Redskins players, as season teeters on brink of disaster, insist locker room is not divided

The Post Sports Live crew discusses quarterback Robert Griffin III's performance in the Redskins loss to Philadelphia and whether there's any reason back-up Kirk Cousins should start instead. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)
November 20, 2013

Bogged down by a 3-7 record and what appear to be shattered playoff hopes after losing three of their past four games, the Washington Redskins this week showed signs of cracking.

“Everything is noticed. It’s getting close to being really interesting,” former Redskins tight end Chris Cooley said on Wednesday. “I think we’re on the fringe of a breaking point between the coaching staff, team and the quarterback. One win would fix it.”

After the most recent loss, quarterback Robert Griffin III appeared to take a shot at his play-callers — intentionally or not — when during his postgame news conference Sunday he said the offense struggled because the Eagles “knew what was coming.”

Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan responded the next day, saying the Eagles didn’t know the plays, but had elected to challenge Griffin’s pass-coverage reading skills.

In the same interview, Griffin gave an explanation for the interception that he threw to kill a potential tying drive in the closing seconds of the 24-16 loss. Griffin said none of his receivers got open and that he attempted to throw the ball out of the back of the end zone but failed.

The Post Sports Live crew discusses some of the Redskins post-game comments and what they reveal about the team as a unit. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)

That seemed to bother Santana Moss.

The 13-year veteran and longest-tenured member of the team said that as the leader, Griffin shouldn’t have aired what went wrong on the play.

Making his weekly appearance on 106.7 The Fan Tuesday, Moss said, “whether you’re the receiver, the quarterback, the guys making the tackle, whoever, regardless of the outcome, good or bad, you have to at some point, stand up and say ‘me’ or ‘I.’ ”

That came weeks after special teams coach Keith Burns came under fire after a string of gaffes that left the unit ranked at the bottom of the league and prompted players to wonder publicly if some of their teammates had yet to buy into the first-year coordinator’s philosophies. Sunday’s incidents also followed wide receiver Pierre Garcon’s comments after a loss to Denver, when he said “If we suck at passing, we suck at passing.”

On Sunday, yet another one-time starter was demoted, as wide receiver Josh Morgan was deactivated. He joined tight end Fred Davis, who has been inactive for the past five games, as the latest player to have fallen out of favor with the coaching staff.

Morgan left the locker room following the game in frustration. Asked for an interview, he said, “Coach said I can’t play football and I can’t talk.”

Meanwhile, Shanahan this week had to answer questions about his future as he enters what could be a make-or-break six-game homestretch to the season.

All of the incidents seemed to serve as tell-tale signs of an organization in fragile position as the losses mount.

But with all of the controversy — particularly the questions of Griffin’s leadership — swirling, Redskins players put on a united front and insisted that the losses have expounded perceived issues, but that there is no division.

“This is the only thing to talk about because we’re 3-7, but there’s no controversy,” fullback Darrel Young said. “We’re going to go out there Monday night, we’re going to have fun. Come Monday night we’ve got a job to do. We’re trying to go 4-7, and this will be behind us when we get a win. Our backs are against the wall, so everything that everyone’s going to say now is negative, and that’s fine, but we can’t let outside sources come between us.”

Moss went into damage control mode on Wednesday, saying his message was intended to remind all of his teammates — and not just Griffin — that they need to be accountable.

Young backed up Moss, saying, “I don’t think Santana meant it like that, knowing Santana. I think it’s blown out of context, knowing Santana as a person. I don’t think it’s challenging anything Robert said out there, and it’s not questioning anything anyone in this locker room is doing. I think it’s just challenging every person in this locker room.”

And shortly after, London Fletcher — like Moss, one of the most respected members of the team — came to Griffin’s defense.

“The thing about leadership is, if you ask 10 people about leadership, you’ll probably get 10 different answers. Again, this is a great young leader, man,” said Fletcher, whose locker neighbors Griffin’s. “He carried himself in a manner that is very rare that young guys do. The guy has great, tremendous leadership qualities and intangibles that you can’t — you don’t coach leadership. . . . Believe me. The kid is a leader.”

Players and Shanahan described themselves as a family. It may appear dysfunctional at the moment, but unity remains, they insist.

A win Monday night against the San Francisco 49ers will not come easily, but it will serve as a cure to some of the ailments, they say.

“Just because you don’t agree on something doesn’t mean that you’re apart. Ultimately we all have the same goal and that’s going out there winning football games. And when you fall short of that, it’s frustrating,” defensive end Kedric Golston said. “Your family doesn’t break down because somebody wants to go to Chili’s and another person wants to go to Red Lobster. It’s a disagreement and you deal with that in a family, in a group. You have a different opinion sometimes than your boss but you’re here every day, right? Because you’re out here and do a job and that’s what we’re all here for.”

Redskins notes: Wide receiver Leonard Hankerson will miss the remainder of the season with a torn lateral collateral ligament in his left knee, Shanahan said.

Hankerson, who had taken over as the starting receiver opposite Garcon, suffered the injury in Sunday’s game against Philadelphia. The 2011 third-round draft pick had a series of tests on Monday and Tuesday and it was determined that surgery was needed.

He finished with 30 catches for 375 yards and three touchdowns. . . .

Shanahan said he had a conversation with Dean Blandino, the NFL’s vice president of officiating, regarding Trent Williams’s incident with official Roy Ellison.

Williams said the official cursed him out during the first half of Sunday’s loss.

It remains unclear if the official will receive any punishment for his behavior. The league has said that the investigation continues.

Shanahan said he couldn’t go into detail on his discussion with Blandino.

Williams, meanwhile, said that he hasn’t yet heard from any league representatives inquiring about the incident and did not expect to.

Mark Maske contributed to this report.

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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