There's always scrutiny of the relationship between the coach and quarterback in the NFL. After all, it's the most important one in sports. That relationship really gets watched on losing teams. And when the coach has two Super Bowl rings and the quarterback has won a Heisman Trophy and the Offensive Rookie of the Year award, but the team has crashed from a division title to the NFC East basement in less than a year's time, their relationship is really the talk of the town.
Washington, 10-6 a year ago, is 3-9 and playing out the string after four straight losses so the tension between the quarterback, the coach and the latter's son/offensive coordinator Kyle has become even more magnified as the Redskins prepare for Sunday's game against 9-3 Kansas City.
While the Shanahans and Griffin were on the same page last season as the coaches adapted their playbook to add much of the read-option scheme that the quarterback ran in winning the Heisman at Baylor in 2011, the relationship between the Shanahans and the Griffins (that includes the latter's father) began deteriorating when the coach indulged the quarterback by letting him play hurt in the playoff loss to Seattle before the knee injury became so aggravated that ACL and LCL surgery was necessary.
As Griffin was rehabbing, his dad went public with an appeal for the Redskins to cut down on his designed runs and to make him more of a pocket passer. For the most part, the Shanahans accommodated that request, but neither the offense, nor Griffin, have been nearly as effective this season. Along the way, the once-beloved quarterback has taken plenty of criticism while at times questioning the play-calling and never quite taking personal responsibility for Washington's woes.
"You always try to have a relationship with your quarterback," said Shanahan, who won two Super Bowls in Denver while working with Hall of Fame passer John Elway. "When you take a look at what we did last year, on offense, we were able to do some special things. This year (with Robert) going through a rehab program with his ACL, his LCL, coming back and fighting through (it), there's always going to be some tough times in that transition. But I think Robert's got the mindset and he's tough enough to fight through it and he understands how important an offseason is, and just working hard to get better. So, I think we have a good relationship. ... I think it's always been good."
Griffin didn't praise the relationship, but he did say, "I love having them here," when asked about the Shanahans.
"Whenever you have a year like we're having, sitting at 3-9 when we had higher expectations, people are going to try to sink the ship," Griffin said. "Our job is not to focus on that stuff. I think these guys have a great future. I love having them here. Me, coach, Kyle, all the rest of the coaches, the rest of the players, we all want to win, and that's a winning recipe, whether we're doing it on the field or not. We're all competitors. We all get heated at times, but at the end of the day, we all want to win."
Asked if he trusts the elder Shanahan, Griffin noted that he has only been in Washington less than two years.
"I haven't spent a lot of time here (or) a lot of time in the league and it takes time to build that trust over time in a coach," Griffin said.
SERIES HISTORY: 9th regular-season meeting. Chiefs lead series, 7-1. The most memorable meeting was the first when host Kansas City ended the five-game winning streak that had opened the George Allen era in Washington with a 24-20 victory. Redskins receiver Charley Taylor, Allen's fellow Hall of Famer, suffered a season-ending broken leg. Chiefs receiver Otis Taylor scored the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 28-yard pass from Hall of Famer Len Dawson even though Redskins cornerback Pat Fischer was draped all over him.
--Wide receiver Santana Moss is in his 13th NFL season and the receiver said that he has never such poor officiating.
"It's probably been worse this whole year as a total, not just this team," Moss said on Wednesday, three days after he was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and holding on the same play, essentially nullifying a 13-yard catch by tight end Logan Paulsen to the New York 45-yard line during the 24-17 loss to the Giants. "I've watched a lot of football this year. It's been the worst that I've ever seen."
Moss is particularly upset about officials' inconsistency on what's a catch and what isn't.
"You've got guys that's catching balls and they take two steps and they get tackled," Moss said. "The ball comes out after they hit the ground. It's no good. And you have another guy do it the next week, he gets the catch. Come on. Somebody has to change that rule. Hopefully somebody who's in a higher position that can really watch this season alone and see some of the stuff that's being called and hasn't been called, they can go and try to critique that because it's been the worst by far since I've been in the league."
On Tuesday, Moss made his weekly appearance on 106.7TheFan and said that the zebras have been against the Redskins during his team-high nine seasons in Washington, an example of which was the unsportsmanlike call against him on which coach Mike Shanahan said the receiver was talking to the Giants, not the officials.
"I didn't think I was holding," Moss explained. "So I said it was a BS call and the guy gave me unsportsmanlike conduct, which - I can give him a bunch of unsportsmanlike conducts because we've been going through this all year where they haven't given us the call when we deserved it. Or they give us a holding or call us for a holding when it's crap. At the end of the day ... I have to learn how to handle myself in that situation a little better. But ... (when) you're in the heat of the moment, stuff like that happens."
--Tight end Fred Davis' two catches in last Sunday's 24-17 loss to the Giants were his first since Week 2 when he was still the starter and the three passes thrown his way (not counting one that was knocked down at the line of scrimmage) were his first since Week 4.
It wasn't much, but as Davis said, "At least I got out there a little bit. It actually felt a little weird after not playing in so long, but it felt good. Hopefully, there'll be some more."
Davis, who will be a free agent come March, couldn't hold onto a long pass from quarterback Robert Griffin III that would've put the Redskins deep in Giants territory in the final two minutes when he was popped by New York safety Antrel Rolle.
"He hit me hard, but it was really more about him hitting me perfectly where the ball came out as I was about to tuck it," lamented Davis, who had been inactive for five of the previous six games.
