For 28 minutes Wednesday, Mike Shanahan stood behind a podium and in front of a dozen cameras at Redskins Park, passionately working through the circumstances that led to the decision to bench franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III in favor of Kirk Cousins.
It was not an undoing of his decision a year ago, when he allowed Griffin to play in the Washington Redskins‘ playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks after aggravating his previously injured right knee. It was not an evaluation of Griffin’s performance, despite his markedly different results from a year ago.
And, as the coach insisted, it was not the next step in a well-orchestrated ploy to force his seemingly inevitable exit from the Redskins.
Not a single question was asked about the Atlanta Falcons, the Redskins‘ opponent on Sunday. The injury report, publicized on Wednesday, was disseminated for the first time by e-mail later in the afternoon. Coaching decisions and missed plays from the previous game, frequent topics of conversation in a normal week, have been rendered irrelevant.
Rather, the 33 questions Shanahan answered — and the few more he cut off with answers mid-stream — were focused on the coach’s treatment of his quarterbacks, his relationships with Snyder and general manager Bruce Allen, and the expectations he has for his players moving forward.
“I know it’s tough,” Shanahan said, “and they’re sometimes hard questions to answer, but they have to believe you’re doing the right thing for the organization.”
By running the decision to bench Griffin for the final three games of the season by Snyder and Allen, as Shanahan insisted he did each of the last two weeks, the appearance persists that Snyder is continuing to do have some role in the franchise aside from being its owner.
Shanahan said ordinarily, it wouldn’t.
“But would you ever make a decision like that, with your franchise quarterback that you gave up two [first-round picks and a second-round pick for], without having the courtesy to talk to the owner and say, ‘Hey, would you make this move?’” Shanahan said. “‘If not, this is your football team. I’m the head coach. I would not make it unless I’ve got your blessing,’ because I don’t want to do that to him if he feels it’s not the right thing to do.”
The idea to do so, Shanahan said, came from a gut feeling he had entering the Redskins‘ game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, an eventual 45-10 loss that was the latest in a string of defeats that has ranked amongst the worst in Shanahan’s tenure.
While it’s a similar feeling to what he had in January, when Griffin aggravated his sprained right knee in the first quarter of the playoff loss to the Seahawks, the decision was not made as an attempt to set right what he admitted what he believed was wrong at the time.