As the Cleveland Browns prepare for the 2016 season, there are questions galore. Grabbing quarterback Robert Griffin III was a move that shocked both fans and analysts. The question is no longer about the Browns’ desire to win. Now, the agenda is getting those wins and making a statement. Griffin and head coach Hue Jackson have a lot to prove as the new-look Browns make a fresh start.
The Browns didn’t start the free agency period in panic mode. Fans watched in amazement as the Browns calmly allowed many starters to walk out the door. According to Spotrac, Cleveland fans saw Alex Mack, Tashaun Gipson, Travis Benjamin, and other household names make deals elsewhere. The wholesale turnover smelled like the beginning of a team overhaul.
Executive Vice President of Football Operations Sashi Brown and Chief Strategy Officer Paul DePodesta are tearing apart the Browns roster. Yet, they are adamant in calling it “building” and not rebuilding. The similarities are close. The process of letting older players leave and making room for shiny new toys is not rocket science. It’s the terminology that makes it sound a certain way. The wording can leave either a bad or tolerable taste in your mouth.
“We’re not panicked,” Brown clarified with ease, via ESPN. “We’re not necessarily taking it all the way down to the studs or a scorched-earth policy for anybody who’s over 30, but we are going to build it kind of methodically.”
There’s that term “build” again. It sounds better than razing and rebuilding, but the mechanics are the same. Something has to be restructured.
In the midst of this “build” process, Jackson and RG III have to form the chemistry necessary for winning. There are doubters who feel Jackson will have to reconstruct his quarterback. In his first year with the Washington Redskins, he was successful in a read-option style offense. Speaking to NFL Network, former Redskins coach Mike Shanahan offered that bit of wisdom.
“Why did I have all of that time off of the play-action pass? Because the defense is so scared about stopping the run. His ability to run that type of offense enabled him to have the success that he had.”
In that magical season of 2012, Griffin was amazing.
Jackson wasn’t able to bring Colin Kaepernick to the shores of Lake Erie. With Griffin, the Browns have inked a signal-caller in the same mold. Griffin will be able to drop back or take off and run. He may not have the wheels he once had, but his elusiveness will make up for that. Jackson has mentored quarterbacks with varying styles. He’s groomed them all into capable leaders.
The Browns are preparing to win. Jackson and Griffin are seeking the same thing. In the midst of the Ws, there may be a hint of revenge at work.
Jackson was passed over for the head coach position while he was in Cincinnati. Marvin Lewis had approached owner Mike Brown with the idea of a succession plan for the former coordinator. Brown was interested, but he was hesitant about putting anything in writing that would guarantee the deal. The rest is history.
Griffin lost his starting role in Washington to Kirk Cousins. After setting numerous records during his rookie season, Washington passed on his skills. The Browns’ new quarterback tossed a perfect game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Only three rookie signal-callers have accomplished that feat.
RG III was also named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, set a record for highest passer rating for a newbie quarterback (102.4), and topped the league with the best touchdown-to-interception ratio (4:1). His resume doesn’t end there, but that’s enough to get him excited about being under center again.
“I am not afraid to sit in the pocket and throw the ball. I am not afraid to run the zone read. I am not afraid to do what is best for this team.”
Under the tutelage of a shunned and eager Jackson, Griffin and the Browns will have plenty to prove.
[Photo by Ron Schwane/AP Images]