Robert Griffin III (RG3) has had one of the truly remarkable seasons of any rookie quarterback this year. He is an exciting player and ranks at or near the top in almost every offensive category as quarterback. He had a 102.4 passer rating (third), 810 yards rushing (first among QBs), and put up over 3,000 yards passing. He is such an electric player that for even casual football fans, he is fun and entertaining to watch.
In the playoff loss to Seattle, RG3 was clearly hurting.
But the armchair quarterbacks who are out there now want to vilify coach Mike Shanahan for leaving him in the game. His injury seems quite severe, and it's too early to speculate on a timetable to return.
The Redskins lost the game and now have an entire offseason to think about what might have been. But regardless of RG3's injury, the blame should not squarely be on Mike Shanahan.
Here are five reasons you cannot blame Mike Shanahan for RG3's injury.
5] RG3's Undeniable Will to Win
RG3 is a warrior.
Since he played college football just 90 miles away, I got to see RG3 play. I never saw anyone like him. He took hard shots that would have had some guys leaving on stretchers. He threw the ball so hard you could hear the receivers groan as the ball hit their hands.
If you gave him the chance, he would dart up the middle for 20 yards and no one could stop him. For a quarterback, his ability to run AFTER contact was amazing.
Now, as a pro, RG3 is no different.
He plays with a reckless intensity that many in football are saying they have never seen before. His complete and utter composure gives him the look of a ten-year veteran. Instincts, knowledge and ability only make up part of RG3's story. He is also an all-out warrior.
RG3 simply was not going to come out of the game as long as he could stand. He obviously felt that even at 50 percent, he was as good as Kirk Cousins. Either way, as legendary college basketball coach Jim Valvano once said, ''Never underestimate the heart of a champion."
4] It's a Playoff Game
There is a philosophy that in the regular season, guys in RG3’s shape will come out of the game when injured. But this is no ordinary game and there is no next week if you don’t win.
Mike Shanahan had to weigh out the options given to him. Given that, this man was brought in to Washington to heist the Lombardi Award over his head. In Shanahan’s defense, he was probably under a lot of pressure to win.
3] RG3 Sees Himself as a Role-Model and Has to Set the Tone for the Team
This quote from RG3 that is on ESPN.com says it all:
"'I'm the quarterback of this team,' Griffin said. 'My job is to be out there if I can play. And to answer the next question, no, I don't feel like me being out there hurt the team in any way. I'm the best option for this team, and that's why I'm the starter.'"
2] RG3 Sabotaged Any Attempt to Take Him Out of the Game
According to ESPN, RG3 made himself unavailable once on the sidelines. Even if Mike Shanahan wanted to talk with Griffin, he was not able to do so.
"'He 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.'"
In a way, this is actually quite disturbing. The fact that the head coach can’t find his star quarterback on the sidelines and then only reappears when the 'Skins get the ball, is negligent on the ENTIRE coaching staff as well as RG3 himself.
He knew that there was discussion about taking him out of the game, and he simply wasn’t going to come out.
It is also possible that RG3 is his own best doctor. Having torn an ACL before, he certainly knew what it felt like. Even when Griffin did speak with the coaching staff, there HAS to be some level of trust in what your star player is saying.
Shanahan has been known to strain relationships between himself and the starting quarterbacks before, and wants to present a different image as he has begun to open up with his QBs.
1] Field Conditions Were Terrible
Joe Buck opened the game with the statement, "Except for the green paint on the field, you wouldn’t see the numbers at all.”
Although it had stopped raining and was unseasonably warm, the field was described on the air as "choppy," "slippery," "mushy," and even "not level." In fact, the agent for Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons has blamed Clemons’ feared ACL tear on the “crappy” condition of the surface, via the Washington Post.
Mike Shanahan cannot be blamed for the field maintenance, and the fact that other players were hurt as well only alleviates some of the blame people want to pass onto Shanahan. Because it seems that they cannot choose between grass and artificial turf is in no way the team's coaching staff's fault.
Honorable Mention: Stephen Strasburg?
The Nationals' decision to take Strasburg out of the rotation while in the heat of a pennant chase probably cost the team a shot at the World Series. The fact that the team shares the city with the Nationals, Shanahan had to be sensitive to how hard that impacted their franchise.
All the radio talk shows were buzzing about it and the Nationals management team was besieged with communication from the fans who quite clearly didn’t understand this move. Surely, despite his injury, Starsburg could not have understood why they held him back.
One wonders, given this atmosphere in Washington, whether this crossed Shanahan’s mind when Griffin was hurt the first time.
Obviously the injury to Griffin was a bad moment for the 'Skins. No matter what injury he suffers from this point forward, they are likely to always blame Shanahan.
He has had a great coaching career and you have to give the guy benefit of the doubt that he understands and executes well on split-second decision making. None of those sportswriters who are criticizing Shanahan have ever considered how hard it must be to consider taking out your ace quarterback in a playoff game when he is still out on the field.
If he had removed him and the Redskins had lost the game, they surely would be roasting he poor guy just the same!
For these five reasons and one honorable mention, you just cannot blame Mike Shanahan!