Listening to Coach Mike Shanahan and quarterback Robert Griffin III on Thursday, you could think only that the Washington Redskins’ leaders are united. Shanahan and Griffin were upbeat about what they hope to accomplish together. It was real fan-friendly stuff. Time will tell whether the pretty picture they painted holds up.
For the team, the scene at Redskins Park was more encouraging than anything that has happened since Griffin tore ligaments in his right knee during a playoff loss to Seattle in January. Just two months ago, Griffin hinted at his frustration about being exposed on designed runs in a text message to an ESPN host. And in the past few days, Griffin’s father has waged a campaign against the run-oriented strategy that contributed to his son’s second major knee injury.
Griffin acknowledged Thursday there had been some issues between him and Shanahan, but “we hashed everything out. We talked, and we’re moving forward from it. . . . We’re on the same page.”
Perhaps Griffin and Shanahan really are in a good place in their relationship — and will stay there — or maybe they just said what they had to say to appear together. Truth is, even Shanahan and Griffin won’t know how things are between them until Griffin is medically cleared to play. Then, last season’s offensive rookie of the year will determine whether he likes the direction of the offense.
This much already is clear: Play-caller Kyle Shanahan should do whatever it takes to make Griffin comfortable. If that means calling just a couple of designed runs every game — or none — then that’s the way Kyle should roll. Griffin is the key to Washington’s hopes of becoming a perennial winner again. For the Redskins, nothing should be more important than keeping Griffin healthy — and happy. Lately, that’s what Robert Griffin Jr. has been talking about.
In Thursday’s editions of The Post, Griffin Jr. stressed he wants to see less running and more passing in the Redskins’ offense next season.
“I just know that based on what I know Robert can do, he doesn’t have to be a runner as much as I saw last year,” Griffin Jr. said. “To me, you’re paying these [receivers] a lot of money to catch the football. I’m his dad — I want him throwing that football a lot. A lot.”
The elder Griffin also hinted at some of the play-calling issues that resulted in the clear-the-air discussions Griffin III revealed.
“I think for [Griffin III], he likes some of the things that they do. And he feels any area where he had a concern, he addressed it,” Griffin Jr. said. “And I think [the Shanahans] have concerns, too. We want to have a united community.”
I’m sure many Redskins fans believe it’s inappropriate for Griffin’s father to comment on what’s happening with the team. After all, Griffin Jr. isn’t part of the coaching staff. The Shanahans don’t consult Griffin Jr. on how to run their offense.
But Griffin’s father has every right to speak out about his son’s safety. It’s what any good father would do. I know I would. Also, father and son are extremely close. Trust us: The younger Griffin wasn’t surprised by anything his pops said. The Griffins are firing warning shots — and they’ve increased in frequency.
“I don’t have a leash on my parents,” Griffin III said. “I love my dad. I talked to him after I heard what he said, and I told him, ‘Thank you.’ That’s what he’s supposed to say as my father. Yeah, he doesn’t want to see me running out there. He wants to see me throwing the ball. . . . I was just proud of the fact that he stood up and said something.”
Shanahan is too smart to get between a father and his son. He understands the message Griffin Jr. is trying to send, “and that’s why you talk about things,” Shanahan said of his discussions with Griffin III. “You want to get it all out there.”
Griffin never has refused to run certain plays, people within the organization say. He hasn’t demanded approval over the playbook. This isn’t like Albert Haynesworth saying he only wants to rush the passer. Griffin isn’t being selfish. He merely wants the coaching staff to reduce the amount of designed runs in game plans and be more selective in calling them.
“It’s not that ‘you can’t do this, you can’t do that,’ ” Griffin said. “It’s more we’ve just got to go out there and be united as a team, united as a staff, to go out there and be successful.”
You can’t blame Griffin for wanting to direct a more traditional offense. He took a beating last season in Washington’s college-style option attack. Griffin suffered a concussion in Week 5 against Atlanta, was knocked out of a Week 15 game against Baltimore and missed the following game in Cleveland. Often, Griffin didn’t protect himself well — but running the read option in the NFL won’t prolong your career.
When Griffin eventually walks away from football, he would like to be able to walk. Just 23 years old, Griffin is rehabbing from his second reconstructive knee surgery. The thought of being knocked around like a crash-test dummy on designed runs for the remainder of his career isn’t appealing.
For the Redskins, the good news is that there aren’t many NFL offensive coordinators sharper than Kyle. He’s a whiz at designing some of the niftiest plays you’ll ever see. Now, Kyle will have to be creative in giving Griffin and Mike the offense both want.
For previous columns by Jason Reid, visit washingtonpost.com/reid.
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