Examining RGIII's Recent Rash of Mistakes: Who's Been at Fault?

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistOctober 31, 2013

Oct 27, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton (94) sacks Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) in the fourth quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

There are many areas in which Washington Redskins sophomore quarterback Robert Griffin III hasn't been himself this season. When it comes to his overall prowess as both a passer and rusher, it's been a roller-coaster season. But there's one thing Griffin has been doing consistently, even when he's shown flashes of his 2012 self, and that's turning the ball over. 

In fact, on paper, Griffin has been more sloppy with the football during the past three weeks than at any other point thus far in his NFL career. 

Last year, he had a league-low interception percentage of 1.3, throwing just five picks on 393 passes and 488 dropbacks. During the first four weeks this season, that increased to 2.4. And during the most recent three weeks, it has kept plummeting to 4.1 (four interceptions on his last 98 throws).

During that same time frame, Griffin has handled the ball 121 times (113 dropbacks, 98 throws, seven sacks, eight scrambles, eight designed runs) and has five fumbles. That's 4.1 fumbles per 100 touches, which is more than double his rate from the first 19 games of his career (1.9). 

It's not as though he was much better with ball security before. After all, Griffin has fumbled a league-high 21 times since entering the league. Only one other player has more than 15 during that span. He's been very fortunate to have only lost five of those 21 fumbles, but two of those cough-ups have taken place during this recent three-game span. 

If we bring the fumbles and picks together but forget about recoveries (because that's mostly luck), the numbers indicate Griffin has really hit a rut in that category. He averaged just 3.5 fumbles and interceptions per 100 touches last season, and that number increased only slightly to 4.3 during the first four weeks of 2013. But since the bye, that rate has shot up to 8.2. 

To get a better feel for why this might be happening, let's take a look at the nine instances in which Griffin coughed the ball up between Week 6 and Week 8. 


Mistake No. 1: Fumble (recovered) in third quarter against Dallas

The ball was knocked loose when Griffin was hit nearly six full seconds after the snap. Where's his internal clock? You have to get out of the pocket or release it well before it gets to this point.

Additionally, the ball came out way too easily.

The pass protection was initially very good...

His receivers didn't do a great job getting open, but he did have an underneath option and an option in the left flat earlier in the play, before the coverage broke down...

Who's at fault? Griffin, almost entirely


Mistake No. 2: Fumble (lost) in the fourth quarter against Dallas

This is an example of Griffin trying to do too much on a second-and-very-long from deep in his own territory. He held on for nearly four seconds before being victimized on a strip sack. The protection wasn't as strong as it could have been, but he could have checked to Pierre Garcon early...

Part of the blame has to go to the offensive line, though. Right guard Chris Chester was beat badly right off the snap...

Who's at fault? Mainly Griffin, partly Chester


Mistake No. 3: Interception in the fourth quarter against Dallas

The 'Skins were a bit desperate down 15 in the fourth quarter, which might explain why Griffin took a shot at the end zone. The problem was that Santana Moss slipped just after Griffin released the ball, and Orlando Scandrick was smart enough to basically take over Moss' route for an easy interception.

Later, we'll show you another pick where Griffin's intended receiver slipped. Pierre Garcon has been decent and Jordan Reed has really emerged at tight end, but overall, this receiving corps has let Griffin down. The guy hasn't been himself after offseason knee surgery, and these guys just aren't getting open often enough.

We won't show you any dropped passes in this breakdown because drops and picks/fumbles are quite separate, but that's been a factor, too. In Week 7 against the Bears, Washington receivers dropped five passes, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), and that group's overall drops-per-game average has increased from 2.3 in 2012 (not good) to 3.5 in 2013 (much worse). 

Who's at fault? Moss, but this is also just bad luck


Mistake No. 4: Interception in the first quarter against Chicago

This is pretty much all on Griffin, who had Leonard Hankerson open way earlier in this route but waited too long while never taking his eyes off of Hankerson. A smart defensive back like Charles Tillman is going to pick up on that. He ditched his coverage of Aldrick Robinson and bit down to make an easy interception.

All-22 shot from 1.5 seconds earlier...

Pass protection wasn't an issue...

Who's at fault? Griffin, entirely


Mistake No. 5: Fumble (recovered) in the first quarter against Chicago

It certainly looks as though this was on Alfred Morris, who simply never got a grip on Griffin's handoff.

Who's at fault? Morris


Mistake No. 6: Fumble (recovered) in the first quarter against Denver

The shotgun snap from Will Montgomery came too early on third-and-inches. Roy Helu jumped on it, but it meant Washington had to punt it away. It's impossible to know for sure—and I can't find a quote on this from Griffin, Montgomery or anyone else—who had the snap count wrong, but that's usually on the center. 

