Robert Griffin III Decision: Why the Washington Redskins Were Doomed Either Way

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Robert Griffin III Decision: Why the Washington Redskins Were Doomed Either Way
Al Bello/Getty Images
Robert Griffin III left Sunday's game late in the fourth quarter against the Seahawks.

A lot of scrutiny has been thrown in the direction of the Washington Redskins and their decision, or lack thereof, in benching rookie sensation quarterback Robert Griffin III after an injury sustained to his right knee back in Week 14 against the Baltimore Ravens.  

It became evident early in the first quarter that Griffin was still not completely healed of his sprained right knee.  That did not stop RGIII, head coach Mike Shanahan or team doctors from keeping the quarterback in the game.  

Looking back on the outcome of the game, the Redskins would have been scrutinized either way on their decision with the rookie sensation.  

I'll start by saying that I am absolutely in favor of the Redskins' decision to let RGIII continue playing.  He reportedly told Shanahan that he was okay to stay in the game even though he was hurt.  Griffin is the star player, and he is the main reason the Redskins won their division and got to the playoffs.  To take him out despite him saying that he can play would be an insult to what he has accomplished for the franchise in his rookie season.  

While benching him would not have yielded any long term problems between RGIII and the coaching staff, you have to go with your quarterback if he says he can go.   

So let's take a look back at how things would have turned out for the Redskins whether they had benched Griffin or not.

In the first quarter, the Redskins jumped out to a 14-0 lead and looked to be en route to dismantling Seattle's fourth-ranked defense.

Al Bello/Getty Images
Tight end Logan Paulsen celebrates after catching a touchdown pass against the Seahawks in the first quarter.

Then in the first quarter, RGIII appeared to have re-aggravated his leg injury after falling awkwardly following a pass.  

Griffin finished the game with 10 completions for 84 yards, registering two touchdown passes and a lone interception.  The running game which RGIII is often praised for was nonexistent for the quarterback, as he finished the game with just five carries for 21 yards.

It wasn't until late in the fourth quarter that RGIII was finally taken out, after chasing down a poorly snapped ball and severely re-injuring his leg in the process.  

You don't have to look far to find criticism from all over on the choice Mike Shanahan made to keep RGIII in the game.

Obviously hindsight is always 20/20 in situations such as this.  If the Redskins hold on and win the game and RGIII posts a stellar performance, him playing injured becomes a non-issue.

On the other side, in the case which took place Sunday, if he causes more damage to his already-injured leg and the Redskins lose, the coaches will be blasted with criticism as they have been since the loss.

That being said, what would have happened if Shanahan made the decision to remove RGIII early in the game and replace him with quarterback Kirk Cousins?

Who was behind center for the Redskins I do not think would have made a difference either way.  The Seahawks defense ranks sixth in the league against the pass and is fourth overall in yards allowed per game, neither of which I thought the Redskins were capable of overcoming, especially with an injured RGIII.

Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
Pete Carroll (left) and Mike Shanahan (right) shake hands following Seattle's 24-14 victory over the Redskins.

If Kirk Cousins made his way into the game, the Redskins and their staff would still be facing scrutiny for their decision to bench their star quarterback.  Why?

The Redskins likely would have put Cousins into the game with a lead of some sort.  They were already up 14-0 when RGIII appeared to not be his normal self.  The visual evidence early in the first quarter provided plenty of reason to fans and viewers for benching RGIII.

It seems like an easy enough decision; bench your injured franchise quarterback in order to preserve him for the future, and just suffer a playoff loss and try again next season.

That being said, the competitive nature of the league and of some fans says that if RGIII says he can play, then he should be out there.  

The Redskins were doomed in their decision either way.  If Kirk Cousins blows a 14-point lead and reports surface after the game that RGIII said he told the coaches he could play, the Redskins and Mike Shanahan would likely have been scrutinized and had questions asked to them like, "What if they had left RGIII in?"  

Then again, maybe Kirk Cousins would have come in, held onto the lead and pushed the Redskins into a divisional playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons this week.  Anything is possible.  Shanahan would have been praised for his gutsy decision in benching his star quarterback despite his wishes, putting his team above an individual player in an effort to give the Redskins the best chance to win with a healthy starter.

Regardless of his decision, Shanahan and the Redskins staff would have faced criticism.  People would argue that you don't bench your quarterback with a 14-point lead if he says he can play.  On the other hand, some critics would say that the long-term success for the Redskins and future of RGIII is far more important than winning a playoff game.

Contact and follow Zachary Krueger on Twitter at @NFLWaterCooler.

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