By Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir
The Redskins’ had one of the most effective offenses in the league last year. Two reasons are generally cited for their improvement from 16th in the NFL in terms of yards gained to fifth. One is the addition of quarterback Robert Griffin III, the team’s first true franchise quarterback in decades. The other was the team’s offensive scheme, which combined elements of the Pistol and read option attacks that have been staples in the college game and Kyle Shanahan’s scheme.
Even though it may be tempting to say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, the Redskins may be forced to modify their attack. For one thing, it won’t take anybody by surprise as many NFL teams are spending their offseasons figuring out ways to stop it. Second and most importantly, Griffin took a number of hard hits while carrying the ball and after handing it off and pretending he had the ball. Will the Redskins make drastic changes to their offense in 2013 in order to stay ahead of defenses and protect their prized QB? Or will they keep doing what was so effective for them in 2012? Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler debate in this week’s edition of Point-Counterpoint.
Rich Tandler: After struggling on offense for most of the last 15 years or so, the Redskins would be foolish to make major changes to a scheme that let the points soar in Washington last year. Mike Shanahan is absolutely right when he says that the read option protects the quarterback better than the traditional drop back scheme. It’s just a fact of life that quarterbacks are going to get hit. Is RG3 better off taking hits from defenders he can see or would you rather see him get nailed from the blind side in the pocket? Remember that the two major injuries that Griffin incurred last year, his concussion against the Falcons and the knee against the Ravens, both came when he was scrambling out of the pocket.
Tarik El-Bashir: This is a lot more complex than a coach deciding which plays to call. Seems to me, it’s also about RG3 trusting the system he’s asked to direct. Last month, Robert Griffin Jr. told The Washington Post, “I just know that based on what I know Robert can do, he doesn’t have to be a runner as much as I saw last year. To me, you’re paying these [receivers] a lot of money to catch the football. I’m his dad – I want him throwing that football, a lot. A lot.” It would be easy to dismiss that statement as coming from an overzealous father attempting to interpose his opinion where it doesn’t belong. But RG3 did not distance himself from the comments. “I heard what he said, and I told him, ‘thank you’, because that’s what he’s supposed to say, as my father,” he said in part. “He’s the one who trained me. He knows what I can do.” Remember all that talk about everyone needing to get on the same page? Well, sounds to me like the Griffins believe it's necessary for more pass plays to be drawn on that page. And the Shanahans would be wise to listen.
Tandler: Certainly, Griffin’s wishes (and, presumably, those of his father) should be taken into consideration. He has to be comfortable with what is being run. And I do think that the Redskins, who were 30th in the NFL with 442 pass attempts, will throw the ball more. But RG3’s job title is “quarterback” not “offensive coordinator”. They aren’t going to throw a successful offensive scheme into the trashcan and turn Griffin into an East Coast version of Peyton Manning. There will be some tweaks to make the execution somewhat safer for Griffin and the quarterback will have to learn to go out of bounds or slide early (especially when he scrambles out of the pocket).
El-Bashir: I don’t think the Redskins should eliminate all option-style plays from the repertoire. Instead, they should be a tool in the toolbox. Although RG3 led all quarterbacks last season with 815 yards on 120 carries, let’s not forget he also possesses a great arm and a sharp mind for the game. In fact, he ranked third in passer rating (102.4) behind Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning – as a rookie. And with a receiving corps that boasts Pierre Garçon, Josh Morgan, Santana Moss and Fred Davis, among others, seems to me there’s a compromise to be made. The designed runs can be used more judiciously and that would still keep opposing defenses honest. My prediction? Griffin will carry the ball 60-70 times in 2013 and will finish with more than 4,000 yards passing (up from 3,200 last season). But that will only happen if the Shananans commit to bringing balance to the playbook as they should.