With confirmation from Dr. James Andrews that quarterback Robert Griffin III had both his lateral collateral ligament (LCL) and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstructed Wednesday morning, the Washington Redskins must now seriously consider how their offense may look with Kirk Cousins under center for a portion of 2013.
Andrews and the Redskins released this statement Wednesday stating the extent of the surgery and Griffin III's recovery timeline, via Rich Campbell of the Washington Times:
"Robert Griffin III had successful knee surgery early this morning. He had a direct repair of his LCL and a re-do of his previous ACL reconstruction. We expect a full recovery and it is everybody's hope and belief that due to Robert's high motivation, he will be ready for the 2013 season.
"The goal of his treatment is to give him the best opportunity for a long professional career."
Both Andrews and the Redskins appear mostly confident that Griffin III will return by next season, but the reality remains that recovery from a second significant ACL injury—plus a complete reconstruction of the LCL—makes it difficult for Griffin III to return to full strength by next September.
As of Wednesday, roughly 34-and-a-half weeks stand between now and the start of the 2013 regular season. While Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson returned in 37 weeks from both ACL and medial collateral ligament (MCL) surgery, the LCL is a more complicated rehab and Peterson also had no prior knee reconstructions.
John Keim of the Washington Examiner spoke to Dr. Richard Lehman of the United States Sports Center for Medicine, and his bet on Griffin III's chances of playing was nothing more than "50-50."
I would say there’s probably a 50-50 or 60-40 chance he doesn’t play next year just because even though he’ll be pretty good he won’t be pretty good enough. He’ll have decent stability but he his strength won’t be back. He’ll have rotational issues. You’re talking about a guy who you could see immediately when he couldn’t plant his foot or take that first step…His game is made in one step.
While the Redskins will likely be more optimistic than Dr. Lehman, it's still possible that the team attempts to put in place safeguards in case Griffin III can't play for most or all of 2013.
Washington has an offense currently that is still suited for a young, pocket quarterback like Cousins, a fourth-round pick in the 2012 NFL draft. Alfred Morris is an emerging star at running back, and both the offensive line and receiving corps are units that could reasonably be ranked in or near the top half of the NFL.
However, it's worth considering that two of the Redskins' worst outputs running the football came with Cousins playing all or most of the snaps (Atlanta, Cleveland), and the Redskins' 104 rushing yards with a gimpy Griffin III helped seal Washington's exit from the postseason.
Without Griffin III and the constant pressure he puts on a defense, the Redskins would need to find a way to be better running the football in 2013.
Even if Griffin III can successfully return in time for next season, Washington might be better served to transform the offense into a more traditional, pocket-based attack in order to protect the quarterback position from the constant barrage of hits Griffin III took during his rookie season.
A transcendent athlete at quarterback, Griffin III can still be an effective player while operating from the pocket. The change would also help better prepare the offense for the possibility of playing with Cousins for a period of time.
At the very least, the Redskins can be confident in the fact that Cousins will be the quarterback for this team this offseason. If Washington privately believes that Griffin III could be missed for portions of next season, expect an offseason move or two to reflect that worry.