Who's at fault? Probably Montgomery


Mistake No. 7: Fumble (lost) in the fourth quarter against Denver

The pocket collapsed very quickly, and Griffin was stripped within three seconds of the snap. 

It's actually really hard to pin this one on Griffin. Sure, he was the guy who gave it up, but he was also just trying to make a throw down seven in the fourth quarter. He should have been more aware of Von Miller coming from the blind side, but even the league's best quarterbacks cough it up in those moments all the time. 

If he had a blatantly open receiver or if the pass protection was half-decent, it would have been a different story. But he did not...

And it was not...

In fact, the pass protection was terrible in Denver, and that's also been the case far too often this season. Griffin was pressured on 34.8 percent of his dropbacks last season, but that rate rose to 36.2 during the first four weeks of this year and has now skyrocketed to 43.3 during the last three weeks. Against Denver, he was pressured 55.6 percent of the time, which is pretty difficult to overcome. 

As a result, his sack percentage has increased from 4.1 to 7.1 and he's been turning it over more. 

This Broncos game really was a killer in every respect. The receivers were useless, the line couldn't block, especially inside, the play-calling was brutal down the stretch and Griffin himself was bad. His whole career, including in Weeks 6 and 7, Griffin has almost always gotten rid of the ball in 2.8 seconds or less, but he held onto it for an average of 3.3 seconds in Denver.

Who's at fault? The offensive line, mainly


Mistake No. 8: Interception in the fourth quarter against Denver

Pierre Garcon fell down while making a cut, giving Chris Harris any easy pick...

I'm putting some of this on Griffin, though, because he had yet to completely release when Garcon was falling. Plus, he had a receiver becoming opening against a gap in the zone on the right sideline, and he had Jordan Reed wide open just a few yards left of where the interception happened. 

That's not the first time in this study we've seen Griffin miss open targets on interceptions. In fact, it's becoming a major problem. His receivers haven't been good, but there's been at least a handful of plays each week on which Griffin has simply failed to notice an open guy. Lately, he's been paying quite the price for it. 

Who's at fault? Griffin and Garcon


Mistake No. 9: Interception in the fourth quarter against Denver

At this point, the 'Skins were down 17 late and Griffin was in desperation mode. He had been getting rushed aggressively all game, and the pocket was collapsing quickly yet again. He was crushed as he threw over the middle, but there wasn't enough on it. 

This is all on the pass protection. Embarrassing effort from Kory Lichtensteiger. 

Griffin's fourth-quarter turnover spree against Denver also happened to come right when Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan inexplicably ditched the running game. Coincidence? I think not.

That offensive line was struggling and Alfred Morris was running well, but 13 of their first 15 offensive plays at the start of the fourth quarter were passing plays. On those plays, Griffin was 4 for 11 with three turnovers and two sacks. 

Despite the fact that Morris' average has grown from 4.8 to 5.2 and that Roy Helu has emerged, the Redskins have been passing more and running less all season long. Griffin's pass attempts per game have increased from 26.2 to 38.3, which is insane. And that has little to do with his lack of mobility, because his rushing attempts per game have only dropped from 8.0 to 6.1. 

And yet after receiving 23.4 carries game last year, Morris' average has dropped to 20.9 this season.

The 'Skins threw on only 48 percent of their offensive plays last year, which was second-least in the NFL. That has shot up to 60 percent in 2013. Yes, they've been trailing more, but that's still very odd. 

I think that lack of balance was a factor on this pick and on the rest of his turnovers in this quarter.

Who's at fault? Lichtensteiger and Kyle Shanahan


Again, it's sort of a perfect storm here. Griffin was charged with all nine mistakes above, but he was only at fault four times, max. And he was only solely at fault twice. That's still not good, but it wouldn't be disastrous all on its own. 

Throw in that receivers are failing to get open and dropping too many passes, blocks are being missed and pass protectors are being manhandled. And then add the fact that they've been throwing their somewhat brittle young quarterback to the wolves by calling far too many passing plays and not enough running plays, and you can begin to understand why the Redskins are 2-5. 

Lots of bad habits and trends are factors here, at different times and to varying degrees. That probably indicates that this offense isn't ready to be consistently great right now. That could change this year, as it did last year just beyond this point, but those things are impossible to predict. 

The major difference this year, and especially in the last three games, is that RGIII has been at fault a lot more than he was in 2012.


Unless otherwise indicated, all advanced stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus.


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