The Washington Redskins shut down quarterback Robert Griffin III for the remainder of the season Wednesday, naming backup Kirk Cousins as their new starter and adding a new element to Coach Mike Shanahan’s showdown with team owner Daniel Snyder over the direction of the franchise.
Griffin, last season’s NFL offensive rookie of the year, expressed disappointment with Shanahan’s decision and said he “expressed my desire to play” in a meeting with the coach.
“At this point, I have to leave it up to Coach, which it always is,” Griffin told reporters after a midday practice at Redskins Park at which Cousins and backup Rex Grossman worked out with the starting offense.
Shanahan said he had discussed his decision with Snyder and General Manager Bruce Allen. He reiterated he was sitting his star quarterback down to avoid the possibility of him getting hurt following a run of five games in which he has been sacked repeatedly.
“The one thing I thought was most important to this organization — and that’s one of the reasons why I talked about it with Dan because I thought it was very important to include him — that, ‘Hey, this is your guy of the future. What do you want to do? What’s important for us making the right decision?’ ’’ Shanahan said.
“And it’s easy to say after somebody gets hurt, ‘We should have took him out.’ And I didn’t want to put our organization in that type of situation.”
Shanahan said the discussions began last week and he would not have decided to sideline Griffin had Snyder or Allen objected. “Well, just put it this way: I said if either one wasn’t 100 percent behind my reasoning that I’m giving you, I said we won’t go there,” Shanahan said. “Nothing needs to be said. We’ll just keep it status quo.”
Shanahan and Snyder’s differences have largely centered over Shanahan’s unhappiness with Snyder’s friendly relationship with Griffin. The decision to bench Griffin has been interpreted as a deliberate effort by Shanahan to provoke Snyder into firing him, a move that would mean Snyder would still have to pay Shanahan more than $7 million remaining on the five-year contract signed in 2010. Shanahan would not have to be paid if he quit.
In his remarks to reporters Wednesday, Shanahan denied he is attempting to force the issue. He said he would like to remain with the team next season but acknowledged it’s possible that won’t happen once he and Snyder sit down after the season.
Snyder was attending an NFL owners’ meeting in Dallas and was not available to comment. He declined to comment to reporters there, according to the NFL Network.
Multiple people close to the situation have said they expect the team and Shanahan to part ways by the end of the season, if not sooner.
Snyder and Shanahan met Monday, though neither has disclosed the details of the conversation. Snyder and his close associates were said to be sorting through their options, 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. There were “a number of things on the table,” this person said.
Cousins said he was told by coaches he would be making his second NFL start. He started and won a game at Cleveland late last season when Griffin was hurt. “It wasn’t anything dramatic,” he said. Cousins acknowledged the news was “tough” on Griffin.
“He wants to be out there, but I think he’s handling it with a lot of maturity,” Cousins said of Griffin.
Grossman hasn’t dressed for a game all season. Instead the Redskins have gone with just two quarterbacks. Three years ago, after Donovan McNabb fell out of favor with Shanahan, the coach not only benched McNabb but also deactivated him while starting Grossman and elevating then-third-stringer John Beck to the No. 2 position.
Cousins took over for Griffin in the late stages of Sunday’s 45-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at FedEx Field.
“I just prepare every game like I’m the starter, just so I have to be ready because I don’t want to get called into a game like this game and have not prepared the way I need to,” Cousins said after Sunday’s game. “So I’ll prepare the same as every week and do whatever I’m coached to do.”
Shanahan had been asked in recent weeks whether he would sit Griffin down and give Cousins a chance to showcase his skills, and the coach said no because he believed it was necessary for Griffin to play as much as possible after missing the offseason training program because he was recuperating from knee surgery.
Last Thursday, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan discussed the handling of players and avoiding injury and said sitting a player to avoid injury is not normally a factor. Shanahan made the comments while reflecting on last January’s playoff loss at Seattle, when the Redskins played Griffin despite visible evidence he wasn’t 100 percent.
“First of all, I’ve never — in the history of me coaching — never heard a player say he’s fine and the doctor say he’s fine and then the coach say he’s not fine unless the coach doesn’t want to play the guy,” Kyle Shanahan said last Thursday. Then the coach might [say], ‘Hey, you know, you’re not that good,’ because he really has another agenda.”
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