Washington Redskins Are in No-Win Situation on RGIII Return Decision
If you've ever felt the wrath of the phrase, "damned if you do, damned if you don't," you'll respect the decision that the Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan and team doctors have to make about quarterback Robert Griffin III's Week 1 status.
Should Robert Griffin III be Washington's Week 1 starter?
The Redskins are really in a no-win situation.
Ever since Griffin went down against the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Wild Card round of the playoffs last year, talk has centered around a potential return.
RG3, who at the time was already dealing with a sprained LCL in his right knee from a hit he took against the Baltimore Ravens, tore his ACL and LCL in the fourth quarter of Washington's loss to Seattle.
And thus, Adidas' "All in for Week 1" campaign began.
Nearly eight months later, RG3 is preparing like he'll be the Week 1 starter. NFL.com's Albert Breer noted as much on Twitter:
Robert Griffin III: "There's no doubt I'm playing Week 1."— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) August 12, 2013
If you don't follow the Redskins, the NFL or RG3's career, it would be pretty simple to do a quick glance of the available information and defer to the decision of Dr. James Andrews—the man who performed the former Heisman winner's surgery in January.
Peel back the layers, though, and you'll see that Washington face a dilemma that can fall on both sides of the Mendoza line. There's enough evidence to suggest RG3 will face no difficulty returning the gridiron, but there's accompanying pieces of information to thwart that theory quickly, too.
For starters, Griffin is coming off the second major knee injury of his career since heading to Waco and joining the Baylor Bears in 2008. He tore his ACL against Northwestern State in the third game of Baylor's 2009-10 season, an injury that kept him sidelined until the start of the next season.
Of course, he had four more months to recover from that injury before returning to the field to face top-notch competition in a meaningful game.
Now that he has two ACL tears on his resume, RG3's long-term future is a huge talking point heading into just the second season of his NFL career.
Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson made a successful return from ACL surgery in 2012; Chicago Bulls star point guard Derrick Rose chose to sit out an entire NBA season this year after suffering a similar injury.
On which side of the spectrum will Griffin fall?
Of course, there's a possibility he could fall somewhere in the middle of that diagnosis. CBSPhilly.com's Howard Eskin reported last week that Andrews was recommending Griffin wait until Week 6 to begin his 2013-14 season:
Sources tell me RG3's dr, James Andrews, has recommended to #redskins that Griffin not play until after bye wk. Wash bye is week 5.— Howard Eskin (@howardeskin) August 17, 2013
Although the Redskins refuted that report and Andrews was quoted by ESPN's John Keim to be encouraged by RG3's progress before Washington's preseason win over Pittsburgh on Monday, Eskin's tweet was a reminder that Week 1 or bust isn't the only option.
Washington's franchise QB has been working with the team during training camp to start the year, but fellow second-year pro Kirk Cousins has led the Redskins offense during the majority of offseason and preseason workouts as RG3 works toward being 100 percent.
Another layer of this story to follow is Shanahan's role in the injury.
Entering the fourth year of a five-year contract with the franchise, Shanahan's decisions concerning RG3's health already came into question during the 2012-13 season. Accused of allowing his star to come back into action too soon after the Ravens game, Shanahan took a lot of heat when Griffin's knee blew out against the Seahawks.
And rightfully so.
It's a coach's job to protect his players based on the advice of medical professionals. RG3 is a fiery competitor, but few think he should have been on the field if his knee sprain was adding risk to a more significant injury.
According to Washington Post reporter Mike Wise, Griffin holds the keys to Shanahan's future.
"Shanahan needs Griffin more than Griffin needs him," Wise wrote in his Aug. 14 column. "It’s a dangerous power imbalance for any leader of a 53-man roster."
As noted by NFL.com's Jeff Darlington, the Shanahan-Griffin dynamic is really one of the top storylines to watch heading into the new season—it's a tug-of-war relationship where the coach's power comes into direct contrast with the player's stubborn desire to be on the field at all costs.
Knowing that Griffin gives his team the best chance to win games and keep pace with the rest of the NFC East, Shanahan faces a situation where making a similar play to what he did last year could not only cost Griffin the 2013-14 season, but maybe his NFL career.
The stakes surrounding RG3's return are higher than ever, and they put Washington in a no-win position.
If Griffin comes back too soon and is injured again, questions about Shanahan's intentions for his franchise star will once again be back in the limelight. The potential headline is almost as damning as the backlash would be: "Did Washington rush RG3 back to its lineup too soon?"
If RG3 waits until the bye week—or later—to make his triumphant return and the Redskins have stumbled out of the gate, fans will wonder if he was healthy enough to come back sooner. We saw that with Rose in the NBA this year, and it was not a pretty saga.
At the end of the day, it's no one's fault that RG3 was injured on that fateful play against the Seahawks.
Injuries are part of sports—trying to assign blame is a slippery slope.
Who is the NFL's best QB entering his third season or less?
But it's Washington's collective job to put RG3 in a position to be successful without sacrificing his health in the process. Sure, the Redskins want to win after getting a taste of what RG3 (3,200 yards passing, 20 TDs, 102.4 passer rating and 9-6 record as a starter) can do after watching him as a rookie.
Heeding the guidance of Andrews, other doctors who treat Griffin on a daily basis, and sprinkling in a touch of Griffin's personal desire to start the year as the team's No. 1 QB, the Redskins will need to continue to gather all the information they can before making a decision.
Even so, they'll have to pull the trigger and hope for the best after making that call.
Follow B/R's Ethan Grant on Twitter.
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