--Safety Reed Doughty suffered the second concussion in his last six games late in the first half against the Giants and didn't return. Coach Mike Shanahan, who held Doughty out of practice on Wednesday even though he had been cleared to work, said that the team will be extra-careful because the two concussions occurred so close in time.
Doughty, whose first concussion against Chicago kept him from even flying to Denver for the first game of his eight-year NFL career in his native Colorado, is eager to get back on the field now even though Washington has already been eliminated from contention.
"They were completely different incidents and I think this one was minor," Doughty said. "I'm very optimistic about (playing) this weekend. I have a lot to play for from helping the team win, to my own personal pride to free agency (which looms again for him this winter). I'm going to play if I'm able to play."
BY THE NUMBERS: 4 -- Double-digit loss seasons for the Redskins during the last five years if they lose on Sunday.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Players know when you're playing for the future. Players know that your job is to play the best players that give you the best chance to win. If you want to see a team turn on you, just go start playing younger players and start playing for the future." -- Coach Mike Shanahan when asked about playing younger players with the Redskins having been eliminated from contention.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--OLB Brian Orakpo, who has a sack in each of the last four games, needs two more to reach 40 for his career.
--RB Alfred Morris needs four yards to become the first Redskin to rush for 1,000 yards in each of his first two NFL seasons.
--WR Pierre Garcon needs 20 receiving yards for the first 1,000-yard season of his six-year career.
--QB Robert Griffin III needs 182 yards to top the 3,200 yards for which he passed as a rookie in 2012.
--WR Santana Moss needs one TD to tie former Redskin Stephen Davis for 10th place in franchise history with 48.
--TE Jordan Reed took limited practice on Thursday. He hasn't played since suffering a concussion on Nov. 17 at Philadelphia.
--FS Brandon Meriweather was limited on Thursday after not working on Wednesday because of a bruised chest suffered last Sunday against the New York Giants.
--FB Darrel Young was limited again on Thursday after missing the past two games because of a hamstring injury suffered during practice on Nov. 21.
--SS Reed Doughty was limited on Thursday after not working on Wednesday because of a concussion suffered last Sunday.
--OT Trent Williams took full practice on Thursday after not working on Wednesday because of a bruised foot suffered last Sunday against the New York Giants.
--ILB London Fletcher returned to full practice on Thursday after being limited on Wednesday with a sprained ankle suffered during the final series against the Giants
--CB DeAngelo Hall returned to full practice on Thursday after being limited on Wednesday because of his left hip and back injured against New York.
--TE/FB Niles Paul took full practice again on Thursday after missing all of last week with a virus.
--DE Stephen Bowen had microfracture surgery on his ailing right knee on Tuesday and is expected to miss six months which would keep him out until minicamp in June.
--OL Maurice Hurt will remain on the physically unable to perform list for the resat of the season. Hurt had a knee scoped last spring and never fully recovered.
GAME PLAN: Although offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has oddly gone away from battering ram running back Alfred Morris at times (especially in the second half of tight games with Denver and the Giants), Washington is leading the league in rushing for a second straight season while ranking just 16th in passing. Given that Kansas City has been weaker against the run than the pass, that would seem to dictate an attack on Sunday that features plenty of Morris (996 yards) as well as quarterback Robert Griffin III (460) taking off with the ball. Pierre Garcon (84 catches) has clearly been Griffin's favorite receiver this year, a situation that has become even more obvious with rookie tight end Jordan Reed (45) sidelined the past two games. Reed's status for Sunday is in question as is the case for Chiefs leading pass-rusher Justin Houston. The latter should be a relief for a Redskins offensive line that allowed 19 sacks the past four games after surrendering just 14 during the first eight contests.
During his 14 seasons in Philadelphia, head coach Andy Reid always preferred to throw the ball rather than keep it on the ground. Even his top backs, Duce Staley, Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy, were all dangerous as receivers. The latter remains the case in Kansas City where Jamaal Charles is not only the leading rusher (1,011 yards) but also the leading receiver (55 catches). However, the coach's Chiefs offense has been much better running the ball (11th) than throwing it (23rd). That's good news for the Redskins, who are 13th against the run but just 27th against the pass. What's more, three of Washington's four starters in the secondary, top cornerback DeAngelo Hall and safeties Brandon Meriweather and Reed Doughty took limited or no work on Wednesday. The Redskins had nine sacks during the past four games, 5.5 of them by outside linebacker Brian Orakpo, who leads the team with 8.5.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Redskins LT Trent Williams vs. Chiefs OLB Tamba Hali -- Williams won his matchups with star pass rushers Julius Peppers, Clay Matthews, DeMarcus Ware and Jared Allen during the first nine weeks. However, Philadelphia's Trent Cole and San Francisco's Aldon Smith beat him the next two games and then he bruised his foot last week. With fellow elite pass rusher Justin Houston ailing, Hali, who had nine sacks in seven games but has none since, needs to get back in gear.
--Redskins ILBs Perry Riley and London Fletcher vs. Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles -- Riley and old man Fletcher are the top tacklers for a defense that ranks 13th against the run and hasn't allowed an opposing back -- including standouts Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy, Frank Gore and Matt Forte -- to gain more than 91 yards since Week 2. The dynamic Charles leads the NFL in first downs, is second in yards from scrimmage and touchdowns, third in rushing and fourth in catches by a running back.
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