Perception is everything.
Is Daniel Snyder too close to Robert Griffin III? Does Snyder provide special perks to his franchise quarterback? Has the owner empowered Griffin as the second-most important member of the Washington Redskins franchise, more important than even the head coach?
It doesn't matter. What matters is that Redskins coach Mike Shanahan reportedly thinks so. A source told ESPN.com's Dan Graziano that Shanahan has grown weary of the way Snyder "openly esteemed" Griffin above all other players, and the coach told people close to him that he thinks Snyder's behavior with regard to Griffin is a "complete farce."
That is a problem.
Successful NFL franchises have a clear delineation of power. Owners own. Coaches coach. General managers manage. Players play.
Good owners don't meddle in the day-to-day football operation of the team. They aren't buddy-buddy with their players, who are their employees. They don't single out their stars and offer special treatment beyond what they provide for everyone else. They certainly don't open their door and entertain complaints about the head coach.
Good owners understand that the most important relationship in their organization is the one between the head coach and the franchise quarterback. That is the relationship that matters most. That one needs to be strong. When there is friction there, the chance for the team to succeed is greatly diminished.
If Snyder needs an example of what can go wrong when an owner gives preferential treatment to a star player, all he needs to do is look at what happened in Atlanta when Michael Vick was the quarterback.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank loved Vick, the No. 1 overall pick in 2001. He treated Vick like a son. He opened his home to Vick. The owner created an environment in which Vick was the most important person in the building. The rules others had to follow did not apply.
Publicly, it was most evident before the Falcons' first game of the 2003 season. Vick had broken his right fibula in a preseason game. Still wearing a black walking boot, Vick wanted to go out to the field before Atlanta played Dallas at the old Texas Stadium. Instead of Vick using crutches, Blank pushed the QB out to the field in a wheelchair.
Intended or not, the message was clear. The billionaire owner, who built his fortune as the co-founder of The Home Depot, was coddling his injured star.
Vick knew he had the unwavering backing of his team's owner. He knew that in Blank's eyes he could do no wrong. He knew he was more important than the Falcons' head coach at the time, Dan Reeves. Vick knew he didn't have to dedicate himself to the process of preparing for games, that he could be the last one to arrive at the practice facility and the first one to leave. He was a 23-year-old kid, and the Vick rules were established from the jump.
Griffin certainly isn't Vick. He has a good work ethic. He is early to work and late to leave. At 23, he understands the value of film study. He is a supportive teammate.
Even if Griffin's relationship with Snyder isn't as close as it might seem, Shanahan's perception of it is nonetheless a problem, and that's on Snyder.