[caption id="attachment_22572" align="aligncenter" width="559"] Brad Mills / USA TODAY Sports[/caption]
Herm Edwards once said that head coaches in the NFL have one responsibility: don't let your players fail.
If that's the case, Redskins HC Mike Shanahan sure missed the memo.
In Washington's 24-14 loss to Seattle on Monday, 'Skins QB Robert Griffin III was visibly hampered by a knee injury that was severely restricting his movement and accuracy. Deep in the first quarter, RGIII -- while rolling out to his right -- planted his foot and fell to the ground after his knee buckled. The second overall pick literally limped back to the huddle and staggered forward before going into the locker room to get his knee taped.
This triggered the question -- should Shanahan keep his star QB on the field to give Washington the best chance to win, or bench him to avoid a major injury? Fellow rookie QB Kirk Cousins was ready to go on the sideline and has proven he can play after starting -- and winning -- a game earlier in the year.
Shanahan decided to push forward with RGIII. It was a huge gamble, and it backfired.
Early in the fourth quarter RGIII went down again after a poor snap, his knee bending in an absurdly awkward position. There would be no return this time as the rookie lay helplessly on the turf, grasping at his knee before 87,000 stunned fans. He was gone. Out. Finito.
Shanahan has been slammed by analysts, professionals and fans since the end of the game, and rightly so. If head coaches aren't supposed to let their players fail, then they certainly shouldn't jeopardise their future health when playing through so much pain that even spectators had to shield their eyes.
The fact is, RGIII is a very, very good QB, and the Redskins will be a very, very good team as long as he is at the helm. And yet, now, it's feared the QB has suffered a severe knee injury that may hurt him long-term. Why make him battle on against a ferocious and physical defence in Seattle? Sure, Washington had their sights on a playoff win, but they're set for over a decade of success with RGIII and throwing him to the wolves for short-term benefits was not the right decision.
Our own Dominic Davies summed it up perfectly --
Shanahan keeping RG3 in game was dumb because Redskins are not a 'Win now' team. They're still developing. Now, future in jeopardy. — Dominic Davies (@AussieAudible) January 7, 2013
In the post game presser, Shanahan said: "Robert said to me, 'Coach, there's a difference between injured and being hurt. I can guarantee I'm hurting right now, give me a chance to win this football game because I guarantee I'm not injured' … that was enough for me."
Any objective spectator knew that RGIII was both injured and hurt. Of course the rookie QB would plead with his coach to stay on the field -- he's as competitive and determined as any player in the league. But it was very, very clear the rookie QB was in serious pain -- his nine-yard scamper early in the fourth quarter, where RGIII literally hobbled to the sideline, was a crystal clear indication of that.
If, by some quirk of fate, Mike Shanahan faces the same conundrum in the future he should swallow his pride, pull his injured QB from the game and do everything he can to ensure his players' safety. You know, what an NFL head coach should do.
But now, the Redskins' season comes to a bitter end headlined by a potentially serious injury cloud over the head of RGIII.