My friend Rick Snider of the Washington Examiner made some national waves with his column saying that Robert Griffin III would be the Redskins best quarterback since Sonny Jurgensen.Said Gregg Rosenthal on NFL.com, Griffin hasn't faced a single blitz or a live tackling drill. He hasn't even played against a veteran NFL player in practice. But he's already getting placed ahead of Joe Theismann, Billy Kilmer, Doug Williams and, uh, Rex Grossman.Snider may be getting ahead of himself a bit but if you look at the record, Griffin would not have to be an elite quarterback in order to surpass the three signal callers that Rosenthal mentions seriously (the mention of Rex, I think, was in jest). He would just have to be somewhere between good and very good for the duration of a couple of contracts.Kilmer did lead the Redskins to their first Super Bowl and although his passes werent pretty they were often effective. And the Redskins won two thirds of the 74 games he started over eight seasons. He made the Pro Bowl once, after that Super Bowl 1972 season.Theismann was the Redskins starter for eight seasons, from 1978 until he suffered that broken leg at the hands of Lawrence Taylor in the 11th game of the 1985 season. The Redskins were 77-47 (.621 winning percentage) in the games he started. Theismann went to the Pro Bowl twice and was the first-team All-Pro quarterback in 1983. The Redskins went to back to back Super Bowls with Theismann at the helm. They won it all in 1982 and lost to the Raiders the following year.Williams had the great playoff run following the 1987 season, capped by his marvelous MVP performance in the Super Bowl. But other than that stretch, Williams really doesnt have a place on the list of all-time great Redskins quarterbacks. In four years in Washington he started just 14 games and the Redskins were 5-9 in those games.Rosenthal didnt mention Mark Rypien, the Redskins other Super Bowl winning QB. He started 72 games for the team with the Redskins going 45-27 (.625). He made the Pro Bowl twice.Kilmer led the NFL in touchdown passes in 1972. None of the other three led the league in any major statistical category for a season. Jurgensen led the NFL in completion percentage twice, in yards passing five times, and touchdown passes twice.The biggest hurdle that RG3 would have in surpassing the post-Sonny quarterbacks would be in winning games. Although winning is highly dependent on other factors like having a solid defense and a running game, as Griffin himself said, the quarterback gets all the credit when the team wins and all them blame when the lose. Whether that is fair or not that is how he will be judged. To equal the winning percentages that Theismann and Rypien posted, the Redskins wold have to average about a 10-6 record every year. To match Kilmers winning percentage, Washington would have to go 12-4 year in and year out.Theismann was solid in the clutch; the folks at Pro Football Reference give him credit for 19 fourth-quarter comebacks and 24 game-winning drives. Griffin had a number of moments like that while winning the Heisman Trophy at Baylor and he could duplicate them in Washington.Theismann is the Redskins career leader with 25,206 passing yards. The NFL was just entering its pass-happy era during his career. It is easy to see RG3 breaking that record relatively early in his career. If Griffin averages 4,200 passing yards per season, a season that remarkable was Theismanns day but routine now, he would match Theismanns record by the end of his sixth season.And then there are things like playoff appearances, playoff success, and getting to and winning Super Bowls. It would be hard to put Griffin on the proverbial Mount Rushmore of Redskins quarterbacks unless he leads the team to a Super Bowl.
As June minicamp concluded, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden pulled no punches when asked about expectations for new quarterback Alex Smith.
"He has got to get it down by the first game," Gruden said of Smith.
While that might not sound overly demanding, remember this is Smith's first season in Washington. The QB will be playing with new teammates and implementing new terminology.
Still, Smith is a veteran with a lot of experience, and frankly, it seems like Gruden isn't worried about a transition period.
"We are not in here to build the team around him, the team is built and he has to lead it like right now," the coach said. "This isn’t a two- or three-year process. This is a one-year process and we have got to win right away."
Gruden made things quite clear. He expects the best from Smith, yesterday.
Those comments created headlines, but there was something else the coach said about his passer that also stood out. Asked about Smith's veteran presence, Gruden talked about what the quarterback might mean for his teammates.
"The whole job a quarterback has is obviously getting the most out of the people around you. That’s what I think he does as good as anybody," Gruden said. "He’ll get the most out of the tight ends. He’ll get the most out of the backs."
The coach continued, and things got a bit more interesting.
"He’ll get the most out of the receivers and offensive line because they’re going to want to play for him and they’re going to feel confident that he’s going to make something happen in a positive way or at least give it everything he’s got and take responsibility if something doesn’t work out."
Redskins fans are often a weirdly divided bunch. Many liked former QB Kirk Cousins but plenty did not think he was worth the type of money he was paid the last two seasons. Along the way, some fans will read Gruden's comments about making something happen and taking responsibility as a jab at Cousins. That's probably wrong.
Remember, Trent Williams played through a serious knee injury last season. Asked why, Williams said he wanted to be out there to protect Cousins. Guys played for Cousins.
