Snyder’s decision to send so many picks to the St. Louis Rams to get the chance at Griffin, Redskins people say, is proof of his continued belief that Shanahan still has what it takes to fix the team. Snyder, who declined an interview request, understood that the exorbitant cost for Griffin would hamper the Redskins’ ability to improve the team through the draft. Correctly, though, Snyder realized it was way past time for the Redskins to acquire a difference-maker at the game’s most important position. Shanahan made the right call. Wisely, Snyder approved it.
Shanahan and Snyder saw an opportunity and “went for it,” inside linebacker and team leader London Fletcher,
who is beginning his 15th season said. “In this league, the quarterback is so important. Guys who have Robert’s ability, Robert’s potential, just don’t come around often.”
Snyder’s support of Shanahan, Fletcher added, was not lost on the locker room. “Guys definitely understand the significance of the owner believing in your coach,” he said. “For Mr. Snyder to do what he did, you know he definitely understands what Coach [Shanahan] is trying to accomplish. That’s what you want to see from your owner and your coach.”
Despite his struggles in Washington, Shanahan is still considered one of the game’s best tacticians. There’s nothing wrong with Shanahan’s playbook; the problem has been the people trying to execute the plays — especially at quarterback. Although Shanahan would probably never admit it, I wouldn’t be surprised if he underestimated the dearth of talent on the Redskins’ roster when he arrived. A decade worth of mismanagement (remember the horrendous 2008 draft?) can’t be overcome overnight.
In addition to lacking first-round picks the next two seasons, the Redskins are dealing with the effects of the NFL’s $36 million salary cap penalty. They will have $18 million less to spend in free agency before next season, which makes it even more difficult to strengthen the team around Griffin.
During the preseason, Griffin made typical rookie mistakes and probably will experience growing pains. The Redskins have concerns along the offensive line, at running back and in the secondary. It wouldn’t be shocking if the Redskins’ win-loss record was worse than last season, “but I don’t think anyone is looking at it like it’s all on Robert” to improve the team, Fletcher said.
“Robert is a rookie, so he needs time to go out there and learn. He’ll be fine [in time] and we’ll be better as he grows. I’ll know this, Mr. Snyder and Coach Shanahan wouldn’t have done everything it took to get him if they thought he would [fail].”
Shanahan and Snyder have pushed in all their chips. They’re about to play their hand.
For Jason Reid’s previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/reid.