The Washington Redskins are finally making a big change.
No, they're not dropping their racist name that has galvanized protesters and has been criticized by everyone from sportswriters to President Obama. But the team will reportedly bench quarterback Robert Griffin III with just three games to go, essentially throwing in the towel on a disappointing season that has devolved into embarrassing organizational infighting.
The decision to bench Griffin is, ostensibly, about preserving the franchise QB. And sure, there's some value in not exposing a guy coming off major knee surgery to more sacks and punishment.
More than that though, the curious move underscores the long-tense relationship between head coach Mike Shanahan and owner Dan Snyder, a feud that has now spilled, messily, out into the open.
Shanahan has objected to the team's deification of Griffin before, and according to one report, considered benching the the star player to instigate his own firing. And with the team headed for an early offseason, Shanahan is now "acting like a petulant child," as one fellow coach put it to Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman.
The spat dates back to the 2012 draft, when the Redskins shipped three first round picks and one second-rounder to St. Louis to move up and snag Griffin. It was a huge price to pay for a single player, and one Shanahan reportedly thought was too steep. Washington pulled the trigger anyway.
Given the Redskins terrible record (3-10) they'll be at the front of the draft line next year. Except their pick will go right to the Rams, depriving them of another chance to address one of their many glaring holes.
Benching Griffin is both a shot at Snyder and the quarterback himself, an "I told you so" from Shanahan aimed at a player he felt was over-hyped and a front office so dang enthralled by a shiny object that it mortgaged the future to get it.
Shanahan's future with the team has become an open question of late. A recent ESPN report claimed he cleaned out his office before the team's playoff loss last year, assuming he wouldn't return for 2013.
The source said Shanahan had grown tired of the way Snyder empowered Griffin and openly esteemed him above all other players. Shanahan didn't blame Griffin but did blame Snyder for creating an atmosphere that Shanahan did not believe was conducive to winning. Shanahan privately told people close to him that he felt Snyder's behavior with regard to Griffin was a "complete farce."
...But it wasn't just Snyder's relationship with Griffin that irked Shanahan. It was also the way in which he dealt with employees who had less star power than his star quarterback, sources said. After Kirk Cousins relieved an injured Griffin last December in Cleveland and led Washington to a 38-21 victory over the Browns, players and coaches spotted Snyder standing at the quarterbacks' lockers, talking only to Griffin while, one source said, Snyder "didn't acknowledge" Cousins. [ESPN]
Welp, it's probably going to be awkward then when Cousins takes Griffin's spot in the starting lineup on Sunday. And it will be even more awkward since Cousins, just days ago, said Griffin should start over him.
Then there's Griffin's perceived failure to accept blame for his struggles and the team's horrid play. And the weird semi-controversy over Griffin's dad hanging out in the team locker room after a bad loss. And the also-semi-but-slightly-bigger-controversy about Redskins linemen not helping Griffin up after sacks.
How bad are the Redskins? Rex Grossman, not Griffin, will be their second-string quarterback on Sunday.
At this rate, it won't be surprising if Shanahan ends his Redskins tenure with a brief press conference where he walks to the mic, smiles, and bellows: "The aristocrats!"
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