I'm concerned about the state of the Washington Redskins, both on and off the field, and I'm not alone. Obviously, the jury is still somewhat out on quarterback Robert Griffin III, who has lacked consistency during his sophomore season, and the rest of the team has regressed en route to a 3-7 start.
And now, with the 'Skins far from playoff contention, the pitchforks are out for Griffin, head coach Mike Shanahan and everyone else associated with this organization.
One Redskins legend, Darrell Green, has questioned Griffin's leadership ability while also declaring that the team is not in a good spot. From Dan Steinberg of The Washington Post:
“What’s the state of affairs in Washington?” James Brown asked Green during a roundtable discussion with Phil Simms and Cris Collinsworth.
“It’s not very good,” the Hall of Famer said. “It’s not very good…I think that it’s been rough, but it looks like the kid—and I’m talking about RGIII—it looks like he’s starting to get it back. But I just feel so bad that you would have a system where it’s all predicated on this guy running. He’s the second rusher on the team. It doesn't work, in my opinion.”
“Who’s the leader of that team?” Brown later asked Green. “Not the face of the team; who’s the leader?”
“I think that’s the problem,” Green answered. “I think it’s SUPER important to have leadership, and I don’t think he really IS the leader.”
Another team legend, Sonny Jurgensen, wonders if the 'Skins should have benched Griffin Sunday. Via Steinberg:
“Why not play Cousins?” Jurgensen asked during the Redskins Radio Network broadcast, heard locally on ESPN 980.
“Robert’s in the game, he turns, he gives it to Alfred Morris on the run, gains a yard,” Larry Michael said. “You’re gonna pull the plug already, huh?”
“It’s not pulling the plug, it’s getting a change,” Jurgensen said. “Make a change. Can it be any worse? You get four yards passing in a half? I would look at the other quarterback, see if he can make something happen. It’s not the end of the world. They take out pitchers, don’t they?”
I don't necessarily feel it's fair to start drawing conclusions regarding Griffin's leadership ability this early in his career, and Jurgensen's logic is debatable. But it's worrisome that former Redskins like that seem to be concerned about the state of the franchise and its quarterback.
In fact, one current Redskins veteran appears to be concerned about Griffin's disposition. While attempting to explain his late-game pick in Week 11, RGIII was quick to shift at least some of the blame to his receiving corps, noting, according to The Washington Post, that "nobody got open."
Santana Moss' response on a local radio station this week, per the Post:
"Whether you’re the receiver, the quarterback, the guys making the tackle, whoever, regardless of the outcome, good or bad, you have to at some point, stand up and say ‘me’ or 'I.'”
“At the end of the day, I was seen with the ball in my hand last, as a quarterback I’m saying, and if it didn’t get done then I’m going to let you know it was me.”
Not exactly a rift, but you can sense the frustration from Moss, who may understandably be growing tired of the Griffin show.
And then there's Shanahan, who is wrapping up the fourth year of his original five-year contract. Barring a miraculous turnaround this year, he'll have missed the playoffs in three of those years. And if you set aside that seven-game hot streak that nudged them into the postseason last year, they're only 17-34 under Shanahan's direction.
You can't discount said run, but it's fair to wonder if it was an anomaly.
What concerns me most, though, is the relationship between those two key figures.
The two have taken veiled shots at one another in the past, and Griffin had to state publicly, not once but twice, that there was no rift between him and his head coach. Here's how an Associated Press report described the strange dynamic that existed this past summer:
The to-and-fro between Griffin and Shanahan has become the weekly highlight of camp. Griffin makes his case in front of the microphones, then Shanahan appears a few hours later and reminds everyone that the coach is the one in charge.
That might have been made worse this week, with Griffin essentially throwing the coaching staff under the bus by suggesting that the Redskins were out-schemed Sunday in Philadelphia. From Will Brinson of CBS Sports:
You have to give credit where credit is due to Philly. They did a good job of scheming us up. Obviously, we were able to run the ball effectively, but in the passing game, they kind of had us. They kind of knew what was coming before it was coming, and like I said, that is disheartening. But we still have to find ways, and that's what I told the guys—no matter what's going on out there, we're the players, we have to make the plays work. We just weren't able to do that during that first half.
It just doesn't strike me as a healthy or happy situation, with Griffin's ego indirectly challenging the power of a Super Bowl-winning head coach.
When the Redskins invested four prime draft picks in Griffin 18 months ago, they probably didn't expect to win a division as quickly as they did, but they also probably didn't expect the state of the dressing room to be this disharmonious midway through RGIII's second season.
Losing deepens the bruises, of course. If this team had a half-decent defense instead of one that has surrendered 31.1 points per game, or if they had more depth on offense or a respectable special teams unit, these issues wouldn't have risen to the surface.
But because this team has so many holes on the field and at least a little tumult off of it, it has already arrived at a fight-or-flight moment. How the Redskins react over the next six weeks could determine the look of this franchise in 2014 and beyond.