Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan made a huge mistake in the team's playoff loss against Seattle by leaving star rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III in the game after he was already visibly battling an injury.
Here we are, seven months later, and RGIII is recovering from torn ligaments in his knee after suffering an additional injury upon reentering the game against the Seahawks.
Of course, RGIII pushed Shanahan to put him back in the game. It was a mutual decision, and now the head-coach-star-player duo is in the same boat in regard to Griffin's recovery.
So far, they have handled things perfectly.
Do you agree with how RGIII's recovery has been handled?
Many will attempt to paint a picture of conflict between RGIII and Shanahan. A popular belief is that Shanahan is bringing his star quarterback along slowly because he remembers the negative publicity he received when RGIII went down the first time. What happens if he brings Griffin along quickly and he is reinjured?
Or, you know, Shanahan is just protecting the franchise player because there is no reason to take unnecessary risks.
Whichever way you view the situation, Griffin and Shanahan are on the same page. Does Griffin agree with the plan completely?
Of course not. Griffin is a competitor and wants to be on the field. That won't stop him from following his head coach's commands, as he told the media in a statement obtained by CBS' Will Brinson:
I can't BS that answer. So, uh, no. I don't like it...There's some part of it that I do understand. I don't understand all of it. At the end of the day he gave me his word. We talked privately. I know the whole plan. I'm not telling the whole plan. I don't understand the whole plan at all and I can't lie about that.
Speculation ran rampant after that quote got out, so RGIII personally took to Twitter to quell any thoughts of a divide in Washington:
There is no friction. There is an understanding between coach and player. That is all. Don't have to like everything— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) August 12, 2013
The thing folks have to remember is that Shanahan is the boss. RGIII does not have to like everything the boss says or does, but his best course of action is to go along with it while flashing that million-dollar smile.
RGIII can feel as ready as he wants, but it's the final green light from Shanahan that matters most. A green light that Shanahan has now in fact given, as NFL Network's Albert Breer confirmed:
Robert Griffin III says the plan is for him to be in 11-on-11s during full practice tomorrow.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) August 12, 2013
It's a brilliant move on the old coach's part—get RGIII on the field and give him and the fans a taste of what they want at a time when the media is beginning to ramp up the rumors.
The 11-on-11 drills are a big step for RGIII. It's hard to imagine the coaching staff giving him the go-ahead to compete in meaningless preseason games due to the obvious injury risk, but it is a step in the right direction.
For a rookie who came in and completed almost 66 percent of his passes, threw for 3,200 yards and 20 touchdowns to five interceptions, preseason games seem a bit trivial. There's the need to develop chemistry with receivers, but that can be accomplished in training camp.
That said, there is no substitute for real-game action. The fanbase, staff and NFL will hold their collective breath when RGIII takes his first hit. Will he stay down or hop back up, smack his aggressor on the helmet and get back to directing his huddle?
We are still a long way from knowing, but the cautious approach from Shanahan is the perfect one.
Losing a star player to an unnecessary injury is not a stupid move because of media and fan backlash—it's a stupid football move and one that can and will negatively impact both of their careers.
Expect to see Griffin back on the field in game action no later than Sept. 9, when the Redskins take on the Philadelphia Eagles at FedExField. Griffin alluded to this in the interview and media outlets such as ESPN have provided further confirmation (with an amazing reference to boot):
With @RGIII declaring he’ll be ready to play Week 1, Walter White would advise the rest of the NFC East to tread lightly.— ESPN (@espn) August 12, 2013
RGIII, the Redskins and Shanahan are all seeing eye to eye when it comes to Griffin's recovery. The fortunes of the franchise and Griffin's health will benefit next season as a result.
Follow B/R's Chris Roling on Twitter for more news and analysis @Chris_Roling