A few weeks ago when Jon Gruden told me the coach-quarterback relationship is the single most important ingredient of a successful NFL franchise, I'm quite certain he did not have the Washington Redskins in mind. If you've been following along at home this week as the doomed relationship between coach Mike Shanahan and quarterback Robert Griffin III fractured publicly and irrevocably in a series of bizarre soap-opera inspired news conferences, here's where we now stand:
No, the coach and quarterback are not, like, you know, close-close friends. Yes, a year after playing Griffin when he was hurt, Shanahan has now decided to sit him now that he's fully healthy. Yes, he recently said what Griffin needs is reps. No, he didn't mean it. Yes, his name is Kirk Cousins. No, I have no idea who that is. No, Shanahan swears he's not trying to get fired to collect his $7 million 2014 salary. Yes, he's being honest. No, it's not normal for him. Yes, most of this is Dan Snyder's fault.
No, this most certainly will not end well.
Inside the twisted world of the Flem File, however, the Shanny-RG III situation does have one redeeming quality: perspective. Now that the curtain has been drawn back and we know, for certain, what the worst coach-QB relationship in the NFL looks and acts like, we can better measure the progress of the rest of the league.
So, using a scale I invented from 0 SHANNYs (father-son) to 5 SHANNYs (2013 Shanny-RG III), I decided to rank how each NFL team is doing with the most important connection in the game.
BRUCE ARIANS-CARSON PALMER: The Cardinals have found the secret to avoiding any friction between the coach and the QB: avoid practice. Palmer didn't throw a single practice pass all week then completed a career-best 84.4 percent of his passes in a 30-10 win against the Rams. Arians knows what he has to do to keep the peace: ban Palmer from the facility for the rest of the season. SHANNYs: 2
MIKE SMITH-MATT RYAN: The Falcons' QB has been sacked a career-high 31 times this season, including six times by the Bills in Week 13. And you thought RG III needed to be benched for his own protection. SHANNYs: 2
JOHN HARBAUGH-JOE FLACCO: The Ravens' $120 million quarterback beat the Vikings on Sunday with his 18th career game-winning drive, making Flacco the winningest quarterback ever over the first six seasons of his career. "Joe is our guy," Harbaugh says. "I love him and I respect him and I think he's a great player. I always have." It's rare to spend $120 million these days and not have a single ounce of buyer's remorse. SHANNYs: 0
DOUG MARRONE-EJ MANUEL: Manuel has one of the worst QBRs in the league and is coming off his worst performance of the season. But Marrone says he won't bench the Bills' rookie passer, which is exactly how you go about building trust and a fruitful, long-term relationship between a coach and a QB. Someone alert the Redskins. SHANNYs: 1
RON RIVERA-CAM NEWTON: Everyone's all smiles these days in Charlotte as the Panthers inch toward the playoffs for the first time since 2008. But I agree with ESPN Insider KC Joyner, who says this team isn't a real championship contender (yet), and it wouldn't shock me at all to see the Panthers lose again to the Saints and back into the postseason. In other words: Here comes the towel. But Newton is the franchise down here and even Riverboat Ron wouldn't be crazy enough to rock that boat. SHANNYs: 2
MARC TRESMAN-JAY CUTLER: Maybe the most impressive thing about the Bears' big win on Monday night was the fact that Trestman somehow convinced the normally distant, pouty Cutler to be fully engaged and enthusiastic while supporting backup Josh McCown from the sideline. (And, please, that's what he is, a backup, a really good backup.) Trestman is one of the best things that has ever happened to Cutler. Which will only make it sadder when Cutler ends up sabotaging him just as he has done with all the others. SHANNYs: 3
