It's all about growth.
Very rarely these days in the National Football League is a new head coach afforded more than a couple years to infuse his brand of football into his team and turn it into a constant winner.
Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III has turned his 2013 season around since the bye week, putting together highlight performances on offense.
Jay Gruden certainly knows this. So in his first year as the Washington Redskins' head coach, Gruden has put his trust into quarterback Robert Griffin III to help him quickly right the ship and return the franchise to its glory days, when deep playoff runs were the norm.
But even though Gruden, Griffin III and the rest of the Redskins keep their eye on the big picture – which includes adding a fourth Lombardi trophy to the glass display at Redskins Park – their primary focus has been growing together each and every day.
That growth continues into Sunday's 2014 Redskins home opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars, when 80,000-plus anxious Redskins fans will pack into their seats at FedExField hoping to see signs of improvement from what was a disappointing 2013 campaign.
"You want to keep growing every week, making plays off of the plays that you've already made," Griffin III said. "That's what we did a great job of our first year. So, coming into this new scheme, I don't know, maybe people don't know what to expect from us, what we're going to put out there on the field, but we plan on putting great things on the tape and being able to adapt week-by-week to get better."
To accomplish these tasks, Gruden, a former standout quarterback in the AFL, knows his quarterbacks need to be perfectionists. Griffin III, Gruden said, does not accept merely being average, and keeps no leaf unturned when watching film and on the practice field.
"You want him to be detail-orientated as far as the routes are concerned, the protections and be aware of what's going on around you and also make sure that he knows that every throw has got to be on time and perfect," Gruden said. "The big thing is to fight through (the mistakes) and move on to the next play as quickly as possible, learn from your mistakes and hope that the next play is going to be a better one. I'm very encouraged with where he is as a quarterback right now."
Griffin III's NFL journey has been well documented. In 2012, the Redskins sent their 2012, 2013 and 2014 first-round picks and their 2012 second-round pick to the St. Louis Rams for the second-overall pick in that year's NFL Draft, which Washington used to select Griffin III, the reigning Heisman Trophy Award winner out of Baylor.
The immediate result was gold for the Redskins, who saw Griffin III – the 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year – take the league by storm. He threw for 320 yards and two touchdowns in his victorious debut vs. the New Orleans Saints in the Superdome, and, after the team went into their Bye Week with a 3-6 record, Griffin III and the Redskins reeled off seven straight wins to end the season with the franchise's first NFC East title since 1999.
But in the fourth quarter of Washington's first-round playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks at FedExField, Griffin III suffered a gruesome injury to his right knee, which required extensive reconstructive surgery to both his LCL and ACL.
He spent his entire offseason recovering and building strength back in his knee, and even though he was able to play Week 1 of the 2013 season against the Philadelphia Eagles – albeit with a bulky knee brace – it took time for Griffin III, who had no offseason and did not play in the preseason, to catch back up.
Although he ended up completing more passes for more yards in his sophomore season – and in two less games – the Redskins struggled as a team, finishing with a 3-13 record. So after bringing in Gruden to right the ship, Griffin III spent his entire offseason training, both with his teammates and with quarterbacks guru Terry Shea, with whom he trained coming out of Baylor.
And now, with Week 2 of Gruden's first season here, Griffin III's growth process continues. It's also been boosted by a great deal of chemistry between the head coach, the quarterback and the weapons around him, like running back Alfred Morris, wide receivers Pierre Garçon, DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts and tight end Jordan Reed, who could miss Sundays game against the Jaguars with a hamstring injury.
"It comes with time, but you have to trust your guys out there, and we've got a lot of talented playmakers out there on the field," Griffin III said. "It's my job to trust them out there, to know what they're doing, to know where we need to go with the ball, and I think we've gotten better at that over the course of the entire offseason and even through the preseason and training camp."
Griffin III said the offense is "trying to make plays – and we plan to do it."
"It just comes down to executing the game plan – knowing what Coach wants to do, knowing what plays we need to get in for certain looks – that just comes with playing quarterback," Griffin III said. "Having two years of experience in the league definitely helps. It helps you see the field, helps you know the situations and how defenses are going to try to play, and just the overall scheme of the league and how they try to attack offenses so we can go out there and attack them."