There’s already too much contradiction in Washington, but this recent display of across-the-board, desperate skin-saving is proving too much to bear.
Which Mike Shanahan are we to believe? The one who stated that live-game reps were the best way for Robert Griffin III to improve, or the one who shut him down for the rest of the season to preserve his health?
In his recent press conference, Shanahan took shots at Daniel Snyder while also admitting he conferred with both Snyder and Bruce Allen before making the decision to shut down Griffin.
If he is indeed the head coach and in charge of player personnel, why did Shanahan even feel the need to speak to Snyder? It’s fair to say that common courtesy is out the window at this point, so the illusion of agreement only serves to spread the blame elsewhere.
Even Kyle Shanahan seems keen to distance himself from the whole affair, going on record to say that he disagreed with the decision to shut down his franchise quarterback, via Mike Jones at The Washington Post:
I don’t think it’s a very common situation. I think if it was about football—and really football—you’d talk to the offensive coordinator. But the decision doesn’t really have to do with football. It has to do with the future of the organization, and that’s out of my realm. It had to do with the GM and owner.
...I would love to have our starting quarterback out there the rest of the year. It’s a little disappointing to me that we can’t finish this.
The elder Shanahan’s reasoning for benching Griffin is understandable, but it also has the added bonus of flipping off the owner who still owes him $7 million for next season. It’s self-preservation disguised as concern, and all of it comes from the Seattle game in January that killed the 2013 NFL season in D.C.
AFC coach: "Mike Shanahan may never get another head coaching job again. He's acting like a petulant child."— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) December 11, 2013
Through the magic of hindsight, we can see that Kirk Cousins should have started in Week 1. Griffin wasn’t ready to do so, and the flashes of his 2012 self have been just that. Through his attempts to escape behind an offensive line that seemingly works for the opposition, he’s developed bad habits.
Throwing off his back leg, throwing off balance or on tiptoes, forcing balls into windows that don’t exist; none of these things dogged his Rookie of the Year campaign. Yes, he would stare down his primary target, then tuck and run if that first option wasn’t available; he would also struggle to read coverages and look to buy time with his feet.
These were known parts of his game, and the things he should have been working on in the offseason.
There’s blame everywhere for the situation in the playoffs, but expecting Griffin to come off an ACL tear, decipher different blitz packages and learn a new offense in order to be a pocket passer behind this line is ridiculous.
It also lies solely with the management.
Michael Irvin is fired up about RGIII benching: "They wouldn't be doing this to Andrew Luck" http://t.co/OjTop36RLN— NFL: AroundTheLeague (@NFL_ATL) December 13, 2013
The line was effective last year because of Griffin’s elusiveness and the extra half-second that he was allowed as the defenders sought to decipher whether Griffin or Alfred Morris had the ball.
After rehabbing his injury, Griffin’s mobility was obviously compromised. Defenders zeroed in on Morris while collapsing the pocket by sending a variety of blitzes. All of a sudden he was required to take that elusive step in a quarterback’s development and read defenses like a pocket passer.
Sending him out there to stand tall in the pocket behind the most undersized line in the NFL is stubbornness taken to extreme lengths. The worst part is that Shanahan knew Griffin would do it, too.
Coming from a spread offense at Baylor, we knew it would take some time for Griffin to develop. The injury hampered that by a full season, so there’s no way to judge him accurately until at least the end of 2014.
Retaining Griffin’s health is one thing, but there’s an innate level of hypocrisy and favoritism that permeates this decision. Protecting your franchise QB is important, sure, but what sort of message does that send out to other players on the team?
Alfred Morris is just as important as Griffin at this point; why not shut him down, too? Pierre Garcon is having a career year as every other receiver capitulates; why not preserve his health for 2014? Jordan Reed’s season could be over due to concussions, which is also a huge concern going forward.
Should Mike Shanahan remain in Washington next year?
Cousins isn’t as mobile as Griffin and has no one to throw to, yet he’s now expected to make plays behind that reprehensible offensive line?
The former Michigan State QB can’t win here. If he succeeds, he creates a quarterback controversy that will dog the team until he is inevitably traded. If he fails, his value decreases and he spends yet more time on the bench.
Any self-respecting Washington fan doesn’t want Snyder to intervene. They’ve been down this road before, and it’s never ended well. The hiring of Shanahan was intended to signal a shift toward a winning team built through the draft and smart free-agent additions.
In 2012, the patience of both Snyder and the fans looked to have been rewarded. The team played for each other—although it's worth noting that Shanahan seemed to give up on the season at 3-6—and looked like a real unit. However, Griffin’s injury and the loss of Lorenzo Alexander have weighed heavy all year.
Special teams is an absolute disaster, with Washington having poor field position at the start of every drive and allowing kickoff and punt returns through incredibly poor tackling. The defense has been shocking, and Jim Haslett positioning himself in the booth has done no more than having him off the sideline.
The coaching staff has lost the locker room for good now; even as someone who campaigned for Shanahan to be given the chance to work his contract to the end, there is now no sound logic for doing so.
It’s time to end this mess. The only problem is a change in Washington never seems to bring the bright future the fans deserve.