"This was the stupidest thing I've seen in pro football."
That's what legendary quarterback Fran Tarkenton thinks about Mike Shanahan's choice to play quarterback Robert Griffin III in the Washington Redskins' Wild Card matchup against the Seattle Seahawks. Talking to Bleacher Report over the phone on Wednesday afternoon, he cited the Redskins' inability to win with an injured RGIII, the fact that they risked more long-term injury and the presence of Kirk Cousins as reasons Griffin should have been on the bench.
Tarkenton knows a thing or two about being a mobile quarterback like Griffin. As a 1986 inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the former Minnesota Viking rushed for 3,674 yards to go along with his 47,003 yards passing. He was even nicknamed, "The Mad Scrambler."
Now, Tarkenton doesn't blame Griffin for wanting to play. He admits that he would've wanted to stay in the game as well. "Of course, Griffin didn't want to take himself out of the game. Only Jay Cutler does that."
Tarkenton, 72, has never been known for couching his opinions.
He believes that the decision whether or not to play Griffin shouldn't have been up to Griffin himself:
[Mike Shanahan] is supposed to be a father figure on the sideline, isn't he? He's got to be the adult in the room! You've got [renowned orthopedist Dr. James] Andrews on the sideline, I know Jimmy Andrews and if I can see that he can't play, Shanahan should be able to see that from the sideline. I'm watching him warm up, he's got no right leg!
Tarkenton does think that Griffin needs to change his approach to the game of football:
I didn't take a lot of big hits. I made sure I didn't put myself in a vulnerable position. I didn't try to run over people. I protected myself. [Former Dallas Cowboys QB Roger] Staubach protected himself. RGIII has a problem. You have to figure out in this game how to stay healthy. If he hasn't learned that lesson yet, he has to learn that on his hospital bed today.
The Hall of Fame QB called Griffin out for seeking contact and taking excessive hits as he runs. He explained that an option QB doesn't have to take the hits Griffin takes and that refs will be more than happy to penalize players who take free shots at him after he hands off the ball. He added, however, "If the read is going to cause him to get hit, [the Redskins] should stop the read."
"Andrew Luck has a lot of mobility," Tarkenton said, "Russell Wilson has a lot of mobility. They don't take those hits." Adding later, "First thing you gotta do as a quarterback is pass, mobility is just a great asset. That's why Tim Tebow doesn't work. He has mobility. He's a big guy. He just can't throw the ball."
Speaking of size, Tarkenton wondered out loud if Griffin, even though he's got a bigger body, is set up for injury because of the size of his legs; guys like Luck, Wilson and Tebow have bigger lower bodies and stouter frames than the former hurdler.
Tarkenton says that he only missed five games due to injury in his 18-year career. However, he now knows that he played his final year (at almost 39 years old) with a torn ACL. "In those days," Tarkenton explained, "they didn't have the technology to find that out right away." He also had a broken shoulder.
So, if anyone knows the pressure involved and the courage it takes for Griffin to have gone out there against the Seahawks, it's Tarkenton.
If Griffin, or any of the game's newer mobile quarterbacks, want to follow in Tarkenton's footsteps toward Canton, they need to heed the NFL great's advice. Yes, he played in a different era, but he has the benefit of hindsight and the wisdom of age on his side.
Michael Schottey is the NFL national lead writer for Bleacher Report and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff at The Go Route.