Maybe this was Washington PR fixer Lanny Davis’ plan to divert attention from the team name. I mean, if we’re talking conspiracies here.
The Washington Redskins, coming off a 45-10 embarrassing loss Sunday to the Kansas City Chiefs at Fed Ex Field, have become a regular D.C. playground for conspiracy, intrigue and back-stabbing, dwarfing the clumsy, amateurish exercises that take place these days on Capitol Hill.
Owner Daniel Snyder, coach Mike Shanahan and quarterback Robert “SuperBob” Griffin III are the trinity of turmoil at Redskins Park, all seemingly staking out their corner in this political battle royal.
Shanahan seemingly came off the top rope Sunday when the ESPN report came out that the coach, disillusioned over the buddy-buddy relationship between Snyder and SuperBob, cleaned out his office before the Seattle playoff game in January and was ready to quit. Shanahan refused to confirm or deny the report after the game.
Snyder may have struck back with another report, this one from the Washington Post, that suggested Shanahan planted the ESPN story to force Snyder to fire him so he could become a candidate for the newly vacant Houston Texans job. And, of course, he would take his son and offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, with him.
Then there is SuperBob himself, who may play the innocent victim of all this turmoil, but might as well have parked a moving van in Shanahan’s parking space at Redskins Park with his lukewarm response to questions from reporters about the future of Shanahan as Redskins coach and the “trust” between him and Shanahan.
After all, this is all about the quarterback. He may not have realized it when he was having dinner with Snyder and becoming friends with the owner. SuperBob may simply not have been aware of the past political implications of such a relationship within this franchise. But you can be sure that it sent chills up the spines of Redskins fans — and Shanahan — when the reports began surfacing about the owner and the young quarterback out on the town.
It was reminiscent of the days of the relationship between the owner and Clinton Portis, which had become a symbol representing the dysfunction of this franchise. The pecking order at Redskins Park seemed to go like this — Owner, Portis, Vinny Cerrato and then maybe, depending on who it was, the coach.
That’s what the invisible man in this soap opera was supposed to stop — Bruce Allen.
Allen is called the team’s “general manager,” but from what we can determine, he really didn’t have much to do. He seemed to be, as ESPN 980 host Steve Czaban has dubbed him, “director of pants and picnics,” referring to Allen’s focus on team uniforms and alumni events.
But the one important job that Allen seemed to have was to simply be the wall between the owner and the football team. When he first arrived in December 2009, Allen was portrayed as the new sheriff at Redskins Park who shut down the path between the locker room and the owner’s office. That was not inconsequential.
It was easy to do when the quarterback was John Beck or Rex Grossman. But when SuperBob burst on the scene as the rookie phenom who took the NFL by storm last season and led the team to the NFC East title, the wall came tumbling down.
This is why Shanahan was so perturbed by the relationship between the owner and the quarterback, and why Redskins fans should have been as well. He was well aware of the past sins of the franchise, and that any sign that the owner treated SuperBob special — from dinners on the town to, according to one report, having his private car take SuperBob’s fiancée to Fed Ex Field for games — should be alarming.
Shanahan is walking in Jim Zorn’s shoes, but the difference is that Shanahan knows how to dance the dance of NFL politics. Zorn was woefully unprepared for the daily dysfunction of Redskins Park, from handling Portis to being forced to accept an offensive “consultant” out of a Michigan bingo hall as play-caller. Zorn was a sympathetic figure at the end.
Shanahan is an NFL political animal, well versed in the back-room and sports-page politics. This time Snyder is in the ring with a heavyweight.
No one will shed any tears if this is the end of the Mike Shanahan reign. He is not a sympathetic figure. He has a terrible record of 24-37. He was the boss who hired his son, and was a stranger throughout the four years he has been in Washington — never making any effort to connect with a Redskins fan base that is perhaps forever spoiled by its love affair with Joe Gibbs.
Bruce Allen? He is sort of a wild card in all this. He’s not the village idiot like Cerrato was — a different player from previous dysfunctional dramas. It might be nice to hear from the general manager of this team at some point, but he was raised by another heavyweight, George Allen, and is not a fan of operating in the light. In fact, when he was general manager in Tampa Bay, he was called the “Prince of Darkness.”
SuperBob? Hopefully, the quarterback has learned a lesson in all this — that sometimes, a kiss is not just a kiss, a ride is not a ride, and dinner is not always just dinner.
• Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,”noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 radio and espn980.com