Update Thursday 10 a.m.: Redskins defensive end Ricky Jean Francois went on the radio with Chris Cooley to discuss the former Redskins’ comments about Robert Griffin III. And while Cooley didn’t back off on his comments, the two decided to “close the book on RGIII.”
Robert Griffin III is gone from the Redskins after four wildly up-and-down seasons, but it’s hard to make a clean break from someone who had such an outsized influence on your franchise. And so expect the stories (and headlines) about Griffin’s tenure here to continue for weeks if not longer, as everyone tries to make sense of one of the most dramatic rises and falls this town has seen in decades.
That already started on Monday. Chris Cooley — a former teammate of Griffin’s, who was also among the harshest critics of Griffin’s play in 2014 — looked back on the past four years during several segments on ESPN 980 on Monday afternoon, offering a level of candor we didn’t always hear in real time. Cooley’s thoughts were perhaps most interesting when he talked about his impressions of the Griffin-Kirk Cousins relationship.
“There’s always a working relationship,” Cooley said at the beginning of the discussion with co-host Al Galdi. “There’s a working relationship where guys show up and they work. I would drink a beer with Mike Shanahan today; I did not like him as a head coach. I like him as a dude. That said, I don’t think Kirk Cousins and Robert Griffin are going to be drinking any beers together. One, Robert doesn’t drink, [and] Kirk rarely drinks. But there was never a friendship relationship. From the moment Kirk was drafted, I think Robert had animosity towards him. A lot of people in this area hated that fourth-round pick; I don’t think anyone hated it as much as RGIII hated it.”
Cooley said after Cousins excelled in a preseason game their rookie season, Griffin said it was nice to see “the twos” do well, implying that the remark did not go over well. And he said that while Griffin had many friends on the team, Cousins — who tries to be friends with everyone and is the “nicest dude in the world”– never really got there.
“Robert was never willing to be friends with Kirk Cousins,” Cooley said. “They never hung out together, they never spent time together, their families didn’t hang out together. … It was never a great relationship. I don’t think Robert ever wanted it to be a great relationship. And I think it became really contentious over the last two years, to where Rex Grossman, a guy who I’m close with, said ‘This is weird in here. This is a bad situation in here. These guys don’t like each other.’
“Colt McCoy had to deal with some stuff,” Cooley said. “Two years of who should be the starter, constant competition between a guy who doesn’t want to handle competition. And I think there was respect. I think there was enough working respect. But you have to understand, there’s a group of quarterbacks on every team, usually three, sometimes two. There’s a quarterbacks coach. Seventy-five percent of their professional time is spent in just that meeting room. Really. Quarterbacks spend more time [in meetings] than anybody else. Seventy-five percent of their time is spent not talking to each other, in the same room. That’s got to be so hard. You deal with it, but that’s got to be so weird.”
McCoy hinted at some of this to our Mike Jones and Liz Clarke, mentioning the “difficult circumstances” last season, and how “it was one of the most unusual rooms I’ve ever been a part of.”
Cooley said the issue wasn’t that Cousins was worried about preexisting loyalties to Griffin, or about losing his starting spot. And he said there was professional respect between the two players. But he said repeatedly on Monday that Cousins and Griffin “never became friends, they never became guys that hung out, that spent time together.”
“There was not a friendship there,” Cooley said. “Now again, I don’t know if it’s even relevant, but I just think it’s so interesting, and I just think it plays into so much of how much Robert disliked anyone ever challenging what he was. And when people started to challenge that Kirk might be the guy, it became even worse. It became even more awkward. Let me stop with that.”
Cooley also spoke explicitly of the longstanding impression that some of Griffin’s teammates did not enjoy playing with him.
“The offensive line did not like Robert Griffin,” Cooley said. “A lot of the receivers did not like Robert Griffin. The offensive line had a problem with Robert, because they were considered for a year-and-a-half or two years a terrible offensive line that couldn’t protect a quarterback. A lot of that isn’t true. A lot of that was Robert. A lot of the sacks were put on Robert. Want to believe it or not, they were, okay? Football-wise, they were: it was Robert.
“Robert never took [responsibility] for that,” Cooley said. “Robert continued to let his offensive line eat the blame. They don’t like it. They hate that, man. That kills them. Perception is the only thing an offensive line has, because 99 percent of people watching football have no idea what an offensive line’s doing.
“Receivers didn’t like playing with Robert, because they didn’t get the ball,” Cooley said. “It was never consistent, other than a couple in 2012; they struggled with that. So they didn’t like Robert. … Robert did have friends, of course he had friends, but there were a lot of guys on this team that said it doesn’t benefit me — as a player, as an individual — and we don’t know if it benefits the team with him under center at this point. That was what really happened in that locker room, in talking to a lot of those guys. That’s not me saying I think they would have perceived it this way. It’s me talking to a lot of players in this locker room, as friends, and understanding why the dislike or why the problem.”
Cooley also mentioned Griffin’s comments to members of the media after Cousins beat the Browns in late 2012, when Griffin was held out because of injury. ” I was not happy with the decision,” Griffin said then, even though the Redskins had won the game. “At the end of the day, that’s the decision they went with. I respect that, but it doesn’t mean I necessarily have to like it.” Griffin also said that it was a “great business trip,” and that the win was “huge” for the Redskins, but Cooley said players looked askance at his comments.
“The press conference was unprecedented, and it showed a little b—- in him,” Cooley said. “Not that he is that as a person, but it showed that characteristic, of ‘I can be a little b—- if I need to be a little b—-. I can make just enough noise if I need to make just enough noise.’ I don’t think anybody liked that. That was actually seen amongst the team as dude, we still won the game. We actually had to win this game to keep our playoff hopes alive. … All of it really starts to tie together towards the end of that season.”
And Cooley, it’s worth pointing out, was not entirely unsympathetic to the situation Griffin faced in Washington — a situation not of his own making.
“I think it was tough for Robert, knowing that there was a guy like Kirk over his shoulder,” Cooley said. “And I think it was tough as well because even in 2012 the players bonded a lot with Kirk. He showed a lot of promise in practice, he showed a lot of promise in the preseason games, and I’m sure there was always that thought that ‘I might not lose this job because he outplays me but if I’m hurt for a month I could potentially lose the job,’ or ‘This guy could step in and play some,’ or ‘The fans might like him more,’ or ‘The team might like him more.’ I think there was always that thought in Robert’s mind.”