Mike Shanahan refuses to name Robert Griffin III his starter, citing injury concerns
It's been a very interesting 24 hours for Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan. On Sunday morning, an article written by Dan Graziano of ESPN.com intimated that Shanahan was ready to leave his position after the 2012 season because he was tired of the interference of owner Daniel Snyder, particularly as it related to quarterback Robert Griffin III. According to Graziano's article, Shanahan relented on that decision after Griffin suffered a serious knee injury in the Redskins' wild-card playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks because he did not want to appear to leave the team in the lurch.
Safe to say that the coach may regret that decision. The Redskins are 3-10, they suffered a humiliating 45-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday that featured the lowest attendance in FedEx Field history and the worst special teams performances in recent memory, and Shanahan may not last the season, per several reports. Mark Maske of the Washington Post wrote on Monday that Snyder may be looking to fire Shanahan for cause, which would save the team from paying him the remainder of his contract. Shanahan's contract pays him $7 million per year through the 2014 season.
Then, there was the relative uproar (at this point, all uproars concerning the Redskins must be considered relative) when Shanahan refused to commit to Griffin as the starter for Washington's Sunday game against the Atlanta Falcons. Griffin was sacked five times by Kansas City's defense, and Shanahan pulled him for Kirk Cousins in the fourth quarter of the blowout.
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During an eventful Monday press conference, Shanahan explained why he pulled his quarterback, and why he left things undecided after the game.
"The reason why I kind of left it up in the air about that after the game is that anytime you have 24 sacks in the last five games ... the reason I was hesitant is that I'm always going to look at ... you've got your franchise quarterback, and you want to make sure going into the offseason that he goes through a full offseason program," he said. "And that's why I didn't say he [Griffin] was the starter. That's just something in the back of my mind right now, and I'll let you know in the next couple of days."
Shanahan has said before that after losing the 2013 offseason to his recovery from knee surgery, it was important for Griffin to get snaps late into the lost season for his development. Now, it might be that the risk-reward ratio has turned the other way. Griffin has been pressured on 202 of his 531 snaps this season, and Washington's offensive line has allowed 14 of those pressures. That second figure is actually pretty solid -- only 13 lines have allowed fewer total pressures, per Pro Football Focus' metrics.
When asked to further explain why he would shut Griffin down for any amount of time without an actual injury to consider, Shanahan continued to preach safety first. He also mentioned that he had not spoken to Griffin about the decision, which should go over well.
"Well, just what I said -- we had 24 sacks in the last five games, and you go against a team that had two sacks in the last five games [Kansas City], I'm talking about his health. I want to make sure that he's healthy. I think that's the most important thing going into the offseason; that he has his first full season being healthy. If he did play, and something did happen to him, I think it would set our franchise back. That's not to say I'm not going that way, that's why I answered it the way I did."
Shanahan said that he would make a decision about Griffin on Wednesday.
During the press conference, Shanahan deflected repeated questions about his relationship with Snyder and his future with the team. When one reporter hypothesized that by refusing to answer, he was just prolonging the questions, Shanahan responded that if he did answer, the questions would be asked anyway. He did not deny the reports of friction; he merely refused to answer questions on the subject.
"There's always a lot of noise when you're 3-10," he said. "I understand that, and every organization has it. There's going to be a lot more noise over the next few weeks." When it comes to the Redskins, that's the one thing upon which everyone can agree.