I’m not sure what you call this thing you’re about to read. It’s got some storytelling, some recount, some opinions, some hindsight and just a dash of curse words. It’s a bit long compared to other posts found on the site and I beg you to keep in mind that I’m a die hard Redskins fan in mourning. I’ve gone back and forth about who to blame for the most recent shit storm in Washington, but I’m even indecisive about that. Read on with caution.
After an eight-week thrill ride that gave fans the most exciting experience this town has seen in the last decade, the Washington Redskins season came to an end on Sunday night at the hands of a 24-14 Seattle Seahawks victory. And while the loss itself hurts after seven straight wins and the momentum leading up to last Sunday’s game, it’s the way the season ended that pains fans the most.
It started late in the first quarter with the Redskins putting together their second consecutive successful offensive drive. After the first ended in 80 yards and a touchdown, the Redskins were positioned well in the redzone and threatening to score yet again.
Eventually they would, giving Washington the early 14-0 lead at home over the seemingly stunned Seahawks. But two plays prior to his second touchdown pass of the first quarter, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III rolled out right and planted awkwardly on his right knee before firing an incomplete pass to a crossing Pierre Garcon in tight coverage.
At the time, I thought to myself how risky the play was, but appreciated the craftiness. If anyone was going to execute a dicey play in the redzone, who else but RG3?
But as the camera panned back to the right sideline, our team’s beloved rookie quarterback lay on the ground helmetless, grimacing in obvious pain. It didn’t take long for Griffin to get up, but after being handed his helmet by an official, his limp was more than noticeable as he walked, then gingerly trotted back to the huddle for 2nd-and-Goal.
The next play would be a handoff up the middle to Alfred Morris for no gain and Griffin’s favoring of his right knee was evident.
Next play, on 3rd-and-Goal from the 4-yard line, Griffin takes a three-step drop and tosses one to tight end Logan Paulsen for the score — trying his hardest not to put an ounce of weight on his right leg.
Griffin knew it and so did his teammates. So did coaches, fans and announcers. The Redskins quarterback was hurt and it didn’t look good. It was an injury from a few weeks ago against Baltimore that was rearing its ugly head and it certainly wasn’t going to get any better as the game, or potential playoff run, went on.
The Redskins’ playoff run obviously didn’t go on, and the locker room at Redskins Park is now being cleaned out for the offseason.
Unfortunately, rather than remembering the 2012 season for what it was under the direction of sensational rookies, a passionate offensive line that stuck together and a resilient defense that refused to quit even after starting 3-6, many will question the conclusion of this magical and unexpected run.
Should Mike Shanahan have pulled the injured Robert Griffin III in favor of backup Kirk Cousins?
In my mind, there’s no questioning whether or not Griffin should’ve started Sunday. Despite a lingering mild LCL sprain ( or so we were all told ), Griffin appeared healthy enough in recent games to get the starting nod. He wasn’t superb, but he could play. And aside from health concerns and further injuring his knee, it was important for the team to stick with the player that carried them this far.
The real decision for Mike Shanahan came after Griffin’s first quarter physical collapse. Although he immediately rebounded with the touchdown to Paulsen, Griffin was clearly not the same. And never would be in his last three quarters of the season.
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The Redskins would get their next offensive drive at the 11:30 mark of the second quarter — two Morris rushes for a combined eight yards and an incomplete pass on 3rd-and-2. Sav Rocca would come out to punt with the Redskins leading 14-3.
With a little luck on their side, the Seahawks would get two big gainers out of a Russell Wilson fumble that was picked up by running back Marshawn Lynch and turned into 19 yards, as well as a 19-yard pickup on a rollout pass to fullback Michael Robinson. Their second offensive drive of the quarter would eventually result in a 4-yard touchdown to Robinson on a leak out to the left.
With just over four minutes to go in the first half, the Redskins’ once-commanding lead was now just a creepy 14-10.
Robert Griffin III led his team out for their next drive with a little more than three minutes to go in the first half. Starting at their own 26-yard line, the Redskins came out with a handoff to Alfred Morris on first down for a 3-yard gain.
At this point, the adjustment by the Seattle defense was obvious. Because they knew Griffin was hurt and not a true threat to run, they pulled a safety into the box and played a numbers game against the Redskins’ rushing attack. Notably so, the Redskins seemed to get away from Alfred Morris and their ground game following the adjustment.
