When Redskins QB Robert Griffin III collapsed on FedEx Field Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, you could hear the breath leave every person in the stadium. RGIII was down on the field grabbing his knee, the same knee that was protected by a brace because of a sprained MCL. In the fourth quarter of the wildcard round Griffin mishandled the snap and when he went to recover it, his knee twisted and the stadium fell silent. Redskins trainers and doctors rushed toward Griffin III praying their franchise QB was ok. As we now know Robert Griffin III may have torn the ACL and PCL in his left knee, an injury that could cost him all of next season. This wasn’t just a freak injury, it was a situation that could have been avoided if not for pride and ignorance didn’t get in the way.
It al started back on December 9th against the Ravens when Robert Griffin III took an ugly shot to his right knee. Griffin III limped off the field but just 4 plays later returned only to take an even rougher hit to the same knee. He was pulled from the game with what Shanahan called a “sprained knee” but said there wasn’t any ligament damage. The Redskins took some precaution and kept him out the following week, while Kirk Cousins shined against this time as a starter, After a week off the Redskins put RGIII back on the field with the playoffs on the line, hoping a knee brace could help protect him from any further damage. While the Redskins won the remaining 2 games of the season, it was evident Griffin III wasn’t near 100%. Despite a limping QB the team pushed on toward the playoffs with the hopes that he could lift them towards a Super Bowl. Only hours before kickoff Redskins doctor James Andrews came out and said coach Mike Shanahan never asked Andrews if RGIII was cleared to return to the game on Dec. 9, and he shouldn’t have been let back on the field. Now we fast-forward to Sunday against the Seahawks. Before the game cameras showed the field that appeared to be more paint and dirt than grass. This same field was one of the reasons Vikings RB Adrian Peterson tore his ACL just a year earlier on a routine run. Now RGIII was heading out on a bad knee on an even worse field. When you combined those two factors with Dr. James Andrews statement you almost had an eerie feeling something bad was going to happen. After the Redskins took an early 14-0 lead many fans and pundits were calling for Shanahan to pull his star QB out and avoid further injury. I was one of fans saying he should have been pulled to protect his knee, but that decision wasn’t made. After Griffin III took another shot to his right knee he was taken in for X-Rays during halftime. He returned to the field in the 2nd half and was put back in the game. He wasn’t the same player, it was nearly impossible for Griffin to scramble out of the pocket and even stepping up in the pocket to throw it was obvious he was in serious pain. Despite all of the signs RGIII remained in the game until the fateful play in the fourth quarter.
If Dr. James Andrews confirms Robert Griffin III has a partially torn ACL and PCL it will be a devastating blow to what was an incredible rookie season. RGIII became a hero for young athletes and quickly was turning into one of the stars in all of football. Now the Redskins will be without their star for most if not all of the 2013 season. One of the great young athletes and role models in sports goes down because of one decision that was made. The question is who is to blame for this injury, and could it have been avoided.
I will start with Mike Shanahan the Redskins coach who made the decision to keep Robert Griffin III on the field with a bad knee not once, not twice but three times. Despite what he was told by medical experts he focused on winning rather than the health of his QB. I know that winning is what gets you hired or fired in the NFL, but if you don’t protect your players you won’t win games down the line. Obviously RGIII told Shanahan he wanted to play in the game, but a coach has to trust a doctor over a 22-year-old QB who will do anything to win. Shanahan ignored all the evidence that pointed towards pulling his QB, because he wanted to win one playoff game. I realize it was a close game that the Redskins were in until late in the fourth, but after the subpar performance by Robert Griffin III in the third quarter it was evident that Kirk Cousins was the better option. Unfortunately, Cousins wash;t brought into the game until it was too late, the game was lost and RGIII was lost as well. While RGIII will defend his coach and Mike Shanahan will try to deflect the blame he is responsible for what happened on Sunday, but he isn’t the only one.
Now what I want to address here is the inability of a wealthy owner to fix a field that should have been renovated years ago. FedEx Field is the same field where Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson tore his ACL last season and caused Seahawks DE Chris Clemons to tear his ACL when his foot got caught in the surface. The photo below provided by Jeff Darlington shows two fields just 30 miles apart. The field on the left is from M&T Bank Stadium where the Baltimore Ravens played on Sunday, while the field on the right is FedEx Field. Both fields are outdoors and were used on Sunday, yet the difference between the two is night and day.
How can an owner who is one of the wealthiest in sports fail to take care of his own stadium, especially after dozens of complaints from players and coaches and numerous injuries. To call what they have in Washington a football field is unfair to every football field in the country. The fact that there are high schools across the country with better fields than this is disgraceful. For an owner to show such negligence when it comes to the health and safety of his own players, it is just wrong. Daniel Snyder didn’t put Robert Griffin III back in the game, but he kept him on that field. He is also responsible for what happened on Sunday because he refused to fix something that should have been fixed a long time ago. Now the only question is will he pay to fix the field now that it is too late.
In the end the biggest loser in all of this is Robert Griffin III, for the second time in his career he will have to rehabilitate his knee instead of preparing for his sophomore season. We have already seen Adrian Peterson come back from the same injury and look even better than he was before, but his success isn’t guaranteed. The saddest part of it all is this could have been avoided if just a few people made decisions because they ignored the long-term goal and focused on the short term. A coach went with his own medical opinion over doctors, and an owner chose to keep things how they were so he could save a few bucks. Now because of it a city is without their hero, a team is without their leader and a young man won’t be able to play the sport he loves for a while. All we can hope for is that everyone learns from these mistakes, and maybe next time the right decisions will be made.
Note: I host a sports radio show called “Three for the Win” to hear more of my thoughts on this issue check us out every Tuesday and Saturday on BlogTalkRadio or download us on iTunes.