Nov 25, 2013; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) walks off the field after the game against the San Francisco 49ers at FedEx Field. The 49ers won 27-6. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

What's the Real Reason Behind Robert Griffin III's Benching?

Redskins’ Head Coach Mike Shanahan’s highly-anticipated press conference on Wednesday featured the coach giving multiple reasons, over and over again, for why he decided to put Robert Griffin III on the bench for the rest of the season. But of those stories he told in Ashburn, which, if any, are accurate? I say none.

“Well, the first thing I did is I talked to Dan Snyder about a week ago, talking about the amount of hits Robert has had. Anytime you’re hit as many times as he’s been hit, I thought it was in his best interest, the organization’s, to talk about if we should continue playing Robert if he’s hit as many times as he’s been hit. Dan thought about it and talked to [Executive Vice President/General Manager] Bruce [Allen] about it, and at the end of the day we felt that the best thing to do for Robert was to not play him – give Kirk an opportunity to play – so he could go into an offseason healthy. Any time you miss an offseason in the National Football League it does set you back quite a bit, and we thought going into this offseason [after] missing last year, that this was the best way to do it,” Shanahan told the media.

Dec 8, 2013; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan against the Kansas City Chiefs during the second half at FedEx Field. The Chiefs won 45 – 10. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

So Shanahan is telling us that Griffin is being benched for the amount of hits Griffin has taken. Alright, that’s fair. Griffin has been sacked 25 times over the Redskins’ five-game losing streak, but his own indecisiveness in the pocket, as well as horrendous pocket presence has contributed to that.

I believe that Shanahan is using the ‘Let’s get Griffin into the offseason healthy’ excuse for something that would be ridiculed even more than Shanahan has already been, believe it or not. It’s something that Shanahan probably would not be comfortable saying in front of the D.C. media.

According to NFL.com, one unnamed Redskins player told NFL Media’s Jeff Darlington, “I believe that’s the best way to sell it.” To SELL it. Let me say that again. SELL it. That means there’s something else going on there.

Another player said: “Don’t overthink it at all. The guy got benched.” There’s only one thing that could mean. It’s obvious.

So, you ask – what’s the ACTUAL reason Griffin was benched? It’s pretty clear in my eyes: Griffin has been terrible. His play this year has been straight up poor. I can see why Shanahan wouldn’t say that.

Think about what the reaction would be if Shanahan got up to the podium and said something like “Well, we’ve made the decision to bench Robert because he’s been awful this year.” Alright, seriously: if he said something like “We’ve decided to sit Robert because of performance.” Yeah, the reaction would not favor Shanahan at all. Members of the D.C. media would start a war right after press conference concluded. I’ll just be sitting here with my popcorn watching this whole thing unfold.

Anyway, Griffin should have been benched in the third quarter of the Philadelphia game in Week 11 after missing wide open receivers and making poor reads. The 49ers game was the only game where his offense failed produce a touchdown, college or pro. He started hot in the first half of the Giants game, but half of those completions were checkdowns to the running back. And the Chiefs game… don’t even get me started. The third quarter of that game was the last time we’ll see Griffin in a game that counts in nine months.

He has just underperformed in epic proportions in 2013. Now, I’m not saying he’s not a good quarterback – he simply hasn’t been this year. He has 19 combined turnovers this year in 13 games against 16 touchdowns; he had 27 touchdowns and just eight turnovers, including a league-best five interceptions in 2012.

Game announcers, analysts, and fans alike, make the argument that the offensive line is bad. Sure, the Redskins’ pass protection hasn’t been the best, but this is the only team in the league which has kept the same five starters for two years running. They’ve led the entire NFL in rushing in 2012 and 2013. Griffin isn’t going to get perfect protection on every play. Instead of running straight into the pass rush, he needs to recognize the blitz and throw hot, and accurately, from the pocket, something that he hasn’t been able to do this year. A large part of his 3,202 passing yards this year (two more than last year) have been garbage time yards.

The numbers behind Robert Griffin III's sophomore slump. Photo Credits to ESPN Stats & Info.

The numbers behind Robert Griffin III’s sophomore slump. Photo Credits to ESPN Stats & Info.

Was 2012 a fluke? I don’t think so. I’m a huge ‘Skins fan myself, and I really hope that Griffin pans out. But defenses have been giving Griffin different looks and have been slowing down the zone-read game. He looks confused in the pocket on more than several occasions.

Then there’s the knee brace. The “RGKnee” Twitter accounts are funny and all, but there’s no way you’re convincing me that Griffin is 100 percent with that big, bulky brace on his knee. If Shanahan was truly concerned about another injury to Griffin, the quarterback would never have even set foot on the field this year at all. If the Redskins are even 6-7 at this point, I don’t see how Shanahan would possibly bench RG3 for health reasons.

Griffin doesn’t have any legitimate reason for his lack of production other than the knee brace. All 11 offensive starters from a year ago have returned and are currently playing.

If Griffin started poorly, but has been improving throughout the year (which isn’t the case), you’d think that Shanahan would let Griffin finish out the season, right? Aren’t those final three games valuable; doesn’t Griffin need the reps going into the offseason? No. Shanahan, however scrutinized he may be, wants this football team to win. Right now, with RGIII’s poor play, Kirk Cousins is the better option, with the season over.

And I highly doubt that Shanahan is starting Cousins to increase his trade value – Shanahan most likely won’t be here after 2013 anyway, so he’s just trying to get the best out of his final three games in Washington as possible.

Being healthy, however, is a good thing for Griffin. He needs to be healthy going into the offseason; I agree with that. But I don’t believe the general consensus that RGIII has been shut down for health reasons. It’s been more of a lack of play and production than anything else.

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Tags: FanSided Mike Shanahan Robert Griffin Iii Washington Redskins

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