Via the draft, McCloughan endorses RGIII

The NFL Draft capped off an exciting period for Washington Redskins fans as they watched their team receive an injection of promising young talent.  But there’s one person who should be feeling even better than the most elated fan; Quarterback Robert Griffin III.

From his first day on the job, first year Redskins General Manager Scot McCloughan has committed to build around Griffin, and every time that he has spoken to the media (which is not a regular occurrence), McCloughan has remained steadfast in that approach.  However, the NFL is a cutthroat business, and teams can do an about-face and move on from fan-favorites at the drop of a hat, so there had still been an element of uncertainty about Griffin’s place on the team after the last 2 years of injuries and poor on-field form.

At his introductory press conference on January 9, McCloughan was predictably asked about his thoughts regarding Griffin, and his comments then provide a fascinating insight into the events of the past few weeks:

“We’ll see what happens heading up to the draft and all that stuff, but I don’t think you ever give up on a young quarterback that took you to the playoffs as a rookie. I really don’t think you do that.  Because they’re so hard to find and he’s still young. Give him the benefit of the doubt, he’s been banged up.

And Jay’s system, that’s a tough system the first year to learn. So, I’m very curious to see how his second year goes. Very curious.

I think you need to give him some time, it’s the most important position on the field for any organization.”

One of the very first coaching staff additions that McCloughan made was the hiring of dedicated Quarterbacks Coach Matt Cavanaugh.  Hiring him out of Chicago, McCloughan tapped Cavanaugh to help provide Griffin with the dedicated support he will require throughout the season.  In Cavanaugh, Griffin has an accomplished coach who himself was a standout Quarterback in college for the University of Pittsburgh, and then spent 14 years in the NFL.  The hiring of Cavanaugh only a few weeks after McCloughan commenced in his role as Redskins General Manager was the first indication that McCloughan was serious about not giving up on Griffin.

In the week before the draft, McCloughan again showed faith in Griffin, this time by picking up the 5th year option on his rookie contract.  The decision on whether or not to pick up the 5th year option had to be made before the May 3 deadline, which means the Redskins could have waited until after the 1st round of the draft.  But by committing prior to the draft, it was another sign that, at least for 2015, McCloughan was staying true to his word and was supporting Griffin in his campaign to return to the electric form that he displayed in his rookie season.

With a $16.1 million price tag attached to Griffin’s 2016 5th year option, the Redskins are naturally accepting a certain level of risk given the injuries that have plagued Griffin since the last few games of 2012.  McCloughan knows this, and explained in his press conference on April 27 that he and other Redskins coaches and front office executives discussed this risk, but in the end they believed that the right strategy for this roster was to continue to support the young Quarterback.

“He’s a good football player. He’s got the tape out there. Everyone knows what he did when he was the offensive rookie of the year. This offseason will be his second in the system, being healthy, being able to go through the offseason. I’m really excited”

McCloughan has only made himself available to the media a handful of times since taking the GM job in January, and Griffin has famously scaled back his public statements and social media use following a litany of criticisms thrown his way after the “All in for Week One” campaign in 2013/14, making it somewhat difficult to get a strong insight into the relationship that exists between the GM and the QB.

During an exclusive interview with’s Jeff Darlington, Griffin shed some light on to the relationship, indicating that McCloughan had spoken with him numerous times and during these conversations had received the new GM’s endorsement.  Notably, Griffin told Darlington that McCloughan had promised Griffin that “I’m going to put the 10 best players around you to maximize your potential”.

Brandon Scherff is the strongest possible confirmation that Griffin was telling the truth about what McCloughan had told the young Quarterback.

On a team with numerous holes like the Redskins, it came as a shock to many when Leonard Williams, whom some analysts considered to be the best player in this entire draft class, fell in to the Redskins laps at pick 5.  Those same people were shocked even further when the Redskins passed on him, and opted instead to take the player that was even higher on McCloughan’s draft board, Iowa offensive lineman Brandon Scherff.

The Right Tackle position was an abomination for the Redskins in 2015.  Both Tyler Polumbus and Tom Compton were rotated through the position, and both were not much more effective than a turnstile for defenders to walk through to get into Griffin’s face. With receivers like DeSean Jackson who are best used when they have time to use their explosive speed to create separation from their defenders, it is crucial that the Quarterback has enough time in the pocket for such routes to develop.

Scherff can provide that time.

In his excellent film study of Brandon Scherff here on Redskins Capital Connection, Samuel Gold notes that Scherff anchors well against power rushers, which is something that he’ll face often at the Right Tackle position in 2015.

With the further additions of Running Back Matt Jones in the 3rd round and Wide Receiver Jamison Crowder in the 4th, both who are legitimate chances of seeing play time this year, it is clear that McCloughan is serious about surrounding Griffin with talent.

Now it’s all up to Griffin.

McCloughan, at least so far, has held up his end of the bargain. He has publicly committed to Griffin. He has hired a dedicated Quarterbacks coach.  He has picked up the 5th year option of Griffin’s rookie contract.  He has spent his first 1st round draft pick on the best available offensive lineman.

Griffin now needs to take the support and faith put in him by McCloughan and translate it into on-field success. Staying healthy will be a big part of that, but more crucially will be Griffin’s ability to demonstrate that he is capable of executing the Jay Gruden and Sean McVay system, and getting the most out of the talented offensive weapons that will be taking the field with him.

If Griffin can do that, then Redskins fans will likely look back on the 2013 and 2014 seasons as minor blips on what will hopefully be a long and successful era with Griffin at the helm of this team. If not, then it will be a painful divorce process for a team that has been desperate for consistency and reliability for decades.



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