MARVIN LEWIS-ANDY DALTON: You might think everything is perfect in Cincinnati with the first-place Bengals and their extraordinary defense. But if the Bengals suffer a quick exit from the playoffs for the third year in a row, who do you think the blame will land on? Will it be Dalton and the Bengals' one-dimensional offense, or Lewis, the guy who has survived 11 seasons in Cincinnati without a single significant win? SHANNYs: 2
ROB CHUDZINSKI-JASON CAMPBELL: When Chudzinski was asked if Campbell could be a successful long-term starter in the NFL, he said it would come down to consistency and continuity. In other words: no. Good thing, because if the journeyman Campbell keeps playing well (meaning: throwing the ball to Josh Gordon), the Browns could play themselves right out of contention for a draft pick high enough to find a passer worthy of Chudzinski's genius. Where's Caleb Hanie when you really need him? SHANNYs: 1
JASON GARRETT-TONY ROMO: Thanks to what seems like a relentless, well-organized campaign by the media, we get it: None of the Cowboys' problems are Romo's fault. Unless you count the way he presses under pressure, the poor throws and decisions at crunch time or the fact that it's December and at times he still doesn't seem to be on the same page as his receivers. You think Garrett is going to call out Romo? Please. That dude won't even call out Monte Kiffin. SHANNYs: 2
JOHN FOX-PEYTON MANNING: I know that Denver's Manning is on his way to completing the greatest season by a quarterback in NFL history, but sources tell me in 2014 he plans to replace Fox with Ron Burgundy. And by sources, I mean Ron Burgundy. SHANNYs: 0
JIM SCHWARTZ-MATTHEW STAFFORD: In July, Stafford got a $53 million extension, and he has repaid the Lions with one of the worst completion percentages (58.3) in the NFL. Stafford has also been awful in the fourth quarter since the Lions' bye week. If the undisciplined, underachieving Lions don't make the playoffs, guess who Schwartz (a college linebacker, the sworn enemy of quarterbacks) will try to blame to save his job? SHANNYs: 3
MIKE MCCARTHY-AARON RODGERS: A longtime QB guru and West Coast savant, McCarthy has always spoken the same language as Rodgers. But these are tense times in Green Bay as this pair attempts to navigate Rodgers' comeback from injury. With the season hanging in the balance, Rodgers and McCarthy have to make sure, above all, that they don't do any long-term damage to the working relationship of what is one of the best coach-QB tandems in the game. If Rodgers and McCarthy need an example of how not to manage this situation, well, they know exactly where to look. SHANNYs: 2
GARY KUBIAK-MATT SCHAUB: Schaub's poor performance this season led to coach and QB guru Kubiak getting canned only a few weeks after collapsing on the sidelines. Ouch. Now, with the season a lost cause and the No. 1 pick within reach, the Texans have decided to keep Schaub on the bench in order to evaluate Case Keenum. The coach got fired. The QB got benched. It's an example of a reverse Washington: When a coach and quarterback believe in each other too much, they can take the whole franchise down with them. SHANNYs: 5
CHUCK PAGANO-ANDREW LUCK: The preternaturally poised Luck has struggled without a run game or Reggie Wayne, but the Colts are in the playoffs and the Texans are coming to town. All is well. No one plays defense in the playoffs, right? SHANNYs: 2
GUS BRADLEY-CHAD HENNE: SHANNYs are created by tension, and there just isn't any in Jacksonville. Henne has been decent during the Jags' recent upswing, but after completing 44.4 percent of his passes for 117 yards against the Texans, I think even Henne would agree that Bradley needs to draft a quarterback, fast. SHANNYs: 1
ANDY REID-ALEX SMITH: Smith is 29-8-1 as a starter the last three seasons and Andy Reid is a favorite for coach of the year. These guys are playing with house money in Kansas City. SHANNYs: 0
JOE PHILBIN-RYAN TANNEHILL: Based on the Shanny-RG III formula, if Tannehill somehow guides the troubled Dolphins to the playoffs despite all the issues with this team, he can expect the powerful bond that would form between he and Philbin to last, oh, up to two or three whole hours.
