ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — Move over, RG3. It’s Colt vs. the Colts.
The Washington Redskins will start Colt McCoy over Robert Griffin III on Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, the latest development in a stunning slide for the 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
“My job is to do everything we can to win. … At this time, I just feel like Colt gives us a better opportunity,” coach Jay Gruden told Colts reporters on a conference call Wednesday.
The Redskins (3-8) are 0-3 since Griffin returned from an ankle injury and have scored only one touchdown in each of the past two games.
The former No. 2 overall draft pick seemed poised to revolutionize the quarterback position with his arm and legs when he led Washington to the playoffs two years ago, but he is 4-14 as a starter since the start of the 2013 season. He has struggled in an attempt to transform into a traditional pocket-passer.
“We just want him to take a step back, work on his craft a little bit more, study the game a little bit more,” Gruden said, “so the next time he’s in there he’s raring to go and has a little more faith and confidence in what he sees.”
He said Griffin will serve as the No. 2 quarterback on Sunday.
“He wasn’t happy,” Gruden said, “nor would I expect him to be happy.”
Gruden has been candid about Griffin’s development and was particularly brutal a week ago, citing “fundamental flaws” after an abysmal performance in a 20-point loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Griffin played a little better in a 17-13 defeat against the San Francisco 49ers, but Gruden afterward hinted a change was possible, saying Griffin’s 106 yards passing “is unheard of this day and age with the receivers we have, and we have to figure out something.”
This is the fourth quarterback change made by Gruden this year, but that’s almost par for the course for the Redskins, who have used 24 starters since 1993. The lack of continuity has its price — they’ve missed the playoffs in 18 of those 22 seasons.
The question now is whether Griffin is finished in D.C., and whether the Redskins will have to start over yet again at the sport’s most important position. They gave up three first-round picks in order to move up and select Griffin in the 2012 draft, a trade that had serious ramifications because it kept Washington from filling other vital needs in subsequent drafts.
For his part, Gruden said he hasn’t necessarily given up on Griffin.
“If you don’t produce, then you have to maybe take a step back,” Gruden said. “It doesn’t mean you’re out of the league forever, it doesn’t mean you’re out of graces, it means that we’re just going to give another guy an opportunity and go from there.”
The timing is particularly humiliating for Griffin because it comes as the Redskins are preparing to face the Colts and Andrew Luck, who was the No. 1 overall draft pick ahead of Griffin. The two will always be compared, but their paths have diverged incredibly since their rookie season.
Griffin has now been benched twice when healthy in his young career. He was shut down for the final three games last year as the season spiraled to a 3-13 finish under then-coach Mike Shanahan.
Griffin has also suffered two major leg injuries, a torn ACL in his right knee as a rookie and a dislocated left ankle this year. The injuries have played a part in Griffin’s desire to become a pass-first quarterback, rather than the dual-threat player who rushed for 815 yards as a rookie.
The ankle problem caused Griffin to miss six games and hindered his work with first-year coach Gruden. But there had already been signs in training camp that he was having trouble with basics such as footwork and downfield reads. Drills ran more crisply with backups Kirk Cousins and McCoy.
Cousins took over after Griffin was hurt in the first quarter of the Week 2 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars and led a 41-10 victory, but he lost his next four starts and proved to be turnover-prone. He was benched at halftime in favor of McCoy against the Tennessee Titans, and McCoy rallied the Redskins to a 19-17 win, then to a Monday night upset of the Dallas Cowboys.
Despite McCoy’s success, Gruden went back to Griffin the following week — and the Redskins haven’t won since.
For the season, Griffin has completed 70 percent of his passes — an impressive rate — but he has only two touchdowns and three interceptions and has been sacked 20 times in five starts. His passer rating is 85.7.
McCoy joined the Redskins this season in need of a job in his fifth year in the league, willing to be a third-stringer behind Griffin and Cousins. He went more than two years between NFL starts, but he has completed 86 percent of his passes (36 for 42) in his two games with Washington this season.
Even with such numbers to back it up, the move is a bold one for Gruden, a rookie coach trying to get a handle on a struggling franchise.
“Ultimately, a lot of people are making it out (as) me vs. Robert,” Gruden said. “It’s not at all. I have a lot of respect for Robert as a quarterback and Robert as a person. … They can portray it all they want to, but my job ultimately is to convince this team that we’re doing everything we can to win, and to convince this city that, and we’re doing that. I feel like we’re doing that.”