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Robert Griffin III Can Learn to be a Leader from Jay Gruden

When the Redskins hired Jay Gruden this offseason, many pundits and commentators correctly pointed to Gruden’s background as a QB and also his work with Andy Dalton at the Bengals as a major selling point when working with our young franchise QB coming off a rough year. Personally I believe that there is another element that Jay Gruden brings to Washington that RGIII should learn from.

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After the dire 2013 season, many were looking at RGIII and wondering if he would be able to recapture his 2012 form. Whether it was down to his knee not being fully healthy, his confidence in his body, his knee brace holding him back or his relationship with his coaches and teammates, Griffin took a lot of flack in 2013 that must have caught him by surprise.  With the benefit of hindsight however, we can look back and see another reason why he took that flack.

Before I go any further however, I would like to state that I think Robert Griffin III is a wonderful quarterback.  There is no QB controversy here. He has physical talents that when mastered will help him become the QB all Redskins fans dream about.  He is also blessed with intelligence and a natural desire to lead and shoulder responsibility of the team.  He is a driven young man who has an impeccable work ethic and will to win. What more could you ask for?

However it is ironically these traits that I think are responsible for much of the friction that RGIII has and will continue to encounter in the league.  RGIII is a 24 yr old guy with a huge reputation.  He came out of college with the Heisman Trophy, and then in his first year in the NFL he deservedly won Offensive Rookie of the Year.  He was also voted a team captain in his first year by teammates - a mistake in my opinion, albeit one born from the benefit of hindsight again. He came to Washington with the weight of the franchise on his shoulders and he accepted that challenge with the confidence of a young man who knows he has the talent to match.

As we have said above, RGIII has a desire to lead. You can see this in every interview he does, when he talks about being the greatest he can be for his coaches, team and fans.  Whether it comes from his military family background or his love of football is not really important, but when you understand this fundamental aspect of him it translates to everything.  He wants to give 100% for the team and for the win, and if that means putting his body on the line then so be it. We see that all the time, from wanting to play on with a damaged knee, to committing to play in week 1, to not giving up on plays and running through defenders in preseason games. He will lead by example and show the team that he will die for them.  By the way, this is why when people talk about RGIII being selfish I laugh.

This mentality can in part be attributed to a certain level of impatience and immaturity.  I don't mean that as an insult, I mean it in the sense that he is a 24 yr old, headstrong guy in a position where he feels that he needs to present this image of a leader who will die for his troops in a heart beat. He knows that a leader must have some of these traits but doesn't yet realise that there are also benefits in taking different approaches depending on the situation.  Of course it must be said that the way Griffin was handled by the Shanahans has much to do with Griffin's current attitude. He has reigned back some of his personality with the media for fear of stirring up news stories.  He has only just been granted full access to the media; something Gruden and Allen have allowed this year after the Shanahans departed. Having your voice restricted must have made it difficult when combined with the politics going on behind the scenes last year.

Many of you reading this will be able to look at themselves as a young man and remember how headstrong and proud you were. Your beliefs were unshakable. Your confidence was your asset. You wanted to be the greatest at whatever it was you were doing, or not do it at all. This is simply where we are with Griffin, and this is why I think Gruden will be perfect for Rob.

Gruden grew up wanting to be a QB and still holds a grudge today about not making it in the NFL.  He had to swallow his pride and find a new goal in life. That took him through Arena football and working for his brother as an assistant with the Buccaneers. Although Gruden has not even competed in the regular season he is earning praise for his attitude and the breath of fresh air he has brought to Washington after the stale and sterile Shanahan era. Gruden appears to be approachable, witty, open and honest. There is no BS when talking to the media, he simply tells it like it is. He is a confident man who believes in his ability to coach and lead this team, and people follow that.  I know I do.

Of course Gruden is an older and more mature man who has had to re-evaluate himself throughout his career and learn what it takes to be a leader and a man through trial and error.  This is the wisdom that I would like RGIII to pick up from Gruden while they are both in Washington. If RGIII can learn to relax, open up and take life one step at a time then he can learn to focus on the things that will make him successful; his play on the field. He will realise that running through three defenders in a preseason game is not necessary to prove you are the leader. He will learn that people will follow him for his personality just as much as a carefully constructed message about being the greatest, or "all in for week one". He will learn that people have been here before and know more than he does about the game and position he plays. Hopefully he will learn that he can be himself and trust that his coaches have his best interests at heart.

Of course all the knowledge of the game is important too, but this is an often overlooked part of their relationship that I think will bring long term benefits to RGIII and the team as a whole.