Trading up for Robert Griffin III was not Mike Shanahan’s first choice when considering who his quarterback would be in Washington in 2012.
Shanahan said on ESPN 980 that what he really wanted was to sign Peyton Manning after he was released by the Colts. Shanahan thinks he and Manning were on the same page and that a deal could have been done, except for one problem: Peyton didn’t want to be in the same division as his brother, Giants quarterback Eli Manning.
“We were talking to Peyton at that time. That was a strong consideration,” Shanahan said. “But at the end of the day I felt that with Eli being with the Giants he wasn’t coming in our direction.”
That’s when Washington started looking to trade up and draft Griffin. But that trade, Shanahan said, was a huge risk.
“I did not feel good about giving up two No. 1s and a No. 2, and they all knew I felt that way,” Shanahan said. “I said, ‘Hey, yeah, I would take the chance. But I want you to know that he’s really going to have to commit to what we’re doing.'”
In fact, Shanahan said he wouldn’t have given up all those draft picks if he’d known that the NFL was about to dock Washington $36 million in cap space as a penalty for the way the team structured contracts during the uncapped season in 2010.
“I don’t think you could have,” Shanahan said when asked if he would have traded away all those picks knowing about the impending salary cap penalty. “When you get penalized like we did, you can’t bring any players in.”
Shanahan said that Washington was very high on five quarterbacks in that draft: Griffin, Andrew Luck, Ryan Tannehill, Russell Wilson and Kirk Cousins. They ultimately drafted both Griffin and Cousins, and Shanahan said they strongly considered taking Wilson in the third round, before the Seahawks drafted him. If Washington had pulled the trigger on that pick, it would have greatly changed the fortunes of two franchises.
Although Shanahan said he liked Griffin coming out of Baylor, he also noted some problems that they had with Griffin in Washington. A big one is that Griffin bristled at having to run the read-option, even though that was often what Griffin did best. Shanahan said that when Cousins played in place of an injured Griffin during their rookie season, Griffin was bothered by the fact that they called a different style of offense for Cousins.
Shanahan also said he felt at times that Griffin wasn’t being forthright with him about the health of his injured knee, and that Griffin would get upset when Shanahan would ask him to keep him posted about whether his knee was hurting him. Shanahan said that he ultimately called fewer read-option plays because he was worried about Griffin’s knee, even though Griffin was telling him that he was fine.
Ultimately, Shanahan sounds like a coach who feels like he never got exactly what he wanted at the quarterback position after four years in Washington.