Analysis  

 

Jay Gruden hiring greatly impacts Robert Griffin III, Andy Dalton

Now that Jay Gruden has agreed to become the next head coach of the Washington Redskins, and Hue Jackson has been promoted to succeed him as the Cincinnati Bengals' offensive coordinator, the professional lives of two young, embattled quarterbacks are about to undergo some divergent and dramatic changes.

To put it simply: Robert Griffin III is about to get a whole lot of hugs, and Andy Dalton is in for a ton of tough love.

Coming off the disastrous dissolution of the relationship between RGIII and former coach Mike Shanahan, 'Skins owner Daniel Snyder and newly empowered general manager Bruce Allen predictably chose the path of least resistance. Rather than go after a no-nonsense disciplinarian -- such as, say, Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer -- Snyder and Allen settled on a coach known for his amiable nature and lack of rough edges.

If people in the Bengals organization had a consistent criticism about Gruden during his three-year run -- other than Cincinnati's painfully flaccid offensive performances in three successive one-and-done playoff performances -- it was that he didn't coach Dalton hard enough. Sources said the quarterback, installed as the starter shortly after being selected in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft, continually made mistakes in practice that his coordinator let slide, at least in front of others.

Though Dalton had his share of strong efforts, his lack of consistency in games and in practice was alarming -- yet he was never given the sense that failure might have harsh consequences. Instead, Gruden's style was to prop up his young passer at all costs, to try to keep Dalton's confidence level high and to avoid negative interactions.

Given the way in which RGIII's perceived fragility and insecurity might have played a role in the demise of his relationship with Shanahan and the head coach's son and offensive coordinator, Kyle -- and, in fact, might've contributed to the quarterback's regression in 2013 after a phenomenal rookie season -- bringing in a coach like Gruden has obvious appeal.

Considering what the Redskins gave up to acquire Griffin in the 2012 NFL Draft, Snyder clearly has a massive investment in the quarterback's continued development and success, and it makes sense to protect that investment. If Snyder and Allen believe RGIII will thrive in an upbeat and positive environment, and if they believe that Gruden will create such a scene at Redskins Park, it's a somewhat logical decision -- and surely a less sycophantic one than, say, hiring Griffin's college coach, Art Briles of Baylor, would have been.

However, I do have my concerns about such an arrangement. If RGIII perceives this as a move designed to cater to his emotional needs, and if some of the reports of issues about his maturity level and zest for personal attention are even remotely true, this could create a monster, and one which would not be easily tamed.

No, it's not as egregious as Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank pushing Michael Vick across the Georgia Dome turf in a wheelchair before a game. And it's surely not as enabling as the late Al Davis firing coach Lane Kiffin for cause and, during the infamous overhead projector press conference explaining the move, citing Kiffin's lack of faith in JaMarcus Russell as a reason.

It is, however, potentially problematic.

It's one thing for a quarterback to feel as though he has a special connection with his owner, but if he also regards the head coach as his buddy, and one who was put in place to fill that role, how coachable will he be when things get tough?

Meanwhile, in Cincinnati, head coach Marvin Lewis might have found the ideal solution to his current predicament, which is that he leads an ultra-talented team hampered in its biggest moments by shaky quarterback play.

The Bengals are as loaded as any squad in the NFL, but they have wilted in three consecutive postseasons, including in last Sunday's 27-10 home defeat to the San Diego Chargers. Dalton played horribly in that game, and though the quarterback said he was later assured by Lewis that he's still the team's presumed franchise QB, it's hard not to imagine the Bengals' brass exploring other alternatives over the offseason. At the very least, Dalton, with one year remaining on his rookie contract, is going to be playing for his financial future in 2014.

In addition to being a gifted offensive strategist who presided over consecutive top-10 offenses during his time as the Oakland Raiders' offensive coordinator and head coach, Jackson is a high-energy presence who has strong opinions and isn't shy about expressing them. Yes, I happen to love the guy, and I can tell you that he's incredibly charming. However, when it comes to coaching, he is tough, demanding and relentless in his pursuit of excellence, and this is especially true when it comes to the man playing the most important position on the field.

Make no mistake: Andy Dalton's work reality is about to get a lot different, and quickly. However, unless the quarterback is resistant to the change (and I don't expect that he would be), this could be a very, very good thing for him and the Bengals.

Cincinnati, a team that won the AFC North despite losing its best player (defensive tackle Geno Atkins) midway through the season, should stay potent on defense, especially if Zimmer continues to get overlooked for the head-coaching opportunities he richly deserves. And even if Zimmer does leave Lewis, the head coach -- a shrewd defensive mastermind -- will make sure that side of the ball is on point.

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Offensively, the Bengals have a ton of talent, including star receiver A.J. Green (my advice: start figuring out a way to draft him on your fantasy team now) and running back Giovani Bernard, who had a promising rookie season. Marvin Jones looks like a developing threat opposite Green, and tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert have untapped potential, as well.

If Dalton can raise his game to the next level -- and allow Jackson to show him what (and what not) to do to get there -- this could be a scary offense.

And if that happens, by this time next year, two young quarterbacks who are currently facing a lot of scrutiny might look back at this day and smile.

Follow Michael Silver on Twitter @MikeSilver.

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