BALTIMORE – The longest-tenured player in Washington Redskins history is worried about the NFL longevity of Robert Griffin III.
Appearing at the league's 2013 season kickoff party in Baltimore, Pro Football Hall of Fame cornerback Darrell Green said Wednesday night he believes Griffin must become a more conventional quarterback to stay healthy and enjoy long-term success. That means morphing into a pocket passer and taking fewer chances as a runner than Griffith did in his debut 2012 campaign.
Griffin's spectacular rookie season ended with a knee injury that ultimately required reconstructive knee surgery. Green told co-host Gil Brandt and me on SiriusXM NFL Radio that he fears more health problems are forthcoming if Griffin continues with a brand of play that can leave him exposed to crushing hits from much larger defenders on scrambles and read-option carries.
"If I was playing in the era where we were really good under Richie Petitbon, we would be licking our chops for a guy like him," said Green, referring to Washington's defensive coordinator from 1981 to 1992.
Green likened Griffin's style to that of Randall Cunningham. Cunningham's scrambling ability helped him become an All-Pro quarterback with Philadelphia in the late 1980s.
Cunningham suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in 1991 and never regained his elite mobility. Cunningham, though, did reinvent himself as a better pocket passer than before his knee injury. He led the 1998 Minnesota Vikings to a 15-1 regular-season record and the NFC Championship Game.
"When we played Randall Cunningham (with Philadelphia) ... I guarantee you we probably beat him 90 percent of the time," said Green, who played with the Redskins from 1983 to 2002. "Our philosophy was that when you have a (quarterback) who is so talented, now it comes down to his maturity. We believed -- and we may be wrong -- that sometimes he would call the play in the huddle and in the back of his mind he's saying, 'Man, I'm running this ball.'
"It's like when we were in the streets playing. . . . We were waiting for that. You have to learn, even though (the Redskins) have a unique package that they're running, you better drop back to throw that ball like the players of old."
Although he didn't play in the preseason, Griffin was medically cleared to return for Monday's regular-season opener against Philadelphia. Whether his quarterbacking style will be different, either through Griffin's own volition or more conservative play-calling by offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, has remained a hot debate topic ever since RG3 went down in a first-round playoff loss to Seattle.
Asked during his Wednesday news conference about the process in which a quarterback understands how and when to better protect himself from defenders, Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan said, "Usually a couple of pretty good hits and they will slide a little bit quicker."
"The quarterbacks that I have been with, most of them are great athletes and they find a way to make plays,'' Shanahan said. "They are very competitive. If you talk about the Steve Youngs and the John Elways, that's what they did have. They had a great feel when to scramble. Most of them don't have a great feeling of when to get down, but they learn that in time."
Green hopes Griffin learns before it's too late.
"If it was me, I would say, have that (read-option) package in there but play the conventional game," Green said. "That's the historic game that wins championships."
SiriusXM NFL Radio audio of Darrell Green's comments on Robert Griffin III can be found here: https://soundcloud.com/siriusxmsports/would-redskins-hall-of-famer