What Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Wednesday about Robert Griffin III being the 2015 starter is what I thought he would say eventually -- like in June. I didn't expect him to say it less than two months after proclaiming a desire for an open quarterback competition. And I'm not sure why it needed to be said now.
In the end, RG III might well have won the job. He remains the most physically gifted quarterback on the roster, so it's not a stretch to think he would enter next season as the No. 1 guy. It's also true that Kirk Cousins didn't do enough last season to warrant keeping the job. One is a former first-round pick whom the team surrendered a lot to acquire. The other is a fourth-round pick. Do the math and it adds up to Griffin. So it's not all that stunning.
But saying it now leads to other questions and thoughts:
Whose decision was this? There were reports during the season that owner Dan Snyder wanted Griffin to return to the lineup after his ankle injury. Gruden said at the time it was his decision to start Griffin. But it also was evident that the coaches lacked confidence in their quarterback. And it wasn't as if Gruden delivered the news Wednesday at the scouting combine with much conviction. Is that reading too much into it? Perhaps. But given what I know, it's hard not to do so. Perhaps it was as simple as Snyder reminding Gruden why he was hired in the first place: to maximize Griffin's talent. A 4-12 season did not give Gruden any cachet to argue hard against the owner's wishes. For what it's worth, even during the season, the Redskins felt they were pulling names out of a hat when it came to deciding who should start.
What's the benefit to saying it now? Well, it removes a constant storyline from the offseason. Make no mistake, Griffin will be scrutinized every time offseason workouts are open to the media. But there won't be daily talk about who leads the quarterback race. Still, at some point the organization will have to learn that it's about 53 players, not one. And if you're going to be about one player, make sure he's someone who warrants that level. There's not a single player in Washington who deserves that sort of standing right now. Seven wins in two years, remember? For a change, let's see someone earn a certain status with multiple great years.
Could Griffin still end up losing the job? Sure. If Griffin does not look sharp in training camp -- or if Cousins looks a lot better -- that will lead to other issues and could lead to a change. But my guess is Griffin would have to play poorly during the season, not before, to lose the position. And if he plays well? That's what the organization, including the coaches, would want. Their jobs sort of depend on him doing so.
Will they tailor the offense more to Griffin's liking? Keep in mind this is a quarterback who wasn't thrilled with running the read-option, and now, supposedly, running more is the answer. OK. He wants to be a pocket passer, but his mechanics in the pocket were so flawed last season that the coaches' frustration seemed to grow every week. That's why, as others tried to blame the protection, they focused on the quarterback. After this move, my strong guess would be that they will want to beef up other areas to give Griffin every conceivable chance to prove himself. That means bolstering the offensive line (my guess: a veteran right tackle). And it meant bringing in quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh. If you're going to give Griffin one last shot, make it a good one. That's smart. At some point, though, there must be no more excuses. It's not a good look.
How will teammates take the news? Most aren't paying a whole lot of attention to football, but Griffin needs to build support in the locker room -- and with his play, not slogans. If he's going to be given the job now, he'd better show a lot of improvement when they're back together. Otherwise get ready for another season of disgruntlement.
What's next? Here's the hope for Griffin: This is his second consecutive full offseason, and there's no doubt he will work hard on strengthening himself. If he improves his decision-making on the move, he can be a dangerous player. But he needs to be equally committed to developing as a pocket passer within this offense. He needs to be open to what the coaches need and want him to do -- and be honest about who he is, and where he is, as a quarterback. Griffin is not a finished product. It's OK to admit that, as long as he is putting in the work to reach that point. And if Griffin does that, then nobody will second guess this decision.