A clean bill of health and an open week.
Those were two important items missing from
Shea – a former NFL offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach – has in recent years trained several first-round draft picks, including Matthew Stafford and Sam Bradford. Also included in that list is his previous work with Griffin III, whom Shea worked with extensively prior to the Redskins selecting the Heisman Trophy Award winner out of Baylor in 2012.
In an interview with ESPN980, Shea said the Griffin III he saw recently in Arizona mirrored the player who took the league by storm as a rookie, leading Washington to the NFC East title.
“He looked healthy,” Shea said of Griffin III. “He got back to the fundaments of playing the position, which are so important for any quarterback, and when it came time for him to leave, I was really excited for him because he is really in a good state, I believe.”
Thanks in part to Shea’s pre-draft training, Griffin III excelled in his rookie season in 2012, completing 258-of-393 passes (65.6 percent) for 3,200 yards with 20 touchdowns, 815 rushing yards and a passer rating of 102.4, which set an NFL rookie record.
His Redskins team also caught on fire the second half of the regular season, finishing on a seven-game winning streak to give the squad a 10-6 record and its first division title since 1999, and Griffin III was selected to play in the Pro Bowl.
But during the fourth quarter of the team’s Wild Card round playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks – which the Redskins lost 24-14 at FedExField – Griffin III collapsed to the ground after fumbling a snap, severely injuring the lateral collateral and anterior cruciate ligaments in his right knee.
The quarterback’s recovery from surgery on that knee was well-documented as he pursued his “#AllInForWeek1” campaign for the 2013 opener, and Griffin III achieved his goal of healing in time to start Week 1 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
But after missing almost an entire offseason of workouts, Griffin III’s performance in 2013 didn’t match that of his rookie year, and with a bulky brace now covering his knee during games, the speedy quarterback just didn’t look as comfortable with the ball in his hands – inside or outside the pocket.
Shea said he watched Griffin III from afar last season and immediately noticed a couple key problems with his mechanics.
“The games I did see and the times he missed on his throws, he seemed to be missing by sailing the ball,” Shea said. “The ball was kind of coming off and going a little high on him at times, and that’s a true reflection of just not being able to transfer your weight from the back foot through the front foot.”
So with a clean bill of health and a clear week on his schedule, Griffin III entered this offseason on a mission to make improvements to his game.
For six days, Griffin III and Shea would start their mornings with one-on-one drills before the rest of Griffin III’s teammates would join in.
“He put in two and a half hours of football activity plus his strength training (a day), and, boy, he didn’t miss a beat,” Shea recalled. “You’re dealing with a very bright, young guy and every time I’ve asked him to take something out onto the field and work on it, it’s a matter of a heartbeat when he gets it done.”
As for that protective brace, Shea said Griffin III went without it for his passing camp and responded just fine.
“I’d say he’s feeling pretty good about saying goodbye to his brace,” Shea said. “He just didn’t look like the same quarterback (in 2013) that I very well knew a year and a half ago, so I think you are going to see a pretty sharp NFL quarterback take the field this coming year.”
Shea’s not the only one who sees Griffin III returning to form.
NFL.com “Around The League” writer Marc Sessler had Griffin III as his No. 1 “bounce-back candidate” for the 2014 season, writing: “A full offseason should help. So will the addition of
Former Redskins tight end Chris Cooley – now an analyst for ESPN 980 – also raved about a recent workout he had with Griffin III.
“It’s unbelievable,” Cooley said. “He’s another person right now. I was like, ‘You’re running unbelievably well.’ It was silly to watch. … When you watch him run, you’re like, ‘You’re a freak. You’re seriously a freak.’ ”
So with some new weapons in his arsenal – and a full slate of offseason work already underway – those closest to Griffin III feel he’s primed for another huge year.
“You know, what I did sense is a real re-energized Robert Griffin III,” Shea said. “I think he’s ready to go.”