“If you noticed it earlier, when we rushing the passer, everyone was worried about him getting out and containing him,” Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said. “After we saw what he was doing and how he was moving, I tried to encourage the guys to not be worried about [him] breaking containment and running like crazy. It was more like a normal quarterback back there, and [that] we keep our pressure and our rushes and not be so concerned about him, trying to keep him in the pocket.” [ source ]
On second down, Griffin play fakes to Alfred Morris and looks down the left sideline to find his receiver Pierre Garcon with more than a step on Seattle cornerback Brandon Browner. As Griffin launches, you again notice the lack of weight placed on his right leg. It was a hitch in his motion that didn’t require a medical professional to determine it didn’t look normal.
The result? An underthrown ball and interception by safety Earl Thomas.
Credit to Thomas for playing great center field and not being fooled by the play action. He read the play well and really had free range to do whatever he wanted back there. But take special note of the underthrow by Griffin — something that simply doesn’t happen.
I’m not just saying Griffin doesn’t underthrow passes because I think he’s a gift from the football gods. Although true, I’m saying Griffin doesn’t underthrow passes because he really doesn’t underthrow passes. If Griffin misses deep, he misses long. Never short. On that specific throw, however, Griffin can’t effectively plant on his right leg, he’s limited as a passer and his ball falls short into the arms of Thomas.
Russell Wilson would help the Seahawks capitalize on the turnover, leading his team 63 yards and setting up Steven Hauschka for a 29-yard field goal to bring Seattle within one and give them momentum heading into the half.
For me, this is where things begin to simplify. Mind you, I’m a couch quarterback with a bigger mouth than brain. But I had seen enough, or lack there of, from Robert Griffin III ( just two pass attempts between injury and halftime ) to know that he wasn’t himself. The RG3 that we saw following the first quarter was not the RG3 that conducted the Redskins’ heater to bring home the NFC East division title.
As the superstar and franchise savior, the choice and desire to keep Griffin in the game in hopes of him making that one awesome play is expected. That one reassuring play that reminds coaches and fans, “oh yeah, that’s why he’s still in there.” Besides, the Redskins were leading at this point. Albeit just a 1-point lead, it was a lead nonetheless and the Redskins would keep it that way until halfway through the fourth quarter.
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Pointing the finger is easy. Fans could blame everyone from Mike Shanahan, to Dr. James Andrews, to Robert Griffin III, to the field, to team owner Dan Snyder for not addressing the field, to Will Montgomery and his terrible snap, to themselves for being so selfish and dependent, and anyone in between. Truth is, shit happens. And everything is easier in hindsight.
Call me a pansy all you want, I panicked after watching Griffin go down in the first quarter and he wouldn’t have stayed in long enough to throw his second touchdown pass if I were the coach. And because of that, the decision to pull him at halftime is easier for me. But that’s me. I was watching from the comfort of my home and using DVR like someone was going to take it away from me. The setting on the sidelines is far less calm and I’m in no way claiming I would’ve been able to do anything down on the field other than pee my pants.
Now that ESPN’s Chris Mortensen has reported that Griffin will undergo surgery to repair his torn ACL and LCL in his right knee, I can begin my ignorant disapproval for all those involved. [ source ]
Following the game, the head coach explained his reasoning for leaving Griffin in the game, saying that he told him he was okay and that he deserved a chance to keep playing.
“That was enough for me,” Shanahan said. “I thought he did enough for us this year to have that opportunity to stay in the football game.” [ source ]
Since when is asking for your player’s opinion the best way to determine if he’s really healthy enough to play? When’s the last time you heard about a football player saying he wasn’t well enough to play after coming out of the game, relatively speaking?
“Robert’s our quarterback,” veteran wide receiver Santana Moss said. “If he says he can play, he can play. That’s what players do.” [ source ]
But that’s not what coaches do. Coaches are expected to make tough decisions under pressure. That’s what they’re paid to do. And in Shanahan’s case, that’s why he’s paid $7 million a year. If it were up to players, there wouldn’t be knee braces or injury reports.
Dr. James Andrews
You and me, Andrews! Mano y mano!
But until you’re finished with Robert’s surgery, I suppose I’ll wait.
This is the orthopedic surgeon that everyone talks about. When it comes to ligaments, tendons and any kind of ‘CL’, Dr. James Andrews is the man athletes go to see. As a result, Dr. Andrews draws quite the paycheck. So it’s no surprise team owner Dan Snyder has Dr. Andrews strolling the sidelines during every game — for his medical expertise and because he has the money to do it.
