Two weeks ago, Robert Griffin III went to Redskins Park for the first time since Mike Shanahan was relieved of his duties as head coach. New coach Jay Gruden also was in the building. Coach and quarterback met but they couldn’t talk football.
That’s right, the third-year quarterback and first-time head coach were not allowed to talk about X’s and O’s, what Griffin thinks he needs to work on to get better, Gruden’s offensive philosophy, or anything related to their actual jobs. That is because the collective bargaining agreement that was ratified in 2011 prohibits players and coaches from even discussing football until the start of offseason workouts in April.
The purpose, players union chief DeMaurice Smith told me after the CBA was ratified, is to give players both a physical and mental break from football for a few months. That makes perfect sense in many cases with veteran players on teams with stable coaching situations.
But it makes zero sense for a young quarterback and a new coach. The NFLPA needs to revisit those rules and come up with something better than their one size fits all approach. Maybe they could permit new coaches and quarterbacks—if you want to limit it to QB’s with fewer than five years in the league, that’s fine—to talk, review film, and come up with an offseason plan. If they want to limit the time they could do it until the Super Bowl ended.
Player agent Jack Bechta suggests taking it a step further and having a three-week camp with the coaches present for quarterbacks, backs, and receivers who have three years or less experience. A program like this could guide the players as they work out on their own getting ready for OTAs and minicamp.
The fact that Griffin and Gruden can’t talk now doesn’t mean that Griffin is doomed to failure this year. In late January of 2012 was a month away from finding out that he was likely to play for the Redskins. He wasn’t drafted by the team and therefore able to take the field at Redskins Park until late April. I seem to recall Griffin caught on pretty well as a rookie.
But a few days for Gruden and Griffin to talk some serious football and maybe go out into the practice bubble for a while wouldn’t seriously disrupt Griffin’s offseason plans.
Using a universal set of rules that may actually harm some players’ development doesn’t make much sense. It seems that the NFL and the union could get together and refine this rule.