Cleveland Browns first-year head coach Hue Jackson has only been on the job for a few months, but he’s already accomplished something with his starting quarterback that many men have tried, and failed miserably, to do. He’s taught Robert Griffin III to slide.
A myriad of factors played in to RG3’s downfall in Washington, but one of the biggest was his tendency to take unnecessary, bone-crushing hits when he fled the pocket on foot. Griffin’s unwillingness to slide, rendering the play dead, led to two of the biggest hits of his young career as a rookie in 2012.
The first one came in a game against the Atlanta Falcons when Griffin sped around the right corner, eyes on the end zone, and took a brutal hit as he kind-of/sort-of feigned a slide near the sideline. He was knocked out of the game and suffered a concussion, though that didn’t keep him from returning to practice the following week.
The second devastating hit collapsed his right leg when he again refused to slide, despite several Baltimore Ravens defenders closing in on him. That hit was the beginning of the end for Griffin in D.C., causing a leg injury that lingered while he continued to play on until it buckled and collapsed on him during a playoff game a few weeks later. Griffin wouldn’t be the same quarterback after that. He spent the next two seasons toiling away until he was officially benched for Kirk Cousins in 2015.
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Attempting to reboot his career as a member of the Cleveland Browns in 2016, Griffin used the second pre-season game to do something many people thought he never would: he finally slid. Twice!
In the first quarter, he slid in front of Atlanta Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant, who could’ve blown him up had Griffin not smartly gone to the ground. It wasn’t a textbook, you’re-safe-at-second slide, but at this point, anything resembling an effort to avoid a hit is a big deal for RG3.
Then, perhaps even more beautiful than the first, RG3 faked out the entire Falcons defense with a bootleg to his left, ran for 20 yards or so, then slid, even when he probably could have picked up a few more yards if he’d wanted to risk it. But it’s pre-season, and there’s absolutely no need to be a hero. Somehow, someway, Hue Jackson has successfully drilled that into Griffin’s head. Hallelujah.
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“It’s something that coach has emphasized to me,” Griffin said after the game. “It’s something I’ve learned over my career just with situations that I’ve been in. I can’t thank everybody who has helped me get to that point where it’s hammered in. I’ve learned my lesson from mistakes in the past.”
If there’s anything to get legitimately excited about as Griffin embarks on a long journey to return to his 2012 form, it’s the fact that Jackson has gotten through to him in a way that could very well save Griffin’s career.