Having two starting offensive linemen suffer injuries during the first week of training camp? Shanahan draws comfort from watching Griffin elude the Redskins’ top defensive players during practice.
Potential locker-room discord as Shanahan continues to remake the roster? Griffin, with his beyond-his-years leadership skills, will help him keep everyone together, Shanahan says.
And quite possibly another season without a playoff appearance for the District’s top sports franchise? Because of Griffin, Shanahan believes, the Redskins are moving closer — slowly perhaps, but inevitably — to becoming the type of team he was hired to build.
Beginning his third season in Washington, Shanahan has been re-energized by the smart, athletic, strong-armed passer who already has displayed many of the attributes of the best players at the position with whom Shanahan has worked. Although Griffin has yet to play in an NFL game, Shanahan doesn’t hesitate to compare the Heisman Trophy winner to Hall of Famers John Elway and Steve Young, whom Shanahan coached to Super Bowl-winning success.
Some might say that’s putting too much pressure on Griffin. Maybe, but I love the fact that Shanahan is excited.
After being duped by Donovan McNabb and misjudging John Beck, Shanahan finally has a willing and able student and partner to help him try to end the Redskins’ decades-long run of mediocrity. Griffin possesses the skills to execute whatever X’s-and-O’s combinations Shanahan can imagine, which should help Shanahan regain his once-strong reputation as an offensive tactician. Shanahan is convinced that he’s right about the player he traded four high-round draft picks to get. If you doubt his conviction, check out the extra pep in his step these days.
Shanahan’s affinity for the new face of the franchise is as clear as the tight spirals on Griffin’s passes. “What’s not to like?” versatile special-teams standout Lorenzo Alexander asked. “For anyone coming out and watching Robert, it’s just obvious what he’s about. Coach Shanahan recognized that pretty early.”
Actually, Shanahan knew it from Griffin’s first moment in burgundy and gold.
Shanahan surprised reporters in praising Griffin after only one practice during the team’s rookie minicamp in May. He stopped just short of saying Griffin would revolutionize the position.
It wasn’t only that Griffin quickly emerged as a leader while displaying his type-A personality drive, devoured the playbook as if he needed to master it yesterday and proved he could make all the required throws, though Shanahan surely was pleased with every bit of the opening show. But Shanahan downright gushed in assessing Griffin that day (and often has since) because of what he’s capable of doing “off schedule.”
“Any time that you have a guy like Robert, what I call a difference-maker, a franchise quarterback, they can make plays when there’s nothing there. And usually, the great ones do that. [Pittsburgh quarterback Ben] Roethlisberger? How many plays does he make with people all over him? That’s what you want.”