Fresh off a surprise run to the NFC East championship in 2012, it appears that there may be trouble brewing in the nation's capital between the head coach of the Washington Redskins and their star quarterback.
At least that's what some are reading into a recent text message Robert Griffin, who is recovering from surgery to repair a torn ACL, sent to ESPN's Trey Wingo:
My knee is getting better every day. The doctors say I'm ahead of schedule. My goal is to return healthy in week one but if I'm not ready then i will wait until i am, however long that is. My first NFL season and my injury that ended it showed me a lot about the league, my team and myself. i know where my responsibility is within the dilemma that led to me having surgery to repair my knee and all parties involved know their responsibilities as well.
It's that last part that raised the eyebrows of the hosts of ESPN's Pardon the Interruption, according to Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk.
Per Smith's report, Tony Kornheiser called Griffin's statement a "thinly veiled direct shot at his coach," while colleague Michael Wilbon said that “[i]t is direct, it’s bold, it’s a heavy shot and it’s deserved.”
We can't know for sure if Griffin did direct his message at Shanahan and the Redskins, but regardless of his intent, there are a couple of things that we can glean from the text.
The first is that it doesn't appear that Griffin is going to rush his recovery, which is very good news for fans of the Redskins.
Coming off a rookie season that saw Griffin lead the Redskins to the playoffs while passing for 3,200 yards and winning Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, there is going to be tremendous pressure on Griffin to be "ready" to start the season opener.
That may well be Griffin's goal, and Dr. James Andrews may have told ESPN last week that Griffin's recovery "has been unbelievable so far," but it's absolutely imperative that Griffin and the Redskins not rush things.
Robert Griffin is too important to the future of the franchise to risk his long-term health over one game, or one month, or even the 2013 season. Especially when the team has a backup in Kirk Cousins who has shown himself capable of leading the team to a win.
That's what makes Shanahan's decision to leave Griffin in January's playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks all the more unfathomable. It makes no more sense now than it did at the time.
It was reckless. It was short-sighted. It was stupid.
Anyone with two eyes could see that after Griffin tweaked his knee in the first quarter that something wasn't right. A clearly limited Griffin spent the next two-plus quarters hobbling around Fed Ex Field before the knee finally gave way altogether in the fourth quarter.
I understand that it was the postseason and that it's easy to get caught up in the emotion of the moment. The problem is that Shanahan's the head coach. He's paid a very hefty salary not to get too caught up in the moment.
Was Robert Griffin's text a "shot" at Mike Shanahan?
Instead, he gambled the future of the franchise on a quarterback who wasn't playing effectively at all at that point.
And the argument that Griffin wanted to play is irrelevant. Of course he wanted to play. He's a football player, and he's all of 23 years old. 23-year-olds generally aren't fantastic "big picture" thinkers.
At that point, in that game, it wasn't a rookie player's decision to make. It was the decision of his 60-year-old head coach, and Shanahan blew that decision in spectacular fashion.
Granted, it could well be that Griffin meant nothing by his message, and the media is simply looking to stir the pot.
Or, it could be that after surgery and going through rehab, that Griffin's gotten a much clearer look at the big picture and the ramifications of Shanahan's inaction last January.
If that text message was Griffin's way of sending, well, a message to his head coach about that big picture, then good for Robert Griffin.
Hopefully for the Redskins, this time Shanahan's paying attention.