Washington Redskins two-step: Speak your mind, walk it back

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

Washington, at 3-7, is a dreadful football team. The coaching staff should be fired, the quarterback benched, the offensive and defensive systems abandoned and the special teams rebuilt from scratch.

Wait. What I meant to say is that Washington, at 3-7, is having a bad season. Some of the coaches should probably be let go, although doing it now is shutting the barn door after the horse is out. The offensive system seems fine, judged by the statistics. The defensive scheme, as I wrote earlier this week, might need rethinking. And the special teams really do need to be rebuilt from scratch.

And that’s an example of saying every little thought that floats through your head and then walking it back once you’ve had time to think about it. We’ve all had to do it. Athletes and coaches have to do it more than most, because they are asked to explain things minutes after they happen. They don’t have time to carefully choose their words. Then they have to clarify their remarks. Robert Griffin III clarified remarks. Santana Moss clarified remarks. Josh Morgan might have had to clarify remarks, but he claimed to be under a gag order after his demotion.

Truth is a casualty in many locker rooms, including Washington’s. There are problems between Griffin and Mike Shanahan. No, wait, no problems. Nothing to see here. Keep walking. Moss thinks Griffin needs to take more responsibility. No, wait, Griffin is a great leader, and Moss was speaking in generalities.

The truth is, we don’t know the truth. What coaches and players say on podiums, during media scrums in front of their lockers, even during radio or television interviews, may not necessarily reflect what’s actually going on when all the microphones and cameras and notepads are ushered out. Just as we don’t really know what goes on in other people’s homes, we don’t really know what goes on behind closed locker room doors.

The Post Sports Live crew discusses some of the Redskins post-game comments and what they reveal about the team as a unit. (Post Sports Live/The Washington Post)

So we’re left to parse remarks, to watch body language, to lip-read television clips, and to draw judgments. That doesn’t necessarily mean all those judgments are wrong. It just means that they aren’t all necessarily right.

With that in mind, what seems very clear is that Griffin isn’t happy with the way his receivers are running their routes. You don’t have to be the Amazing Kreskin to determine that; just watch him as he walks off the field after a missed ball, even if that ball was overthrown. And Griffin’s receivers are not happy with his unhappiness. Pierre Garcon made his thoughts very clear after the loss to the Eagles, and he stood by them this week. Moss’s original remarks Tuesday are probably closer to his true feelings than his backpedaling Wednesday, but Moss is a wily veteran — the Fox announcers on Sunday actually called him Old Faithful; let’s hope he didn’t DVR the game — and he understands the dynamics of the room.

What seems less clear but quite possible is that there is growing discontent between Mike and Kyle Shanahan and their quarterback. It would be remarkable if the troika wasn’t squabbling given the growing pressure on them to win. Mike Shanahan is fighting for a contract extension or his job, depending on whom you ask. As Mike goes, so goes Kyle, so there is added pressure on both. And while a lot of people are critical of Kyle’s play-calling (including me), I’m guessing Dad isn’t going to fire the father of his grandchildren during the holidays.

And while this he-said, he-said, no-I-really-meant, well-why-didn’t-you-say-so dance has livened up a long week as the team and the town prepare for a Monday night meeting with San Francisco, it’s a nice change of pace from Washington’s usual 3-7 panic of choice: quarterback controversy! Not that there haven’t been calls for Griffin’s benching — Sonny Jurgensen’s being the loudest — but one more off-balance Hail Mary into the end zone on third and one and Jurgensen will be joined by a veritable choir singing the praises of Kirk Cousins.

And that would just be another week in the life of this football team, which produces more drama than a Shakespeare festival. If the players and coaches want to bring down the curtain, there is one guaranteed show-stopper: Win. And then perform a couple of encores.

For more by Tracee Hamilton, visit washingtonpost.com/hamilton.

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