Mike Shanahan: Here's how RG3 can be a success in Cleveland

Former Denver and Washington head coach Mike Shanahan believes Robert Griffin III can be a success in Cleveland -- provided certain things with him ... and the Browns ... happen.

Mike Shanahan photo courtesy of Denver Broncos
Mike Shanahan photo courtesy of Denver Broncos

(Mike Shanahan photo courtesy of the Denver Broncos)

(Robert Griffin III photo courtesy of the Washington Redskins)

Talk of Fame Network

Mike Shanahan knows quarterbacks. He won a Super Bowl with Steve Young. He won two with John Elway. And he won a division championship with a rookie … in Washington, no less.

So consider him an authority on quarterbacks, and consider him an authority on the rookie quarterback he had in Washington – Robert Griffin III, now in Cleveland.

It’s been nearly three years since Shanahan coached him and over a year-and-a-half since RG3 started a game, but the former Denver and Washington head coach believes Griffin can still be a success in the NFL – provided the Browns don't try to make him a pure drop-back passer.

“The first thing is: What type of offense are they going to run in Cleveland with Robert?,” Shanahan said on the Talk of Fame Network's latest broadcast. “Are they going to run a system that he’s comfortable with? Are they going to run an offense that adapts to his type of playing skills? And I think a lot of times you have to do that.

“Every quarterback that I’ve had … if you go back to Steve Young and John Elway … they were totally different. I could not run the same offense with John that I ran with Steve. Every quarterback’s different, regardless of how talented they are, so you have to get a feel for the quarterback, a feel for what they can do and, obviously, they’ve got to have the intangibles to lead a football team. But Robert does have the skills to perform at a very high level like he did in 2012.”

Under Shanahan, RG3 was the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2012. But a serious knee injury suffered in a playoff loss to Seattle short-circuited a promising career, with Griffin never the same afterward – winning just five of his last 15 starts and inactive all of last season.

So what must he – or the Browns – do to make him productive again?

“You’ve got to find out what he can do,” said Shanahan. “Because if he can’t do it, you’ve got to get away from it. You’re not going to make a pure drop-back guy that’s been a play-action guy his whole life and never done it. It’s almost impossible to do.”

And that’s where RG3 comes in.

Shanahan believes he was the victim of “bad advice” after his rookie season, telling his head coach then that “any running quarterback is a loser.” As Shanahan pointed out, the success of Griffin and the Redskins in 2012 demonstrated that wasn’t … and doesn’t have to be … the case, something he hopes the quarterback understands now.

“When … you lead the league in rushing and you lead in net yards per pass attempt and you have six new starters on offense you feel as if you have done some pretty good things,” said Shanahan, looking back to 2012. “The one thing that I think we got away from was what we did accomplish the first year. And then when you go into the second year, I think Robert just got some bad advice about not staying with what we were doing the first year.

“(He) wanted to get away from it, go to a drop-back passing game more, wanted to get away from the things that he was successful with. And I think that hurt him. But, hopefully, at Cleveland, he can bring back some of those things.

“He’s really into the things that he can do. It will be a learning experience for some of the other things, but he’s got a lot of ability and he’s got a chance to go back and do some of the things that he did as a rookie if he’ll run the system that fits him.”