When Robert Griffin III's right knee gave out Sunday in Washington's postseason loss to Seattle, Redskins fans gasped at the sight of it. Now some are wondering if coach Mike Shanahan mortgaged the franchise's future on a rookie who said he was okay to play.
For the past three weeks, Griffin was given the green light to start, despite a sprained ligament. But Shanahan should have erred on the side of caution, after the team's head doctor said he was "worried sick" about re-injury.
That re-injury occurred Sunday and it caused a domino effect in Griffin's knee.
According to Dr. James Andrews, RG3 suffered "complete tears" of both the lateral collateral and anterior cruciate ligaments and had no choice but to undergo intensive surgery Wednesday to reconstruct the knee.
Throughout the following slideshow, we will present six reasons why Coach Shanahan should have pulled RG3 from Sunday's Wild Card playoff defeat.
We'll also provide information about the nature of RG3's injuries, his prognosis and some of Shanahan's most recent comments.
Washington's season is over, but the debate about Griffin rages on.
Unfortunately for Griffin, the torn ACL is the same one he severed in college. So, in addition to a "direct repair" of his LCL, he underwent a "re-do" of a 2009 ACL reconstruction, which was performed by orthopedic surgeon and former Redskins offensive lineman Mark Adickes.
Anyway you slice it, the news is not good. And nothing's going to change the damage that's been done.
But it didn't have to end this way.
Since Sunday, Coach Shanahan has been grilled about his communication with Dr. Andrews, who serves as a Redskins consultant. Things got especially dicey when Andrews told USA Today that he did not clear Griffin to return to Washington's Week 14 game against Baltimore and that the rookie's initial injury "scared the hell out of me." That contradicted what Shanahan told the media and made the coach look like a liar.
Andrews later clarified his comments, per Mike Jones of The Washington Post. But his remarks seemed to indict RG3 as a player who runs and hides from the team's medical staff.
Coach didn't lie about it and I didn't lie. I just didn't get to examine [Griffin's knee] because he came out for one play, didn't let us look at him and on the next play, he ran through all the players and back onto the field.
Andrews added that he didn't tell Shanahan he failed to check Griffin's knee and believes the coach would never put Griffin's health at risk to win a game.
That may be so, but who's to say the doctor's comments aren't just spin control by the Redskins? Andrews' opinion is often considered sacred because he's the NFL's most revered surgeon. But, that doesn't make him a member of the Redskins inner circle, which appears to be reserved for the coach and his quarterback.
When it comes to injuries, Mike Shanahan often trusts what his players tell him because they know their bodies better than anyone. But if that was the case with RG3, why wasn't he more careful this season?
When Washington drafted Griffin, it was well known that he had suffered an ACL tear (in the same knee) as a sophomore at Baylor. That injury required two screws to hold it together, but the healing process went well and Griffin returned to full speed.
Unfortunately, reconstructed ACLs are not always full proof and athletes need to be cautious of injuries that can weaken a knee's other ligaments.
If Griffin kept his LCL pain hidden from coaches and doctors, it wasn't a wise decision.
It can also be argued that offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan unnecessarily put Griffin at risk, by continuing to call sprint-option plays, when the quarterback's mobility was compromised.
According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, Griffin's prognosis is good, and "barring any setbacks, his recovery is projected to be six to eight months," sources said.
These same sources told Mortensen that Griffin could be ready by the 2013 season opener, but that seems far-fetched. Griffin will start off with rest and recovery. Then he'll begin a long and grueling rehabilitation program that could prove to be eight to twelve months in length.
"A full-scale LCL tear can be more devastating than a torn ACL," according to Cincinnati Reds medical director Tim Kremchek. "It’s a big, open incision. The rehabilitation is slowed down and it’s dicey [because] the outside ligaments are a worse problem. They’re not as predictable as an ACL."
I said it while watching the game and I'll say it again. Mike Shanahan should have pulled RGIII after he tweaked his knee the first time.
Griffin's demise began on Washington's second drive, when an end-zone pass fell incomplete and he fell out of bounds in obvious pain. It was awful to watch Griffin limp back to the huddle like a wounded duck, but he fortunately got off the field two plays later, after tossing his second scoring pass of the game to Logan Paulsen.
At that time, the quarterback checked into a training room to get his knee re-taped. But that was like putting a band aid on a bullet wound.
Why did Shanahan feel the need to put the rookie back in, especially when he could not plant his back foot or run effectively? And if the coaching staff ignored current injury protocols, the NFL may be forced to establish more stringent ones, like it recently did for concussions.
