Snyder’s relationship with Griffin is a focal point of reports about the issues between Shanahan and Snyder that have led people in the Redskins organization to say Shanahan’s departure from the team is inevitable. The major remaining uncertainty was said to be how and when the separation between the coach and the team will be crafted.
Snyder and his close associates were sorting through their options, according to multiple people familiar with the situation, with one of the possibilities being firing Shanahan for cause and attempting to withhold the money due to him for the remainder of his contract.
One person familiar with the matter said it was not clear what the team would do and that it was not certain the Redskins would take that approach even if they decide to dismiss Shanahan. According to this person, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic, there were “a number of things on the table.”
Shanahan deflected several questions about his relationship with Snyder. “All I’m saying to you is I get along with Dan quite well,” he said. “He’s been a very supportive owner, and hopefully I can win for him.”
Shanahan said he will decide Wednesday whether to play Griffin or second-year backup Kirk Cousins in Sunday’s game at Atlanta. He said he if sits Griffin, who has been sacked 24 times in the Redskins’ past five games, it would be to protect Griffin against getting hurt.
“We had 24 sacks in the last five games. That’s a lot,” Shanahan said. “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.”
Cousins took over for Griffin late in Sunday’s 45-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Shanahan had maintained in recent weeks that he had no plans to bench Griffin despite the quarterback’s struggles in his second NFL season. Griffin was not available to comment.
Griffin, coming off knee surgery in January, has thrown 16 touchdown passes and a dozen interceptions this season after throwing 20 touchdown passes and only five interceptions last season, when he was named the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year. Shanahan’s stance had been that Griffin needed to continue to play to work his way through what he deemed to be growing pains. But that stance appears to have changed.
“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 whether he had consulted Snyder on the decision, Shanahan said, “Oh, of course. Yeah.”
One person close to the Redskins organization said that by raising the possibility of benching Griffin, Shanahan appeared to be deliberately trying to provoke Snyder, who would oppose benching the star quarterback. This person said Shanahan may be trying to force Snyder into firing him, a decision that would mean the owner would have to pay him the money owed under his contract.
Several people close to the situation have said members of Redskins management were angry about a report Sunday by ESPN that Shanahan considered quitting after last season. Team officials wondered about the timing and motivation behind the report and questioned whether Shanahan was trying to orchestrate his departure from the organization, those people with knowledge of the situation said.
Shanahan initially declined to answer a question during Monday’s news conference about whether he wants to remain with the Redskins beyond this season. He also refused to directly answer questions about whether he considered quitting after last season and whether he is confident he will coach the team the remainder of this season.
But he said later during the news conference: “You always want to come back. I love these guys,” referring to the team’s players.
“What’ll happen at the end of the season, we’ll get a chance, Dan and I, to sit down and decide. He’ll make the final decision of what’s [in] the best interests of the Washington Redskins. I’ll give my opinion, what I think. Obviously he’ll make the final decision.”
Shanahan’s contract runs through next season and pays him approximately $7 million per year. It is believed that under normal circumstances, the Redskins would owe Shanahan the remainder of his contract if they fire him and he would forfeit the rest of his contract if he resigns.
But if the Redskins fire him for cause, they could contend Shanahan violated his contract and therefore forfeited his right to the money due to him under the deal, according to those people with knowledge of the matter. The Redskins likely would contend Shanahan was involved in the dissemination of Sunday’s ESPN story, which said he considered stepping down last season because of his unhappiness with the close relationship Snyder has with Griffin, according to those people.
Shanahan would have the ability to challenge such a tactic via a grievance. One person familiar with NFL legal matters said he didn’t know whether the Redskins would take such an approach with Shanahan but they would face a difficult task in proving such a case.
Shanahan said he believes Redskins players continue to give their best effort. He said he apologized to players Monday about the recent distractions the team has endured.
“We’re 3-10,” Shanahan said. “That’s what happens when you’re 3-10. We can’t talk about the playoffs. We can’t talk about our draft choice. We don’t have a first-round draft choice. We’ve got to talk about something. And normally that occurs after a winning season. I’m sure something like this is happening in different markets across the country when you have those type of expectations.”