Mike Shanahan, still for now the coach of the Washington Redskins, made a surprising reversal Monday and said he might bench a "100 percent" healthy Robert Griffin III for the rest of the season to keep the quarterback from getting hurt.
Shanahan essentially declared it might be more beneficial for Griffin to get offseason snaps in May rather than game experience over the next three weeks. The coach, for the first time, then explicitly left open the possibility that he might not return next year, saying his future will be decided after he meets with owner Dan Snyder at the end of the season.
Shanahan’s departure appears more likely than ever after the Redskins (3-10) were embarrassed 45-10 by Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, a fifth straight loss that ensures a third season of double-digit losses in the coach’s four seasons in Washington.
"You always want to come back. I love these guys," Shanahan said. "What’ll happen at the end of the season, we’ll get a chance, Dan and I, to sit down and decide — he’ll make the final decision on what’s the best interest of the Washington Redskins. I’ll give my opinion and what I think, and obviously he’ll make the final decision."
Shanahan said he has a "good relationship" with Snyder and spoke with the owner on Monday. The coach didn’t go into detail about the conversation other than to say it involved Griffin.
"He asked me about my relationship with Robert," Shanahan said. "And I said I was his coach, his head football coach, and not necessarily his best friend, don’t need to be his best friend. I want to make him the best quarterback possible."
A team spokesman said Snyder was not available for comment.
Nevertheless, Shanahan has increasingly appeared to be the odd man out in the triangle of owner, coach and quarterback. Shanahan and Griffin have publicly clashed this season, and Shanahan said he hasn’t discussed the possible benching with Griffin and won’t do so until after making a final decision on Wednesday.
On Sunday, when asked if he had any doubts he would start the upcoming game against the Atlanta Falcons, Griffin replied: "No, that’s not an issue."
In discussing the reasons for sitting Griffin in favor of backup Kirk Cousins, Shanahan repeatedly pointed out that Griffin has been sacked 24 times in the last five games. He also noted that Griffin missed this year’s offseason practices while recovering from major knee surgery, a reason often cited for Griffin’s struggles a year after winning the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year award.
"We’re talking about his health," Shanahan said. "I want to make sure he’s healthy. I think that’s the most important thing going into the offseason, that he has his first full offseason being healthy. And if he did play, and something happened to him, I think it would set our franchise back."
Shanahan has previously insisted that Griffin would remain the starter if healthy because the quarterback needed as much regular season work as possible to develop an all-around game.
Asked if Griffin is healthy now, Shanahan said: "I think he’s 100 percent. I think he’s feeling very good."
The tension was palpable throughout Shanahan’s news conference, which also included him debunking a report that he cleaned out his office in advance of January’s playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
"It would take me two minutes to clean out my office," Shanahan said. "I’ve got two notebooks and I’ve got an iPad. When I hear different things like that, I just shake my head."
Such bizarre days have become standard fare for the Redskins under Snyder. The team is 104-133 in the regular season since he bought the team in 1999, and Shanahan is his seventh coach in 15 seasons. Shanahan is 24-37 in Washington.
And, according to Shanahan, there are more bizarre days to come.
"Fortunately I haven’t been in too many of these situations, and if you have, then you’re not around very long," Shanahan said. "But I understand what goes on when you win the NFC East and all of sudden you’ve got three wins. It goes with the territory. I understand there’s going to be a different story every day, and it’s not going to change over the next three weeks."
Notes:RB Evan Royster will go on injured reserve with a high left ankle sprain. … There was a rare moment of levity during Shanahan’s news conference when a Redskins intern stumbled to the floor while helping to pass out microphones. "OK, we got one on IR," Shanahan said with a chuckle. "Some guys will do anything to get on TV."