Browns following same old path by signing Robert Griffin III

Jon Gruden: Browns, Griffin have a lot to prove (1:06)

Jon Gruden calls Robert Griffin III an "unknown" in terms of production with Cleveland and says the team should still keep their options open in terms of taking a quarterback early in the NFL Draft. (1:06)

The more one ponders the Cleveland Browns' addition of Robert Griffin III, the more it doesn't sit right.

Yes, arguments can be made that it's a low-risk, one-year tryout.

Griffin's contract is structured so that he can be paid $6.75 million this season, then released with little salary cap implication.

In that regard, it's a one-year test to see what the Browns can get from him. He plays well, both sides win. He doesn't, it's on to the next guy.

But more reflection on the signing leads to one thought: The Browns keep giving their fans the same old package, just wrapped by a different person with a different bow.

Constant change leads to every new regime feeling like they can find "the guy" out there who can revive his career with a losing team and little talent around him. Mike Pettine had his Josh McCown, Mike Holmgren his Jake Delhomme, Phil Savage his Trent Dilfer and Butch Davis his Jeff Garcia. All were castoffs from their former teams who lasted one season in Cleveland (assuming McCown is now traded or released). After that one season, the process of change started all over again. The one thing the Browns have proven since 1999 is that it is indeed impossible to catch your tail.

On the surface, Griffin has elements a team wants. Former second overall pick. Had success for one season. Big arm. Can move. And he has the chance in his hands to revive his career.

But the last three years, Griffin has not succeeded when forced to play in the pocket, the most important place for an NFL quarterback. In his rookie season, almost three-quarters of his passing yards came on bootleg or rollout plays. When he had to adjust to playing in the pocket, he wound up third team.

The main belief in Griffin is that new coach Hue Jackson has the ability to get something out of him other good coaches did not. If he can, more power to him.

But Griffin is a guy whose pocket vision, presence and awareness were so poor with good coaching, he went from the second pick in the draft to the third player at the position -- in just three years.

He came to Cleveland for a visit and answered questions honestly and humbly, Jackson said. He impressed in his interview. And according to NFL.com, in a private workout he threw so well on the run that Jackson told the owner "the earth moved."

No kidding, it moved. It's supposed to move when a strong-armed, mobile guy throws with no defenders and no pass rush and no pressure. The world changes when teams game plan for guys and attack their weaknesses. That is exactly what happened to Griffin in Washington -- his world changed.

Griffin has always had that talent and that arm. The problem is taking it to the field in an NFL offense and system that requires a lot more than just being able to throw a long way.

Griffin was spectacular in college, but he grew up in bumper car football. The Alamo Bowl his final year in Baylor was a perfect example. The Bears scored 67 points; Washington and Baylor combined for 123. Griffin threw for 295 of Baylor's 777 total yards. There was excitement, but there was no semblance of a system or structure that might have been remotely in the NFL solar system.

As for saying all the right things, if the Browns learned nothing from the Johnny Manziel experience -- and they say they did -- it's that what a player says is meaningless when he doesn't back it up with the commitment and desire to be a pro.

The Browns moved on from Manziel, and that was the right move. Jackson did not deserve to inherit an old problem.

So what do the Browns do? The Browns had a choice between bringing in someone else's problem or starting fresh with the second overall pick and bringing the drafted guy along behind McCown. They made this choice -- though drafting a quarterback high still seems the wise thing to do. If the rookie wins the job, he wins the job.

But then the Browns bring a drafted quarterback into yet another "quarterback competition" quagmire. As Marvin Lewis once said so aptly, when have those ever worked? He could have added "especially in Cleveland," if he wanted.

This is not to say that Griffin is a bad person or a bad guy. He's not, and many in Washington credit him for the way he handled his benching last season. It's merely to say that the Browns are selling their fans on a player becoming something he was not before.


Players are what they are. Track records are track records for a reason.

It's so easy to be critical of the Browns' moves. But the move with Griffin follows a free agency when the Browns did not re-sign any of five starters. They have given a new quarterback who has struggled with injury and the rush an offensive line without two of its better players. They have signed players they are selling as far more than they have been in their years in the league.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Haslam, the owner who has not given any coach or GM more than two years under his watch, says he feels great about the new group and how it's working together.

Cue the circus music. The show is starting again.