The crisis in Washington came to a head today, and for once we're not talking about the budget.
Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan finally made good on his threat to deactivate star quarterback Robert Griffin III for Sunday's matchup against the Atlanta Falcons. Kirk Cousins will get the start, with third-stringer Rex Grossman -- remember him? -- serving as backup. Griffin will be listed as inactive, and could sit out for the remainder of the season.
Like most things that happen in D.C., this move is strictly political, and despite what Shanahan and Santana Moss might say, isn't really about saving Griffin's health. True, the Redskins' season is virtually over, as the last-place team has no shot at a playoff spot, and resting their franchise player who's struggled to recover from injury makes a lot of sense for the organization's investment in its future. Considering recent reports that Shanahan has been ready to leave since before last season had ended, the contention that he has any interest whatsoever in the team's prospects beyond this year is laughable.
Instead, the general consensus is that this is a thinly veiled attempt by Shanahan to get the ax from Redskins owner Dan Snyder, which would allow him to part with the organization while still receiving the $7 million owed on his contract. As ESPN's Dan Graziano notes, the unwavering support Snyder has had for Griffin is the major sticking point in his relationship with his head coach, who believes his owner is giving his quarterback the impression that he's bigger than the game. Snyder, perhaps the most overbearing owner in professional sports since the late George Steinbrenner, hasn't helped his case by giving Griffin preferential treatment and clouding the chain of command that makes football teams work.
Everyone comes out a loser in this situation: the Redskins, their fans and Griffin himself, who has found himself caught between his owner and his head coach, and may or may not have rushed back from injury at the start of the season for fear of losing his job to Cousins. It can't be good for the young quarterback's confidence to see his second NFL season wind down with his backup on the field, and could actually limit his development as a player and leader. Former coach Herm Edwards notes the importance of locker-room dynamics and team chemistry to a squad's success, especially for the guy calling the plays, as well as the emphasis football players place on perceived toughness, the reason so many play hurt despite the potential consequences. Sitting Griffin sends the message that he is, in fact, bigger than the team, even if he's just being used as a means for Shanahan's desired end.