Robert Griffin III did his best to put on a strong, positive front as he faced the media hours after getting benched for the final three games of the season.
The second-year quarterback, who has struggled a season after winning rookie of the year honors, learned on Wednesday morning that Mike Shanahan had decided to shut him down for the season, and that backup Kirk Cousins will replace him as starter. Griffin will not even dress for the final three games. Rex Grossman, who has been inactive for the previous 13 games, will take over as second-string quarterback.
Shanahan, who this week came under further scrutiny and was believed to be close to getting fired, told Griffin that he decided to deactivate him for the next three games because he wanted to save him from the risk of injury. Shanahan deemed it important that Griffin enters the offseason completely healthy and ready to take part in offseason workouts, which begin in April, to further his development.
“Coach decided to shut me down for the rest of the season, so, I talked to Coach, he talked to me about it and I expressed my desire to play,” Griffin said on Wednesday afternoon. “Of course, I want to be out there to finish the season with my guys – see it through. He explained to me his reasoning, and at the end of the day, coach’s decision is what we go with. It’s what we’ve always done. At the end of the day, I have to sit here and do whatever I can to help Kirk, do whatever I can to help this team win and that’s what we’ve got to do for the next three weeks and get ready for the offseason.”
Griffin later added, “Any quarterback wants to finish out the season with his team when you’re healthy enough to do so. Like I said, it’s coach’s decision. … As a quarterback, you run the plays that are called, you do what your coach tells you to do, and in this instance he’s telling me it’s time to shut it down and I can’t fight that.”
It is suspected by people within the organization that Shanahan’s main motivation for the decision was to provoke owner Daniel Snyder to fire him – days after Shanahan’s camp was believed to have leaked a report that the coach planned to quit following last season’s 10-6 campaign because he didn’t like the relationship between Griffin and Snyder.
Snyder opted not to fire Shanahan after Sunday, which also featured the Redskins’ 45-10 thrashing by the Kansas City Chiefs. Then, the next day, Shanahan announced that he was considering benching Griffin for the remainder of the season. People within the organization believed that was also a move designed to further provoke Snyder.
Asked if he believed he was being used as a pawn in the situation, Griffin said, “I can’t bother myself with thinking about those type of things because it’s not productive for our team, so I’m going to continue to focus on getting better, focus on getting our defense prepared for Atlanta and the games that we have left, and that’s all I can do.”
Griffin naturally disagreed with the situation. His swallowed hard, and his eyes watered off and on throughout the press conference. But he deemed it important to support Cousins and the rest of his teammates and not disrupt the locker room.
“At this point, I just have to leave it up to coach, like it always is,” Griffin said. “At times like this, you’ve got to lean on what you’ve been taught in life, and my parents — being two military parents — have taught me that you’ve got to respect authority, and I have to respect what Coach says. I can’t do anything about it. All I can do is try to help this team win games, and that’s what I’m going to do. Anything aside from that, I can’t be bothered with those things.”
Despite the disappointment, Griffin said he will not allow the incident to rattle him mentally.
“I think if I allowed it to break my spirit, I don’t think I’d be being the person my parents raised me to be or the person that God has me to be on this earth,” Griffin said. “Although this time is a down time for us as a team and an organization, we’ll rise out of this and I believe that. Hopefully everyone else does, too. … I have to try to get better, try to help this team get better any way that I can, try to get ready for next year, because that’s the hand that I’ve been dealt.”
Griffin continued to try to look for the positive when asked to describe his mental state at the current time.
“Tell you what, man,” he said, “although it’s a tough time right now — God’s testing me — but at the end of the day, I still feel blessed to be in the NFL right now and be with the guys in that locker room and have the family that I have and you have to look at life in a different way in times like these and try to make it better. That’s what I have to do. Even though I can’t play on Sunday, I still have to come out every day for these weeks and make sure I get better, make sure this team gets better.”
Griffin also added that despite the tenuous relationship between he and Shanahan, he isn’t hoping to see the coach and his staff fired.
“I think that’s the general misconception: that players in our locker room want people gone,” Griffin said. “We care about people. When it comes to stuff like that; when people get fired, it’s not just a head coach or defensive coordinator that gets fired. There are a lot of people are involved in that. The people in this organization have been around for a while, and you want to see those familiar faces. Who knows what way it’ll go, but at the end of the day, we have to do our job.”
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