The decision to keep Robert Griffin III around, as Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden suggested Monday, still seems stunning. Just like releasing the 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year would have felt. Anything that takes place with Griffin invokes that same feeling. Of course, it leads to one question: Why?
And that question leads to many others.
But here’s what keeping him around tells me:
There’s a split between the football side and the business side. Owner Dan Snyder, at his core, is a fan and obviously a big one of Griffin. That’s his prerogative. To suggest there’s unanimity with this move becomes harder and harder to believe. Impossible, in fact. If a coach and others don’t believe in a player and don’t think anything will ever be different, why would they keep him around? Unless…
Not everyone in the organization believes in new starter Kirk Cousins. Understandable. While many who have worked with him have praised Cousins and his potential, he’s still unproven. The only thing the football side believes is that he’s the best quarterback on the roster. Simple as that. But for the owner and others who agree with keeping Griffin, cutting ties with such a talent is tough, especially if you’re not sold on the alternative. The Redskins don’t get any savings from cutting Griffin so it’s a $6.7 million hit whether he’s here or not (they have approximately $12.5 million in available space). From a money standpoint, it's a no-harm, no-foul by keeping Griffin.
If Joe Gibbs were coaching here and wanted Griffin gone, he’d be gone. Like Cousins, coach Jay Gruden has to earn Snyder’s trust by winning. For now, Snyder is only willing to go so far for two people who need to show him more. A slow start would be disastrous for Gruden. Disastrous. If you’re going to cut someone who delivered a season like Griffin did in 2012 -- the scheme and coaching were fantastic, but he also made it work -- then you’re going to do it with someone you trust implicitly. If -- and I stress if -- Scot McCloughan wanted Griffin gone, or at least agreed with the coaches, then it’s a bad look. Gruden and McCloughan were the two biggest hires of the past two years. Either you trust the guys you hire or you don’t. And if you don’t, this has no chance.
If Cousins plays well, then at that point I could see something happening with Griffin, whether they push harder for a trade or just release him. Cousins needs to give Snyder reason to believe in him. If that happens, then anything is possible.
More drama. If Griffin is the No. 3 quarterback, then a lot of this dissipates. Still, it’s not hard to fathom Cousins struggling at times nor is it hard to imagine the Redskins needing to change quarterbacks a couple of times. That means there always will be a certain level of focus on Griffin. In the past after his benchings, Griffin has kept a low profile. At this point, though, it’s more about Cousins because if he plays well nobody will look at alternatives. Just like Griffin: Had he played well, Cousins is merely considered a solid insurance policy. The problem in Washington is it’s usually more about what the starter hasn’t done or can’t do. But there’s an intensity, in part, that led to the fatigue; Griffin can’t always help the attention but sometimes it comes based off his actions or words. That fatigue left many drained at the end of last season. If he has to play, then the next part of this reality show becomes his 2016 player option for $16.15 million. If Griffin gets hurt and can’t pass the season-ending physical, the Redskins will have to absorb that entire number. That’s potentially 10 percent of their cap space.