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RGIII thanks Mike Shanahan for glowing review

Robert Griffin III met his Washington Waterloo in January 2013, collapsing in a heap at the 5-yard line of FedEx Field 16 games into his career.

Just 11 months later, coach Mike Shanahan pulled the plug on a bewildered Griffin during his disappointing 2013 season, damaging their relationship and ultimately sealing their fate with the Redskins.

As acrimoniously as the nascent "era of unbridled optimism" ended, time has apparently healed all wounds between Shanahan and Griffin.

In an incredibly illuminating Wednesday interview with WTEM Washington co-hosts Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro, Shanahan revealed that Griffin recently called to express gratitude for a glowing review.

"I would take him if I were you," Shanahan told Rams coach Jeff Fisher earlier this month. "... There's no way that this guy can't be successful if he goes back with the mindset he had as a rookie. Because he was so positive, he had charisma, he was one of our team leaders, and then after that injury, things started going in a different direction."

When Griffin reached out in appreciation, Shanahan repeatedly emphasized the need for the right fit, specifically an offensive system similar to the one run by the Redskins when RGIII authored one of NFL history's most impressive rookie seasons.

"Anytime you lead the league in yards per play, rushing yards per game, rushing yards per attempt, passing yards net plays, he had the lowest interception percentage ... fewest turnovers," Shanahan explained. "He set seven total offensive records, 21 individual records, four NFL records.

"The reason why I say that is he did it for a certain reason. People had to use defenses to stop the running game. He was able to take advantage of play-action and do things that no other quarterback has been able to do."

Shanahan approves of Griffin's fit with the Cleveland Browns because new head coach Hue Jackson has experience with different offensive systems while tutoring a line of quarterbacks (Joe Flacco, Jason Campbell, Carson Palmer, Andy Dalton and AJ McCarron) with such disparate skill sets.

"They've got to utilize your skills," Shanahan told Griffin. "You can't go to a place that is going to be strictly a dropback attack."

While Griffin has regressed in the pocket and no longer boasts the 4.38 wheels to beat defensive backs to the edge, Shanahan is convinced that an offense incorporating read-option and play-action elements will provide his best chance for sustained NFL success.

Not for the first time, Shanahan stressed the importance of learning when to slide and when to throw the ball away to avoid injuries.

"That comes with experience, comes with age," Shanahan said.

Three years after the fallout in Washington, Shanahan believes Griffin can look back on his magical 2012 season and understand how much pressure he put on defenses with the Redskins' unique offensive attack.

"Why did I have all of that time off of the play-action pass?" Shanahan explained. "Because the defense is so scared about stopping the run. His ability to run that type of offense enabled him to have the success that he had."

The interview was so enlightening that it led colleague Gregg Rosenthal and I to discuss Shanahan's potential as a first-rate television analyst. Here's what else we gleaned from Shanahan's comments:

» It was Griffin -- not Shanahan -- who prompted the failed 2013 transition from the pistol, zone-read attack to a more conventional offense.

"He wanted to go a different direction," Shanahan revealed, "which I felt was a big mistake because we could have gradually brought him there."

» Shanahan didn't field a single phone call about Griffin after the quarterback was released by the Redskins on March 7. That includes the Denver duo of John Elway and Gary Kubiak, each of whom worked under Shanahan on back-to-back Super Bowl championships in the 1990s. It was Shanahan who reached out to Fisher to promote the possibility of a potential Griffin renaissance.

"I would be more than happy to talk to all the guys if you want me to talk to Hue Jackson, Todd Bowles," Shanahan told Griffin. "... Just have them give me a call on your behalf. I was with you when we did some things that nobody else has ever done and you still have that opportunity if you want to go that direction. If you don't, then I think you're going to struggle."

» While many ex-players and ex-coaches continue to parrot the conventional wisdom that NFL defenses have rendered the zone read obsolete, Shanahan pointed out that read-option quarterbacks (Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and Cam Newton) have appeared in the last four Super Bowls.

"Nobody wants to see the quarterback get hit," Shanahan acknowledged. "Russell Wilson is the best at not taking any hits. He's very smart. ... He doesn't care if he's going to get five yards or eight yards. He puts so much pressure on the defense that he's going to slide before he gets hit, knowing that at the end he's going to simplify the coverages and it's going to be much easier for him to excel in a play-action game. And he understands the big picture, as well as their coaching staff. The people who don't know the pressure that puts on a defense are usually commentators who don't put game plans together every day."

Wilson possesses the canniest instincts we have ever witnessed in a running quarterback. While Griffin and Kaepernick have devolved over the past few years, Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell told Around The NFL at Super Bowl XLIX that the primary difference between Wilson and other dual-threat quarterbacks is decision making. More often than not, Wilson makes the decision that suits the situation.

"It's just an awareness that all great players have it," Patriots coach Bill Belichick explained in January 2015. "I think he just has it at a higher level. It's really impressive."

If Griffin reaches a similar epiphany through age and experience -- as Shanahan suggested -- it will give him a fighting chance to resurrect his career.

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