- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Let’s be honest.

After all, that’s what Mike Shanahan wanted during the 28 minutes the coach sprayed napalm over the wreckage of the Redskins’ season.

Even by the standards of the Redskins’ theater of the absurd, the embattled coach’s press conference-cum-meltdown somehow pushed the dysfunction surrounding this franchise to new lows.

Or, as they call it at Redskins Park, Wednesday.

“What I’m trying to do is be as honest as I can,” Shanahan said at one point. “And I don’t normally do that because I don’t really think it’s anybody’s business except the guys in our locker room.”

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OK, then. The red-faced coach normally isn’t honest. Those are his words. But this time, well, trust him. These words are the truth. At least until they aren’t.

So, when Shanahan’s contentious answers in front of a national television audience extended to the festering report that he considered quitting last season because of Daniel Snyder’s relationship with Robert Griffin III, the coach, once again, refused to deny the story. In light of the recent advent of honesty, a reporter asked Shanahan to clarify the circumstances of the report that fueled speculation the coach leaked the information.

“I think everybody in this room knows that I don’t talk to anybody off the record,” Shanahan said.

The remark wasn’t delivered with irony or a knowing wink. Not to the roomful of reporters who repeatedly speak to the coach off the record.

Ah, honesty.

Enticed by a $35 million contract, Shanahan came to Washington to restore some measure of respectability on the field and bring adult supervision to the front office. Both tasks have been abject failures, however, as the organization has descended into levels of leaks and child-like squabbling and counter-leaks as the losses grow. The toxic culture the coach was hired to transform may be worse today than when he arrived.

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Since Sunday, for instance, Shanahan twice told assembled media about his idea to bench Griffin for the remainder of the season. The coach didn’t mention this to the quarterback until Wednesday’s conversation that, in fact, Griffin would be inactive for the final three games to keep him healthy for the offseason program after taking 24 sacks in the last five games. Not mentioned? Griffin absorbed fewer hits against the Chiefs than he has in weeks.

That surprise for the healthy (and now thoroughly dejected) quarterback isn’t likely to improve his months-long strained relationship with Shanahan. Not after the coach started him on a torn-up field in a snowstorm then ends his season heading into a dome game against the Falcons.

Oh, and scratch Shanahan’s promise last week that in-game repetitions were critical to Griffin’s continued development.

That’s, uh, honesty. At least what passes for such at Redskins Park.

Welcome to the scout team, No. 10.

Shanahan sounded like a man desperate to salvage his reputation. Trying to reframe his failed 61-game tenure in Washington. Trying to regain control of a season and job spinning out of control. Trying to push the narrative that he’s truthful and non-manipulative but, in the process, making himself appear anything but those laudable traits.

The honesty, if we’re being honest, appeared in short supply.

How could one word that emerged from Shanahan’s mouth Wednesday be trusted?

After the off-the-record lie that’s as comical as it is brazen.

After Shanahan’s insistence that, after months of shouting the opposite, his gut told him to pull Griffin at halftime of the ill-fated playoff game against the Seahawks.

After floating Griffin’s benching as his call, then following up Wednesday with the instance that Snyder and general manager Bruce Allen have wholeheartedly backed the move all along.

After refusing to answer questions Sunday about his desire to return as Redskins coach next season in the final year of his contract only to insist during the press conference that, of course, he wants to be back.

No, Shanahan’s nose didn’t appear to grow longer during the 28 minutes.

Instead, passive-aggressive declarations, interrupted questions, faux honesty, revisionist history and combative answers filled the get-together. The bizarre afternoon, one that left longtime Redskins observers shaking their heads at the depth of the mess, is how Shanahan will be remembered in Washington. Defiant to the end, while selling a version of reality that did nothing more than thrust him in the middle of the perpetual circus the Redskins inhabit.

Credibility is a tenuous thing, even moreso in an organization that has tumbled back to its familiar role as a national punchline. The final shreds disappeared for Shanahan on Wednesday in a performance that had as much connection to the truth as the Redskins do to a winning season.

That’s just being honest.

• Nathan Fenno can be reached at nfenno@washingtontimes.com.

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