The responsibility comment might mean something else, though. Their was a rather hostile back-and-forth last season between Gruden and Cousins last season, when the QB and coach disagreed about taking more risks with the football. A quick reminder of the scene: Cousins told a reporter that he would throw 20 interceptions if he played like Gruden wanted. The coach responded that while the interceptions might pile up, the QB would also throw 60 touchdowns. (Relive it here)
Throughout his career, Smith has thrown less interceptions than Cousins. But that doesn't mean Smith doesn't take risks or put his receivers in position to make plays.
It's entirely possible Gruden simply expects Smith, a veteran, to be a responsible player and leader. And it's likely that comment had nothing to do with the Redskins previous quarterbacks.
The bottom line is that Smith better be ready to go Week 1, and his coach made that clear. And if Smith isn't, Gruden expects his quarterback to take responsibility.
MORE REDSKINS NEWS:
— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions
— Dead Money: Trades, misses and mistakes hurt Redskins salary cap
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Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, June 24, 32 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.
The heat is on Jay Gruden
Jay Gruden knows that his Redskins need to win in 2018.
“This isn’t a two- or three-year process,” he said last week. “This is a one-year process and we have got to win right away.”
Jay Gruden gave this answer to a question about Alex Smith, but his words should resonate with the whole team. He’s right. This is no longer a rebuilding team. It’s time for this team to get it together and make a playoff run.
That puts the pressure on Gruden.
This is his fifth year as coach of the Redskins. He is well beyond the point where he can credibly point a finger of blame at his predecessor for any problems that are lingering. Only five players who were around in 2013, Mike Shanahan’s last year in Washington. It’s Gruden’s show now.
His tenure is now the longest for a Redskins head coach since Norv Turner made it nearly seven years, from 1994 through 13 games into the 2000 season. His 49-59-1 run with the Redskins spanned three owners in Jack Kent Cooke, John Kent Cooke, and Dan Snyder.
It should be noted that Turner’s third and fourth years at the helm closely resembled Gruden’s past two years. Turner’s team went 9-7 in 1996 and 8-7-1 the next year, narrowly missing the playoffs both years. That looks a lot like Gruden’s 8-7-1 and 7-9 records over the past two years.
Gruden does not want this year’s team to resemble the 1998 Redskins. Turner’s fifth team started out 0-7 before winning four of their last five to finish 6-10.
Turner kept his job in part because of the team’s uncertain ownership situation after the elder Cooke passed away in 1997. Gruden will not have a similar set of circumstances to help him out if he needs a lifeline in January.
Gruden wants his fifth year to turn out more like Turner’s sixth season. That team went 10-6, topped the NFC East standings and won a playoff game.
To get there, he needs a lot of his decisions to go right. While the trade for Smith was not his call, every indication is that he was on board with it.
Last year, it was his decision to say no, thanks to Wade Phillips, who wanted to be his defensive coordinator and promote Greg Manusky into the job. The results were mixed as the Redskins were sixth in pass defense DVOA but 29thagainst the run. It was viewed as a marginal improvement on defense but the unit still seeme to be more of a liability than an asset.
This year, the Redskins re-signed inside linebackers Zach Brown and Mason Foster and added defensive lineman Daron Payne with their first-round pick after spending their first-round pick on DE Jonathan Allen in 2017. There will be no excuses for Manusky and, by extension, Gruden if the defense does not improve.
Joe Barry, Manusky’s predecessor who also was hired by Gruden when Phillips was an option, was out after two years of failing to significantly improve the defense. Any reasonable analysis would have to conclude that Barry did not get an infusion of talent anywhere approaching what Manusky has received in his two seasons. Manusky is getting a second year but he probably won’t get a third if the defense is still considered to be an impediment to the team’s progress.
And if Manusky has to go, you have to wonder if Gruden will get a chance to hire a third defensive coordinator.
I’m not sure if there is a certain number of games that the Redskins have to win for Gruden to return in 2019. It feels like he would not survive a 6-10 season or maybe not even another 7-9 finish. On the other end of the spectrum, making the playoffs and winning a game when they get there would certainly punch his ticket for a sixth season.
Anything in between would leave Gruden in some jeopardy and the call would come down to the vague “moving in the right direction” criteria.
There are some holes on this team, to be sure. But every team has some and the ones that are well coached figure out how to overcome them. The pressure will be on Gruden to best utilize their strengths and minimize any damage brought about by the weaker points.
From his statement, it’s apparent that he is well aware of that.
Tandler on Twitter
I put out a tweet correcting the Super Bowl ring count to two.
—Training camp starts (7/26) 32
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 46
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 60
The Redskins last played a game 175 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 77 days.
In case you missed it
- The Redskins week that was—Roster competition, Brown vs. Pryor
- Will a 1,000-yard receiver make or break the 2018 Redskins?
- Redskins stock watch—Three up, three down