Robert Griffin III made his rounds last week with the local media, and it’s clear that things are looking up for SuperBob. There’s a spring in his step. His food tastes a little better. The sun is shining a little brighter.
Why? Well, because the warden is gone.
SuperBob became the latest Redskin to present the narrative of the Redskins offseason — that the presence of Mike Shanahan at Redskins Park was the NFL version of Shawshank State Penitentiary, and everyone is feeling like Andy Dufresne walking on a Mexican beach these days.
“It’s hard to describe unless you’ve been here to feel it, but it’s just one of those moments where you kind of go, ‘Ahh,’” SuperBob told The Washington Times. “No one’s relaxed in a lackadaisical way. It’s just that guys are kind of able to be themselves. That’s not a comparison or knock on anything that happened in the previous regime. It’s just a testament to what Jay [Gruden] has brought to the table, and I think guys are excited about that.”
There you go. He may have attempted to couch it in terms of “not a comparison or knock on anything that happened in the previous regime,” but SuperBob’s relief — his “Ahh” moment — is because reform has come to Shawshank Park.
SEE ALSO: Harry Reid to NFL, Dan Snyder: Change Washington Redskins name
He’s not alone. We’ve heard subtlely and not so subtlely that Mike Shanahan held talent hostage — that his interference led to one of the worst defenses in the league, and his autocratic style kept talent evaluators from successfully putting together a championship roster of players.
Now that he’s gone, well — “Ahh.”
If we are to buy into Shanahan as the NFL version of the Shawshank warden, well, then we must believe that none of the following was true:
The report from Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins that SuperBob “bragged to teammates that he could procure favors from the owner and influence the franchise’s direction.”
The report from NFL.com’s Michael Silver that SuperBob asked the Redskins coaches to eliminate bad plays from the team’s film study.
There were so many others from various sources — such as SuperBob and his father presenting a tape to Warden Shanahan telling him what plays the quarterback would run and would not run, and his insecurity about the presence of Kirk Cousins.
All of that, we must assume by the bright light coming from Redskins Park these days, was false. Don’t we?
Shanahan was no barrel of laughs. It’s perfectly plausible that he was manipulative and devious. And from what we’ve seen, Gruden is a stark contrast, personality-wise — a more affable, less guarded fellow.
But it’s hard to believe that everything that led to a 3-13 record last year was because of Mike Shanahan — the same coach who was in charge of the 10-6 NFC East champions the year before.
The real change, and why SuperBob may have a spring in his step these days, may simply be because he is healthier than he was last year, when he came back from February reconstructive surgery on his right knee. A knee brace and an Adidas advertising campaign that called for SuperBob to be ready for the NFL opener — “All in for week one” — hung over his head last season, and both were probably more destructive than any disinformation campaign Shanahan may or may not have operated.
That may be as responsible for “Ahh” more than the absence of the Warden Shanahan.
The good times may continue, because despite all the drama that surrounded the quarterback last season, he remains one of the most talented young quarterbacks in the league and a game changer. Now he has a full offseason — something he was denied last year — to prepare with his teammates, including his newest weapon, DeSean Jackson.
There should be nothing that gets in the way of SuperBob’s success this year — and the Redskins’ as well. And when you have success, the noise gets quieted down. So we probably won’t have all the drama that we certainly lived through last year. And I am sure the reason for that success that we will hear is the absence of Warden Shanahan.
But the pressure is on SuperBob. He is free now, walking on a beach in Mexico. If this team falters again next year, “Ahh” becomes “Uh-oh.”
By the way, that light coming from Redskins Park these days? It’s SuperBob himself.
From the Washington Post: “As a quarterback, my identity is I am the leader of this team, I am the guy that everybody looks to when things are going bad … I am the guy that delivers. I am the guy that everyone on the team offense, defense, special teams — when it’s crunch time, they’re not looking at Trent Williams, they’re not looking at Alfred Morris. They’re looking at Robert Griffin III and that is an identity and position I accept. You have to believe in yourself. If you don’t believe, nobody else will, and that’s what I do for the guys around me, for my family. I give them that belief that at the end of the day, things are going to work out, and I don’t think their belief is misplaced, even with us being 3-13 last year. We will be a better football team this year. That is my identity.”
Ahh … OK.
• Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 radio and espn980.com