By Lauren Seifert
The naysayers will look at Sunday’s game against Seattle as a sign that being a running quarterback in the NFL isn’t sustainable, that the Colts were right to choose Andrew Luck over Robert Griffin III and that the injury factor is too great when it comes to the most important position on an NFL team.
We already knew RGIII was coming into the game with an LCL sprain and that he wasn’t going to be 100%, which is part of the reason why Seattle, as the road team, was favored by three. Griffin was getting knocked around throughout the first half even when Washington was in control, but a hit before his second touchdown pass would set in motion a chain of events that would ultimately end the Redskins season.
Shockingly, Griffin returned to the field after getting checked out by the team’s medical staff. It was clear to anyone watching the game, medical degree or not, that something was clearly wrong.
What would secure Seattle’s trip to the Georgia Dome came in the fourth quarter when Griffin’s right knee, already in a bulky brace, buckled gruesomely after he strained to field a bungled snap. He crumbled to the ground like a marionette being dropped to the floor, writhing in pain as 82,000 plus fans at FedExField stood silently and teammates knelt down and prayed.
After a few minutes, Griffin was able to walk off the field under his own power, saluting fans, but it was soon announced that he would not return for the rest of the game.
While it’s certainly commendable that Griffin has a warrior-like mentality, the fact of the matter is that Coach Mike Shanahan needed to protect his franchise quarterback from himself. It was painfully obvious before the fourth quarter injury that Griffin wasn’t healthy and the decision to keep him in the game has thus been heavily scrutinized.
After the game, Griffin said the decision to stay in was his. “My job is to be out there if I can play,” he told reporters. “I don’t feel like me being out there hurt the team in any way. I’m the best option for this team and that’s why I’m the starter.”
He defended himself further by tweeting, “Many may question, criticize & think they have all the right answers. But few have been in the line of fire in battle.”
Shanahan also stood by his quarterback and told the press, “You have to go with your gut. I’m not saying my gut is always right, but I’ve been there before. In different situations, I get to know Robert better as time goes on and I’ll know how stubborn he is. He’s a competitor and I’ll probably second guess myself.”
Should Shanahan have taken RGIII out of the game sooner, regardless of his quarterback’s protestations? Of course, but hindsight is always 20/20. In Shanahan’s defense, Griffin is a grown man, a captain on the team and if he told the coaching staff he could continue playing, that needed to be taken into consideration. As he told reporters after the game, “I wasn’t lying. I was able to go out and play, period.”
Also, as far as we know, the Redskins medical staff never advised Shanahan to take Griffin out of the game before his injury. While it turned out to be the wrong decision, it’s not surprising that, with the playoffs on the line, Griffin was kept in longer than he should have been.
This should serve as a lesson to Washington. Regardless of how critical or crucial a game is, it should never come before a player’s health and safety.
If Griffin had seriously injured himself, the consequences could have been devastating, especially at a time when Redskins fans finally had a team to believe in, something that has eluded them for over a decade. Moving forward, they’d be better served thinking about that rather than focusing on the scoreboard.