LANDOVER, Md. -- The game didn't matter at all, just like too many December games in Washington in the past dozen or so years. It’s down to this: trying to figure out whose version of the truth is the correct one.
Both sides -- the Mike Shanahan camp and the Robert Griffin III camps -- come across the same way. They look and sound exhausted by what has transpired. One side leaks out how the relationship between Dan Snyder and Griffin displeases the head coach and is damaging. They’re too close. The other side says that’s just not the case. They rarely talk during the season; they’re not that close.
But this is the state of the Washington Redskins. Trying to parse meaning from every sentence, from the way someone answers a question. Did they look angry? Defeated? Teary-eyed? Other cities talk about playoff races; in Washington it returns to politics and body language. Oh, and job security: Will Snyder fire Shanahan? If so, is it imminent? Will Snyder let him twist a little?
Shanahan had the opportunity to deny an ESPN.com report about the events of last season, when it was reported that he planned to quit because of Griffin’s relationship with Snyder. Shanahan obviously didn’t quit -- nor did he shoot down the story. If a guy wants to get fired, one good way is to have a story like this come out (and then not say who your starting quarterback is for next week, as Shanahan did as well).
“It’s not the right time or place to talk about my relationship with Dan Snyder,” Shanahan said, “or it’s not the right time and place to talk about something that happened a year ago. I will get a chance to talk to Dan at the end of the season and I will give him some viewpoints from me and I’m sure he will give me his thoughts. I’m not sure what direction we will go, but we will communicate that at the right time.”
Shanahan wouldn’t answer any questions about anything other than what happens on the field. His focus, he kept repeating, is on next week’s opponent Atlanta.
“I’d like to talk about the job at hand,” he said, giving the impression he was already resigned to his fate. “And not speculation or my relationship.”
That will be tough to do as long as he remains employed by the Redskins. As Shanahan exited Fed Ex Field at 5:20 p.m. ET, he still was the coach. And as long as he’s the coach all aspects will be picked apart because they all play into any decision Snyder will make.
The players harp on the old lines of not focusing on what they can’t control. But it takes a toll, not just the losing but the endless speculation.
“It’s extremely difficult,” tight end Logan Paulsen said. “It’s like going to work every day and someone is standing outside your window telling you how much you sucked. It’s a distraction and it’s very difficult to navigate that. I think that’s the biggest thing. It’s noise constantly. People talking about your coach getting fired. People talking about cutting players. People talking about everything under the sun. That’s always really difficult.
“I do worry about [what might happen]. Shanahan is a guy I have a ton of respect for. I want to play at a level that is going to keep him here. Every time we have a game like this, I feel I’m not helping him keep his job.”
It’s clear that Griffin is perturbed as well. He’s a 23-year-old quarterback who was the talk of the NFL a year ago. He still is, for different reasons. It’s one thing for him to hear his game picked apart; it’s another to have other aspects of his life probed. There’s always noise that accompanies terrible seasons in Washington, especially when there are questions about whether or not the head coach will return.
Now Griffin is caught up in it. Safe to say he understands how it looks for him. Safe to say he’s frustrated about how his relationship with Snyder is portrayed, that they rarely talk during the season and not about football. Snyder was pilloried in the past for his chummy relationship with players, something that was not an issue the past several years.
“I’m not going to talk about that stuff guys,” Griffin said. “It’s not relevant to the game or relevant to my life. That is my answer to that. This is ridiculous.”
But he did go longer when asked why his relationship with the coach or owner is always being questioned.
“I don’t know,” Griffin said. “I’m getting frustrated now, too, and trying to hold everything back. Some things are allowed to happen and we can cut a lot of this stuff out and it is not being cut out. I don’t know what else I can do about that. It is very unfortunate.”
This is no longer a healthy relationship, this one between Shanahan and Griffin. When these stories come out, it makes you wonder why.
“Is it calculated?” Griffin said. “I don’t know what it is.”
Here’s what many would call it: the end.