In the aftermath of yesterday’s NFL playoff game between the Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks one question was asked more than any other: Why did Redskins coach Mike Shanahan leave quarterback Robert Griffin III in the game for so long when he was clearly injured?
The Redskins jumped out to a 14-0 lead yesterday with Griffin playing well, but noticeably hampered by a knee injury. As the game progressed, Griffin’s limp got worse, especially after a bad fall late in the first quarter. In the third quarter, Fox announcer Joe Buck wondered if the hobbled Griffin should still be in the game. Soon after, with the Redskins losing early in the fourth quarter, Griffin’s knee gave out completely after a bad snap, and he was done for the day with what may be a torn ACL or MCL.
When asked that same question in the post-game news conference, Shanahan said that Griffin had told him he was hurt, but “not injured.” Here lies the problem. A player is always going to want to play despite being hurt. It’s Shanahan’s and the team doctor’s responsibility to protect the player from himself.
It’s not the first time the Redskins concern for Griffin’s safety has come under scrutiny. According to USA Today, when Griffin was injured in a December 6 game the team physician was not allowed to examine him and was “a nervous wreck” when Griffin went back into the game.
By continuing to play the injured Griffin yesterday, Shanahan was putting the safety of his player at great risk in order to win one game. Watching how the Redskins handled Griffin yesterday was in stark contrast to how another Washington team, the Nationals, handled their star pitcher Stephen Strasburg this past season.
The ironic part is, Griffin was so hobbled that he became less effective as the game wore on, and removing him was probably the best thing to do in order to win the game anyway. So Shanahan failed his team stratigically, as well as his player physically. In the end, Griffin did get hurt even worse, and Shanahan can only hope that he didn’t do any long-term damage to his franchise quarterback. If he had to do it again, one wonders if he would do it differently.