There were reports early last week from USA Today that quoted Dr. Andrews as saying he never cleared Griffin to return to the Baltimore game following the knee injury that started this whole crap storm. That of course resulted in backfire from Shanahan and then concluded with Andrews saying that neither he nor Shanahan lied about anything. [ source ]
“Coach Shanahan didn’t lie about it, and I didn’t lie,” Andrews said. “I didn’t get to examine [Griffin’s knee] because he came out for one play, didn’t let us look at him and on the next play, he ran through all the players and back out onto the field. Coach Shanahan looks at me like, ‘Is he OK?’ and I give him the ‘Hi’ sign as in, ‘He’s running around, so I guess he’s OK.’ But I didn’t get to check him out until after the game. It was just a communication problem. Heat of battle. I didn’t get to tell him I didn’t get to examine the knee. Mike Shanahan would never have put him out there at risk just to win a game.” [ source ]
When you’re especially hired to roam a certain team’s sideline, and you’re very aware of that team’s most valuable asset, then “guessing” Robert Griffin III is okay and giving the “hi” sign to confirm such is ridiculous. Beyond ridiculous.
Robert Griffin III
It’s hard to imagine blaming the 22-year-old heart and soul of the Washington Redskins and entire DC sports culture, but fair is fair. Judging from what we saw out there, some are going to argue it’s the responsibility of the player to remove himself from action. They’d be wrong and most likely hypocrites. But they’re out there.
“I don’t feel like me being out there hurt the team in any way,” Griffin said after the game. “I’m the best option.” [ source ]
Let me be the first to tell you that I will cheer for RG3, I will support RG3, I will argue for RG3 and I will commit myself to a completely unneccesary bar fight for RG3. I won’t, however, take Griffin 100 percent at his word regarding these postgame comments.
With his unique combination of speed, arm, athleticism and smarts, Robert Griffin III can do just about anything on the football field. So when a player like Griffin is injured, or even hurt, the impact on his game is very noticeable when compared to the setbacks of injuries on other not-so-talented players. When Griffin injured his knee on Sunday night, the effect on his performance shined brighter and screamed louder than any light or fan in that stadium.
It’s one thing if Griffin can’t run. Although running is a huge threat in Griffin’s seemingly endless repetoire, he’s an underrated passer that can make a good living from the pocket. Not having Griffin at full speed undoubtedly puts a clamp on the offense, but it doesn’t erase it. On Sunday, when the Seahawks realized their opponent’s limp, they keyed in and lost accountability for Griffin’s ability to take off and run.
Breaking news here, folks: Griffin’s inability to run DID NOT cause the Redskins to lose on Sunday night.
You don’t have to be a running or mobile quarterback to be successful in the NFL and there are more than enough examples to prove it. Accuracy, on the other hand, is a common trait amongst some of the game’s best. Following his injury in the first quarter, Griffin had lost that.
I’ll admit, with just two pass attempts between Griffin’s injury and halftime, it would’ve been a very tough call to have Kirk Cousins start the second half. Griffin’s poor placement as a result of his knee was much more evident as the game went on. But what about after the third quarter?
If you can’t plant and throw as a quarterback, but the backup can, what makes you believe that yourself at 50 percent gives your team a better chance to win than a Cousins at 100 percent? I don’t care if the backup is the slowest of slow with boulders tied to his ankles, that was completely irrelevant.
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So now what do we do? We wait.
We wait for Griffin’s surgery to take place, to go very well and to hear great things from Dr. Andrews by the end of the day on Wednesday. We wish Griffin a speedy and successful rehab, keep him in our thoughts and completely forget about the idea that he can make any sort of Adrian Peterson-like recovery.
Seriously, people. This is the second time in the last four years that Griffin has blown out his right knee and this injury includes an LCL tear, which is arguably worse than Peterson’s additional MCL tear. It’s not the same thing. Cyborg or not, this isn’t going to be another miraculous restoration.
Despite swirling reports that throw out recovery times of 6, 8 and 12 months, my gut tells me that Griffin’s earliest return would be the second half of the 2013 season. Bear in mind though, I’m the farthest thing from a doctor.
I don’t want any rush on his return and no contact for his entire rehab. And for anyone that even looks at Griffin’s right knee with anything less than a smile, I’d like them to be dragged into a back alley and shot in the feet.
Then, once Griffin returns, I’d like to see Shanahan manipulate the offense a bit. I understand that Griffin was injured on non-option and non-running plays ( scrambles are passing plays first ), but I think this injury could give the coaches a kick in the rear in terms of providing a gifted passer with more looks from a traditional pocket. Upgrade the offensive line in a couple spots, add some speed in the short game and allow Griffin to carve up the opposition.