Robert Griffin III's season wasn't supposed to end on the bench, with his head in his hands, quietly saying a prayer -- but it did. Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan elected to keep his injured star quarterback in the game, instead of pulling him in favor of backup Kirk Cousins. When RGIII's knee collapsed after limping for approximately 20 minutes, only one question worth asking remained: "Why"?
Flying in the face of the NFL touting increased player safety, a respected doctor's medical opinion wasn't enough to keep a 22-year-old rookie quarterback from serious injury. Football players are athletes; they're competitors. Simply saying "he should have taken himself out" is too reductive, and shows a lack of understanding about players' actions. A player is willing to leave it all on the field, with no regard for their future -- why do you think so many are content with lying and hiding a concussion so they can get one more series? On Sunday afternoon, everyone watching at FedEx Field and at home sawIII grimace, and limp with each read-option play called.
Backup QB Kirk Cousins has played effectively before, but pulling RGIII would have hamstrung Washington's offense. There comes a time when even the most important game isn't as important as a player's future, and a coach with near 40 years of experience should have known better. Mike Shanahan should have been willing to fall on the sword if that doomed his season, and willingly defended the decision to lose in 2012 if it meant protecting the Redskins' franchise quarterback -- and yet he didn't.
The scene of Griffin laying on the ground at FedEx Field -- surrounded by trainers as the fans fell silent -- left many asking why a change wasn't made:
Its amazing people want to "wait" to hear Shanahan's side. Dont trust your own eyes, eh? Even aside from safety he was ineffective after he— Stephen White (@sgw94) January 7, 2013
aggravated the injury in the first half. But yeah lets wait to hear from the dude who lied about the Dr clearing him three games ago. Sure.— Stephen White (@sgw94) January 7, 2013
Wow. Mike Shanahan, you are a jackass.— SC_DougFarrar (@SC_DougFarrar) January 7, 2013
Shanahan seemed to let his young star talk him into something he never should've. Shanahan has to know better, regardless of popularity.— Kent Babb (@kentbabb) January 7, 2013
Mike Shanahan says he talked to Robert Griffin at halftime, considered pulling him. Griffin asked him to let him keep playing.— Grant Paulsen (@granthpaulsen) January 7, 2013
Then there's ESPN's Skip Bayless, who rather than concentrating on events leading to an injury, lambasted Dr. James Andrews for having the audacity to do his job as a medical professional:
Hope Dr. Andrews is pleased w/ self, publicly going after Shanahan, creating doubt in RG3's mind by saying still nervous about RG3's knee.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) January 7, 2013
If only we all knew sooner that willpower could keep a knee from buckling. Yep, that's it -- believe in yourself. Maybe if Griffin traded in his high-socks for ruby slippers, clicked them together and really believed, then maybe, just maybe, his knee would have magically healed. You're paid to troll, we get it -- but when it comes to a player's injury, let's can the shtick.
Griffin managed to walk off under his own power, but that is by no means an indication that there is no long-term damage to his knee. All football fans can hope is that he's able to recover quickly from the injury, and that one of the NFL's brightest young stars won't be damaged by poor decisions.