The rookie quarterback sprained his LCL in his right knee during the team's last game against the Baltimore Ravens. However, it looked encouraging when he took the field for practice during the week.
On Thursday, Stephen Whyno of the Washington Times reported that Griffin was a limited participant in practice, but he was "comfortable" and was likely to be a game-time decision.
This likely made things difficult for Mike Shanahan and the rest of the coaching staff. With their playoff hopes holding on by a thread, it would be a no-brainer to play the star quarterback who was close to full strength.
Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III will not be active today and Rex Grossman will be the backup to starter Kirk Cousins.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 16, 2012
This did not come without protest. Griffin himself implied that he wanted to play with this tweet.
The decision was not my own...But I will be there for my team!!! In every way I possibly can— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) December 16, 2012
Still, this is the smart call by the Redskins.
The organization gave up a lot to draft its quarterback of the future. It took three first-round picks plus a second-rounder to get the second overall pick needed to draft Griffin.
So far, he has exceeded even the largest expectations. The Heisman Trophy winner is tied for the NFL lead with a 104.2 quarterback rating while also rushing for an incredible 742 yards and six touchdowns.
Through 13 games, Griffin is as much an MVP candidate as a Rookie of the Year candidate.
However, he was brought to the team for more than one season. If everything goes right, he should stay where he is for foreseeable future.
It is not worth risking this investment by playing him while he recovers from a damaged ligament in his knee.
Even if the Redskins lose on the road to Cleveland, they have two more games to make it up in the standings. More importantly, Griffin will likely lead this team back to this level in the future.
In addition, the Redskins can head into this game with some confidence thanks to the outstanding play by Kirk Cousins in the last game against the Ravens.
Cousins came into the game in the fourth quarter down eight points after Griffin left with the injury. He threw a touchdown pass, ran in the two-point conversion and then led the game-winning drive in overtime.
While he only threw two passes, the rookie's composure in a tough spot should lead the team to believe he can handle the start.
Add in help from running back Alfred Morris, who has rushed for more than 100 yards in three straight games, and the offense should be just fine.
The team should hope that Griffin can return as soon as possible. However, it sent a strong message this week by saying that the future is more important than the present.
With a roster full of talented young players, this is the smartest move it can make.