It was only last Thanksgiving that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones stood outside the losing locker room in Arlington and said he was in “awe” of Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. Jones had visions of what the Skins could look like for the next 10 seasons…and he shuddered at the thought.
Things have changed drastically since that day. Now, Jones probably has more concern over the future of Eagles quarterback Nick Foles than he does Griffin. On Wednesday, the NFL Network reported that second-year quarterback Kirk Cousins would replace the struggling Griffin for the final three games of the season. Embattled Redskins coach Mike Shanahan has seen Griffin sacked 24 times over the past five games. He will say this is in the best interest of RG3’s long-term health. But what it really do is allow Shanahan and son/offensive coordinator Kyle finish out their time in Washington in relative peace. Shanahan will try desperately to win these final three games with Cousins to prove a point to Snyder before he’s fired.
It’s remarkable to watch a player go from NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year to the bench in a 12-month period. And there are hurt feelings all around. It’s likely that Griffin came back too quickly from the second reconstructive knee surgery of his playing career. He’s looked tentative for much of this season, and stories have surfaced that Shanahan wouldn’t honor his request not to show his poor plays during team film sessions.
Last Sunday, ESPN.com reported that Shanahan had cleaned out his office before the Redskins’ wildcard game against Seattle because he was so frustrated by the relationship between Washington owner Dan Snyder and Griffin. One of the most telling anecdotes involved Snyder completely ignoring Cousins in the locker room after he’d led the Redskins to an important late-season win. Snyder instead spent several minutes chatting with Griffin. This is an ugly triangle that will likely end with Shanahan’s firing. He won’t resign because he’s owed $7 million to coach the team in 2014.
The owner has clearly picked the franchise quarterback over the head coach, which shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone who’s followed Snyder’s career. He’s a Jerry Jones wannabe, without any of the charm. I was amused by a CBS report Sunday that Washington would likely target Griffin’s former college coach, Art Briles, if Shanahan is fired. Briles is under contract at Baylor for the next decade. And while I know the thought of coaching in the NFL is enticing to a lot of college coaches, Briles is too smart to put himself in a bad situation. He’s given credit for knowing how to “manage” Griffin. But I’ve gotten to know Briles pretty well over the past six years. He doesn’t manage players; he coaches the hell out of them. Briles has tunnel vision when it comes to his job. He doesn’t have time for the drama that Snyder would create for him in Washington. If he leaves Baylor, it would be for a high-profile college job such as the University of Texas. And fortunately for Baylor alums (like me), the Horns only have eyes for Nick Saban.
The potential opening in Washington would be a lot more attractive if the Redskins had the No. 2 overall pick in the 2014 draft, but they sent that pick to the Rams in exchange for being able to select Griffin. That trade is looking more disastrous by the day. But one longtime scout from an NFC East team wasn’t ready to declare it a total win for the Rams.
“It’s still a wash to me,” said the scout. “It’s easy to argue either way. Rams won on value and number of draft choices. Washington won because you can’t win without a quarterback. The guy is a great player. Can’t predict injuries. The Redskins are screwed if his knee is a [long-term] issue, though.
The new head coach will encounter a situation where the owner wants to be best pals with the franchise quarterback. Even if Snyder offered $6-7 million per season, why would Briles take that type of dead-end job? He has a chance to keep winning Big 12 titles and maybe even take another crack at a national title at Baylor. And I’m told $4.5 million per year goes a pretty long way in McLennan County.
Meanwhile, what looked like a promising decade ahead for the Redskins is looking pretty bleak.