Ten things I know I think about the second pick in the 2012 draft– five good and five bad:
1. He reduces the chance Josh McCown will play. McCown will be 37 next year. More to the point, he can’t play.
I don’t cite ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating often only ESPN can calculate it, meaning I have no way to test or trust it. But that method– which factors those things in, says he ranked 24th– and his 53.92 result was lower than Johnny Manziel’s 54.69. It’s a reason the Browns went 1-7 with McCown starting and 2-4 with Manziel.
No, I don’t care what his statistics were. I work with statistics; I know their strengths and weaknesses. I know what the NFL counts and what it does not. If a quarterback stands in the pocket until he either sees someone open or he get sacked, his stats will look great. Everything else will suffer.
McCown got sacked on 7.3% of his passes– only 11 players went down more often. Those 23 sacks aren’t added to his pass attempts to t reduce his completion percentage below 60%.
The 137 yards lost don’t reduce his yards per pass (when you add in sacks) from 7.2 to 6.3.
His 6 fumbles– tied for first, even though he played only 8 games (Cam Newton played 16, Marcus Mariota 12)– aren’t totaled with his 4 interceptions, increasing his interception percentage from 1.4% to 3.2.
If you make these adjustments– as ESPN does– his performance plunges.
So having Griffin on the team significantly reduces the number of snaps McCown plays. That alone improves the team.
2. Griffin cost less than Colin Kaepernick. The Browns would have had to trade for Kaepernick. They would have had to pay him more.
3. Kapernick is a worse quarterback. He’s three seasons away from the Super Bowl appearance, and his results have slid each year. Last season he threw only one more TD (6) than interceptions (5). He’s not disciplined– off the field or on– and when guys like him lose their skills, everything goes down the tube in an instant.
4. Griffin is a terrific value. This is the sort of thing a team doing analytics ought to do. I have no idea how much of his skills he has left. But he was so phenomenally gifted that even if he has lost 50% of his ability, he’s still more talented than most players.
5. He reduces the chance the Browns take a QB high. A 3-13 doesn’t need one player– it needs a dozen. An offense with a patchwork line (thanks to their bungling of free agency), no receivers, one tight end and no running back who gained 4.0 yards a carry shouldn’t be drafting a quarterback high. Especially if that offense is paired with a defense with no pass rush, a tattered secondary (Joe Haden isn’t a reliable corner anymore) and nobody who knows how to play the run.
The Browns loading up on picks is the first thing they have done right all off-season. If Griffin could permit them to skip addressing the quarterback position for several years, so they could build a foundation, he’d be an enormous benefit.
That’s the good news. Here is the bad.
6. There’s no chance he’ll stay healthy. He missed games in his first three seasons– and he would have missed even more had he not played where he wasn’t healthy enough to play– but insisted on playing anyway. Since you can’t count on him– and McCown can’t stay healthy– it means someone else– Austin Davis or a draft pick– will be playing a substantial percentage of the season.
7. He can’t play in a standard NFL offense. I know people who are sky-high on Griffin and people who loathe him. Both camps reminded me that his only successful season in the NFL came when Mike and Kyle Shanahan threw out their playbook and custom-tailored their offense to fit what he could already do.
That’s why Jay Gruden gave up on Griffin. As Chris Cooley pointed out in excruciating detail, if Gruden used RG3, he wouldn’t be able to run whole chunks of his playbook. If he used Kirk Cousins, he didn’t have that problem.
8. Griffin is a problem teammate. Even before he left Washington, the stories were flooding out. His receivers felt he called them out after he missed connections. The linemen hated him for not getting rid of the ball.
9. He doesn’t accept responsibility for his shortcomings. He didn’t do it in Washington, as this story shows. (And the reporter blasting him there was defending him a few months earlier.) Judging from his interview upon arrival, it doesn’t sound like he’s figured out that most of what happened there was his fault. (Talking up Puff Gordon just indicates how far out of touch he is.)
10. He’s joining the NFL’s worst franchise. Some franchises– the ones with a strong front office, a head coach who has demonstrated that he can handle men, cadre of veteran leaders on both sides of the ball and culture of stability and commitment– can help a troubled player turn himself around.
This isn’t such a place. The owner is on his way to prison– and he’s a meddling SOB. Mary Kay Greenhouse is lying here— her boss (Haslam) had to tell her to knock the story down after he told the front office to commit to another problem quarterback.
They don’t have a GM– or anyone who has worked as a college scout. The coach speaks before he thinks– he got fired for it at his last job. In fact, they don’t even have an offensive coordinator.
Cleveland isn’t the place you find yourself. It’s the last stop before Arenaball or Pro Wrestling. Griffin will be good for a few highlight moments– not much else.