- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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Your first reaction is "non-story." Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan came out Sunday and said top draft pick Robert Griffin III was his starting quarterback, and yeah, sure, we all already knew that. They traded three first-round picks and a second-round pick for him, and it's not as though they already had Dan Marino and Joe Montana on the roster if you know what I'm saying. So of course Griffin's the starter. They'd burn the place down if he started Rex Grossman in the opener, and Shanahan knows that.
So why is it a story? I mean, other than the fact that it's May 7? Here are three reasons I think there's value in Shanahan saying what he said Sunday:
1. The perpetual hunt for new customers. I know it's tough to imagine, but not everyone is as obsessed with sports as those of us who write about it for a living or spend huge chunks of our workdays reading NFL blogs on ESPN.com. There are people who haven't been living and dying with every RG3-related move over the past few weeks, and for whom the idea that the rookie is going to be the Redskins' starting quarterback wasn't obvious. Part of what Shanahan and the Redskins are trying to do right now, in addition to win more games and get back to the playoffs, is repair and rebuild a relationship with a fan base. There's a great deal of excitement right now in Washington about Griffin, and it makes sense to try to capitalize on that by finding ways to get the word out to potential buyers of tickets and jerseys who may have been busy paying attention to other things during the NFL offseason. Four months before the start of the season and six months before the presidential election, Shanahan grabbed himself part of a Washington, D.C., Monday morning news cycle. How many tickets will that sell? Well, it didn't cost him anything to say it, so if the answer is "one," then why not?
2. This Kirk Cousins "controversy" foolishness. Again, everyone who's been paying attention to the Redskins knows that Shanahan didn't draft Kirk Cousins in the fourth round to compete with Griffin for the starter's job. But a large part of the discussion about the Redskins last week was devoted to the idea of a potential controversy or competition involving those two players, and this was a chance for Shanahan to turn the conversation back in his preferred direction. Maybe somebody (heck, maybe Griffin!) heard all of the silly debate that went on last week about the Cousins pick and took it the wrong way. This was a chance to leave no doubt.
3. He's genuinely excited. Shanahan's famous for not revealing much, especially emotionally. But he's very much in love with his new young quarterback. And while I've preached on here many times that we're not supposed to take what these coaches and GMs say publicly at face value without asking serious questions about why they're saying it, I can promise you that Shanahan's excitement over Griffin is sincere. I believe he very much enjoyed having him on the practice field for the first time and imagining the impact Griffin's abilities can have on what he's hoping the Redskins are about to become. He was asked a question and he answered it, which is the simplest explanation for why he said what he said. But I think part of the deal is how fired up this coach is about this player.
10hEric D. Williams