One thing that has been lost in the story of the dysfunctional trifurcate that is Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, coach Mike Shanahan and quarterback Robert Griffin III is that Shanahan was right.
On all counts. He's likely correct about the relationship between Griffin and Snyder being unusually close. Too close. Shanahan's right that it likely created a problem in the locker room. And he was right to consider quitting.
If Shanahan or someone in his camp leaked the story that first appeared at ESPN.com, then that is crappy, selfish and juvenile, but that does not take away from the fact that Shanahan has a point. There cannot be three leaders of a locker room—owner, coach and quarterback. There can only be one: coach. Anything other than that leads to disaster. How do I know this? Because the Washington franchise is a disaster.
One of the greatest quotes ever about this dynamic came from former Dallas Cowboys defensive back Darren Woodson. He said this Monday on ESPN, speaking of the Shanahan drama:
Going back to this entire situation, and I've been there with the Dallas Cowboys, when you have three heads—when you have a head coach that has an ego about him, you have an owner that has an ego about him, and not only that but a quarterback with the same type of ego…there has to be a pecking order. If the owner is in the way, there's dysfunction.
Is Snyder "in the way" in this situation? Shanahan believes he is or was. While it's true that Shanahan hasn't won much since he coached John Elway, he does get the benefit of the doubt because of Snyder's track record with coaches.
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In 14 years as an owner, Snyder has had seven different coaches. No Super Bowls. Just two division titles for Washington. This is also not the first time Snyder has been accused of serious meddling.
Is Snyder allowed to have a close relationship with his quarterback? Sure. Patriots owner Robert Kraft has a close relationship with Tom Brady, but Brady would never think of going to discuss/complain/bitch about X's and O's or the personality of Bill Belichick. Nor would Kraft allow it.
What we know about this dysfunction is disturbing enough (and there's likely a great deal more we don't know). At different points last season, Shanahan became aware of what he felt were problematic conversations, several of them, between Griffin and Snyder, according to several NFL sources with knowledge of the situation.
The owner and coach became extremely close, the sources said. What NFL team officials say is the closeness between the two has approached "almost a father-and-son type of status."
Shanahan, these officials say, felt Griffin was going to Snyder too much to discuss his problems with the Washington coach. None of these sources would say what specifically bothered Shanahan.
This led to that moment in which Shanahan nearly quit the team. ESPN cited sources saying Shanahan almost quit because of the close relationship between Snyder and Griffin. The biggest reason Shanahan nearly walked away, officials maintained to Bleacher Report, is he felt many on the team were aware of Snyder's close relationship with Griffin, and that relationship was undermining Shanahan's authority in the locker room.
These sources compare the situation in Washington to the one in Dallas with Jerry Jones, the strong-willed owner of the Cowboys who has been criticized for being too meddlesome with the team.
If it is true that Shanahan thought of quitting (and it is; he has yet to deny otherwise), think about that for a moment. NFL coaches rarely just bolt unless it's for health reasons. They are fired. They retire. But they don't abruptly quit and leave money on the table. So whatever Shanahan believed happened had to be pretty bad to make him consider walking away from his salary of $7 million a year.
So this is where we are. It's likely that at some point—maybe at end of season, maybe sooner—Shanahan will be fired. He will be gone, and no one will have Mike Shanahan to kick around any more.
Coaches will then start interviewing for the job, and they will have a simple question:
"Who is the coach of this team? Is it me, Dan?
"Or is it you?"