What’s in a text? Everything, including job security for Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan.
Four years ago, Daniel Snyder needed Shanahan more than Shanahan needed Snyder. The owner’s franchise was a dumpster fire and credibility was everything. Snyder didn’t hire an experienced two-time Super Bowl champion coach as much as he hired a crisis-intervention specialist. Within one chaotic Haynesworth-less year, order was restored and My-Way Mike became the face of the franchise.
But there’s a new sheriff in town. His name is Robert Griffin III. In the 12 dizzying months since he was drafted, his value has become greater than anyone in the organization. His words carry more weight with the public than any player, coach or owner. He is Snyder’s meal ticket, his real bridge to ever being viewed as a respectable and Super Bowl-worthy owner.
So if I’m Shanahan, I parse Griffin’s text messages, quotes, public statements, sneers and smiles even more obsessively than fans or the media. And I look for the slightest hint of disappointment in the coaching staff, the play-calling of Kyle Shanahan, the team’s medical protocols, everything.
And I ask myself the hardest questions any autocratic leader of a football team has to ask himself: How do I put myself on the same page as my franchise quarterback? How do I ensure Robert feels we have his best interests at heart as we try to win a Lombardi Trophy together?
He doesn’t have to take Griffin’s opinion seriously in matters of health, because every 20-something football player thinks he can play even if he physically can’t. But Shanahan better listen to what Griffin is saying between the lines about everything else, because here’s what the tea leaves say to me: Griffin understands he needs to protect himself better, but the less he’s sent out as a receiver on flea-flicker passes, the fewer zigzagging wide-right or wide-left designed runs that are called by the coach’s son, the better chances of Griffin remaining on the field for an entire season.
If Shanahan is going to maximize his investment in Griffin, some of the play-calling might to have to change. Now. Because when Griffin writes, “all parties involved know their responsibilities as well,” he means Kyle, too.
If Shanahan really wants a contract extension from Snyder — if he ever wants to be the one who stands atop of the podium, smiling with Griffin, holding the trophy — he may want to more closely consider his relationship with Griffin.