Ashburn, Va. • Kirk Cousins will start for Washington on Sunday — and Robert Griffin III will be the No. 3 quarterback behind Rex Grossman.
Coach Mike Shanahan on Wednesday went ahead with his plan to sit Griffin, further stoking the turmoil surrounding the future of the coach.
Shanahan said on Monday that he was considering benching Griffin for the rest of the season to keep the quarterback healthy for the offseason. Shanahan pointed out that Griffin has been sacked 24 times in the last five games and that two of Washington’s final three games are on artificial turf, including Sunday at Atlanta.
But there’s no certainty that Shanahan will be around to coach in the offseason. Washington has lost five straight and are 3-10, their third losing season in Shanahan’s four years with the team.
The benching is the latest twist in a Shanahan-Griffin relationship that has been complicated and bordering on contentious since a playoff loss to Seattle last season, when Griffin continued to play even though he was clearly injured.
Griffin had reconstructive knee surgery a few days later and missed an entire offseason of developmental work before returning for Week 1 in September, but he hasn’t been the same player that won the league’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2012. With defenses taking away the read-option, he has struggled as a drop-back passer, ranking 26th in the NFL in passer rating with 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
However, while Griffin hasn’t had the same explosiveness, both he and Shanahan have insisted that the quarterback is medically healthy. Until this week, Shanahan quashed any suggestions about a possible switch, saying Griffin needs as much game experience as possible. Griffin on Sunday said it’s "not an issue" as to whether he might not start against Atlanta.
Both Griffin and Cousins are second-year players. Cousins played in all or part of four games, including the playoff loss, last season because of various Griffin injuries. Grossman hasn’t taken a regular season snap since 2011.
The other key member of Washington’s end-of-season drama is owner Dan Snyder, who spoke with Shanahan on Monday and might not want the coach to return for the final year of a five-year, $35 million contract.
The open question remains whether Shanahan might resign — and thus forfeit a year’s salary — or wait to be fired. There’s also the possibility he and Snyder could negotiate a settlement, and that the benching of a healthy franchise player could in some way be Shanahan’s way of getting some leverage in those talks.
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