What are we to think of the dance between Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III and coach Mike Shanahan?
Notice Griffin's name came first. The destiny of this relationship is in his control.
The two say everything is fine today, and maybe it is, but there is no longer an innocence to this liaison. Griffin has learned to trust no one with his future. The blind loyalty to a coach that players develop in youth sports has given way to the cruel reality of business.
Make no mistake, the NFL is a business, and players are interchangeable commodities. The best players, like Griffin, get treated a little better because of the large financial investment by the team, but in the end, all players are replaceable. Ask former Washington Redskins tight end Chris Cooley or Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urchlacher. Maybe they could have lasted another season or two, but teams were ready to move on to younger legs.
Former Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer and quarterback Jeff George didn't get along in 2001. When George missed much of training camp injured, the two sang love songs of each other. After an 0-3 start, Schottenheimer released George, an act unheard of so early in the season. Schottenheimer preferred waiver-wire passers over one with a golden arm and an awful attitude. So much for the preseason lovefest.
Take nothing Shanahan and Griffin say as completely sincere. They've put behind them, for now, Shanahan's overzealous Super Bowl chase four months ago that left Griffin defenseless and eventually further injured. But it's a lingering sore, no matter what lip service is offered.
Griffin can't completely trust anyone anymore, especially with a knee that might be one hit away from retirement. That Shanahan even acknowledges second thoughts on how Griffin was used last season is a gigantic admission by someone who says nothing.
The two understand this is a business relationship. And that's fine, because truth is too often clouded by emotion. Coach Joe Gibbs loved Dexter Manley, but when the defensive end's drug problems made him expendable, Gibbs didn't let emotion stop him from releasing Manley.
Shanahan knows he needs Griffin's support for one last Super Bowl run. Griffin is a special player who elevated the Redskins from a five-win team to 10-6 and division champs. If Washington is to reach a Super Bowl after a 22-year absence, Griffin must be the reason.
But here's one other thought -- who is the face of the franchise? Gibbs is the only coach in the past 35 years who fans remember fondly. There are dozens of players that are fondly remembered over that period.
Fans will always favor a great player over a coach. And so will owner Dan Snyder. If Griffin and Shanahan ever reach open animosity, Snyder will side with Griffin.
So let Shanahan and Griffin say it's all good, but really that depends on future actions. Maybe it takes another season or two to surface, but peace isn't a given.