“That’s what you do about a quarterback. He’s your franchise. That’s why you ask those questions. You don’t do it about the other positions. Dan could care less about the other positions.” – Mike Shanahan, about talking to owner Daniel Snyder about the quarterback situation.
Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan held his normal Tuesday press conference, but the situation was anything but normal as the coach tried to explain his decision-making process for benching his star quarterback, Robert Griffin III, for the rest of the season.
Shanahan’s comments were wide-ranging, from the breakdowns in protection, to Griffin’s injury in the Seattle playoff game last season, to his future. He cited preserving Griffin’s health as the major reason to put him on the bench, especially in the wake of all Griffin’s injuries.
“The first thing I did is I talked to Dan Snyder about a week ago, talking about the amount of hits Robert has had.” Shanahan started. “Anytime you’re hit as many times as he’s been hit, I thought it was in his best interest, the organization’s, to talk about if we should continue playing Robert if he’s hit as many times as he’s been hit. Dan thought about it and talked to [Executive Vice President/General Manager] Bruce [Allen] about it, and at the end of the day we felt that the best thing to do for Robert was to not play him – give Kirk an opportunity to play – so he could go into an offseason healthy. Any time you miss an offseason in the National Football League it does set you back quite a bit, and we thought going into this offseason [after] missing last year, that this was the best way to do it.”
Shanahan referenced Griffin’s injury against Seattle as a motivating factor in the decision.
“After [an injury] happens, it’s too late,” Shanahan said. “Just like the Seattle game at halftime. I could have kicked myself in the rear end. Because my gut was even though the doctor said, hey, he was fine, it was all stable, you don’t have to worry. Robert said it was fine. I knew, in my gut. I watched him. I said, hey, that’s what I should have done, because I did see it. You have to go with your gut sometimes.”
But this isn’t a gut decision, one made in the heat of a playoff game. This is a calculated decision made a week in advance of their next game. This is a decision where a healthy player is being held out of games that count in the standings in preservation for offseason workouts and the following season.
“When you’re taking hits, it doesn’t matter who’s at fault,” Shanahan said. ”The matter is do you protect your quarterback or don’t you protect your quarterback? If it’s his fault, if it’s the offensive line, if it’s the receivers — it doesn’t matter! It doesn’t matter whose fault it is. What matters is he’s getting hit.”
Of course it matters. Instead of confronting the problems — be it offensive line, receivers or quarterback — Shanahan instead has decided to avoid the problem altogether. Instead of concentrating on the problem area, making adjustments and taking the adjustments onto the field, he’s simply pulling a healthy quarterback and sitting him on the bench for the team’s final three games.
What does Griffin learn from that?
Well, he first learns (or rather, reinforces) the idea that he’s special, above the rest of his teammates. The players won’t say that out loud to the media. But it’s fact. You don’t see Shanahan benching Alfred Morris, or Ryan Kerrigan, or Pierre Garcon, simply because the team is 3-10 and eliminated from postseason contention.
Sure, quarterback is a different case. Griffin has been a sitting duck in the pocket all season long. This collection of offensive linemen are terrific run-blockers, but collectively have trouble protecting the quarterback. We’ve seen it all season long.
But the Redskins are unable to address the offensive line situation this late in the season. All their linemen are healthy. If any of the backups were better than the starters they would have been given a shot by now. Whether it’s been a personnel decision, or the salary cap limitations in place, the Redskins offensive line in simply not good enough to protect their most valuable asset.
The other idea that is floating around is that Shanahan is trying to get himself fired so that he can collect the $7 million owed to him next season and be rid of the circus atmosphere that surrounds this franchise, perpetuated by the meddling owner. Shanahan address that too in his presser.
“Somebody said the reason why you’re going with Kirk [Cousins] is you’re trying to get fired and get a year left on your contract,” Shanahan offered. “If I’m trying to get fired, I’m not going to call up Dan Snyder and ask his opinion on a player that I don’t have to!”
Asked further about the future, Shanahan replied, ”I don’t know [about next year] until I sit down with Dan. Then we’ll find out what I think, and I’ll give him my opinions, and he’ll give me his opinions. Maybe we’ll just hit it off and I get that 12-, 15-year contract. Well, maybe three years. But anyway, whatever it is.”
There will be more to come in the soap opera that has become the Redskins 2013 season. As it always is with the Skins in the Dan Snyder era, it’s not just about football.