It’s becoming increasingly clear that the careers of former Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan and quarterback Robert Griffin III will be forever linked, especially since neither can seem to stop talking about the other.
Shanahan appeared on Fox Sports 1’s “Undisputed” on Friday afternoon, and co-host Skip Bayless asked the ex-coach about his thoughts on Griffin’s “evolution off the field.” It started off a four-minute segment in which Shanahan did not hold back, blaming himself for not getting through to his quarterback but also criticizing Griffin for trying to be someone he wasn’t.
“I’ll be honest with you, I was really disappointed myself, because I knew where Robert was going,” Shanahan said. “I knew where his dad was going. I knew where [Redskins owner] Dan Snyder was going. It was up to me to convince this guy that, ‘Hey, if you don’t run, your drop-back game . . . it’s not there now, but you can get there.’ I blame myself for not getting to the kid. He really believes he was Aaron Rodgers. In his mind, he believed he was Aaron Rodgers. I said, ‘You know what? You’re not Aaron Rodgers, and Aaron Rodgers is not you.’ ”
Shanahan’s comments came just a few months after Griffin tweeted that his first two seasons in Washington were an “impossible situation with a coach who never wanted me.” In October, Griffin elaborated to 106.7 The Fan that he was “drafted to a team with a coach who didn’t want me, with an organization that wasn’t sold on me.”
Griffin, who is out of the league, was the 2012 offensive rookie of the year but could not recapture that season’s magic after injuring his knee in Washington’s playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks following the season.
In that season, coaches had Griffin run a play-action and read-option offense that took advantage of Griffin’s speed. But after getting injured, Griffin was reluctant to run as much, Shanahan said. There have been reports that Griffin demanded after his rookie season that read-option plays be stripped from the offense during a meeting — something Griffin has disputed. Former Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman, in an interview with ESPN 980, backed up Shanahan’s version of the events and said the coach “has the tape of that meeting.”
“In time you can learn the drop-back game and you will get better, but you got to do some of the things that we’ve been doing your rookie year to keep the defenses off you,” Shanahan said he told Griffin. “Because with that play-action game, Robert had all the time in the world to throw. He had time. He was getting better. . . . But the next year, because of the injury, he felt like, ‘Hey, I can’t run anymore.’ ”
“You can come back from that knee [injury], but what you have to do is get better at the drop-back game, doing some of the things we’ve been doing,” Shanahan continued. “With that, I said, ‘You got a chance. If not, you’ll be out of the game in four to five years.’ ”
Griffin was released by the Redskins in March 2016 after losing the starting job to Kirk Cousins. He signed with the Cleveland Browns from there but was released in March 2017 and has been training in Florida in hopes of return to the NFL.
To Shanahan, Griffin struggled to become a pure pocket passer because he lacked the natural anticipation that other quarterbacks have.
“In my experience, you watch people practice every day, you know if they can throw, if they’re a natural at it,” he said. “You know when it takes a little bit longer, or if you can’t slide in the pocket, if you don’t have the anticipation. He did not have that so you knew he was going to struggle. I had to convince him this is going to take some time, but I was never able to do that.”
Shanahan also told a story of how he sat down with Griffin to watch film of Andrew Luck — picked first overall in the 2012 draft by the Indianapolis Colts, one spot ahead of Griffin — after co-host Shannon Sharpe asked if the praise Luck received affected Griffin.
“I told Robert, ‘Let’s sit down and watch [Luck’s] film,’ ” Shanahan said. “I’ve never seen a guy get hit more than Andrew Luck did. ‘Let’s look at you: One of the reasons you haven’t been hit is the defense is afraid to rush you. You’ve got to play the option reads. You got all day to throw play action on first and second down. What we’ve got to get you better on [is] third down,’ and we did get better on it, but then after that, of course things changed.”
Bayless ended the segment by asking if Griffin’s close relationship with Snyder played a role in the coach-quarterback falling out. Shanahan used the opportunity to explain the disconnect between what he saw as a coach and what Griffin and his supporters believed.
“To be honest with you, with a guy like Dan, he believed Robert had all those things, all the tools,” he said. “You can see why an owner or dad or mother says, ‘Hey, don’t get my son hit.’ I understand that, but one thing you have to learn is if you do run a read-option, the quarterback cannot get hit. He has to slide, give the ball off, pitch it . . . . If you do run, never take a hit. That’s what Russell Wilson has done throughout his career. He’s the best at it. Deshaun Watson, he’s doing unbelievable, doing the same thing: sliding, throwing the ball away, being able to throw on the run.”