Mike Shanahan sticks with Robert Griffin III as the Redskins’ quarterback struggles in Year 2

The Post Sports Live crew discusses quarterback Robert Griffin III's performance in the Redskins loss to Philadelphia and whether there's any reason backup Kirk Cousins should start instead. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)
November 19, 2013

In a season in which there has been intense scrutiny on the relationship between Mike Shanahan and Robert Griffin III, the coach stuck with his young quarterback with the Washington Redskins on their way to the defeat that perhaps extinguished their hopes of another turnaround.

Shanahan says he never considered a quarterback switch Sunday in Philadelphia as Griffin struggled mightily for three quarters and the team’s longtime analyst, Hall of Fame quarterback Sonny Jurgensen, said on the Redskins’ radio broadcast that it was time to turn to second-year backup Kirk Cousins.

“No, I did not,” Shanahan said Monday at Redskins Park. “And when you take a look at defenses, you take a look at sometimes it may be a pass protection, may be a dropped ball. It may be an overthrow. There’s a combination of different things that go into having success in that first half. . . . We had a chance to get a couple scores in there and kind of control the clock as well. So when you take a look at everything collectively, you’ve got to make a decision that gives you the best chance to win and that’s the reason why Robert was in there.”

The Redskins had only four net passing yards in the first half — Griffin threw for 26 yards but was sacked three times totaling 22 yards in losses — and had 57 passing yards through three quarters as the Eagles built a 24-0 lead. Griffin threw two long fourth-quarter touchdown passes and the Redskins added a pair of two-point conversions. But Griffin threw an interception in the end zone in the final minute and the 24-16 loss dropped the team’s record to 3-7.

The dynamics of the Shanahan-Griffin relationship have been studied closely and debated widely since Shanahan allowed Griffin, at the then-rookie quarterback’s behest, to remain in last season’s playoff defeat to the Seattle Seahawks while playing on an injured right knee. Griffin reinjured his knee and failed to finish the game.

The Post's Jason Reid clarifies his position that Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan deserves the heat for the team's poor play this season and still believes he deserves a contract extension. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)

He had surgery days later and ever since then, much of the talk about the Redskins has focused on Griffin’s feelings about how he is used by Shanahan and his son, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, in the team’s offense. Some of those close to the situation said before the season that there were tensions and expressed concern that the quarterback-coach relationship could deteriorate if the Redskins failed to build on last season’s success.

The Redskins are in last place in the NFC East, and the loss to the Eagles ensures there won’t be a repeat of last year’s seven-game winning streak to close the regular season and capture the division title following a 3-6 start. Shanahan’s job security beyond this season is being questioned and Griffin, too, is facing mounting criticism from fans and some media members.

Griffin has completed 59.7 percent of his passes this season and has 10 interceptions and 14 touchdown passes. He connected on 65.6 percent of his throws last season and had 20 touchdown passes and only five interceptions. He is currently the league’s 18th-rated passer. His passer rating of 83.6 is down from last season’s 102.4, the highest ever for a rookie NFL quarterback.

Mike Shanahan said Monday that “you need repetition” and Griffin, he said, still is making up for the practice and learning time that he missed during his rehabilitation from his knee surgery.

“I think he’s feeling very natural with the zone-reads and the play-actions off of it,” Shanahan said. “Some of the drop-back passing attack will take a little time. But he’s so sharp at picking things up. He can make any throw. Not many people have that ability to do that. But the great part about it is the sky’s the limit for him in the future. There is gonna be some growing pains. It’s not going to be automatic. We didn’t expect it to be automatic. But there will be growth in what we do with him as time goes on and I think he’ll keep on getting better and better.”

Griffin said after the game Sunday: “It just takes us going out there and doing it. I think we had negative four passing yards in the first half or something like that. That just can’t happen. We’ve got to just be better. I know we say it time and time again, but there’s no other way to say it: Players make plays. Coaches got to coach. And we’ve just got to make it happen.”

Griffin also said Sunday that the Eagles “kind of knew what was coming before it was coming” and “kind of schemed us up pretty good.” When pressed further on the issue, Griffin said he didn’t believe the Redskins had become predictable on offense, but he thought the Eagles had been lucky to make the proper defensive play calls. Shanahan said Monday he wasn’t worried about losing Griffin’s trust and, in his view, Griffin is dealing with opposing defenses resolving this season to take away the Redskins’ deep passing game and force shorter throws.

“Robert is so used to having teams play us in eight-man front where they’ve got to stop our run and . . . we’ve had wide receivers wide open,” Shanahan said. “Our first year, everybody played us in eight-man front, sometimes almost in a nine-man front with their free safety. And when you do that, you’re gonna have guys wide open like we did last year. . . . This year they’re saying, ‘Hey, we’re gonna play a little more passive.’ . . . You’re not gonna always get that deep ball so you’ve got to be able to dump it off and be patient. And that’s part of the NFL no matter what quarterback you’re going against, no matter what system you’re going against.”

Carriker stays on PUP list

The Redskins officially opted on Tuesday to keep defensive end Adam Carriker on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, according to the NFL’s daily transaction report. The move ends Carriker’s comeback quest for the 2013 season.

Carriker missed the bulk of the 2012 season after suffering a torn quadriceps tendon on the second play of Washington’s Week 2 matchup with St. Louis. Carriker had surgery shortly after but needed another in the spring, and a third in late July because he still didn’t have adequate range of motion.

— Mike Jones

Mark Maske covers the NFL for The Washington Post.
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