly negative because we were not to stand in the way of a potential job for the former employee. It was the right thing to do. Just because a person doesn’t work out at 1 job, doesn’t necessarily mean that he/she can’t do well in a different work environment, etc. Lot of times, it’s just a matter of different personalities, way of work, etc. Gruden is showing his true colors by continuing to judge & publicly display what a jerk he is. Totally unprofessional. If Gruden is so great, why didn’t he realize that he would have looked great if he had been the one to get RGIII back on the right path instead of the 1 that totally broke him.

  • Jesus, you all can’t be serious right now. This is the reason Browns fans are delusional. You have a guy post an article with 5 passes that RG threw, and no all of a sudden, he is a great player. Man I have seen all of his passes, and ANNNYYYYY QB with time in the pocket, can make passes. Thats NOT what makes you a good QB. Wake up, the dude isn’t that great. He has a lottt of work to do.

    • Matthew Ford
      2 years ago

      You and I got two completely different things out of the article. I don’t think anyone is suggesting that RGIII doesn’t have a lot of work ahead of him.

    • Let me ask you something. Did you read every word in this article? He’s not wrong in a LOT of these points.
      Washington did set himself up for failure. Anyone and I MEAN ANYONE could see that. The media STOPPED focusing on any bit of success he had and consistently focused on his failures. Gruden from the get go was way too hard on him, and basically wanted Cousins from the get go.
      Not once did he call RG3 a great QB. He said he had a really good rookie season and people began to expect the world from him going forward. He said a good amount of his issues that were out of his control and some that were in it. He said he’s capable of making plays a lot of QB’s can’t. And he’s right. It’s what RG3 struggles to do fundamentally is what he must work on- and he’s right. He not once said he isn’t a project, because he is. But to say he’s not super talented is moronic.
      And Browns fans aren’t exactly delusional, at least not the ones that GENUINELY follow the team. The ones you call delusional are the ones who thought Johnny would lead us to the playoffs.
      And BTW even IF you have seen all of his passes, that doesn’t make you an expert on him because I can tell from your reply you didn’t watch and replay every one of those plays. He’s a talented athlete and football player that needs work and a new scenario which he will get from Hue Jackson and Cleveland.


  • Good article and more importantly balanced. Gruden’s staff made several mistakes in their first year including not hiring a QB coach. In their 1st year with a brand new HC and a 1st time Offensive Coordinator they didn’t have a QB coach. Is it any wonder that the most experienced QB (Colt McCoy) played the best of the 3 QBs that year?
    Griffin and Kirk both regressed and were benched in 2014. The cost of their mistakes was steep. It cost the franchise Griffin, but luckily Kirk looks to be panning out.

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