Shanahan has been criticized this week, while Griffin's teammates have had their QB's back, saying that "he earned the right" to stay in Sunday's game." RGIII also stated that he told Shanahan that "there was a difference between being injured and hurt" and that he gave the Redskins the best chance to win. But in all due respect to a noble Griffin, he should not have been so stubborn and his coach .
Instead of helping his team, Robert hurt Washington's chances of maintaining or extending its lead. The threat that a healthy Griffin poses in the Redskins' running game was gone and Seattle was able to key in on rookie rushing star Alfred Morris.
The result was a lackluster showing by the Redskins offense over the last three quarters.
Washington's wounded field general thought he could get away with what turned out to be a severe injury. Unfortunately for the team and its fans, he was sorely mistaken.
Why did it take so long for Mike Shanahan to turn to backup quarterback Kirk Cousins? Wasn't the so-called eye-ball test good enough for him?
Washington Times columnist Rich Campbell tried to tackle those questions and a few others. But the numbers don't lie.
According to Campbell, the Redskins averaged just 1.57 yards per play on the six possessions that followed Griffin's knee aggravation in the first quarter.
“We weren’t the same team,” Shanahan said. “There’s no question about it.”
He can say that again. As Campbell points out, Griffin was just 4-of-10 for 16 yards, after Washington's first two scoring drives.
The injury also took options out of Washington's playbook, which Shanahan had full knowledge of, as the game progressed.
At the end of the day, playing Griffin was "detrimental to his health and to the team." In the meantime, a perfectly healthy Cousins sat waiting for a chance that came far too late.
FedEx Field's condition was described as "horrible" by Seattle head coach Pete Carroll and now its quality is being questioned, in the aftermath of knee injuries to Griffin and Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons. Clemons also suffered a season-ending ACL tear in Sunday's Wild Card game.
According to NBC Sports, the NFL requires certification of field fitness within 72 hours of kickoff.
But Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio pushed further, with a plea for uniform playing fields at all 32 stadiums.
"[FedEx Field] is as bad as a field can get for being dry," said Carroll, via The Boston Globe.
"You’d like a perfect field, and it wasn’t a perfect field, we all know that," added Shanahan.
Shanahan then went on to view game film and determined that Griffin likely sustained his latest injuries on the play before he collapsed on the field, while trying to recovering a fumble in the fourth quarter. On that play, Griffin was sacked by Seattle rookie linebacker Bruce Irvin and both of his knees rolled up beneath him.
The doctors have since concurred that they believe the complete tears occurred on that play.
Was leaving Griffin in the game Sunday worth it for Mike Shanahan? Is Griffin's career now in jeopardy? Only time will tell, but the what-ifs will be ring true throughout the offseason.
What if Griffin had come out earlier against Seattle? What if he had sat out more than just the Cleveland game during the regular season? Should the Redskins have gone to extremes, like the Washington Nationals did with franchise star Stephen Strasburg?
The fact of the matter is Robert Griffin III left Sunday's game battered and bruised. His exit was the sixth one he's had in 17 games, which is equivalent to 35 percent of the season. And according to ESPN's Trey Wingo, Griffin finished 2012 as the second most hit quarterback in the league (behind Carolina's Cam Newton).
When asked about RG3's future, former head coach Herm Edwards said he'll have a five-year career, if he continues to be "in the line of fire," as Griffin alluded to this week.
Opinions and debate will continue on the subject, but the men who have to live with their decisions are the rookie sensation and his coach, who said he would likely make the same choices a second time, if he had to do it all over again.
If Shanahan has a defense, it was made clear Tuesday in an emotional interview with NFL Network's Andrea Kremer.
He stated emphatically that he "defers to the Redskins' physicians, whom he calls the best doctors in the country," said Kremer. At no point, whether it was Sunday in the playoffs or back on December 9 (against the Ravens), did the doctors give him any indication that Griffin should not play."
Shanahan then added one more thing that's up for interpretation.
"Let me make this very clear," he said to Kremer. "You would have to be a complete idiot to think that I would overule our doctors. That is ludicrous. If someone did that, they should be fired."
Joe Versage is an NFL Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He previously covered the Buffalo Bills, Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens as a television beat reporter. Follow him on Twitter at: @JoeVersage Takip et: @JoeVersage
Unless otherwise noted, all player and team information is courtesy of the National Football League. Additional information was obtained from NFL.com, ESPN.com and a live broadcast of NFL Live on ESPN.