By Peter Gleason
So Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden finally did the inevitable:
Quarterback Kirk Cousins was tabbed as his No. 1 quarterback, leaving Robert Griffin heading back to the bench – and likely out of town sometime in the next five months.
Whether it’s in the coming weeks or in February, the Redskins will likely cut him prior to becoming locked into Griffin’s $16.15 million option at the beginning of the 2016 league year. If that happens (more likewhen it happens), Griffin’s next step will be vital. The remainder of his career will likely depend on it.
With that in mind, there is one team that would work very well for Robert Griffin, and four that would be another disaster …
The bad fits (as things currently stand)
Chip Kelly has pushed his chips in on Sam Bradford, who has thus far shown signs of flourishing. Yes, the Eagles have tried to lock up Bradford long-term to no avail. But the effort says a lot. If Bradford has a monster season, you can expect the Eagles to hit him with the franchise tag and then work to get a deal done next offseason. And if that deal happens, Kelly’s existence as coach becomes the only upside for Griffin choosing Philly. He would get great coaching inside a best-case-scenario system, but what chance would he have at the starting job if Bradford, who turns 28 in November, gets paid next offseason? For Philly to be an ideal spot, either Bradford would have to be an awful fit this season (and he’s looking good so far) or he would have to leave town.
2. San Francisco 49ers
After everything that has happened this offseason with this franchise? Are we sure this isn’t Redskins West, with Jed York playing the role of Dan Snyder and Jim Tomsula channeling his inner Jay Gruden? One year from now the 49ers could be looking at Colin Kaepernick the way the Redskins are currently looking at Griffin. Why would they sign up for a similar situation and expect better results? Sure, Kaepernick has a long-term deal that could be jettisoned, but the development end of this strikes as a poor fit.
3. Houston Texans
Two things are bothersome about marrying Griffin and the Texans. First, Bill O’Brien has a history steeped in traditional drop-back pocket quarterbacks. It’s unclear Griffin fits into what O’Brien wants from the position from a skills standpoint. Second, O’Brien has that New England Patriots mentality of not entertaining a lot of drama unless there are immediate high-end results. He’s a big locker room guy and if he senses Griffin isn’t a good fit, it’s hard to see him putting Griffin in charge of his team.
4. Dallas Cowboys
It’s hard to take this one seriously. But it has been mentioned as a possibility around the Griffin campfire. It’s an odd pie-in-sky thought. First, quarterback Tony Romo has a contract that is horrendously troublesome to get out of for the next several years. Second, Romo is playing some of the best football of his life and that won’t change for a while unless his back fails him. Lastly, certain personalities in the Cowboys locker room will get eaten alive. Griffin’s falls into that category. Jerry Jones thought for a moment about drafting Johnny Manziel and is giddy that he didn’t. Taking on Griffin in the next six months doesn’t make much more sense, either.
The team that fits
The Kansas City Chiefs.
Coach Andy Reid spent more than a decade on a similar roller coaster with Donovan McNabb. There were rough times when McNabb was passive aggressive, said the wrong thing at the wrong time, rubbed some teammates the wrong way and annoyingly had his mother at seemingly every practice. Sometimes he was a joy off the field. Other times he was tone deaf and awkward. Some guys loved his personality. Others thought he was (pick one: a diva, square, phony, too commercial, etc.).
That said, there was no doubting that he was tougher on the field than Griffin. He had a physique that could take a lot of punishment. And from a short-to-long perspective, he was a more complete passer, too. But his game wasn’t always that way. It took McNabb six years before he had a completion rate better than 58.4 percent or a quarterback rating better than 86. People forget that he was a significant work in progress well into his third season in the NFL. And Reid developed him inside his West Coast system. Just like he has with his current quarterback, Alex Smith – not to mention Smith’s backup, Chase Daniel. And lest we forget, Reid helped pull Michael Vick’s career off the scrap heap, too.
Griffin’s skills would translate well into Reid’s system. Reid is equipped to handle Griffin’s so-called peculiar nature and fit inside a locker room. McNabb, Vick and Smith have all presented unique challenges at different points in their careers. There’s a vast amount of experience in coaching up that threesome, and solving whatever is blocking Griffin isn’t the biggest challenge of the group. Frankly, overhauling Vick’s game after his prison stint was one of the most impressive coaching jobs I’ve seen since I started covering the NFL 15 years ago.
And Reid isn’t the only positive in this equation, either. The locker room and culture in Kansas City is stable. There are solid leaders in place. There is no anarchy brewing beneath the surface. And moreover, from a numbers standpoint, the media spotlight isn’t nearly as intense as Washington. The organization even has the right general manager in place for Griffin – John Dorsey. Consider: Dorsey sat ringside in Green Bay for the Brett Favre era and played a huge part in the drafting of Aaron Rodgers. He has seen a lot in that span. From the high times to awful tension and awkwardness. He was also part of a Packers personnel staff that drafted solid career quarterbacks like Ty Detmer (11 NFL seasons), Mark Brunell (18), Matt Hasselbeck (entering his 17th), Aaron Brooks (seven) and Matt Flynn (entering his eighth). From a skills standpoint, that’s a versatile group.
Finally, consider the numbers. If Washington holds on to Griffin through this season and he becomes a free agent in 2016, it means Griffin could potentially join the Chiefs when Alex Smith is entering the home stretch of his career at 32. Smith would also be going into the second year of his four-year extension. Even if that extension played out the full length, it would give Griffin three years in Reid’s system and the opportunity to confidently take the reins at 29. And if Griffin outplays Smith prior to that, Smith’s deal becomes fairly easy to exit starting in 2017.
Of course, all of this would hang on Griffin having to exhibit patience. He’d have to show he was willing to go in and learn, develop and blossom. That’s likely going to be an unpalatable scenario for both him and his agent, Ben Dogra, who will argue that Griffin has already shown he is starting material in the past and shouldn’t take anything less. That’s their prerogative. But if it’s all about ideal situation and what’s best in th