UPDATED: May 22, 2015 1:51 p.m.
WASHINGTON — Former Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said on Friday that neither Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III nor owner Dan Snyder ever felt comfortable with the 2012 zone-read offense that helped the team reach the playoffs.
Shanahan, joining 106.7 The Fan mid-day hosts Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier on Friday morning, did note that was the one instance when Snyder directly became involved with a football decision following Griffin’s knee injury in the 2012 playoff loss to Seattle.
“To be honest with you – [Snyder] really didn’t. He didn’t interfere. The only thing that he felt very strongly about was Robert not running the football in 2012, which is understandable, especially with some of the shots he was taking,” Shanahan said. “I really shared with him I thought that for us to have the type of success, that we needed Robert to run that style of offense. But we had to teach him how to slide and not take shots.”
Shanahan also weighed in on the Redskins naming Griffin the starter for 2015 early in this offseason over fellow returning quarterbacks Colt McCoy and Kirk Cousins. Griffin is entering his fourth season with Washington since being chosen No. 2 overall in the 2012 draft.
“At least in my opinion, nobody is the unquestioned starter regardless of what position you play,” Shanahan said. “You’ve got to go out there and prove every year that you’re the best guy at what you do. Your teammates know very quickly. You as a head coach, if you start somebody regardless of what position it is, and the players understand maybe you’re not playing the best player, you lose that football team very quickly.”
Shanahan expressed little surprise that Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan said he’d received little trade interest for Cousins this offseason. But that doesn’t change his opinion of the quarterback, Shanahan said – especially if he lands in a situation where a team puts a bigger emphasis on the running game.
“I think Kirk Cousins will be a big-time player for a lot of years in the National Football League,” Shanahan said.
He later added: “I’ve seen first hand what he can do and once he gets a team with a little balance he’ll have a very successful NFL career.”
Shanahan again lamented the $36 million in salary-cap penalties levied against the Redskins by the NFL in 2012 that prevented the team’s front office from making necessary upgrades to improve the roster.
He acknowledged Washington thought about keeping the No. 6 pick in the 2012 draft and taking current Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill, but said Griffin’s unique talent gave the team’s offense a chance to do things no team in NFL history had done before. Even though Griffin had never run a pro-style offense in college at Baylor, that talent alone made him worth the risk to trade up from No. 6 to No. 2 to draft him.
“Robert’s got a lot of ability. He’s a charismatic guy, he’s got mobility, he’s got arm strength. He’s a very bright guy,” Shanahan said. “But he hasn’t done things that the NFL asks you to do and it does take some growing pains to go through that.”
That didn’t happen under Shanahan, of course. Griffin’s knee injury on Jan. 6, 2013 was a turning point in his relationship with Shanahan and his son, Kyle, the offensive coordinator. The Redskins fired Shanahan after a 3-13 season in 2013. He’s quickly adjusted to watching the NFL from an outsider’s perspective on Sundays in the fall – though he still watches game film and keeps up with the latest league trends.
“It’s kind of fun. I can second guess everybody,” Shanahan joked. “The coaches, the coordinators. It’s not bad. I kind of like being a fan.”
Shanahan laughed when asked by Paulsen who he’d rather play golf with: Former Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb or defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. He famously didn’t get along with those players during their short time in Washington.
“You know, they’re not on my Christmas list, either,” Shanahan cracked. “Oh, god. I think I’m passing [on golf] that day.”
As for his future, Shanahan would not rule out a return to coaching. But if an offer isn’t in the cards, he’d still like to share his years of experience in the NFL with a team in some capacity, even if just as a consultant.
“It’s got to be right. You, the owner, the GM and your quarterback all have to be on the same page,” Shanahan said. “In my opinion, if you have that you’ve got a chance to do something special, you’ve got a chance to win a Super Bowl.”
“And that’s what it’s about. As you get older in the league the only thing you really care about is coming back with that Lombardi Trophy. Just working for three or four years doesn’t do it for you any more – even getting to the playoffs. You want a chance to win the big prize. If I feel like that opportunity is out there in some capacity then I’ll go in that direction.”
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