ASHBURN, Va. — Jay Gruden said he shouldn’t have been so brutally candid about Robert Griffin III’s play. The Washington Redskins coach also took the blame for allowing the Washington Redskins to become “too much about one guy.”
Griffin also stuck to the team script, repeatedly stressing that he’s “focused on San Francisco” and saying little else during his weekly news conference.
The Redskins needed a course correction after several days in which their quarterback was under siege on multiple fronts. Gruden and Griffin tried to settle things down a bit Wednesday, with the coach shifting more blame onto himself and RG3 doing his best to stay mum.
“Early on in the season when I first got the job, I knew there was going to be a lot of questions about Robert,” Gruden said. “But I want to try to make this thing about the Redskins and not about him, and somehow we’ve made it more about him than about the team. And that’s my fault.”
Gruden said specifically that he went too far earlier this week when he detailed Griffin’s many “fundamental flaws” — including poor footwork and bad reads — in a 27-7 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I think it was a mistake on my part,” Gruden said. “After a loss like that, we’re very disappointed in the way we played, and the question came up. ... I just answered it, the first thing that came to my mind, and sometimes the first thing that comes to your mind isn’t the smartest thing, and it wasn’t the right thing to do on my part.
“Corrections should be in-house with everybody involved. The play speaks for itself, the production on the field spoke for itself. I didn’t have to really elaborate on any individual fundamental things.”
Gruden also wanted it made clear that the Redskins lost in part because he was outcoached by Tampa Bay’s Lovie Smith.
“Lovie had their team ready to play more than I had my team ready to play,” Gruden said.
Griffin, meanwhile, turned in a podium performance that would make Bill Belichick proud as the Redskins (3-7) began practice for Sunday’s visit to the San Francisco 49rs. As the New England Patriots coach is known to do, Griffin gave short, non-answers and used the exact phrase “focused on San Francisco” nine times.
“Jay wants me to play better. I want to play better,” Griffin said. “We’re focused on San Francisco and making that happen, so that’s all I’ve got to say about that.”
Griffin was stung earlier this week by the implication that he had been overly critical of his teammates in his postgame remarks after the Buccaneers loss. In reality, Griffin spent much of that postgame news conference taking the blame for his six sacks and other aspects of his play, but he did add that “great quarterbacks” such as Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning “don’t play well if their guys don’t play well.”
On Monday, Gruden piled on a bit, saying that: “Robert needs to understand he needs to worry about himself, No. 1, and not everybody else.” That was also when the coach gave the searing review of Griffin’s play.
Griffin responded that same day on social media that it’s “unfortunate that anyone would take a piece of my press conference and say I threw my teammates under the bus.”
Griffin didn’t elaborate much on Wednesday. He did say that he had addressed the team, and that a “large majority of the locker room” has reached out to him in the last few days.
On getting better as a quarterback, he said: “I’m in my second offense in this league. You know, just trying to hammer everything down and get better at my craft like Coach wants me to.”
Griffin said several times that he was doing what Gruden wants him to do, but he said his scaled-back appearance at the microphone podium wasn’t specifically the result of coach’s orders.
“No, he just wanted me to focus on me,” Griffin said. “And I’m going to do that to the best of my ability. I’m a quarterback, man. I’ve got to help this team win.”
Griffin’s clashes with coach Mike Shanahan overshadowed last year’s 3-13 season. Asked to describe his relationship with Gruden, Griffin gave another short answer: “Great.”
Gruden, for his part, said Griffin is “at a stage right now in his career where we need to see improvements,” but he also stressed that too much can be expected of the third-year player.
“We have such high expectations for these kids coming out of college that they should be at the same level as Peyton Manning and Tom Brady and Philip Rivers and Aaron Rodgers,” Gruden said. “It’s not fair. They’re going to have some growing pains.”
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