Cleveland Browns: Does RG3’s success hinge on Hue Jackson?

Jun 7, 2016; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) throws a pass as quarterback Josh McCown (13) watches during minicamp at the Cleveland Browns training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 7, 2016; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) throws a pass as quarterback Josh McCown (13) watches during minicamp at the Cleveland Browns training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson may hold the key to Robert Griffin III succeeding as the team’s starting quarterback.

On Monday, Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson ended the most non-competitive quarterback competition in franchise history by naming Robert Griffin III the starting quarterback for the 2016 NFL season.

The reaction from Browns fans was overwhelming positive, not surprising as Browns tends to be an overly optimistic bunch, by and large. After all, we’ve been waiting — sometimes patiently, sometimes not — since 1964 for the Browns to bring home their fifth NFL Championship (and ninth overall).

While the reviews from around Northeast Ohio have been good, how has the news played on a national level?

Mark Maske at The Washington Post correctly points out that this is just the beginning:

"Whether or not Monday was a transformative day for the woebegone franchise — or just another in a long line of hopeful moments destined to turn bad — depends on what happens from here."

"Believing that Griffin will succeed in Cleveland means trusting Jackson’s instincts and judgment and believing that Jackson will push the proper buttons with Griffin in a way that Griffin’s coaches in Washington, Mike Shanahan and Jay Gruden, did not."

"Can he do it? Not everyone in the league is convinced he can. But if he and Jackson can make things work, the Browns will have the cornerstone for success they have lacked for so long at the sport’s most important position."

For many, the believe is that if anyone can help Griffin succeed, it is Jackson, according to an article at

"NFC pro personnel director: “If anyone can fix RGIII, it’s Hue. He tends to put quarterbacks in a position to do what they do well and protect them from themselves. I don’t think RGIII is broken, but he lost his confidence and got away from what he does well. It will be interesting to see him this preseason.”"

"AFC player personnel director: “I feel like Washington broke RGIII by making him a runner. At Baylor, he was an athletic passer who ran a fast 40. Hue should definitely be able to make him a solid quarterback because he’s got talent and some skill.”"

Tom Pelissero at USA Today is also adopting the mantra of “In Hue We Trust”:

"The guess here is Jackson will construct a system that leverages Griffin’s athletic skill set with designed movement and play-action, provides easy outlets if the first read isn’t there and, yes, incorporates some zone-read concepts, since even the threat of that creates issues for defenses, especially when the quarterback has RG3’s speed."

Of course, there may be limits to even Jackson’s perceived quarterback powers:

"Second NFC pro personnel director: “Hue can’t fix RGIII, but he will have a plan that allows him to succeed in the short term. He will put in concepts that play to his strengths — quick reads and some of the movement stuff that he did at Baylor — but RGIII needs to keep his ego in check and take to the coaching.”"

"NFC defensive assistant coach: “RGIII will definitely give the Browns a little spark under Jackson, but I don’t know if he can sustain it over the long haul. Hue needs to be able to recognize when it’s going wayward and pull the plug before it blows up.”"

There are two keys to Jackson’s decision that, while not ensuring success, at least will go a long way toward giving Griffin the best chance to succeed.

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First is that Jackson made the quarterback call before the first preseason friendly — this Friday against the Green Bay Packers — which gives Griffin and the first-team offense the next month to focus on working together and preparing for the season opener.

It may not sound like much, but the Browns were in a similar situation in 2004. Jeff Garcia was new to the team and needed as much work as possible, but head coach Butch Davis inexplicably limited quarterback Garcia’s work with the offense during the preseason, with predictable results.

Second is that Jackson is committed to the decision, emphasizing that, “When I make a choice, I make a choice and I stand behind it,” which frees Griffin from looking over his shoulder every time he makes a mistake.

Again, it may not sound like a big deal on the surface, but Browns fans remember all too well the mess that head coach Eric Mangini made in 2009 when he refused to commit to just one quarterback. (Granted, choosing between Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn is not fun, but committing to one would have been far more preferable to what transpired that season.)

More than anything else, though, Jackson understands the role a quarterback plays in today’s NFL.

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“It’s all about the quarterback. Our football team is driven by the quarterback so everything we do on offense is about the quarterbacks,” Jackson said. “It’s not about the running backs. It’s not about the line. It’s about the quarterback. How do we make him successful? We all know if the quarterback plays well, then the team normally plays very well.”