- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 4, 2013

They are the most talked about relationships in Washington.

No, these aren’t congressional leaders or members of the District’s council. They are the coach, offensive coordinator and quarterback of the Redskins and every interaction comes under the harsh glare of the NFL spotlight.

Mike Shanahan, Kyle Shanahan and Robert Griffin III continue to field questions about their commitment and trust in each other. It has been a theme that has dogged the Redskins since late last season when Griffin first injured his right knee.

“One thing about being a head coach is you’ve got relationships with everybody,” Mike Shanahan said  Wednesday. “It’s not like when you’re an assistant coach, because you’re in charge of the football team. But you always try to have a relationship with your quarterback.”

That didn’t exactly shed much light on the issue. But it’s something all three men are loathe to do in public anyway. There’s no winner in that scenario. Still, the future of the franchise is at stake and at 3-9 coaches and players alike are fighting for their jobs.

Griffin, a player Washington gave up three first-round picks and a second rounder to acquire, seems to have more leverage than his coaches. Quarterbacks usually do. Asked to endorse the current staff, Griffin played it by the book. It’s not something he has always done well early in his career.

“I think these guys have a great future,” Griffin said. “I love having them here and that’s all I can say.”

Mike Shanahan, asked the inevitable relationship question, jokingly asked whether the reporter meant on the field or just going out to the local pub for a beer.

The Redskins play the Kansas City Chiefs this Sunday at FedEx Field. Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith, who led San Francisco to the NFC championship game in 2011, is having a nice first season under first-year Kansas City coach Andy Reid. But he’s been on the other side of things, too.

The 49ers had five losing seasons and another at .500 in Smith’s first six years in the NFL. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft bore the brunt of the criticism. In eight seasons in San Francisco, Smith had seven different offensive coordinators. There were some big names coaching him, too, including Mike McCarthy, Norv Turner and Mike Martz. The Redskins have had stability with Kyle Shanahan. But his relationship with Griffin is itself less than two years old.

“It’s tough. I have no idea what it’s like there as far as what’s going on and don’t know Robert,” Smith said. “But for me as a young quarterback, it’s so easy to get caught up in things that you can’t control. I think the older you get and going through that, you get better at not caring about those things and staying focused on what you can control — and that’s preparation. You get better at that. I certainly wasn’t very good at that when I was younger. It’s easier said than done.”

Griffin made waves last month when he appeared critical of Kyle Shanahan’s play calling and his own wide receivers after a Nov. 17 loss to the Eagles. Griffin later clarified those remarks to reporters and to the Shanahans themselves. But it fed a perception, fair or not, that the two sides are not on the same page. All parties continue to insist that’s not the case.

“I think whenever you have competitors like us, losing can be tough,” Griffin said. “But at the end of the day, just like when I came here, me, [Mike Shanahan], Kyle, all the rest of the coaches and all the rest of the players, we all want to win. That’s a winning recipe whether you’re doing it on the field or not.”

Whatever the truth, it is an issue the organization must deal with above all else before moving forward next season. Can the coaching staff co-exist with its quarterback? Are these relationships still developing or are they poisoned? Smith, even with all the struggles that he endured in San Francisco, believes it’s possible for an organization to come through such turmoil and be better for it in the long run.

“I think the good ones do,” Smith said. “The good players, the good environments, the good coaches. When things go bad you still need to be taking steps to get better and learn from it. That’s always the goal.”

• Brian McNally can be reached at bmcnally@washingtontimes.com.

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