As Robert Griffin III lay motionless on the grass at FedEx Field, Mike Shanahan instantly became one of the most criticized men in sports.
In the coming days, Shanahan will be verbally crucified for his handling of RG3, and just about all of the criticism he receives will be deserved. Yes, hindsight is 20/20, but it was clear that Shanahan had become reckless with his franchise quarterback.
When RG3 injured his knee on Dec. 9, Shanahan put him back in the game just one play later. Shanahan explicitly said that Andrews cleared Griffin to go back in, but Andrews told a different story to Klemko.
"(Griffin) didn't even let us look at him," Andrews said. "He came off the field, walked through the sidelines, circled back through the players and took off back to the field. It wasn't our opinion.
"We didn't even get to touch him or talk to him. Scared the hell out of me."
Although Andrews cleared Griffin to play in the NFC Wild Card Game, this revelation already cast a shadow of doubt over Shanahan. But then the coach became even more careless, opting not to pull RG3 after he tweaked his knee early against Seattle.
Griffin was clearly hurt, but he stayed in the game, limping noticeably. Shanahan could have replaced him with Kirk Cousins—who played well in limited action this season—at halftime. Instead, he continued to put RG3 back on the field, risking the health of his star player and the future of the franchise for the sake of beating Seattle.
It was a risky move, and Shanahan ended up losing the gamble as RG3 finally crumbled in the fourth quarter.
After laying on the ground for several minutes, Griffin was able to hobble off the field with the help of trainers. He also walked onto the field to congratulate Seattle after the game.
While it was encouraging to see Griffin move on his own, it doesn't make Shanahan's mistake any less heinous. He essentially hung RG3 out to dry, putting him in a position where he could not possibly succeed.
Griffin is a fierce competitor, so there was no chance of him taking himself out of the game. It was Shanahan's responsibility to pull him before something terrible happened.
But Shanahan refused to replace him, and RG3 paid the price. Now, Griffin will have to undergo an offseason of strenuous rehab, while Shanahan will have to find a way to sleep at night.
Neither task will be easy.
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