NFL owners, more than other owners of major sports franchises, side with their coaches more often than their players. But Snyder is not just any NFL owner. He has gone out of his way to seek friendship with some of his stars. LaVar Arrington and Clinton Portis come immediately to mind. Griffin is the next player relationship he’s trying to cultivate.
In November, the Snyder family stayed behind in Dallas to celebrate Thanksgiving with the Griffin family. Snyder was one of the people who accompanied Griffin to orthopedic surgeon James Andrews’s office in Florida after he injured his knee in the last game of the season. Snyder is now enlisting Griffin’s recruiting skills to entice free agents to sign with Washington. Griffin attended a private dinner with Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield on Thursday night.
The days of Portis being able to go over the coach’s head and seek a private audience with Snyder when things were going bad were said to be over when Shanahan and General Manager Bruce Allen arrived. No breaches of command, remember?
But Griffin isn’t merely a star player. He’s bigger. If Washington had its very own Sports Illustrated list of its most influential people, the wealth and decision-making power of Snyder and Wizards-Capitals owner Ted Leonsis would be an easy 1-2. But in the athlete-coach category, Griffin is unquestionably No. 1 — several rungs above Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, Pierre Garcon, Davey Johnson and, yes, Shanahan.
For as much as the coach controls his playing time, his designed running plays that can put him at risk and the play-action passes that require precise decision-making, Griffin controls Shanahan’s future in Washington. Not the other way around.
And the quicker the coach learns that and gets expressly on the same page with his player, the quicker he can get back on the path to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. If his stubbornness and refusal to accept blame when he’s wrong continues, he will lose the support of his owner and, ostensibly, his job.
What’s in a text? Shanahan now needs Griffin more than Snyder needs Shanahan.
For previous columns by Mike Wise, visit washingtonpost.com/wise.