Jay Gruden tells Larry Michael his humble beginnings
Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garçon was a guest on NFL Network’s ‘NFL AM’ on Friday morning and opened up on a number of subjects, ranging from his reaction to Jay Gruden’s hiring to Mike Shanahan’s firing and the perception that Robert Griffin III receives preferential treatment inside Redskins Park.
“My first thought was, ‘Awesome,’” Garçon said of the Gruden news, “because throughout we always watched some of Cincinnati’s clips and tried to take some of their plays and tried to improvise on that. So I knew our offense [in Washington next season would] be similar to what he already is used to [implementing] and what we’ve already been doing. So, [it] definitely made me feel good about the coach.”
Last season, the Redskins’ point production regressed significantly, plummeting from fourth (27.3 points per game) to 23rd (20.9). Garçon pointed to a pair of factors from the sharp decline.
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“We didn’t score points in the red zone,” he said. “We didn’t finish drives. Third down was very tough. So third down and red zone, [that] was the No. 1 thing we didn’t do well on.”
He added: “They did well in Cincinnati with their red zone offense. [Gruden] can definitely bring us some new wrinkles. Red zone is just about getting an inch of separation to score a touchdown. He can definitely come in and shake things up with that. Definitely looking forward to that. Scoring points is what keeps us around.”
Indeed, the Bengals ranked second in the league in red zone touchdown percentage (73.0). The Redskins, meantime, ranked 20th (52.0).
Asked if the players felt that firing Mike Shanahan was a necessary move after an ugly and drama-filled 3-13 season, Garçon said he feels the Redskins still believed in their coach.
“Not the locker room,” Garçon said. “I think the outside pressure, the fans, the media. If you don’t win in this league, they’re always looking for a replacement. It’s not from one season or one year, it’s from, I guess, it was from Coach’s four seasons in DC.”
With regard to Griffin, Garçon repeated something he's said on more than one occasion during the season: RG3 was not healthy and will be better in 2014.
“Obviously, he wasn’t a 100-percent this second season,” Garcon said. “His first year, he was amazing. He did a lot of great things. We all were excited …but when you’re playing with injuries, everything physically slows down because your body is not where it used to be. But this year he’s going to be back because he’s already had this injury before. He healed back in college, now it’s his third year in the league, so he’ll definitely be back to his rookie [form].”
Asked if Gruden’s first meeting with Griffin should be about leadership or the new playbook, Garçon said the playbook. Leadership, he added, will come with maturity and experience.
“You can never go wrong talking about Xs and Os,” he said. “It takes time to be a great leader. You don’t learn it in one day. You have to go through processes. We’ve been through a lot of things, especially last year and this year. You have to continue to grow. Leadership takes time. You can’t teach someone to be a leader. You just have to go through it and then learn from it.”
Garçon also said he doesn’t believe that Griffin, who was benched the final three games, had become too close to owner Dan Snyder or, perhaps, too full of himself, as some recent reports have suggested.
“It’s not reality,” he said. “But quarterbacks on any team have a little more power than anybody else in the locker room. They are the quarterback. They are the coach that’s on the field. They have the franchise in their hand every play."
Garçon continued: “But he’s not walking around with his chest [puffed] out and saying, ‘Hey, I’m the man.’ He’s Robert. He’s actually a fun guy in the locker room. He plays his music. He does little goofy things with us. …He plays his music a lot. He loves his music.”