RG3 should share blame for injury
More than the health of his knee, more than Mike Shanahan’s alleged negligence, here’s what concerned me about Robert Griffin’s first playoff appearance:
RG3 bought the hype -- his own.
His postgame comments explaining why he stayed in the game beyond the first quarter revealed a young man who had crossed the thin line between confidence and arrogance.
“I don’t feel like me being out there hurt the team in any way,” Griffin proclaimed. “I’m the best option for this team, and that’s why I’m the starter.”
That’s true when Griffin is healthy. He was clearly not healthy on Sunday, especially after he tweaked his already-injured knee late in the first quarter. On a gimpy leg, Griffin tossed a second touchdown pass and staked the Redskins to a 14-0 lead over the Seattle Seahawks.
From that moment on, he was awful and a liability to his team. He couldn’t plant on his right leg or accurately throw the football downfield. He couldn’t run much either. He limped sideways for nine yards on one play, and you wondered why he stayed in the game.
You can’t be Willis Reed in the 1970 NBA Finals and play quarterback in the NFL. Inspiration only goes so far at the QB position.
Obviously, Mike Shanahan should’ve pulled his 22-year-old quarterback from the game. My initial thoughts during the game and in the immediate aftermath of Griffin re-injuring his knee in the fourth quarter were that Shanahan should be disciplined by Redskins owner Daniel Snyder for jeopardizing Griffin’s future.
My feelings reflected the emotions of my Twitter following. Football fans from across the country berated Shanahan for his perceived negligence, particularly since USA Today reported that earlier in the season Washington’s team doctor -- James Andrews -- said he did not clear Griffin to re-enter the Ravens contest.
On Monday morning, syndicated morning radio host Tom Joyner analogized Shanahan to the slave owner, Calvin Candie, in the popular movie Django Unchained. Candie trained and fought “Mandingo” fighters. He brutalized them.
I get the point Joyner was trying to make. But he does not understand the politics of football in this era.
Griffin has more power than Shanahan. It wasn’t until I heard Griffin’s postgame comments that I realized Griffin used that power to play in Sunday’s game. Griffin made it clear in his postgame news conference that he desperately wanted to play in Sunday’s contest and that he repeatedly made it clear to Shanahan that he wanted to stay in the game.
Sitting Griffin isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially when the Redskins held the lead until midway through the fourth quarter. In fact, it wasn’t until the Seahawks took a 21-14 lead that Griffin’s knee completely gave out when he tried to scoop up a bad snap from his center.
Until that moment, Griffin likely had visions of a Gatorade commercial dancing in his head. He likely thought he was in the middle of his Michael Jordan flu game. He could see Bill Simmons preparing a 30-for-30 documentary about the day he beat the Seattle Seahawks on one leg.
Griffin stated that had the coaching staff tried to sit him, he would’ve run back onto the field. So with his team leading for the overwhelming majority of the game and his star QB defiant, what was Shanahan to do?
I’m not excusing Shanahan. But I’m saying there was considerable risk in benching RG3. Shanahan could’ve fractured his relationship with his rookie quarterback. Had RG3 complained in the aftermath, some of the very same people crucifying Shanahan for leaving him in the game would be crucifying Shanahan for taking him out.
Shanahan, who is white, is in a difficult spot. The Redskins represent one of the blackest and the most politically charged cities in America. Griffin, who is black, is a phenom. Black people and black sports fans are itching to discuss his race and itching to complain about racial unfairness as it relates to Griffin. Rob Parker’s misguided statements about Griffin being a “cornball brother” don’t begin to do justice to all the different ways Griffin is being discussed.
Shanahan submitted to the will of his star QB and was analogized to the fictional slave owner of Candyland.
The QB that everyone wanted Shanahan to send onto the field -- Kirk Cousins -- is the same QB some criticized Shanahan for drafting last year when he had already selected Griffin in the first round.
Shanahan could see what we could see. Griffin was hurting his team trying to be a hero. But Shanahan is in a political quagmire. Any decision he makes with Griffin can be second-guessed and spun into a Django analogy.
Moving forward, Shanahan will need the help of his young quarterback to navigate these dangerous waters. That’s going to require some humility and self-awareness from Griffin.