It appears that Mike Shanahan wants out and wants out fast enough to get in the sweepstakes for another job.
On a day of electrifying, toe-tapping finishes and snowy conditions, it was a pre-game story that might have featured the most intrigue and portend to an ugly divorce.
According to a story from ESPN on Sunday morning, Shanahan has had his fill of working for Redskins owner Daniel Snyder and dealing with the coddling of quarterback Robert Griffin III by Snyder. Shanahan even contemplated quitting at the end of last season.
If you read between the lines of this story, what’s clear is that Shanahan (who either leaked the story, had it leaked or did nothing to discourage it) wants out of Washington, presumably to get in the hunt for one of the many jobs that will be open. That starts with Houston, where Shanahan’s son Kyle was offensive coordinator and was highly regarded before going to join his father in Washington.
One of the points made in the story was to paint the picture of Washington owner Dan Snyder coddling Griffin. Or at least the perception that Snyder is coddling Griffin. That perception is sure to anger Snyder, who hates to be publicly embarrassed (and a 45-10 loss on Sunday at home against Kansas City only highlighted that).
For those who don’t think Shanahan would do this, understand that he is one of the most cunning thinkers in the game. He considers every detail to its most intricate level. Throughout the entire season, more and more information has been coming out about problems between him and Griffin. Now comes information about problems between him and Snyder.
That’s all part of an escalation plan by Shanahan, who obviously sees a next move. Specifically, a move to a team that’s likely to have the No. 1 overall pick in a quarterback-deep draft, a ready-made defense and plenty of weapons on offense.
The question is what will Snyder do in response? Knowing Snyder, this is going to get worse before it gets better.
1. New England get even with the refs – The Patriots staged another of its many improbable comebacks, overcoming a 12-point deficit with less than two minutes remaining. That started with a touchdown catch by Danny Amendola with 1:01 remaining and then a recovered onside kick. Two plays later, however, the refs helped the Patriots with a pass interference call against Cleveland cornerback Leon McFadden that was questionable, at best. Former NFL head of officials Mike Pereira even disagreed with the call via Twitter. In a year when the Patriots have had two controversial calls go against them in losses to the New York Jets and Carolina, maybe this was just how things even out. The call put the ball at the one and then the Patriots survived a final 59-yard field goal attempt by the Browns.
2. Baltimore and Miami survive in the snow – The leading candidates for the final playoff spot in the AFC both won, but did it in extraordinary fashion in the snow. At Baltimore, the Ravens trailed 12-7 before scoring an apparent game-winning TD on a 1-yard pass from Joe Flacco to tight end Dennis Pitta, who was playing in his first game back from a hip injury in training camp. Instead, that TD was the first of five the Vikings and Ravens traded over the final 2:05 of the game. The last was 9-yard pass from Flacco to Marlon Brown with four seconds left.
In Pittsburgh, the Dolphins survived a reprise of the Stanford-Cal lateral play when Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown barely stepped out of bounds at the 7-yard line. The Ravens and Dolphins finished the day at 7-6 each. Baltimore holds the tiebreaker edge because it beat Miami earlier this season. However, the Ravens have to face Detroit, New England and Cincinnati over the next three games while the Dolphins get New England, Buffalo and the Jets.
3. Philadelphia running back LeSean McCoy – After some early issues dealing with the footing that went with blizzard conditions at the start of the game, McCoy figured out how to run in the snow and then ran wild. McCoy finished with 217 yards on 29 carries, including touchdown runs of 40 and 57 yards to spark a 28-point fourth quarter by the Eagles who came back to beat Detroit and maintain playoff hopes.
4. Cincinnati running back Giovani Bernard – The hyper-quick rookie posted season highs in rushing (99 yards) and receiving (49 yards) as the Bengals posted an important victory over Indianapolis. The win gave Cincy the edge for the No. 3 seed in the AFC. Bernard’s effort helped the Bengals win the rushing battle 155 to 63 over the Colts and helped account for a time-of-possession advantage of nearly 15 minutes.
5. San Francisco kicker Phil Dawson – Dawson hit four field goals, including a game-winner with 26 seconds left and long shots of 52 and 48 yards. After going three of six on field goals to open the season, Dawson has hit 20 consecutive field goals this season, including three of longer than 50 yards.
1. New England Patriots and tight end Rob Gronkowski – A source indicated Sunday night that it’s “99 percent certain” that Gronkowski has a torn ACL in his right knee and will miss the remainder of the season. This is the second year in a row that Gronkowski has dealt with a significant injury, this one coming on a low hit from Cleveland safety T.J. Ward. Without Gronkowski, the Patriots passing attack struggled mightily during the first half of the season.
2. Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford – While the conditions in Philadelphia couldn’t have been much more brutal, Stafford couldn’t have been any worse at handling them. Stafford had five fumbles, losing one of them, as the Lions continued to have turnover problems. They now have 29 for the season, one of the critical factors in their inconsistent play all season.
3. NFL referee Jerome Boger – Boger’s crew made two horrendous calls at the end of the New England game. The first was an intentional grounding call against Cleveland quarterback Jason Campbell when he was clearly out of the pocket. The Browns overcame the call. But then Boger’s crew made the call against McFadden to set up the Patriots for the game-winner. Not good.
4. Indianapolis – The Colts once again had problems early, falling behind 14-0 in the first half and 21-0 early in the second half. Throw in the overall inability to stop the Bengals and the Colts have the look of a team that will once again lose in the first round of the playoffs.
5. New York Giants – After winning five of six games to get back into the playoff race, New York went to San Diego and basically laid down from the beginning. The Giants were down 24-0 by halftime and Philip Rivers torched them for three touchdown passes before intermission, including two to rookie Keenan Allen.
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