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NFL Team Report - Washington Redskins - INSIDE SLANT
So much for Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III saying after last Sunday's 45-10 loss to Kansas City that his benching during the fourth quarter wasn't an issue.
It is now a controversial melodrama that is the current, mind-numbing Topic A for national sports media, featuring a complicated and conflicting plot and a cast of characters that now includes the father, the son and the whole Washington Redskins hierarchy.
Redskins coach Mike Shanahan announced Wednesday that he is sitting the 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year for the three remaining, meaningless games, ostensibly to protect the health of the franchise quarterback who had major knee surgery 11 months ago.
"Anytime you're hit as many times as he (has) been hit, I thought it was in his best interest, the organization's, to talk about if we should continue playing Robert," Shanahan said at the start of a single subject, 28-minute press conference Wednesday.
"We felt that the best thing to do for Robert was to not play him -- give Kirk (Cousins) an opportunity to play -- so he could go into an offseason healthy. Any time you miss an offseason in the National Football League it does set you back quite a bit, and we thought going into this offseason (after) missing last year, that this was the best way to do it."
The "we" is in reference to Redskins owner Dan Snyder and general manager Bruce Allen as Shanahan spun his tale to explain that he and Snyder were in sync on this momentous decision, which, perhaps not coincidentally was revealed only three days after ESPN.com reported that the coach considered quitting near the end of last season because of the owner's tight relationship with the quarterback.
And, just to add yet another kink to this twisted plot, Shanahan's own son, Kyle, said Thursday he disagreed with dear old dad's decision to bench RG3. As offensive coordinator, Kyle has a vested interest in this melodrama.
"I made it clear I was disappointed," Kyle Shanahan said Thursday at a press conference.
The younger Shanahan said he wants the best players on the field, including his starting quarterback.
"I don't want to change anything. I don't like losing," he said. "Yeah, I got zero involvement on that (decision). Game-planned for both on Tuesday, which is kind of frustrating, and got the final decision on Wednesday.
"When the decision doesn't have to do with football, has to do with the future of the organization, I think that's out of my realm. It has to do with a GM and an owner."
Noteworthy about that last remark is the fact that Kyle doesn't mention his father, who, by all accounts, said the decision was his and had the blessing of the owner, in that order.
So Kyle's comment echoes oddly off one of the many quotable remarks by father Mike on Wednesday.
"What I'm trying to do is be as honest as I can and I don't normally do that," Shanahan said with masterful Washington spin to address the current challenge and, in the same breath, casually cast a long, dark, shadow over anything he ever uttered prior to Wednesday.
Regardless, based on Shanahan's telling of the tortured tale, the onus is now on Snyder and Allen, who rarely speak to media members, especially on the record. If they don't deny Mike Shanahan's version of the decision-making process about Griffin, then the embattled coach no longer appears insubordinate in terms of ignoring the owner and can claim the $7 million he is due in 2014 if he is fired, or, as common sense would seem to dictate, when he is fired.
With Snyder and Allen conveniently mum -- and with his son's discord of no real consequence -- Shanahan was free to touch on all the right notes to make it appear as if he, at least, was dutifully harmonious in what he portrays to be a properly orchestrated performance, albeit one that seems off key on the whole.
"If I'm going to try to get fired, I'm not going to call up Dan Snyder and ask his opinion on the player," said Shanahan, who is 24-38 during his four seasons. "If he says no, I'm not going to go in that direction."
Still, there is speculation that Shanahan may have had a hand in disseminating the story about him almost quitting last year, with one possible motive being that it would serve as a pre-emptive strike on the alleged status of his relationship with Snyder -- meaning he wanted to leave long before the threat of being fired -- as well as his feelings on the treatment of RG3 at the end of last season.
If Shanahan was complicit in leaking that story through some friendly media associations -- of which he has made many, especially during his years with the Denver Broncos -- then, if Snyder could prove such a conspiracy, he might have grounds for breach of contract and conduct detrimental to the franchise.
