The Mishandling of RGIII

Time to add my two cents to the conversation about the handling of Robert Griffin III by the Washington Redskins. I’m going to do this not as a Philadelphia fan, but as a fan of the game, and a fan of watching young talent perform at the highest level–not being used like a piece of meat to feed a head coach’s ego or personal agenda.

If you can’t tell by that, I’ll spell it out for you. I’m with the rest of the medials in my belief that Head Coach Mike Shanahan and the entire Redskins organization is completely to blame for the mishandling of their franchise quarterback. The man that they mortgaged their future on in last April’s NFL Draft, is the same man that they trotted out onto a poor excuse for a football field for three and a half quarters, clearly affected by whatever was going on in that right knee, only to see that same man’s knee completely fall apart as he crumbled to the “turf” while reaching for a bad snap.

It was reported Tuesday that Griffin underwent surgery to repair complete tear’s of the ACL and LCL (if I were in Dan Snyder’s shoes–not that I’d ever want to be–Shanny’s contract would be seeing a complete tear as well). Recovery time could be anywhere from eight to 12 months. Congrats, Redskins brass; you’ve successfully shelved your franchise QB for at least the start of next year, maybe longer. Hail!

I’m hard pressed to believe that Shanahan had RGIII’s best interests in mind, not just when he cleared him to play against Seattle, but throughout the entire season. Professional football has never been played at a faster pace than the one it’s being played at today. Turnover at positions such as running back and on defense, where guys give and take the hardest hits, is incredibly high. SO riddle me this: Why the hell would you want your franchise quarterback running the ball 120 times in one season, mostly on designed runs?

Don’t get me wrong Griffin is a gifted athlete, and his mobility is what makes him a tough player to prepare for and defend against, but why risk the inevitable injury? As a fan of the team who has (not for much longer) Michael Vick at quarterback, I know what it’s like to watch a game  and cringe with every hit he takes, and wonder just how many more he’ll take before he just doesn’t get up anymore. Griffin might be bigger, but, as the Skins found out, it just takes one awkward hit to derail a season. That hit came on December 9 against the Baltimore Ravens.

Haloti Ngata's hit on RGIII on Dec. 9.

Haloti Ngata’s hit on RGIII on Dec. 9.

After that moment, when Haloti Ngata took Griffin down hard, the rookie quarterback, and his injury, were completely mishandled by the Redskins. From Dr. James Andrews’–the renowned knee, elbow, and shoulder specialist–denial that he ever cleared Robert to return to the Ravens game, to letting him return after sitting out one week to take on a pathetic Eagles team, to not removing him after clearly tweaking the knee in the first quarter of the playoff game. There were so many opportunities for the coaches to put Griffin’s health, and the team’s future, ahead of winning one playoff game in a year where they weren’t even projected to make the playoffs. (Sidenote: Andrews’ presence at the Wild Card game seemed like nothing more than a publicity stunt. I’m sure if he were given final say on when to pull Robert, it would have been done before the game.)

Shanahan managed the situation as if there was some sort of urgency to win now, which–while it may be the truth, personally, for the head coach with the worst spray-tan in the league–it’s far from reality for the guys wearing the pads. The Redskins have plenty of pieces in place, especially on offense, to be successful for years to come. There was no need to risk Griffin’s health and future to win one playoff game in his first season in the league.

Then there’s what Shanny said during the post game presser, when asked why he let Griffin continue to play. Griffin said he was fine… That’s all it took? Shanahan said he believes that players know the difference between being “hurt” vs being “injured,” yet he allowed his clearly “injured” quarterback convince him that he was OK to keep hobbling out onto the field. I’d expect Robert, like any athlete and competitor, to be too proud and not be willing to say he can’t play. That’s one thing. But for the head coach to put him back in when he’s visibly struggling, is just amazing. Anyone with two working eyes (maybe even one) who was watching that game could have told you that RGIII had no business being in there.

The dynamic of how DC teams handle injuries with their star players seems to be all over the map. Here, you have the Redskins who offer the no. 2-overall draft pick as a sacrificial lamb in the hopes of winning one playoff game. Then there’s Davey Johnson and the Nationals who shut down their ace, Stephen Strasburg, after 160+ innings, two weeks shy of the playoffs–just when it looks like he’s hitting his stride–because that’s the team’s policy for players coming off of Tommy John surgery. Both have led to massive outcry from the respective fan bases (because they are different in so many ways, believe it or not).

Am I spot on with all of this, or missing the mark? How would you have handled RGIII’s injury if you were Shanahan (or even Strasburg’s if you were Davey)? Share it all in the comments.

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