LESLIE FRAZIER-MATT CASSEL: Maybe Cousins will play well these last three weeks and the Vikings will trade for him in the offseason so they can have four backup QBs on their roster. SHANNYs: 3
BILL BELICHICK-TOM BRADY: Don't you wonder just how much of Belichick's "genius" comes down to the dumb luck of picking a Hall of Fame quarterback in the sixth round of the draft? These two have built a Patriots dynasty around a clear church-and-state separation of talent and authority that has never cracked or ever come close to resembling a normal, warm human interaction. But what if it did implode? It'll never happen. But we can dream. SHANNYs: 1
SEAN PAYTON-DREW BREES: In his 2010 book, Payton channeled his inner Jerry Maguire when he wrote of his QB and bestest buddy Brees: "I knew the two of us, working together, could complete each other." These two and their frequent PDAs remain the gold standard for the coach-QB relationship. "They're like little buddies," says Saints wideout Lance Moore. "It's cute." SHANNYs: 0
TOM COUGHLIN-ELI MANNING: In the pressure cooker of the Big Apple, normally near the end of a season like the one the Giants are enduring we'd see coach and QB turn on each other, spectacularly. But two Lombardi Trophies since 2008 have given Coughlin and Manning the benefit of the doubt and a little breathing room. But next season? If Manning throws 15 picks in his first six games again, these two could make the dysfunctional Redskins look downright warm and fuzzy. SHANNYs: 1
REX RYAN-GENO SMITH: Smith had his best performance in almost two months against the Raiders, playing with poise and using his legs when needing to keep drives alive. Oh, who are we kidding? This is Ryan and these are the Jets. They're 30th in passing, and this thing could go sideways, fast, at any moment. Pay attention. SHANNYs: 4
OAKLAND RAIDERS: The situation with the quarterback and the coach is so volatile and fluid in Oakland I hesitate to mention either one here by name because things change so rapidly. SHANNYs: 5
CHIP KELLY-NICK FOLES: Foles has gone from virtual unknown to legit MVP candidate after throwing 19 TD passes before his first interception of the season, leading the 8-5 Eagles to the top of the NFC East while running Kelly's cutting-edge scheme. And when he did finally end his 238-pass pickless streak during a blizzard, Chip, his bestie, said, "I think any mistake Nick makes is kind of surprising." These two might vacation together in February, unless they're busy with the Super Bowl. SHANNYs: 0
MIKE TOMLIN-BEN ROETHLISBERGER: Even while having another phenomenal year, Roethlisberger has spent most of his time trying a little too hard denying he wants out of Pittsburgh or that he has serious issues with offensive coordinator Todd Haley. The arbitrator in all this is Tomlin, who, after his sideline stunt against the Ravens, seems to be going loopy from all the losing. This. Won't. End. Well. SHANNYs: 4
MIKE MCCOY-PHILIP RIVERS: McCoy needs to push Rivers hard to move him, finally, from good to great. But I wonder if he's reluctant and just a tad scared after seeing Rivers' crazy face on display during the Chargers' win at Arrowhead a few weeks ago. SHANNYs: 2
JIM HARBAUGH-COLIN KAEPERNICK: I give Harbaugh credit for being so restrained while Kaepernick struggles this season from the dreaded Super Bowl hangover. Maybe it helps that the 49ers have a former sporadic passer coaching a currently sporadic quarterback. But if Kaepernick is sloppy against the lowly Bucs this weekend, all bets are off. SHANNYs: 3
PETE CARROLL-RUSSELL WILSON: If it were permissible, I truly believe Carroll would legally adopt Wilson, who, in only his second year in the league, has risen to No. 4 on Dan Graziano's MVP Watch. As Graziano points out, the Seahawks travel to New Jersey this week for what should be a dress rehearsal for the Super Bowl. SHANNYs: 0
JEFF FISHER-SAM BRADFORD: With Bradford on IR recovering from knee surgery, there's no tension in St. Louis -- but it's coming. Next season will be Year 3 in the Fisher plan and Year 5 for Bradford, and neither has a winning record with the Rams. SHANNYs: 3
GREG SCHIANO-MIKE GLENNON: As a rookie with the Bucs' 31st-ranked passing offense about to face the 49ers, I don't think Glennon has anything to worry about. I mean, Schiano has a long, distinguished history (of almost nine weeks) of not blaming his quarterback to save his own skin. SHANNYs: 5
MIKE MUNCHAK-JAKE LOCKER: Whoever is playing quarterback for whomever is coaching the Titans in the near future has only one smart play in my mind: stand next to Chris Johnson and say, "Don't yell at me, they're paying this guy $8 million next year." SHANNYs: 3