The worst fear for the Washington Redskins was realized Wednesday morning on a surgeon's table in Florida.
Quarterback Robert Griffin III, who just finished one of the best rookie seasons by a quarterback in recent history, went under the knife of Dr. James Andrews to repair both his lateral collateral ligament (LCL) and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee.
Andrews, via ESPN, confirmed the procedure Wednesday.
The ACL reconstruction is Griffin's second in four years, and it raises real doubt over his ability to be ready for the start of the 2013 season.
In the following slides, we'll present the best- and worst-case scenarios for both Griffin and the Redskins following the transcendent quarterback's surgery Wednesday.
However, just eight months after his reconstructive knee surgery, Peterson started Minnesota's season opener—marking the beginning of arguably the most remarkable season ever for an NFL running back. Peterson finished just nine yards short of the NFL's all-time single season rushing record while leading the Vikings to an unexpected playoff berth.
Roughly eight-and-a-half months stand between now and the start of the 2013 regular season. Griffin making a Peterson-like recovery next season would arguably be the best of the best case scenarios.
While the recovery time has been set at six to eight months for Griffin, the potential exists for the Redskins quarterback to miss most or all of 2013.
Peterson recovered quickly from an ACL and MCL reconstruction, but Griffin is dealing with the LCL—a more important ligament in knee stabilization—and a second ACL reconstruction will make his rehab a difficult one.
This possibility looks remote now, especially considering Griffin's drive and work ethic. He'll attack rehab. But if the recovery doesn't stick to schedule, missing 2013 and getting ready for 2014 is a potential outcome.
Even if Griffin has to miss time in 2013, the Redskins have a capable backup in 2012 fourth-round pick Kirk Cousins.
Starting for Griffin in a Week 15 contest in Cleveland, Cousins threw for over 300 yards and led the Redskins to a 38-21 win that helped keep Washington's playoff hopes alive.
In any case where Griffin has to miss games next season, a best case scenario would be Cousins playing well as the starter in his place. Not only would it keep the Redskins rolling to start 2013, but it would add to his already improving trade stock.
To be fair, the Redskins beat a bad Browns team in Week 15 with Cousins under center. And, in what ended as an early season loss to the Atlanta Falcons, Cousins threw a pair of interceptions while filling in for Griffin.
If Griffin has to miss time next season, a worst case scenario could be Washington collapsing with Cousins under center.
Not only would the Redskins effectively kill any chance at the playoffs by starting slow with Cousins in 2013, but the backup quarterback could kill his trade stock by struggling as the starter.
Regardless of when Griffin returns, the Redskins want him to come back with little no ill effects from the surgery performed Wednesday.
Back in 2009, Griffin did just that. Eleven months after undergoing ACL surgery, Griffin returned to the Baylor starting lineup and threw for two touchdowns and ran another in a convincing win. A year later, Griffin was hoisting the Heisman Trophy.
The Redskins gave up a lot of draft stock to get Griffin last April. The franchise certainly doesn't want him to lose any of the dynamic qualities that made Griffin worth that deal in last season's draft.
A very real outcome of a second significant knee injury could be a change in the Redskins' overall offensive scheme.
Working out of the Pistol formation for most of 2012, Griffin has led a dynamic offense that is predicated on both the zone and read-option running styles. Washington could lose the read-option part if Griffin is at all limited by the surgery.
There's no doubt that Griffin still has the skill set to be an effective player as a pocket quarterback. But he loses a big part of his game if the Redskins have to protect him within the offense moving forward.
Sometimes, a significant injury like the one Griffin suffered can make a player change his playing style for the better.
In this case, that would mean Griffin learning to protect his body better as his NFL career advances forward.
No quarterback endured more hits than Griffin this season, and his size (217 pounds) isn't conducive to taking hit after hit by NFL defenders. The potential exists now for Griffin to become more protective, regardless of whether he remains a scrambler or not.
Going out of bounds, sliding and protecting against big hits will all help keep Griffin healthy. His body probably can't afford many more seasons like the one it went through in 2012.
While injuries can sometimes promote positive change, they can also include negative playing consequences.
What if Griffin is timid running the football next season? What if a part of that confidence—something that helps make him great—has been chipped away by this second knee injury? Could either rob Griffin of the elite qualities that separate him from the rest of the NFL's quarterbacks?
The Redskins likely want a safer, more aware Griffin next season. But changes that come at the expense of his elite attributes could be a worst-case side effect.
Maybe the most favorable outcome of this entire ordeal is Griffin returning to the playing field in 2013 and then suffering no further knee damage, whether it's next season or any season after.
A humble, confident leader, Griffin is capable of being one of the NFL's leading men for the next 10-12 years. But that position atop the league's peak is predicated on Griffin returning healthy and staying healthy for the long haul.
Just 22 years old, Griffin has already underwent two significant knee surgeries. NFL fans can only hope his luck with knee injuries are over.
There's no doubting that the worst-case scenario is Griffin rushing back to the field next season and suffering another injury to the knee. A third significant injury to the right knee could all but end his career as an NFL player.
This offseason will be a balancing act for the quarterback.
While he certainly wants to be ready for the start of 2013, he must ensure that his knee is better than 100 percent before returning. Anything less is putting the rest of his career as a premier NFL player in serious jeopardy.