Mike Shanahan explained his decision to bench Robert Griffin III during press conference on Wednesday. During the 30-minute presser, an animated Shanahan said that he decided to deactivate Griffin for the Washington Redskins' remaining three games of the regular season in order to protect the quarterback from injury. He also said that he talked his decision over with Redskins owner Dan Snyder and GM Bruce Allen before making a final determination.
"If you miss two offseasons in a row, it would be hardest thing in the world to recover from that," Shanahan said. "At the end of the day, [Griffin] had 13 games of great experience."
Shanahan brought up the decision to play RGIII after he was hurt in Washington's game against the Seattle Seahawks during last season's playoffs. Shanahan said that despite both doctors and Griffin saying his knee was fine during the game, he suspected that Griffin was hurt.
"I knew in my gut. I saw it. But I thought he earned the right to play because he convinced me he was ok." Shanahan added that he believes the decision to stick with Griffin in that game cost his team the chance win.
Griffin tore his ACL in that game and was forced to spend his first full NFL offseason rehabbing. Shanahan underscored his belief that missing the team's offseason program detracted from the quarterback's play in his second season in the NFL.
Shanahan said he wanted to make sure that Griffin's development was not stunted by another injury, regardless of how Griffin may feel about the situation.
"We're dealing with someone who is young, wants to be in there," Shanahan said. "I would be disappointed if Robert did not want to be in there with his teammates. I would be the most disappointed guy."
However, Shanahan added:
"I would be the most disappointed guy in myself if he played the last three weeks and had an ACL or an LCL and it set him off for his second year in a row with no offseason program. That would be devastating to him, as well as the organization."
The coach justified the decision to bench Griffin but not his other key players on the basis that it was "different" with the franchise quarterback.
Griffin took the podium before Shanahan, and expressed his disappointment in Shanahan's decision. He also explained that he was raised by his parents to expect authority, and that he was not objecting to being benched, saying, "I have to sit here and do whatever I can to help Kirk."
Kirk Cousins will take over as the starting quarterback of the Redskins, with Rex Grossman acting as the team's backup. Cousins, however, was upfront about what he felt was his true position on the team, saying, "This is Robert's team. He is the franchise quarterback." Shanahan's comment seemed to support that assertion.
Recent reports suggested that friction has grown between Shanahan and Griffin, that Snyder and the Redskins are readying to part ways with the head coach, and that Shanahan may also be ready to move on. Shanahan did not address those reports head on. When asked whether the decision to start Cousins over Griffin was somehow a ploy to help himself get fired, Shanahan emphasized, again, that the decision was made after speaking extensively with Snyder.
As for his future with the organization, Shanahan said that he and Snyder will determine how to proceed when they meet after the season. If he had his choice, however, Shanahan said he would return for 2014 season, which is the final year of his five-year contract.
"You always want to finish something you've started," Shanahan said. "You always want to."