Is RGIII Capable of Adopting Safer, More Conservative Style of Play?

Shae CroninCorrespondent INovember 11, 2013

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 7: Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins scrambles with the ball away from Marvin Mitchell #55 of the Minnesota Vikings during the first quarter of the game on November 7, 2013 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

He's wired to be aggressive. His hardware as an athlete commands that he play full throttle at all times. That's Robert Griffin III the football player. And the Washington Redskins quarterback isn't capable of playing safe. 

Washington's current offense under coordinator Kyle Shanahan tends to get a raw deal because fans seem to believe Griffin is at risk due to option reads and creative formations. Truth is, all quarterbacks are at risk, whether in or outside of the pocket. Where Griffin stays or runs to doesn't particularly matter. 

In the pocket, Griffin hangs tough and doesn't shy away from contact. Although we can expect his pocket presence and awareness to improve, Griffin doesn't feel the outside rush well enough at this point in his career, and he doesn't blink when preparing to make a throw with a defender barreling down his mug.

Maybe his development as a quarterback helps, but there's no indication he'll change his style. Hanging in there and taking a shot for the sake of completing a pass is ingrained. 

And whether or not being stuck behind a less-than-average offensive line since his rookie debut has a lasting effect on him is yet to be seen. Through nine games this season, Griffin has been sacked nearly double the amount of times he was sacked all of last year (18). 

Outside of the pocket, Griffin has a nose for the marker—first down or pylon. Despite drastically improving this season as compared to 2012, Griffin doesn't enjoy stepping out of bounds to avoid the hit. He appreciates pushing for yardage and giving every play a chance to break open.

We saw it last season against the Baltimore Ravens when Griffin, rather than going out of bounds, redirected himself toward the middle of the field to extend the play, extend the game and keep the Redskins' playoff hopes alive.

The resulting hit from Haloti Ngata is what ultimately started the injury gate in Washington. 

The hope, of course, is that Griffin isn't always behind a porous offensive line. But would anything really change? Would Griffin not push his limits behind the line? Would he not take off for more yards when things break down? Would he not make his risky moves in crunch time that so often lead him into the early conversation of being clutch?

Griffin's competitiveness is part of what makes him RGIII the football superhero. Unfortunately, it's that same competitiveness that makes him a radical on the football field. It's what controls him when he's approaching the chains on third down, and it's the air beneath his feet when he attempts to clear a would-be tackler. It's baiting the defender along the sidelines and his confidence in tough situations. 

Nov 3, 2013; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) leaps over San Diego Chargers linebacker Thomas Keiser (90) during the third quarter of the game at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

With Griffin, it's simply a matter of taking the bad with the good. And in the quarterback's case, it's far more of the latter. 

While we'd all like to think Griffin can become the next Aaron Rodgers pocket passer, assuming his aggressive play is just another breakable habit is foolish. 

That tendency to keep a play alive, to dodge a defender, to refuse to slide, to suffer a blow on a last-second pitch to the outside back is all an innate competitiveness in RGIII that isn't going anywhere.