Sunday evening, NFL fans across the country watched as Robert Griffin III's knee finally buckled. Here's how we reacted.
When The Seismograph last visited Robert Griffin III, he was torching the Vikings to pull his Redskins to a 3-3 record. After dropping the next three games, Griffin helped lead his team to seven straight victories and put them in the playoffs for the first time in five years.
By the time Sunday's first-round matchup with the Seahawks rolled around, RGIII was banged up. He was punished further throughout the contest, he had trouble planting his feet, and his mobility was severely compromised. Coach Mike Shanahan left him in.
An early 14-0 lead had completely eroded to a 21-14 deficit by the fourth quarter. With about seven minutes remaining, the Redskins took possession deep in their own territory. In one awful moment, Washington's chances of winning shrunk to almost nothing, and the legs of the NFL's most exciting player finally gave out, perhaps for a very long time.
RGIII attempted to field a poor snap, and in so doing, twisted his right knee and hit the ground. Commenters from SB Nation's Redskins blog, Hogs Haven, reacted, and some fans from other SB Nation blogs immediately dropped in to offer their condolences.
The Seahawks recovered the loose balI, practically sealing the Redskins' loss, but many fans were more worried about RGIII. It was striking to see Griffin fall: all season, in addition to being one of the best passers in the league, he'd been better on his feet than any quarterback. And of all things, an attempt to field a bad snap ended his season.
Griffin had been hobbling throughout the game, and many Hogs Haven commenters argued that Kirk Cousins, who had played well in limited opportunities, should have spelled him. By the time Shanahan was finally forced to make a move, several commenters were calling for his job:
I searched Hogs Haven's game threads for all mentions of Kirk Cousins and Mike Shanahan, and rated each comment on a "concern scale" of one to 10. For example, a comment like, "I don't know about this, Shanny," was rated a 4, and something along the lines of, "I hate Mike Shanahan," was rated a full 10/10 score. The Shanahan sentiment spikes on this chart at 7:07 p.m. Eastern, the minute RGIII's knee buckled and he hit the ground.
RGIII had produced heroics all season, but Redskins fans had been calling for Cousins' entrance since the first quarter, which speaks to how hobbled Griffin looked throughout the game.
Over the course of the season, RGIII had become a national favorite. Fans with zero allegiance to the Redskins were cheering him on, and given the partisan combativeness and team-oriented fandom of the league, that is quite rare.
SB Nation's NFL team blogs commonly start up open threads for games their teams aren't playing in. I looked through some of these threads and took a look at how they reacted:
The response from commenters across SB Nation was almost universally anguished and concerned (with, full disclosure, the exception of a few chuckleheaded Cowboys fans). Chiefs fans, 49ers fans, Giants fans, Falcons fans, and fans from a dozen other blogs expressed their despair. Even most Seahawks commenters, whose team all but sealed the win in that moment, managed to stifle their celebrations while RGIII was on the ground. Good for y'all.
We don't yet know whether Griffin will be healthy enough to start Week 1 next season; according to one report, he has two partial ligament tears. For now, the curtain has fallen on one of the most brilliant, surprising, and fun seasons an NFL player has given us in years.