And that might be a legal battle with more drama than even the team's current daily soap opera.
Meanwhile, the central figure of that soap neatly minced his words in a press conference Wednesday. Griffin, who has been sacked 38 times, more than all but four NFL quarterbacks, isn't pleased with being shut down.
"I expressed my desire (to Shanahan) to play, (but) at this point, I just have to leave it up to Coach, like it always is," Griffin said. "It's a tough time, (but) if I allowed it to break my spirit, then I wouldn't be the person that I think my parents raised me to be."
Last week, Griffin said that he "loved" working with both Shanahans. Asked Wednesday if that was still true, Griffin wasn't nearly as effusive, saying, "(There's a) general misconception that players in our locker room want people gone."
Shanahan also said that he regrets not going with his gut and sitting Griffin once it was obvious the quarterback was hurting against the Seahawks last season. The coach even said that keeping Griffin in that game cost the Redskins a victory after leading early, 14-0. Interestingly, a win there would have advanced them to a divisional round game at Atlanta, where Cousins will start on Sunday with veteran Rex Grossman, the third-stringer the last two years, as the backup.
"I do believe that Robert is the franchise quarterback here in Washington," Cousins said. "He was drafted No. 2 overall. A lot of picks were traded to get him. Common sense would say that this is his team, and I've never wanted to take that away from him or do anything to undermine his role. Even as I start this week, I believe that ... this is Robert's team going forward into next season."
SERIES HISTORY: 23rd regular-season meeting. Redskins lead series, 14-7-1. The most memorable meeting came in 1991 when Washington quarterback Mark Rypien threw a franchise-record six touchdown passes as the Redskins rolled 56-17 en route to winning their third Super Bowl in a decade.
NFL Team Report - Washington Redskins - NOTES, QUOTES
--Receiver Santana Moss has been in Washington for a team-high nine seasons through plenty of drama. So Moss feels for Robert Griffin III, the franchise quarterback who hs been benched for the final three meaningless games.
"No player wants to be in Robert's situation right now," Moss said. "You feel for him having to go through it. I know he's probably going to be ticked. I'd be ticked. He probably wanted to do that these last three games, but he doesn't have that opportunity. For his sake, when it comes to what he's already gone through, I feel like all you can do is accept it. At the end of the day if it's going to help him and give him a little more time to put this season behind him and get ready for next year. Robert knows he's going to be here. He knows he has time to correct everything he did this year he doesn't feel he was at his best with."
--Receiver Pierre Garcon, far and away favorite Griffin's target this year, took a different tack on the quarterback switch to Kirk Cousins with the Redskins having lost five straight games to sink to 3-10, a year after they won their final seven games to finish 10-6 and capture their first NFC East title since 1999.
"It definitely gives us new energy," said Garcon, whose 89 catches are one shy of twice as many as any teammate has. "It can't hurt us."
--Co-captain London Fletcher, who's finishing his 16th NFL season and his seventh in Washington, said that Griffin did a good job running the scout team offense Wednesday. However, the 38-year-old four-time Pro Bowl inside linebacker is pained that the drama is back at Redskins Park after it had dissipated late last season.
"Obviously when you're doing bad there's going to be more noise you have to deal with," Fletcher said. "In our situation there's a lot of chatter, a lot of things we're dealing with, but you have to try to control what you control doing your job, and let everything else handle itself. You thought you were away from that last year, and a lot of that stuff had died down, but now it's back. We have to focus on not allowing that stuff to affect us."
BY THE NUMBERS: 5 -- Special teams touchdowns surrendered by the Redskins this season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that's one shy of the NFL record six allowed by the 2008 Vikings.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "(Redskins owner) Dan (Snyder) could care less about the other positions." -- Coach Mike Shanahan, who later clarified his remarks by explaining that he wouldn't consult Snyder about any position switches that didn't involve the quarterback.
NFL Team Report - Washington Redskins - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--RB Evan Royster was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday with a high ankle sprain. Running back Jawan Jamison, a seventh-round pick in April's draft, was promoted from the practcie squad to replace Royster.
