The handling of Robert Griffin III’s injured knee isn’t the problem in Washington. It’s merely a symptom of a deeper issue.
When the Redskins went from the category of teams searching for a franchise quarterback to the much smaller group that has one, Griffin instantly became the face of the franchise — and in turn the most popular man in D.C. who doesn’t live in the White House.
The team may finally be trying to get the situation under control. Per a league source, at least one Redskins player has perceived this week a definite change in the way that head coach Mike Shanahan treats Griffin.
The source explains that Shanahan talked to Griffin “like a regular player” early in the week, following Sunday’s blowout loss to the Packers, pointing out his mistakes candidly in the presence of other players. Previously, the perception was that Shanahan tiptoed on eggshells when it came to talking to Griffin about any flaws or errors.
The Redskins, through a spokesman, strongly dispute that there has been any change in the way Shanahan communicates with Griffin. But the perception definitely is there.
The shift, if the player’s perception of a change is accurate, comes at a time when resentment seems to be growing about the broader perception that the Robert Griffin III is Gladys Knight and the rest of the team are the Pips.
Surprisingly, receiver Pierre Garςon hasn’t been bashful about connecting the team’s 0-2 start to the obsession with Griffin’s knee, using the label “the elephant in the room” to describe the situation.
“Everybody’s talking about the injury, the injury that’s been talked about ever since January, Robert’s knee and his knee brace and what he can and can’t do, and if he’s prepared or not, and if he’s ready to go,” Garςon said.
Still, the broader issue is whether Griffin will continue to be the focal point of the team. Recently, James Brown of CBS and Michael Wilbon of ESPN addressed the situation at their annual golf event in Washington.
“We understand that what he shows has got this town, I mean geeked beyond belief,” Brown said. “However, tone it down just a bit because everything is so RGIII-focused, and it’s more than just him.”
“It’s too late, JB,” Wilbon said. “It’s too late now.”
“Because there are so many players around the league right now, who ain’t very happy about all that,” Brown added.
Thus, some Redskins players could be happy about the perception that the handling of Griffin is starting to change. Even though the Redskins deny a shift, it’s the kind of adjustment that could make it much harder, if not impossible, for Griffin to eventually mimic Magic Johnson’s power play from more than 30 years ago, which got his coach fired.
Then again, talking tough to Griffin could be the thing that ignites the potential powder keg that provokes Griffin to push for a Paul Westhead/Pat Riley-style swap.