How Does RGIII's Injury Affect the Washington Redskins' Offseason Strategy?

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistJanuary 9, 2013

ASHBURN, VA - AUGUST 06:  Head Coach Mike Shanahan (R) of the Washington Redskins talks with his son Kyle Shanahan (L) offensive coordinator for the team during Redskins training camp on August 6, 2010 in Ashburn, Virginia.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Win McNamee/Getty Images

I won't pretend to know what exactly Mike Shanahan has planned for the Washington Redskins this offseason, but I'm willing to assume that the fact that Robert Griffin III won't be available for a minimum of six months will have a major effect on whatever tentative plan was in place.

This injury means, of course, that 2012 fourth-round pick Kirk Cousins takes over control of the offense for all or most of the 2013 offseason. Cousins was drafted to step in for Griffin when needed, and he performed admirably when doing so during the 2012 campaign, posting a 101.6 passer rating in three appearances.

But this is a whole new, long-term scenario.

The good news is that this should work to force the 'Skins to mold Griffin into being more of a pocket passer and less of a risk-taker. I understand that those risks are part of what makes him great, but that's no use to him if he can't stay on the field. He can be great without being reckless, and that's something the Redskins have to focus on between now and the day Griffin returns to real football action.

If Shanahan plans on running a certain style of offense with Cousins in organized team activities and training camp and then switching things up on the run when Griffin becomes available, he'd be making a huge mistake.

The plays installed and practiced between now and the fall shouldn't differ based on which quarterback is under center. 

The key, first of all, is to avoid an awkward or longer-than-necessary transition from a Cousins-led attack to a Griffin-led attack, because there's a chance that transition will have to take place during the regular season. That's why RG3 must work with the same pass-first mentality that Cousins has and will. 

Another reason why that's important is because it'll help Griffin become less of a risk-taker, which I just mentioned has to be a priority for this coaching staff.

Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur have to work with Griffin on turning him into a pocket passer and only a pocket passer. I know that isn't easy, but it's extremely important.

If they can somehow convince Griffin that he should avoid running at all costs, he'll run less. If they tell him he can still run but should run less, there's a chance he'll continue to run too much. Desperate times call for desperate measures. 

Griffin will at least have a little extra time to study the new items Mike and Kyle Shanahan would like to add to the 2013 playbook. Ideally, those changes will include significantly less read-option and fewer designed keepers, as well as lots of multi-tight-end sets and max protections.

That might not have been Shanahan's original plan, but he'll have to make those changes before Griffin becomes a student again in a few weeks' time (or whenever he decides to start mentally preparing for 2013. 

From a personnel standpoint, if there wasn't already a plan to bring in a strong right tackle to bolster the pass protection, that, too, has to change. The Redskins won't have a lot of money to spend, but they can't afford to enter 2013 with Tyler Polumbus, Jammal Brown, another scrubby veteran or a rookie manning the right side.

Four of the game's top right tackles are slated to become unrestricted free agents on March 12.

Assuming at least one hits the open market, the 'Skins would be making a tremendous move toward better supporting their investment in RG3 by biting the bullet and overpaying for someone like Gosder Cherilus, Andre Smith, Sebastian Vollmer or Phil Loadholt. 

Finally, as far as quarterback insurance goes, Rex Grossman is slated to become an unrestricted free agent. I don't have a problem with the team keeping him around on a cheap contract, but one thing's for sure: They have to employ an experienced veteran as Cousins' backup this spring and summer.

It doesn't really matter to me if it's Grossman or one of the McCown boys or David Carr or Derek Anderson, but it has to be somebody in that wheelhouse. 

A lot of good can come out of this. The Redskins are about to find how what they have in Cousins and will hopefully now be forced to alter the way they've been utilizing their franchise quarterback.

If they change their approach to adopt some of the suggestions above, Griffin might never have to go through a painful process like this one again.