--WR Pierre Garcon needs one catch Sunday at Atlanta to join Hall of Famer Art Monk, Laveranues Coles and Santana Moss as the only Redskins with 90 in a season.
--RB Alfred Morris will tie Andy Farkas and Gerald Riggs for 10th in franchise history with two rushing touchdowns against the Falcons.
--CB DeAngelo Hall can tie another former Falcon, Jessie Tuggle, for second in NFL history by returning a fumble for a fifth career touchdown.
--OLB Brian Orakpo needs 1.5 sacks for the second double-digit campaign of his four full seasons.
--CB Josh Wilson will play in his 100th NFL game on Sunday.
--TE Jordan Reed, who missed the past three games after suffering a concussion in Week 11 at Philadelphia, didn't practice again on Thursday and, despite coach Mike Shanahan saying there was no determination on the rookie's status, FOXSports.com reported that the Redskins will shut him down for the remainder of the season.
Reed has not played since he sustained a concussion in Week 11. Though he was cleared to return, Reed has not practiced this week.
Reed, a third-round draft pick from Florida, leads all rookie tight ends in the NFL with 45 receptions for 499 yards (499) despite missing four games.
--S Trenton Robinson took full practice on Thursday after being limited on Wednesday with an ankle injury he suffered in last Sunday's loss to Kansas City.
--FB Darrel Young, who missed the past three games with a hamstring injury, took full practice again on Thursday.
--SS Brandon Meriweather, who was inactive against Kansas City because of a bruised chest, took full practice again on Thursday.
--G Kory Lichtensteiger, sidelined during the fourth quarter against the Chiefs with a stinger, took full practice again on Thursday.
Kirk Cousins, whose only start came a year ago this week, replaces more athletic quarterback Robert Griffin III. Cousins is more of a pocket passer than Griffin and has a quicker release so perhaps he'll avoid some of the 24 sacks that Griffin took the past five games.
Standout running back Alfred Morris disappeared over the last three games, producing just 109 yards on 37 carries, but that could change with the expected return of fullback Darrel Young. Receiver Pierre Garcon is having a career year with 89 catches and 1,017 yards, but tight end Jordan Reed hasn't played since suffering a concussion on Nov. 17.
The Falcons ranks 30th against the run, 29th in scoring defense and 20th against the pass.
The Falcons lost standout Julio Jones early while fellow receiver Roddy White has played hurt more often than not. New No. 1 running back Steven Jackson has been a disappointment behind an offensive line that lost its tackles to injuries early.
Tight end Tony Gonzalez keeps rolling towards Canton. Quarterback Matt Ryan has been solid as Atlanta ranks sixth in passing and seventh in third-down efficiency but just 22nd in scoring.
Washington allows the most points and the sixth-most passing yards. Redskins outside linebacker Brian Orakpo has 5.5 sacks in four games before being shut out last week. Safety Brandon Meriweather should return after missing last week with a bruised chest.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Redskins QB Kirk Cousins vs. Falcons safeties William Moore and Thomas DeCoud.
Cousins was 5-for-9 for 111 yards after Griffin was hurt in Week 5 in his NFL debut against Atlanta last year. He'll start Sunday for the first time since his only start in Week 15 of 2012. He threw a 77-yard touchdown to WR Santana Moss but was also picked off twice, once by DeCoud. Moore has 12 interceptions and eight forced fumbles during his four years as a starter, tied for third among NFL safeties.
--Redskins CBs DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson vs. Falcons WRs Roddy White and Harry Douglas.
Hall, who was chosen for two Pro Bowls during his four years with the Falcons (2004-07) and was in the midst of a fight during his 2009 return to Atlanta, has clearly been the standout in a frequently ravaged Washington secondary. Douglas has caught 68 passes for 926 yards in place of the injured Julio Jones while franchise record-holder White has battled injuries while catching just 38 passes for 426 yards.