Benching RGIII is Shanahan’s Final Act

When I was younger, I used to love the MLB 2K video game series, especially the GM mode. I would spend hours making trades, signing and releasing players, and seeing how it all played out. I didn’t give myself the easy route of being GM of the Red Sox or Yankees; it was always someone bad, like the Pirates were at the time, or a team that had never won a championship. I accepted the challenge of making a team a powerhouse, and I usually failed. In the game mode, you could be fired by the owner if you didn’t live up to expectations, and I usually knew when I was about to be fired. But before I got shown the door, I would always have a final act, a parting shot that would make that organization even worse than they were in my tenure. When I was the Pirates’ GM, it would be trading a bunch of the Pirates’ best players for prospects with no big-league potential. If I were running the Rockies, Todd Helton would usually get traded for someone like Mark Malaska. I always wanted that one last shot at the team, and as a kid, it would feel good (now, it seems silly and a waste of time for a kid who should have spent his time actually learning long division instead of using a calculator).

That video game GM story, while it seems completely pointless, connects well to Mike Shanahan deciding to bench Robert Griffin III in favor of backup QB Kirk Cousins. According to CSN, Shanahan has stated that RGIII is “100 percent healthy.” So what’s the benching for? It’s simple: this is Shanahan’s parting shot.

There’s no doubt that Mike Shanahan is going to be fired in Washington after a nightmarish season. The team is 3-10 and just came off of a 45-10 loss that almost no Redskins fans stayed until the end of. Shanahan’s handling of his star quarterback has been questioned since Griffin was injured in last year’s playoff loss to Seattle, and it’s a foregone conclusion that owner Daniel Snyder is going to give him the pink slip. Because of his imminent firing, Shanahan is using Robert Griffin III as a scapegoat. The Redskins have given up 31 points a game, the worst points against in the NFL. Their pass defense is 27th, they’re 22nd in the league in total yards a game and yet, it must be the quarterback’s fault. The Redskins are ninth in yards per game, but the offense must be the only reason they’re 3-10. There’s a thing about scapegoats: it’s so easy to make one. It takes a great coach to take accountability for what happened and try to clean up his mess from there.

What’s the future like for Shanahan? He will get a job somewhere without a doubt, but is a quarterback going to want a coach who will bench him just to make a point to the owner? It’s going to be hard for Shanahan to explain his final days in Washington when he gets an interview with another team. Throwing the star of the team under the bus is a petty parting shot, the impact will certainly be felt in the coming months.

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