So if you want to believe the post-draft revisionist history—and I’m as highly suspicious of that as I am of pre-draft utterings by NFL personnel types—Mike Brown wanted to draft Colin Kaepernick to become the Bengals quarterback. Jay Gruden, who was then the Bengals’ first-year offensive coordinator, fresh out of the UFL, wanted Andy Dalton.
Gruden believed that Dalton could start right away and with Carson Palmer threatening to retire (a threat he made good on until the Bengals traded him in midseason), he thought that was what the Bengals needed.
He was down on Kaepernick for another reason. Nevada coach Chris Ault was a pioneer in the Pistol formation offense and Nevada won a lot of read option plays.
“I also wasn't really into the read-option stuff and it wasn't really that popular at the time,” Gruden said earlier this week.
That line has some Redskins fans flipping out over the possibility of Gruden becoming the Redskins’ head coach. The line of thinking is that Gruden will not be able to get the most out of quarterback Robert Griffin III if he is not “into the read-option stuff.”
That line of thinking is flawed. Most who panic don’t read the last part of the sentence. Nobody was into the read-option in April of 2011. Cam Newton was drafted in the first round that year and had not taken the field. Griffin and Russell Wilson were a year away from entering the NFL and Kaepernick would not become an NFL starter for another year and a half.
Even though Griffin needs to develop into more of a pocket passer if he is going to be successful in the long run (or even to have a long run) there should be some read-option elements in the offense to keep defenses off balance. It is likely that Gruden will see this and, if he gets the job, get “into” the read-option a bit.
It’s pretty simple, really. During his interview today, one of the things that Gruden will be asked to do is to paint a vision of an offensive scheme that will maximize Griffin’s talent and enhance his longevity. Making him into a pure pocket passer won’t accomplish the former and the heavy use of the read-option will have an adverse effect on the latter. The read option or some other element that utilizes Griffin’s speed will need to be incorporated into Gruden’s plan. If it isn’t there, he is unlikely to get the job.
All of this doesn’t mean that Gruden is the ideal candidate for the job. Like almost everyone being considered he has his plusses and minuses. But his apparent distain for the read-option three years ago is a non-factor.
Gruden’s prowess in choosing a QB won’t matter, either. Obviously Kaepernick is the better player now and it’s hard see that changing at any point in the future.
But Gruden won’t be picking the Redskins’ quarterback. Griffin is already here.