Robert Griffin has lots of reasons to be happy heading into the 2014 season.
He's free from his at best prickly relationship with Mike Shanahan and his offensive coordinator son, his new coach is both quarterback friendly and player friendly, and he's now two years removed from his major knee injury - generally when most players recovering from that type of injury start to fully look themselves again.
Let's start with the coaching change. Despite what player and (former) coach said on record, it's clear the two weren't made for each other and both suffered – along with the rest of the team – because of it last year.
While Griffin actually threw for more yards last year than his impressive rookie campaign despite playing two less games, his rushing and scoring totals were both down. Some of that was because the former second overall still wasn't fully recovered from his brutal knee injury a year ago, but that doesn't fully account for the team dropping seven games in the win department and four spots in total offence.
Taking over for Shanahan is Jay Gruden, who put up similar offensive numbers with a less-talented quarterback as offensive coordinator in Cincinnati last season. If nothing else, the switch to Gruden will lead to a less contentious workplace in Washington.
“We've had a lot of time to work together and get to know each other,'' Gruden told the Sporting News of Griffin at training camp. “I think we're both happy with how we're communicating, and what we're implementing is not something he's totally unfamiliar with — the things we're doing are things he's comfortable with and complement his strengths.''
Gruden has also been quick to dismiss Griffin of any wrongdoing in the new-school quarterback's perceived feud with the old-school Shanahan.
“A guy with as much success as he's had, as early as he is in this young stage of his life, some guys are like, 'Eh, I don't need your coaching, I don't need this, I wanna do it my way.' He's not that way at all. He wants to be coached, he wants to learn the game, he wants to study,” Gruden told NFL.com
Still, a little flattery for new-school guys never hurts either.
"I think the total package you look for in a quarterback, if you're going to create a player on Xbox, a quarterback, I think it'd look like (Griffin)," Gruden continued to NFL.com.
With the favourable coach taken care of, Griffin's left only to worry about his health. And there's reason to believe that shouldn't be much of a concern this season.
“It's unbelievable,” former teammate and now analyst Chris Cooley said of Griffin's health on ESPN Radio during OTAs this spring. “He's another person right now. I was like, ‘you're running unbelievably well.' It was silly to watch.”
“He looks more comfortable, because he doesn't have to worry about that brace,” teammate and second favourite target Santana Moss echoed to the Washington Post. “I think the brace was the big discomfort last year.
All of that combined with a winnable division leads to a good share of optimism in Washington.
A happy Robert Griffin should equal a happy Redskins fan base.
Another fallout from Shanahan's dismissal came in the front office. President and GM Bruce Allen goes from being a cap specialist to making personnel decisions. This is the first time in his career Allen will have final say on the roster and football operations, but with an owner like Dan Snyder, there's sure to be some meddling and “coming over the top.”
The Redskins said goodbye to longtime linebacker London Fletcher after the 16-year veteran, who spent the last seven years of his career in Washington, decided to retire. The 39-year-old was the heart and soul of Washington's defence, and leaves a hole in the team's strong linebacking corps.
He's not the next Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham, but he's in the group up for discussion. The third-round pick only played nine games last year after a concussion prematurely ended his season, but showed a lot of promise. Reed will look to build off his 45 catches and 499 receiving yards from last year.
Already with one of the league's top possession receivers in Pierre Garcon, the Redskins added a burner to use alongside him – and also replace the aging Santana Moss – in Philadelphia Eagles castoff DeSean Jackson. If Jackson's head is in the game, he can help the Redskins' receiving corps become one of the best in the league. Griffin smiles again.
Jackson was far from the only free agent brought in to Washington this off-season. The Redskins had one of the biggest hauls in the league highlighted by defensive tackle Jason Hatcher, who should be a big upgrade along Washington's defensive line, and defensive backs Tracy Porter and Ryan Clark, who will look to help the team's struggling secondary.
Still without a first round pick after the Griffin trade, the Redskins nevertheless pulled off a decent draft. Their first pick was linebacker Trent Murphy in the second round, who will help the somewhat depleted linebacking corps. They also added offensive tackle Morgan Moses, a steal in the third round, and fringe Heisman candidate Lache Seastrunk, a running back from Griffin's alma mater Baylor.