It’s been a while since the blog has had a post, since my brother has been busy with college applications and I have been busy with college. Don’t worry frequent Hail to the Huddle visitors, because we are back. This post will be long so hold on tight; it will cover everything from when news that broke the morning of the Kansas City Chiefs game, the moment that marked the beginning of the end.
The Redskins were 3-9, coming off a loss to the Giants, one which Robert Griffin III was sacked five times, four by Justin Tuck. It was Sunday morning and the Redskins were set to play Chiefs, who were 9-3 and second in the AFC. That morning out of nowhere, ESPN’s Dan Graziano broke news that last season before the Seattle playoff game Mike Shanahan had his office packed up and was ready to resign as coach of the Washington Redskins. He would be leaving the team on a high note, though his record through his 3 seasons would be21-27. He would also be leaving the team with no first round picks for the next two years, and another $18 million cap penalty for the next season. The team would have a ton of potential and be coming of winning the NFC East with a rookie quarterback, sights would be set high. The report stated that the reason that Shanahan was willing to leave is because of the personal relationship between Robert Griffin III and owner Daniel Snyder. Shanahan felt that this relationship undermined his authority as head coach. The report cited Griffin having dinner with Snyder on Thanksgiving after the Dallas game, Snyder’s personal body guards assisting Griffin when he was out of the house, and on occasion Snyder’s limo would take Griffin’s fiancée to the games. The report also stated that the only reason Shanahan stayed for the next season was because of what happened in that playoff games, the knee injury of franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III.
When I first heard this report, I sympathized with Mike Shanahan, because I know what a disaster it can be to have one’s authority undermined. To have someone with a lot of influence go above your head really can damage the chemistry of the locker room. But I then looked at the offenses that Robert Griffin III was accused of and realized that this was an attempt to pass the blame on someone else, to tarnish a reputation. Eating Thanksgiving dinner with Dan Snyder? Robert was in Dallas with his family away from home and Snyder offered hospitality, not as big of a deal as it was made out to be. Having Snyder’s bodyguards also help out with Robert? Griffin is the highest profile person in Washington D.C., maybe he might be a close second to Barak Obama. Wherever he goes he is mobbed by fans, whether it’s Wal-Mart, Costco, or his honeymoon in France. To have the same top-notch security team to follow him around as Snyder, not a problem. To have Snyder’s limo driver take Robert’s fiancée to some of the team games? Again, this is not a big deal either, and it is worth noting that she took a taxi for the rest of the games. So while I first sympathized with Mike Shanahan, I then realized that something else was going on. By placing the blame on both Snyder and Griffin, fans began to agree with this position and forget that the Redskins were 3-9 and showed no signs of being even an average team. Shanahan plan seemed to work pretty effectively. It should also be noted that both of the stories that broke that week were first reported by Dan Graziano and Adam Schefter. Graziano had had close ties with Shanahan and Schefter had helped write Shanahan’s biography, it was no coincidence that these two broke the report because Shanahan had leaked it to them.
Shanahan may have been able to make a quiet exit after this report had a number of other factors happened. First of all, later that afternoon the Redskins took the field at home and were completely outcoached and embarrassed by the Chiefs, losing 45-10. The same problems that plagued the Redskins all year were magnified this game. Special teams gave up 300 yards and 2 touchdowns on 9 returns. After the game Shanahan dropped a bomb that surely sealed his deal, he was thinking about resting Robert Griffin III for the final three games. And sure enough, at the press conference three days later he did just that, benched the franchise quarterback for the rest of the season. Robert Griffin III in his sophomore season was going to be benched for the final three games and Kirk Cousins would be starting, but why? Shanahan said that he was just looking out for the good of the franchise, saying, “He’s getting hit too many times … I have to build this organization in the right way and this decision is to protect our future quarterback.” This reasoning would be perfectly acceptable if there weren’t two major problems: Shanahan did not care for the direction of the franchise, and he didn’t care about the health of Robert Griffin III either.
If Shanahan had really cared about the health of Robert Griffin III surely he would have expressed concern before the report he leaked. Surely after 12 weeks he wasn’t coming to some realization. Surely sometime during the 38 sacks that Griffin took he would have seen something. How about in the San Francisco game, did Shanahan not see anything in that game? Why was Griffin on the field in snow and sleet against one of the NFL’s top three defenses in Kansas City? The bottom line is that Shanahan didn’t care about the health of Robert Griffin III. As for the direction of the franchise, how can someone honestly that Shanahan would care about the direction of the franchise? He had given up on the team from the moment that he quit after that Seattle playoff game. He had surely given up on his tenure in his coach as the Redskins after he had leaked the report to Schefter and Graziano. And if none of these instances were convincing enough, he had finally given up on the franchise when he benched the franchise quarterback and stunted his development citing health reasons. Bottom line; Shanahan didn’t care for the health of the franchise quarterback or the future of the team, he wanted out now.
By the time Shanahan had been fired, he messed up everything good that he had dome with the franchise up until the season before: he has stunted the growth and development of the team’s franchise quarterback, he had left the team with an incompetent special teams coach, he had hired positional coaches who had never coached the position they were assigned, he had hired his son, he had cost the Redskins $36 million in cap penalty, he had lowered the draft value of Kirk Cousins, and miraculously he had done all his and placed the blame on an owner who was a scapegoat and a young man who was hardly at fault.
Snyder was easy to blame and Shanahan knew this. The owner who has been largely unsuccessful in his operation of the franchise has always been the target of criticism from the fans. In years previous, Snyder would have been at fault. Up until the Shanahan regime came in, Snyder had done a ton of bad and not much good, but this was different. Snyder had done everything that Shanahan had asked. First, Shanahan fired longtime buddy and villain Vinny Cerrato. Then he hired a respected name in the league, Bruce Allen, to run the team as general manager. Snyder made Shanahan the highest paid coach in the league and gave him something no other team would, the final say on player personnel. Shanahan was a successful coach, but an awful player personnel manager which is why he was fired from Denver. Snyder gave Shanahan all those duties with a five year guaranteed deal which made him the highest paid coach in the league. Upon becoming the head coach Shanahan requested a practice bubble, narrow field goal posts, and moving the team away for training camp, all these wishes were granted by Snyder. As an owner, Snyder had finally done things the right way, and Shanahan repaid him with 24-40 record. But Shanahan was smart; he knew that if he placed all the blame on Griffin the fans would rally against him, he needed a scapegoat. Snyder was the man, he had been blamed many times and the fans would buy what Shanahan was selling for a while. Time ran up for Shanahan though and not many people were buying his story. High profile men around the league were quoted saying that what Shanahan did was wrong. Shanahan was fired immediately on Black Monday and the Redskins began to move on with their franchise.
I hoped you enjoyed this take from our view and you’ll be seeing a lot more posts soon.
Hail to the Redskins and Hail to the Huddle
Chris and Cameron Kotwicki