When Robert Griffin III was named the starter by Jay Gruden two months ago, fans and some members of the media questioned the timing of the announcement. The regular season, after all, was still seven months away.
Joe Theismann, however, was not among them. In fact, the former Redskins quarterback and current broadcaster says he backed Gruden’s decision.
“I’m glad that Jay named him starter,” Theismann told Redskins Nation host Larry Michael in a recent interview. “Robert knows where he is right now. Sure, Kirk [Cousins] will compete. Colt [McCoy] will compete. Because they want to become better. Both of them are very competitive individuals. But it’s Robert’s job.”
Theismann, who went 77-47 as the Redskins’ starting quarterback from 1976-1985, also offered some advice to Griffin, who is attempting to rebound from a second straight subpar season.
“The most important thing for Robert is, No. 1) don’t worry about what anybody says and, No. 2) understand what your role is in this offense,” Theismann told Michael. “It is not to be the running back and rush for 900 yards. It’s to make sure that Alfred Morris can rush for 1,500, to keep the chains moving so that other people can [get] more downs. Give yourself a chance to make more plays and [No. 3] protect yourself. One of my credos to any young quarterback is real simple: your No. 1 responsibility is to keep yourself healthy enough to be able to practice and play every game and every day. If you do that, you’re going to work every day and you’re going to get better just because of the fact that you’re out there.”
Theismann also said he’d like to see Griffin hone his skills in the pocket and trust his teammates to make plays for him.
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“The most important thing for Robert is just focus on what you do,” Theismann said. “Focus on becoming a better pocket passer. Quicker decisions. Get ball out of your hands. And allow your teammates to be able to help you win football games.”
“He’s so competitive that he sometimes takes a tremendous burden on his own shoulders,” he added. “That’s one thing I had to learn—it wasn’t all about what I did. It was how can help the other guys do their job better?”
As for Griffin’s handling of the spotlight, Theismann says he saw significant progress in that area late in the 2014 season.
“We never had to play under this type of scrutiny, where everything we did off the field was an issue,” Theismann said, referring to Redskins’ quarterbacks from an earlier era. “Every voice inflection being analyzed. Every facial [expression] being analyzed. How you wear your hat. What you wear to an interview. How you sit in an interview. What’s implied in what you have to say. You can’t be honest. You have to be a politician.”
“Robert’s learned a lot of that over the last year,” Theismann continued. “At first, I think he came in a naïve, effervescent, healthy. Then he’s gone through the trials and tribulations, the struggles, injuries, new systems. Having to learn things that he never knew at the college level, at the professional level it's so much more difficult.”