This Redskins melodrama comes down to fathers and sons, and the dreams that have turned into nightmares.
Coach Mike Shanahan hired his son Kyle to be his offensive coordinator here in Washington, and you can be sure that was a dream come true for both. Kyle grew up on the football field around his father, and most likely as a young boy dreamed of the day he could work with Dad.
Mike watched Kyle grow as a football coach from afar, from offensive quality coach in Tampa Bay to a successful offensive coordinator with the Houston Texans. And while Mike has said he tried to discourage Kyle from taking the Redskins job, you know as a father he dreamed of the day he would have his son at his side in the film room and the sidelines.
The dream became a reality here in Washington, and father and son combined for an NFC East title last year.
On the other side, you have the number two and number three Griffins, Robert Jr., and his son, Robert “SuperBob” Griffin III. The father, from all accounts, has been a supportive and loving Dad, as you would expect, and a guiding influence on SuperBob’s life — perhaps too much so, but it is a father protecting his son. They probably spoke many times of the day SuperBob would be an NFL quarterback.
The dream became a reality in Washington, and SuperBob became the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and one of the league’s biggest stars.
It’s all turned into a nightmare.
Mike finds himself under fire, possibly on the verge of being fired, accused of being in a battle of wills with SuperBob, criticized for not protecting him in the Seattle playoff game last January and now accused of benching him in a political war with owner Daniel Snyder. Kyle has been the target of fans wrath and, according to the Washington Post, is the cause of the conflict between SuperBob and the Shanahans.
Griffin Jr. has gone from the role-model father to the intrusive Little League parent. He made comments in several interviews during the offseason about the way his son SuperBob was used last year in the Shanahan offense, telling reporters, “You tell a kid that you want to him to be there for 14 years, guess what? Historical data will tell you that the more he runs, the more subject he is to career injury. You name one quarterback out there that would rather run the football than throw the football and I’ll show you a loser.”
His son is now seen as a spoiled diva, a coach killer.
There are stories about the father and son presenting plays to the Shanahans that they no longer wanted to run, and then Griffin Jr.’s presence in the Redskins locker room after the 49ers game, concerned about the beating his son had taken — a privilege not typically afforded to parents of other team members.
Fathers and sons, and dreams gone bad.
No one knows the challenge of a son working for his father on an NFL coaching staff more than David Shula. He was the wide receiver and quarterbacks coach under his legendary father Don Shula in Miami from 1982 to 1989, before moving up to work for Jimmy Johnson in Dallas. He would go on to become the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals for four years before being fired in 1996. He’s no longer in the NFL coaching business, now running his family steakhouse business.
He said if you are not winning you can’t overcome the perception of nepotism — from the outside.
“What I remember was that the relationship is only viewed questionably by people from the outside if you are not winning,” David Shula said. “From a son’s viewpoint, if you are proving your worth and contributing each week, you are viewed as any other staff member. But if the owner or others have a feeling you are being coddled, then it’s not going to work.
“I have tremendous respect for Coach Shanahan and what he has accomplished in his career,” David Shula said. “They had a remarkable season last year. You hate to see it fall apart.”
His father Don basically said you’ve got to be cold-blooded, even with a family member. “If it doesn’t work out, then you’ve got to make another decision,” he said. “You can’t make decisions because of the relationship. But it’s never easy to fire anybody, and if it’s a relative, it makes it all the more difficult. But you can’t let that get in the way.”
No father dreams about firing his son.
Then there are the Griffins, and the protective, perhaps interfering, father.
Bob Griese had a son that played in the NFL — Brian, at quarterback, who, in fact, was drafted and played for Mike Shanahan in Denver from 1998 to 2002. If there was ever a father who had the right to speak up about the way his son was being coached, it is Bob Griese, a Hall of Fame quarterback who led the Dolphins to two Super Bowl titles.
“I never spoke publicly about the way he [Brian] was used,” Griese said. “It just wasn’t my place to do that. I never got involved in talking to coaches or stepped in. … By the way, I think Mike Shanahan is a great coach.”
If you don’t think this is all about fathers and sons, look no further than the vacant parking space at Redskins Park with the sign that reads, “Reserved Gerald S. Snyder.” — owner Daniel Snyder’s father, who passed away in 2003.
They shared a passion for the Redskins.
Fathers and sons.
• Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,”noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 radio and espn980.com