Redskins feature orderly Shanahan, free-form RGIII

BY foxsports • July 23, 2012

Amid the euphoria over the arrival of Robert Griffin III in the nation's capital, there's been a nagging question that pops up every now and then: Can he really coexist with Mike Shanahan?

Think about it: The Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor comes across as gregarious and free-form, wearing his upbeat, smile-a-minute personality on his sleeve while possessing the talent to do just about anything he wants on the field.

By contrast, the Washington Redskins coach is stern, orderly and controlling. One of his major projects during his first two years with the team has been to weed out the players who won't do things his way.

Will the coach who firmly believes in his methods harness Griffin's talents in just the right way? Or crush his soul? The re-energized fan base can start to see for itself when training camp opens at Redskins Park on July 26.

''I always try to take the positive out of everything,'' said Griffin's mother, Jacqueline, obviously a very interested party to the proceedings. ''A lot of times people say opposites attract, so I think both of them will bring something to the table, and I think they're going to be fine together. Robert, he can adapt to any situation.''

Shanahan's ability to handle quarterbacks is fair game these days, especially in Washington, where he's made a hash of the position that has largely contributed to an 11-21 record over two seasons and a pair of last-place finishes. The trade for Donovan McNabb in 2010 became an oil-and-water story from the start; the six-time Pro Bowl quarterback was benched before the season was done and traded before the next one started. The coach then professed his full confidence in Rex Grossman and John Beck for 2011; they combined on 30 turnovers and a 5-11 record.

The Shanahan-Griffin pairing is seemingly off to a good start. The coach recognized what he had on his hands and named the rookie the Day One starter soon after the draft rather than stubbornly stipulating that the job must be earned at training camp. Shanahan spoke in equally glowing terms about Griffin's world-class speed and world-class arm, saying: ''We're going to adjust our system to what he feels comfortable with.''

That statement led to visions of Griffin tucking the ball and bulldozing linebackers on every other play - a thought which actually rankled Griffin himself.

''I don't want people to think I'm just an option quarterback,'' Griffin said. ''That's something that I have to look at. Last year, I threw for over 4,000 yards. The base offense is still the base offense. The offense will not change to an option offense. ... If you can run a little bit, you'll always be smacked with that stereotype.''

Regardless, Shanahan doesn't have much choice but to tailor his scheme to suit the talents of the budding star. The coach hasn't made the playoffs in his last five seasons on the sidelines - three in Denver, two in Washington - and the clock is seriously starting to tick on his Redskins reclamation project.

If anything, Griffin buys Shanahan some time: Everyone knows the rookie will have some growing pains this year, but he'll be fun to watch even in defeat if it looks as if he's going to be winning franchise quarterback for years to come. The team coming to town is no longer Shanahan and the Redskins, it's RGIII and the Redskins.

Besides, Griffin arrives with a solid reputation. In fact, the key to the get-along enterprise between player and coach might very well be the roman numeral on the back of the jersey. Just as one plus two equals three, Robert Griffin III is a combination of grandfather and father. Robert Griffin I was an outgoing, congenial construction worker from New Orleans who died when he was 43.

Robert Griffin Jr. served 21 years in the Army, and his wife served 11. With those genes, it's not surprising to see Robert Griffin III wear purple Barney socks and tells jokes at news conferences - but also have the discipline to make A's in school, study his playbook and invite Redskins receivers Santana Moss and Pierre Garcon and others to Baylor for an extra week of work during the last week in June - vacation time for much of the NFL.

''I see a lot in my son that I saw in my dad,'' Robert Griffin Jr. said. ''I know my dad would be pleased with him.''

And, as Jacqueline Griffin points out, it's not impossible to be both fun-loving and serious.

''That was very important to us raising our kids,'' she said. ''You have to know there's a time and a place for everything. The military taught my husband and I even more so. Everything doesn't have to be all so serious and disciplined all the time. You can have fun - and so that's what we've instilled in our children. My husband instilled the work ethic. As the mother, I was the nurturer, saying it was OK for a man to show his emotions. You don't have to be so hard-core.''

So RGIII will be RGIII, but he'll also do whatever the coach wants. Sounds like the start of a great relationship. Especially if it wins a few ballgames.

''One thing the NFL is not used to is a quarterback with his type of speed and his type of throwing ability,'' Shanahan said. ''So I think we can do some things that people haven't done.''


Joseph White can be reached at

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