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What Kind of Player Do We Want RGIII to Be?

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The stats say Robert Griffin III played well against the Texans. So, why didn't it feel like it?

Thomas B. Shea

A reporter once asked the Greatest Running Back Who Ever Lived why he wasn't a better blocker.

The Greatest Running Back Who Ever Lived replied that asking him to block was like asking Seabiscuit to be a plow horse.

Although it's possibly too early to draw this kind of conclusion, I couldn't help but wonder Sunday afternoon whether Robert Griffin III is being asked to be some version of Andy Dalton.

Look at most of the criticisms lobbed Griffin's way last year.  He forces throws.  He's getting picked off much more than he did as a rookie.  He's trying to make things happen with his legs too often.  He takes too many hits.  He doesn't slide.

Now look at last Sunday.  Griffin completed 29 of 37 passes.  That's a robust completion percentage of 78.4.  Griffin took a few hits, but those were largely the result of breakdowns in Washington's pass protection (sometimes curiously leaving Tyler Polumbus to do one-on-one battle with the incredible J. J. Watt).

Griffin ran just three times for a total of two yards.  The one time he did face a downfield tackler, Griffin executed a seamless slide.  Ryan Fitzpatrick(!!!) out-gained RGIII on the ground, including a run to pick up a critical first down.  But there were no cringe-inducing hits, no failures to get out of bounds and avoid contact, and no hold-your-breath moments when Griffin took off running.

Griffin also didn't throw any interceptions.  He produced 7.2 yards per pass attempt, a notch above his 6.5 average last season.  For the game, he finished with a quarterback rating of 96.7.  That figure is slightly below his rookie year's 102.4, but is much closer to that 2012 number than to his disappointing 82.2 from a year ago.

This is what we wanted, right?

This is a Griffin who checks down, who doesn't take risks with his body, and who makes few errors of commission in the passing game.

If we got what we wished for, then why does it all feel so wrong?

Sure, losing is a part of that.  And the loss wasn't Griffin's fault.  Had the Redskins not fumbled twice inside the ten and had a punt blocked thanks to an "out-to-lunch" and/or "winded" Roy Helu, Washington almost certainly would have won something like 16-7 or 19-7 instead of falling 17-6 to Houston.

Even during the game, though, there were people (myself included) muttering about the way Griffin was playing.  It wasn't so much a complaint about Griffin, per se, as it was about the way the offense was structured.  An offense that works that "well" shouldn't have such a hard time putting points on the board.

As I alluded to on Twitter, if you have a quarterback who is 13/14 at the half, but who has thrown for only 59 yards, there is either something wrong with the quarterback's decision-making, or there is something wrong with your gameplan.

It may have been both, but there's little question about the latter.  Would-be workhorse Alfred Morris ran the ball only 14 times, despite the fact that he was productive and the fact that Washington was playing a team with a superior pass rush.  The running game could have been used to neutralize that rush to an extent, if nothing else.

"If I had to do it all over again Sunday, I probably would have run the ball more than I did," Gruden admitted at his Monday press conference.

While Gruden's candor is refreshing, it is also troubling.

It's too soon to draw a definitive conclusion on anything related to the 2014 Redskins, but there is some worry, here.  Gruden has a good, proven offensive system.  Gruden has a very talented group of skill players.  Those are both facts, but facts that may be at odds nonetheless.

Put simply, is Gruden too committed to an offensive scheme designed for a group of players other than the ones he has?

Specifically with RGIII, rather than trying to turn him into an A-plus Robert Griffin, I wonder if he's being turned into a C-plus Andy Dalton.

That's not the intent, of course.  Griffin fully believes he can be a pocket passer, and Gruden's offense up to this point is one that is best-suited for that kind of player.  Griffin, for his part, said that he "has to play better" for the team to win, but also cautioned that the Redskins won't "come out next week and heave-ho and throw 30 deep balls."

We know Griffin is a very good quarterback.  Whether he is a good fit for this system is a much different, yet-to-be-resolved question.

Make no mistake, though: It's Jay Gruden's job to answer that question, even if it means moderately reshaping his offense to mesh with Griffin's unique skill set.  For the moment, I remain confident in Griffin's considerable talent and Gruden's ability to extract that talent.

We'll see if my optimism persists come dusk on Sunday.