Embattled Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said that he is considering benching quarterback Robert Griffin III for the remainder of the season to ensure that the second-year pro avoids injury and goes into the offseason program completely healthy.
Shanahan, whose coaching career with the Redskins appears to be coming to an end, had maintained in the past several weeks that he had no plans to bench Griffin despite his struggles in his second NFL season.
Griffin won rookie of the year honors in 2012 after leading one of the most prolific offensive attacks in the league and ranking among the top five quarterbacks in the league in completion percentage and quarterback rating. He led a 7-0 finish to the season that gave Washington the NFC East title and a first-round home playoff game.
But this season, Griffin — while working his way back into the flow after having reconstructive knee surgery in January — has seen his effectiveness diminish. His completion percentage and passer rating now rank 24th and 25th, respectively. A year after throwing 20 touchdowns and only five interceptions, Griffin has 16 touchdown passes and 12 picks.
Shanahan’s stance had been that Griffin needed to continue to play to work his way through what he deemed to be growing pains.
“It’s a growing period,” Shanahan said on Nov. 26, “and if you take a look at so many of these quarterbacks, you go back and think of all the Hall of Fame quarterbacks, they’ve had much tougher years than what we’re going through so far. It doesn’t happen overnight, but he’s got all the ability in the world to make that big jump and you just have to be patient.”
But Shanahan’s stance appears to have changed. He pulled Griffin from the game on Sunday with the Chiefs up 45-10 early in the fourth quarter. At the time, Shanahan said the move came because the game was out of hand and on a sloppy field, there was no need to risk injury.
After the game, Shanahan wouldn’t commit to Griffin as his starter for the upcoming game.
As of Monday afternoon, a number of Redskins players said that they hadn’t heard any news regarding Shanahan’s tenure or his plans for the quarterback position.
But at his news conference the same afternoon, Shanahan indicated that he was leaning towards benching Griffin. (See video below)
“The reason why I left it up in their air, talking about that after the game, any time you have 24 sacks in the last five games and you go against a team that’s had two sacks in five games and you give up six, you’re always taking a look at what’s in the best interest of your organization,” Shanahan said. “The reason why I was hesitant, you always take a look at your franchise quarterback, and you want to make sure that going into the offseason, he’s healthy enough so he has a full offseason program. And that’s why I didn’t say he was the starter. That’s just something I’m saying in the back of my mind right now, thinking about it right now. I’ll let you know in the next couple days what I think.”
Asked what had led to the sudden change of thought, Shanahan said, “It was just what I said. We had 24 sacks in the last five games. That’s a lot. You go against a team that’s had two sacks in the last five games and they get six in a game, and you’re talking about his health. I want to make sure he’s healthy. I think that’s the most important thing going into the offseason that he has his first full offseason of being healthy, and if something did happen to him, I think it would set our franchise back. That doesn’t say I’m going that way. I’ll think about it here over the next 48 hours and make a decision on Wednesday.”
Shanahan said Griffin’s knee hadn’t suffered a setback, and instead, he said, “No, I think he’s 100 percent. I think he’s feeling very good where he’s at right now. That wasn’t really part of the decision.”
Shanahan said the decision isn’t performance related, and that it has nothing to do with the desire to further evaluate Cousins in game action. The coach hadn’t had yet informed Griffin or Cousins of his plans. But he said he would when he made his decision.
Last season, Shanahan went against his instincts and kept a hobbled Griffin in the playoff game against Seattle because he was worried about damaging their relationship. The decision to bench a healthy Griffin would seem to have a damaging impact to an already fragile relationship. But Shanahan — in another change of tune — said the future of the franchise carried ultimate importance.
“Like I said, I’ve got to do what’s best for the organization,” Shanahan said. “If we feel the best thing for the organization is doing that for Robert, then hopefully Robert will understand why we’re doing it. We’re doing it because he’s a franchise quarterback and we want him to be able to go into the offseason and get full preparation and be ready for next year rather than playing one of the next three games and all of a sudden he sets himself back with a possible injury, whatever that may be.”
Asked if he had consulted Daniel Snyder on the decision, Shanahan said, “Oh, of course. Yeah.”
● On Mike Shanahan and Daniel Snyder meeting
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