Redskins’ Robert Griffin III needs to rebuild trust with Mike Shanahan

Jason Reid
Columnist August 13, 2013

Robert Griffin III disagrees with how Coach Mike Shanahan has handled him in his return from knee surgery. Griffin makes that obvious each time he questions Shanahan’s plan. Griffin is entitled to his opinion – but he should stop sharing it publicly.

Enough already with Griffin’s subtle jabs at Shanahan that make it clear he doesn’t trust the Redskins’ top football official, no matter what Griffin says to the contrary. It’s time for Griffin to cool it on providing details about the process, which, knowing Shanahan, pleases the coach about as much as discussing details of his weekly game plan with reporters would. And the next time Griffin gets the urge to back Shanahan into a corner by revealing something Shanahan told him behind closed doors, Griffin should zip it. For the good of the Redskins, Griffin must end this.

Jason Reid is a sports columnist with the Washington Post. He joined the Post’s Redskins team in 2007 after 15 years covering many beats at the Los Angeles Times. View Archive

Griffin’s distrust of Shanahan began last season because of how he was exposed to hits on designed quarterback runs in the team’s college option-style offense. By using his weekly media session to remind everyone of it, Griffin threatens to create a major distraction for a franchise that has worked hard to end the drama. Even a one-sided beef (trust me, Shanahan doesn’t want this to play out in front of cameras and microphones) eventually could divide the Redskins’ locker room if the quarterback continues to call out the coach.

Before this week, Griffin had opened the door just enough to make one wonder whether he was upset that Shanahan has restricted his workload in practice. On Monday, Griffin removed all doubt, telling reporters he doesn’t “understand the whole plan at all. I can’t lie about that. But when you give your word to somebody, that’s all you have, so I’m just banking that they will stay true to their word and I’m staying true to mine.”

Essentially, Griffin made it known that Shanahan told him he would start in the season opener against Philadelphia Sept. 9, assuming Griffin’s reconstructed right knee cooperated. All in for Week 1, indeed. Thing is, it wasn’t Griffin’s place to break the news.

The Post Sports Live crew discusses whether Robert Griffin III should have said that he disagreed with coach Mike Shanahan's plan for his rehab. (The Washington Post)

Griffin is fond of talking about how he learned to follow the chain of command while growing up in a military family. His father, Robert Griffin Jr., taught him to respect the wishes of the people in charge. Then Griffin tells the media something Shanahan clearly wanted to make known on Shanahan’s terms.

Griffin isn’t some naive second-year player who slipped and let something out. He’s one of the sharpest young men you’ll ever meet. The NFL’s 2012 offensive rookie of the year sees all the angles – and knows how to play them.

In sharing what Shanahan said to him in private, Griffin put pressure on Shanahan to stick to the plan. Let’s say Shanahan changed his mind, after Griffin laid out the end game, and started backup Kirk Cousins in Week 1 even if Griffin were healthy. You don’t think that would create controversy? Talk about a sports-talk radio gold mine.

As Griffin learned the hard way, though, you can get hurt when you poke a bear.

Speaking with reporters Monday after Griffin’s show, Shanahan was visibly irritated. In case Griffin had any doubts about what Shanahan thought about Griffin’s comments, Shanahan gave Griffin a timeout: He prohibited Griffin from participating in 11-on-11 drills on Tuesday, which was supposed to be Griffin’s first day rolling with the full squad.

As soon as possible, Griffin wants to reclaim his spot atop the depth chart. Making Griffin wait, even if only for another day, is the worst punishment for someone who is as driven to achieve as Griffin. After the pupil sent the teacher a message, the teacher responded with a more forceful one: Shanahan is in charge.

This isn’t Shanahan’s first rodeo. He understands exactly what Griffin and Griffin’s father – the elder Griffin spoke for his son in basically saying the Redskins should have fewer designed quarterback runs this season – have truly meant in all of their thinly veiled comments and texts throughout the offseason.

The Post Sports Live crew dissects Robert Griffin III's comments that he does not understand Mike Shanahan's plan for his rehab. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)

Shanahan, though, doesn’t want to start a war. He respects Griffin as much for his desire to lead as he does his unique skill set. But everyone has a breaking point. Griffin’s actions appear to be pushing Shanahan close to reaching his.

From listening to Griffin, you don’t need to be a psychologist to realize he has issues with Shanahan and his son, Kyle, Washington’s creative offensive coordinator. I get that Griffin has lingering resentment over the punishment he took on some running plays last season. No one wants to be a human piñata.

Griffin has said he and Mike Shanahan have spoken and are on the same page now. Once you lose trust in the people under whom you work, however, you never regain it completely. That’s why in August, Griffin is still saying he hopes the Shanahans “will stay true to their word.”

Shanahan is doing exactly what he told me he would when we spoke privately about the Griffin situation months ago. No matter when Griffin was cleared medically, Shanahan planned to be extra cautious in order to protect Griffin, the organization and himself.

Shanahan knows he erred in permitting Griffin to drag his damaged right leg around FedEx Field during a playoff loss to Seattle in January. Deservedly, Shanahan got ripped for letting Griffin make the call to stay in the game. Shanahan will never make that mistake again. Allowing Griffin to dictate the terms of his return would be another blockhead move.

Griffin has been great for the Redskins, whose future is bright largely because of him. But he still has to learn that everything doesn’t revolve around what he wants – and that’s something worth talking about.

For more by Jason Reid, visit washingtonpost.com/reid.

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