It has been roughly 17 minutes since we last spoke about RGIII and the Cleveland Browns. That void will now be filled as I prod and probe at some statistics to determine what exactly would be classed as a successful first season in Cleveland.
While the Browns still have Josh McCown on the roster indications are that Hue Jackson is giving the former Washington signal caller every chance to win the starting job heading into training camp and the 2016 season.
In an attempt to perhaps limit the mistakes Griffin will make Jackson has recently come out and stated that the Browns will be a run first team in 2016 allowing Griffin to be more a game manager and make the occasional plays – he certainly won’t be asked to win games like he was in Washington.
If we look at what the Cleveland quarterbacks did last season it was average at best with McCown making up a large part of the stat line and anything good from the position came from the former Chicago Bears player. In 2015 McCown, Johnny Manziel – remember him? – and Austin Davis combined for 20 passing touchdowns and 12 interceptions racking up 4,156 passing yards in the process.
However, for all their passing yards Cleveland amassed a miserable three wins. Should Griffin come in and spearhead a team that can double their win total then surely that will be considered success. 6-10 looks much better than 3-13 and will signal progress in what is clearly a longer term project. Browns fans also seem to be knowledgeable of this and if a run first Browns team with Griffin managing things in passing situations can grind their way to six wins then Griffin slowly start to become a fan favourite with the Browns.
The stat line for 2015 is achievable for Griffin in many aspects. He could easily pass for between 15 and 20 touchdowns limiting his mistakes and having a couple of quality go to targets in tight end Gary Barnidge and rookie wide receiver Corey Coleman to feed. Nobody is expecting Griffin to pass for over 4,000 yards especially with them looking to run the rock often but if Griffin can become a good game manager and end the season with 2,750 passing yards – that would be an average of 171.8 YPG – then that would be considered a success. Team that with roughly 375 rushing yards through 16 games and Griffin will have successfully made the transition from on the brink of extinction in the NFL to serviceable quarterback.
With Jackson aiming to be a run first team 12 picks would be perhaps a touch high and we still have no idea if he is able to finally read defenses so he may be limited to just one half of the field when calling pass plays. From these aspects Cleveland would be perhaps content with RGIII throwing around nine picks – he’ll of course fumble a few times too but the three Browns QBs in 2015 fumbled a total of 17 times, that’s insane, with them losing 11 of those fumbles. As bad as Griffin’s ball security is, it is hard to envision him fumbling 17 times – he has actually had 18 career fumbles in 37 games so he’s clearly more secure than any of Cleveland’s QBs in the last year.
The fact that Cleveland went through three quarterbacks is a problem in and of itself and considering Griffin’s inability to stay on the field his first success will come through being a 16 game starter. That will at least show some form of consistency in terms of health and his play. However, the Browns offensive line is a mess and probably factored into the reason why Jackson will want to run the ball a lot to protect a quarterback that has had trouble staying upright – except when he scrambles then he has no awareness or ability to slide whatsoever. McCown was sacked an eye watering 23 times in just eight starts. Between weeks three and seven the Browns gave up at least four sacks. No surprise McCown did not last 16 games then. Griffin will need much better pass protection if he is going to have any chance of starting 16 games.
Perhaps Jackson’s biggest task is teaching the former rookie sensation when to scramble and also to learn how to slide. Russell Wilson is the best quarterback when breaking the pocket always sticking to the sidelines for an easy step out of bounds of sliding before being lit up. Griffin portrayed more fool than fighter being hurt consistently when taking off out of the pocket. If Jackson can teach Griffin to stay out of harm’s way and live to fight another down he’ll be of much more use to Cleveland than if he is fighting with linebackers and safeties for every yard.
Griffin does still have some tools and still has many fans who watched him in 2012 – myself included. If Jackson can work his magic on the 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year and turn his career around then it would be one of his biggest successes and would almost certainly guarantee him employment after Cleveland regardless of if it ends in success or failure.
Cleveland is giving Griffin every chance to become the 16 game starter this season and so far so good it seems – although his cringe worthy metaphors in press conferences have to stop. We know more about his progress in training camp but for what it is worth, here is what I think would constitute as a successful season for Griffin:
16 games started
20 total touchdowns: 16 passing, four rushing
14 total turnovers – nine picks, five fumbles
2,750 passing yards
375 rushing yards