If there’s one thing the Skins are good at (and there may be just the one), it’s leaking to the media. After an ESPN report had owner Dan Snyder clashing with his football people on the future of Robert Griffin III, it took mere hours for sources to run to both local and national reporters and insist that’s it’s fine, everything’s fine.
The ESPN story claimed near unanimity among Skins brass, including “high-ranking front-office officials and coaches”—read: GM Scot McCloughan and head coach Jay Gruden—that it’s time to cut bait with RGIII. It also reported that their attempts to move on from Griffin are “meeting resistance from team ownership”—read: Dan Snyder. This isn’t coming out of nowhere; we’ve always been led to believe that Snyder is Griffin’s cheerleader and benefactor, pushing for him to start (and getting his way) over the preferences of the coaching staff. But the ESPN report was surprising for just how vehemently Skins sources called their contacts to deny it.
Multiple sources tell PFT that, contrary to a Sunday afternoon report from ESPN, no schism exists between owner Daniel Snyder and the people he has hired to run the football operations regarding the status of quarterback Robert Griffin III.
ESPN claims that the coaching staff and front-official officials want to move on from Griffin, but that they are “meeting resistance” from owner Daniel Snyder. Three different sources have told PFT that this simply isn’t true. (One source called it “spaghetti journalism,” with reports being thrown against the wall at a time when a situation that seems to be disintegrating cries out for more and more efforts to advance the story.)
As one source explained it to PFT, everyone in Washington is on the same page regarding the roles and responsibilities. G.M. Scot McCloughan is in charge of the roster, which soon will be at 53, and coach Jay Gruden decides who will play.
Two people with knowledge of the team’s planning each said Snyder is not blocking his front office and coaching staff from trading Griffin. One called an ESPN report that suggested that, “100 percent wrong.”
Your first instinct, given everything that’s gone on in Ashburn over the last few years, is that the Skins are in disarray, and ownership and operations are scrambling to spin the situation their way, even if that means directly contradicting each other. A more charitable interpretation would be that the initial ESPN report was wrong, and these denials are merely correcting misinformation.
The truth is, as usual, probably somewhere in between. The Skins’ football side probably does want to move on from Griffin—probably has for a while, but has been ordered to start him. This time is different: Griffin’s a lame duck now, on the last year of his rookie deal (the Skins exercised his fifth-year option, but can cut him before next season and not pay him—if he’s healthy), and didn’t look good in preseason even before a mysterious concussion felled him until at least Week 1. And even then, he won’t start:
Griffin’s stock may never be lower; if there were a time to discard him, it would be now. There’d be minimal blowback from the fans at this point if he were outright cut. But it seems the Skins are insistent that if they move on, they get something in return. And that’s just not going to happen, so whether Snyder is blocking a trade is a moot point.
The debate being carried on in the media seems to be specifically about a trade—and you’ll notice that neither of the two follow-up reports deny that Washington is attempting to trade Griffin. Ideally, they could get something for the QB for whom they mortgaged a few drafts. But it’s probably too late for that. Griffin is on the hook for a whopping $16 million in 2016, though it’s guaranteed for injury only. Any team trading for him now would functionally be getting a single season of a guy with questionable health, who’s reportedly disliked by his coaches and teammates, and who can’t stay out of the center ring of his own media circus.
So it’s no big story that the Skins are debating what to do with Griffin, and it’s no scandal if there are differing opinions in the room. But a normal franchise would go about its business without airing the debate in the press every couple of days. All it does it make everyone look petty or incompetent, and somehow manage to further decrease the value of Griffin in a potential trade. The whole thing is remarkably self-defeating. Griffin is damaged goods. The Skins are simply damaged.