Anthony Griffin concedes last year's Matt Moylan saga ultimately proved the catalyst for his relationship breakdown with Penrith boss Phil Gould.
While the sacked Panthers coach maintains Gould worked "strongly" with him to move Moylan on to Cronulla in exchange for James Maloney, Griffin accepts the season-long soap opera took a heavy toll.
"I think the stress of having to deal with that probably led to our relationship probably becoming a little bit stressed, which led to other things about our football program that we butted heads on," Griffin said on Fox Sports' NRL 360 program.
"We had different philosophies on how the team was actually progressing and where it needed to progress and our relationship probably deteriorated from that point."
A year on, Griffin still regrets how the Moylan saga played out.
"It's something I'm not proud of and I was happy to cop the flak for that," Griffin said before admitting he probably burdened Moylan, then 24, with the captaincy too soon.
"I thought it was important to have a younger captain that could take us through those (rebuilding) years,.
"At the time, I sat and watched through training and Matt was someone who I thought showed really good leadership qualities.
"He still has good leadership qualities but probably just at this stage of his career is not ready to portray those as he probably will later in life.
"Guys like Thurston and Fittler have all been through some rocky younger days and (Moylan's) leadership in his first year was really, really good - he went on to play for Australia, played for NSW and he led us to the second week of the playoffs.
"The next year, for whatever reason, the relationship deteriorated, which led to him going to Cronulla."
Despite losing Moylan, Griffin rejects Gould's claim that the Penrith coach had lost the entire dressing room, saying there was no way his young side could have rallied to amazing consecutive comeback wins over Manly and Penrith had that been the case.
"I've been in football for a long time, like Gus has, and I know when there's a dressing room lost or not lost," Griffin said.
"I'm not saying every player out there's jumping out of his skin and happy to see me every morning, but I know that I've got respect of the players and that's what you need.
"If your goal is to be popular in this business every day of every week of the year as a coach, you're going to be terribly disappointed."
Griffin said he'd been "overwhelmed" by the messages of support he'd received from his ex-charges since being fired on Monday, a month out from the finals.
"Sometimes you don't say the things you want to say when you're looking at each other every day and I've been really blessed to have so many good young players to work with," he said.