Robert Griffin III was hurt last night, but he promised his coach that he wasn't injured. Mike Shanahan then felt that Griffin III deserved to right to make the decision to keep playing. Mike Shanahan did his player and the team a disservice by doing so.
In case it is needed, the following is the summary of the events during the Wild Card Playoff game yesterday at Fedex Field. The Redskins began the game with two dominating drives to take a 14-0 lead over the visiting Seattle Seahawks. Near the end of the second drive, the rookie Redskins quarterback rolled right across the field, threw an incomplete pass and landed awkwardly on his already damaged knee. At one point in the beginning of the second quarter, the Redskins had 129 yards to nine for the Seahawks. The visitors came back to make the score 14-13 at the half, but Griffin III looked as healthy as he could have. In the second half, something clearly changed. Griffin missed passes and the team was unable to move the ball. After 129 yards in about 18 minutes, the Redskins managed 74 total yards for the remainder of the contest. During the time that RGIII remained in the game, the Redskins ran just one of their signature read option plays. He gained 8 yards on that play by limping laterally with a slight angle behind great blocking. Eventually, Griffin III had to leave the game when his knee finally gave out with a few minutes left in the game, which lead to a turnover and a field goal that pushed the Seattle lead to two scores. The extent of that final inury should be known soon.
The story is the classic argument about the coach's job to do what is best for the team and how much a player should be allowed to make decisions for himself. The fact that Griffin III was even playing is an interesting argument to begin with. Just before the game, a report came out that Dr. James Andrews did not clear Griffin III
to return to the Ravens game when the injury initially occurred. Robert Griffin III took a little time off from an injury that could sideline a player for weeks and then returned to the starting role.
There is no doubt that Robert Griffin III is a tough guy, a leader and a very talented quarterback. There is no doubt that Griffin III felt that he needed to be in the game for his teammates. During the post-game interviews, Griffin III referred to "being a man," that "didn't feel like" he hurt the team along with other references to being the guy in Washington. He even admitted that he knew that he was putting himself at risk. Mike Shanahan decided to let an injured player play because he did not do what he should have done as coach. He should have been able to separate emotion from the facts that the untrained eye could see.
The fact that the reaggravation of his previous injury in the first half did not seem to really hurt his play until the third quarter points to a couple possibilities. Perhaps some Toradol was used before the game and it started to wear off. Perhaps that the temperature in the stadium allowed the pain to set in. Perhaps the rest at the half caused his adrenaline to decrease to the level where the injury began to hurt him. Either way, Mike Shanahan made two terrible mistakes.
The first mistake was to allow a player to make a decision that he should not make. Most players are tough. Most players will continue to play while injured. That is the nature of the sport and the nature of the community in a NFL locker room. If Shanahan knew that he could not step up to make the decision himself, then someone else involved with the organization should have made it for him.
The second mistake was a failure to see the long-term ramifictions of what that decision did for the team. No one knows if Kirk Cousins could have won the game for Washington if he had a whole half to play instead of a desparation drive or two. What is pretty apparent is that Griffin III was injured and was no longer the dymanic threat on the field that is his trademark. Not only could he not run, he had no juice on the few throws his did attempt in the second half. The best case scenario for the Redskins at that point was to have Griffin III gut out a win only to be unable to play next week. Then the worst case happened. The Redskins lost the game and a serious injury would leave in question whether or not RGIII could begin the 2013 season.
This is supposed to be the new NFL that cares for the safety of the players. Mike Shanahan probably cares. Unfortunately, his actions were one that followed the old unwritten rules of the game. His hurt his team and his player by letting his quarterback play "hurt."