News & Politics

Kyle Shanahan Returns to Washington With “Johnny Football” in Tow

The parallels between RGIII and Johnny Manziel are uncanny—but is that a good thing?

Shanahan working with RGIII in 2012. Photograph by Flickr user Keith Allison.

When Kyle Shanahan, the Cleveland Browns’ new offensive coordinator, returns to Washington Monday night for a pre-season game, his star quarterback will be a rookie sensation who won the Heisman with a major Texas college program, who’s been anointed to lead his team out of a playoff drought. Washington fans have seen this movie before. And it’s one that should scare Johnny Football half to death.

Robert Griffin III, Kyle’s last quarterback of this description, is still speaking to Kyle—according to the Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg (“It’s not that type of relationship where we wouldn’t talk,” the quarterback assured Steinberg.) But that’s as warm as RGIII could get about the man who got kicked to the curb with his head-coach dad, Mike, after a dreadful 3-13 season, and a QB/O coordinator partnership that had deteriorated past petulant to nonexistent.

(It’s another question whether the FedEx faithful will be even that generous. “I think he won’t get booed,” former Washington defensive back Fred Smoot told Washingtonian. “The Redskins are a classy organization; we have an educated and passionate fan base. It’s not like Philadelphia, where they don’t like anybody, not even their own players most of the time.” One man’s opinion.)

More worrying than last year’s record for Manziel may be the how Griffin’s rookie year wound up, in a calamitous playoff game against Seattle, when Griffin almost crawled off the field with a knee injury that required surgery and rehabilitation.

The two Texans’ similarities, after all, extend to their on-field play. “Both of us are real fast, guys that can play backyard football at times,” Griffin says on Steinberg’s SportsBog blog. That style, and the lack of protection, often left RGIII exposed.

“Kyle has to be very happy,” says Smoot. “He’s got two of the same kind of athletes. They are not just athletes—they are rock stars.”

Let’s see if Shanahan can keep his new frontman out of the mosh pit.

Find Carol Ross Joynt on Twitter at @caroljoynt.