WASHINGTON — Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder will not intervene into the team’s quarterback situation this week as Coach Mike Shanahan contemplates sitting down starter Robert Griffin III for the remainder of the season in favor of backup Kirk Cousins, a person familiar with the situation said Tuesday.
“He won’t step in and interfere with that,” the person said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic. “He’s not going to step into a personnel decision that way.”
Shanahan said Monday he would decide by Wednesday whether to sit down Griffin because of the number of sacks that the second-year quarterback has absorbed in recent weeks. If Griffin sits, Cousins would start Sunday’s game at Atlanta. Shanahan said Monday that Griffin would not play again this season if it is decided this week that he won’t play against the Falcons.
The relationship between Snyder and Griffin has been cited as being central to the current issues between Shanahan and Snyder, with multiple people close to the situation saying they expect the team and its fourth-year coach to part ways by soon after the end of the season at the latest.
The person with knowledge of the situation said it appears that Shanahan will coach the team this weekend. If a coaching change was going to be made this week, that person said, it probably would have happened Monday. Others around the league said earlier Tuesday they wondered if a change remained possible later in the day.
A person with ties to the organization said late Monday that Shanahan’s announcement about possibly sitting down Griffin appeared to be an attempt by Shanahan to provoke Snyder to fire him this week to avoid such a benching of Griffin. It is believed that Shanahan would be paid for the remainder of his contract, which runs through next season and is worth about $7 million per season, if he is fired. Shanahan would forfeit the money due to him for the rest of his contract if he resigns.
The details of Shanahan’s contract are not known. But it is believed that the contract gives Shanahan the final say over certain player-related decisions such as picking his starting quarterback. So any attempt by Snyder to intervene in such a decision potentially would enable Shanahan to contend that the contract terms were violated by Snyder, and that possibly could result in Shanahan being entitled to be paid for the remainder of his contract even if he were to resign.
Snyder has been credited with keeping a lower profile on player-related moves since hiring Shanahan as his coach. Some people familiar with the team’s inner workings have said that Shanahan, unlike some previous Redskins coaches, rarely has had in-depth conversations with Snyder about the club’s daily operations, mostly leaving those conversations with Snyder to General Manager Bruce Allen. Snyder and Shanahan are seen speaking on the team’s practice field at times.
But ESPN reported Sunday that Shanahan was so dismayed by the relationship between Snyder and Griffin that he contemplated quitting his job after last season, going so far as to clean out his office before changing his mind when Griffin re-injured his right knee during the Redskins’ playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks. The relationship between Griffin and Snyder widely is portrayed as being close, although some in the organization say that is sometimes overstated and there is little interaction between the owner and quarterback during a season.
According to several people close to the situation, members of the Redskins’ management were angered by the ESPN report and suspicious of the timing and motivation behind it, wondering if Shanahan or someone close to him had leaked the information in hopes of enabling Shanahan to leave the organization and pursue a head coaching job elsewhere.
Some observers around the league now say they wonder if the situation has become a stare-down between Snyder and Shanahan, with a divorce inevitable but each side attempting to orchestrate it on its own terms, with the remaining money in Shanahan’s contract at stake. Several people with knowledge of the situation said Monday it is possible, but not certain, that if the Redskins fire Shanahan they will fire him for cause and attempt to withhold the remaining money due to him, contending that he violated his contract by being possibly involved in the dissemination of the ESPN report. Shanahan could challenge such a move, if it’s made, in a grievance.
Shanahan said Monday that if he sits down Griffin, it would be to safeguard the quarterback against being hurt in the Redskins’ final three games. Griffin has been sacked 24 times in the Redskins’ previous five games, a figure cited Monday by Shanahan.
The relationship between Griffin and Shanahan has been closely scrutinized since the offseason. But Shanahan previously had stuck steadfastly with Griffin as his starter, brushing aside all suggestions that he should turn to Cousins and saying it was important to Griffin’s development as a young quarterback that he continue to get playing time. Griffin, coming off knee surgery in January, has thrown 16 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions this season after throwing 20 touchdown passes with only five interceptions last season, when he was named the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year.
Shanahan, though, turned to Cousins late in the Redskins’ 45-10 loss Sunday to the Kansas City Chiefs at FedEx Field. That defeat extended the Redskins’ losing streak to five games and dropped their record to 3-10. They have been eliminated from playoff contention. The team has a regular season record of 24-37 under Shanahan. Shanahan said Monday that he must do what he feels is best for the organization and he hopes Griffin understands that.
Cousins has made one previous NFL start, winning a game at Cleveland late last season as a rookie when Griffin was hurt. Cousins previously had said he understood that Griffin needed to keep playing in the remainder of this season to gain experience.
After the game Sunday, Cousins said: “At the end of the day, I’m gonna do what I’m coached to do. I’m gonna submit to the authorities above me which starts with the owner and then Coach Shanahan and Bruce Allen and all the way down. So I’m gonna do what they tell me to do and roll with it.”
Shanahan and Snyder spoke Monday. Shanahan confirmed later Monday that the conversation had taken place but declined to discuss details of it. He described his relationship with Snyder as good and called Snyder a supportive owner.