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Robert Griffin Will Probably Fail, But if he Succeeds it Will be Spectacular

I was listening to the Around the NFL podcast last night and they were discussing the Browns QB n0n-battle, where it appears as if Hue Jackson is giving the job to Robert Griffin. That’s sort of a suspect thing to do if a QB is any good, so already alarms should probably be going off. But just because the Browns don’t seem to have a ton of confidence that RGIII could actually win the job, doesn’t mean that he couldn’t be productive if he does play.

In fact I think we might be collectively underrating how explosive the Browns offense would be if he is any good. They’ll be getting Josh Gordon back, they drafted Corey Coleman, and then if you believe camp reports, Terrelle Pryor has even made strides. If you add in Duke Johnson’s receiving ability, it would be a combustible mix.

Just to be clear, I think there are good odds that RGIII is toast. Based on what happened between 2013 and 2015 it seems like the explanation that fits all of the facts is that he can’t hold up to the beating he takes in a true read option offense, and he can’t run an NFL offense. But if Hue Jackson did figure out an offense that RGIII could run, there aren’t any QBs out there that actually have better physical tools. Maybe his speed is compromised by his various leg injuries, but coming into the NFL there probably hasn’t ever been a better mix of ridiculous arm and ridiculous legs… the “well actually” crowd is raising their hand to say Michael Vick, which is fair enough.

But as Shawn Siegele said in a recent RotoViz Slack conversation, just imagine 2012 RGIII throwing to 2013 Josh Gordon and the Corey Coleman we saw at Baylor.

The explanation that I gave for RGIII’s career probably isn’t very flattering, but here’s an additional bit of context that might be even less flattering. It could be the case that his prior coaches, confronted with having to tailor an offense to what he can do just said: Fuck it, the guy’s a douchebag, why should we try to work around his flaws? If that’s actually the case (RGIII being a douchebag is becoming harder to argue with) then just going to a coach that wants to see him succeed could be a big deal. During Griffin’s last start with WAS in 2014 he actually put up 25 fantasy points in a blowout garbage time loss to DAL. He mostly did that with a mix of screen passes1, and then a rushing touchdown. Like I said, it was a blowout garbage-time-fueled fantasy day. But it seems like he could also do that with the Browns if they want him to.

To put that another way, some coaching staffs would see Griffin’s play on the field and decide to move on, even if they’re moving on to Kirk Cousins. But if the coaching staff in question knew they were getting that version of RGIII, and in fact they sought it out and protected him from a camp battle, then they would be a lot more likely to stick with him.

So maybe if I’m estimating the odds of various scenarios I would say:

  • 45 percent RGIII is done and either he gets injured or he wears out his welcome with his third coaching staff at some point in the season.
  • 45 percent the CLE coaches don’t mind throwing him out there and letting him rack up cheap fantasy points in workmanlike low efficiency games where the Browns are on the business end of the scoreboard all day. Then they move on from him when they get a chance to draft a good young QB.
  • 10 percent the CLE coaches figure out an offense that suits what RGIII can still do and he’s throwing the ball all over the field to Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman, while also adding in 25 rushing yards per game and some rushing touchdowns.

These are all very subjective judgments based on taking the facts we have from the past four years, but I’m trying to use them to come to some kind of assessment on what we could see from Griffin. I don’t think he’s likely to succeed long term in CLE, but if he did then it would be spectacular. As a result of this realization I am paying more attention to Griffin during the preseason. He was totally off my radar, simply because I deemed the most likely scenario to be failure, but the addition of Josh Gordon back to the team is making me pay attention.

  1. one of which DeSean Jackson took to the house  (back)

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