Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan described the past week as frustrating as he learned that starting quarterback Robert Griffin III will not play again this season and at the same time tried to block out swirling speculation about his father’s future and questions about his role in the team’s dysfunctional situation.
Speaking to reporters for 22 minutes, the offensive coordinator said he was disappointed that he will not have Griffin’s talents at his disposal, and that he understands the thinking behind the decision to shut the second-year quarterback down. Shanahan also did his best to distance himself from the tenuous situation inside Redskins Park — particularly the perceived friction between Mike Shanahan and Daniel Snyder.
Mike Shanahan announced on Monday that he was considering pulling the plug on Griffin’s season to ensure that he go into the offseason completely healthy and have a chance to further refine his game as he entered his third season.
But Kyle Shanahan said that the head coach didn’t consult him on the issue.
“I got zero involvement on that,” he said. “I actually game-planned for both on Tuesday. It was a little frustrating to game-plan for both. But I was told of the final decision on Wednesday morning, and then rolled with it.”
Acknowledging the peculiar nature of the situation, Shanahan said, “I don’t think it’s a very common situation. I think if it was about football — and really football — you’d talk to the offensive coordinator. But the decision doesn’t really have to do with football. It has to do with the future of the organization, and that’s out of my realm. It had to do with the GM and owner.”
He added, “I think the bottom line is, I think they made a decision that’s what’s the best for the future of the organization and they don’t want to happen to him next year what happened to him this year. It really, really is tough when a guy, especially in his situation, misses an entire offseason and that’s the way they feel about that. I’m a coordinator. I don’t look at things the same way that an owner does, or a GM, or a head coach. I don’t look at the future of the franchise. I look at, ‘How the [heck] am I going to win on Sunday?’ I would love to have our starting quarterback out there the rest of the year. It’s a little disappointing to me that we can’t finish this. I do understand their decision. I do respect their decision. I do think that would be the worst thing possible for Robert to get hurt and miss another offseason. But whether it’s right or wrong — I don’t worry about injuries too much. I look at it like God’s will. It’s just something that’s out of my control and as a coordinator I don’t think that’s my job to. I understand why they do — to protect the future of their organization. I’ve got to go along with it.”
Shanahan insisted that the decision to shut Griffin down does nothing to change his opinion of the quarterback. He still believes that he is the best option for the Redskins at that position, saying, “I think it’s ridiculous to act like this is a quarterback competition. Robert just had the best year as a rookie in NFL history. He didn’t do that again this year. We didn’t do that again this year. To give up on him like that and say that you’re going to play someone else, that’s, to me, that’s fun for people to talk about but that hasn’t entered my brain one least bit and it’s not even a possibility or an option to me.”
Shanahan also took partial blame for Griffin’s struggles, saying that he hadn’t done enough to set the quarterback up for success in his second NFL season. Griffin did have to work his way back from surgery, but other elements — including defenses playing him differently and challenging him to read coverages and win with his arm more than his legs — factored into his struggles. But Shanahan believes that positives can come from the struggle-filled season.
“Hindsight, you can always look back. We didn’t have a successful season. I do think it was an important season for Robert,” Shanahan said. “I do think he went through a lot of stuff that he didn’t go through in his rookie year. I think he will be better from that. You’ve got to get reps, and he got that through 13 games. He got a lot of stuff thrown at him. I think he will be better from it. He saw a lot of things that he didn’t see last year. He fought through adversity, he didn’t back away from it. I think that builds character, I think that hardens him and allows him to go through a tough job: being a quarterback in the NFL. I’ve got more respect for him than anybody — the stuff that he he’s got to deal with and still go out there and work, I think he’s done a great job with that.”
Meanwhile, at the same time that he has tried to adjust to the changes at quarterback, Shanahan has worked to maintain focus. The latest distractions — particularly the report that Mike Shanahan considered quitting after last season over Griffin and Snyder’s relationship — began Sunday morning before Washington’s game against Kansas City. The distractions continued after the embarrassing loss and ramped up speculation that the elder Shanahan could get fired.
But Kyle Shanahan has tried to program himself to block out the noise.
“I think we’ve heard a lot of stories since we’ve been here. I think I just add it to the rest of the stories that I’ve heard. I don’t think too much of it,” he said. “I didn’t hear about it really until after the game. People were telling me about it before the game and when somebody comes into and starts throwing stuff at me like that when I’m in my room and trying to study situations and play calls, it’s just a little overwhelming. I’m like, ‘I don’t want to deal with any of that. Get that out of here.’ I’ve got to focus on a game and I kind of move on from that. There’s a lot of noise out here. This job’s hard enough to do as it is. I’m not saying that the noise is something that you can’t address, but when you’re going through a football season, it’s extremely important dealing with these players. What I owe these players is to not get caught up in that stuff and each day come into work and try to be the best coach I can for them.”
Lately, however, it hasn’t been the easiest, particularly because of his relationship to the head coach and the fact that the latest reports involve intensified criticism of his father, and increased uncertainty regarding their futures. But Shanahan’s motto is to make the best of the situation, and not look back.
“I’d be lying to you if I said it’s the same as any other situation. If we were going through turmoil in Houston or Tampa Bay, I definitely didn’t feel it as much as I did here. I think that’s obvious to everybody,” Shanahan said. “I’ve learned how to deal with it better. It’s something that I do have to separate myself from, no matter how much people want to involve me. I get whenever people talk about the Redskins, they always put an ‘S’ on the last name — “The Shanahans” — and I can’t help that, but I get that that’s part of that. I knew it was going to be part of it when I came here. Four years ago, I made a tough decision to leave Houston to come here, and a situation I liked a lot in Houston. But I did want to make sure after my dad got let go from Denver, I felt pretty strongly that before it was all said and done, I wanted to coach some day with my dad. And if I never would’ve done it, I think I would’ve regretted some day when my life or his life was over. I’m happy I’ve been able to do that, and I’ve tried to make the best of that.”
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● The Redskins practice at 11:50 a.m. on Friday.
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