Kyle Shanahan on RG3, Mobile QBs and Developing Pocket Presence

It looks like the style of play that made Robert Griffin III so famous, and was partially responsible for popularizing the pistol offense in the NFL, may be holding him back.

After yesterday’s Raiders-Cowboys game, I wrote about how mobility and natural athletic ability at the quarterback position can be less of a help than a hindrance when it comes to pocket presence and avoiding the pass rush.

Wild Card Playoffs - Seattle Seahawks v Washington Redskins

In an interview with ESPN’s John Keim today, Washington QB coach Kyle Shanahan alluded to this same topic when discussing the troubles RG3 has faced this season returning from his ACL injury, and becoming more comfortable in the pocket:

“A lot of people who have no mobility have been working on that feel since they were 5 years old,” Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. “It’s the way you’ve got to play. When you’re as good an athlete as Robert, you’re not forced to do that at a young age so you run around and make plays and you can always do that.”

He added:

“For guys like that all of a sudden to learn to play in the pocket it’s not who you are.”

Shanahan raises a good point, since likely almost no one in Griffin’s playing career, from Pop Warner, to High School, to his time at Baylor has discouraged him from running around and making plays. Why would they? It’s what he does best. However, since Griffin’s athleticism alone is no longer enough to be successful at QB, the Shanahan’s are trying to get him to develop some semblance of pocket presence. In other words, learn to stay in the pocket and deliver the throw, avoid the rush by using quick feet, and hitting the checkdown. A QB who forces the scramble can be just as poisonous to an offense as a QB who forces a throw into double coverage.

Keim goes on to talk about all the problems the Washington offense has experienced this season, and suggesting several reasons, including last season’s knee injury, as to why the man who famously wears Superman socks seems to have lost his cape.

Clearly, there is no one single factor that explains why the offense that was the pride of the nation’s capital in 2012 has taken so many steps back, so it is not all on the shoulders of Griffin. Once again, however, to quote Steve Young, “Nothing is singular in football,” a statement that Keim would seem to agree with, since he notes that Griffin “also has to deal at times with throwing the ball with defenders driving his blockers into him.”


The pressure is on in the District of Columbia for both Shanahans to find some kind of magic bullet, or at the very least a band aid until Griffin and this offense can find rhythm again.

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