August 14, 2013
Anyone who has played sports always wants the chance to play and play as much as they can. The fact a player wants to play at all cost is something a head coach loves, but has to manage that want in a way where the best interest of the team isn’t compromised. This is the task Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan faces with franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III. RGIII is recovering from tearing his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and lateral collateral ligament (LCL) in his right knee. The QB believes he is ready to the point where he can play in the preseason, while Shanahan wants to hold him out until the season opener Sept. 9 against the Philadelphia Eagles. According to the comments from both parties in the past couple of days, there appears to be a rift between the two. Griffin III clearly doesn’t agree with how this situation is being handled by Shanahan, and he wants to play as soon as possible. This isn’t the first time a head coach and QB don’t see eye-to-eye, and it probably won’t be the last. With that said, this situation is unique because of what’s at stake and things that has happened in the past. The Redskins gave up a lot just for the chance to draft RGIII in April 2012. Clearly, RGIII was the guy who the team believes they can build the franchise around for years to come. So far, the returns say this will be a success, as RGIII was able to lead the team to their first NFC East title since the 1999 season. It’s no secret RGIII is as tough as they come and wants to make every play he can. Sometimes, that no fear attitude can lead to putting yourself in unnecessary danger, and that happened to him at times during his rookie season. RGIII suffered a mild concussion in last season’s Week 5 against the Atlanta Falcons. In Week 14 against the Baltimore Ravens, he injured his right knee when after getting hit by defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. This is where it gets dicey for me. RGIII didn’t play when the Redskins played the Cleveland Browns in Week 15, but returned the next week against the Eagles, who were just playing out the season. I believe the ‘Skins could’ve beaten the Eagles with backup QB Kirk Cousins, and RGIII could’ve been held out until the win-or-go home regular season finale against the Dallas Cowboys. When RGIII returned for the Eagles game, he clearly wasn’t the same player, running with a noticeable limp. Shanahan trusted the words of his franchise QB when he probably shouldn’t have. Fast forward to the NFC Wild Card game with the Seattle Seahawks, and we know the rest. Let’s understand injuries can happen anytime in not just sports, but life in general. Maybe RGIII’s injury would have been one that could have happened in the next game if the Redskins were able to advance. As the head coach, part of the job is to protect players from themselves because they’re never going to tell the coach they can’t play. While their mouths might say one thing, their actions are speaking loud and clear. Shanahan has a good memory, and the vision of RGIII’s right knee buckling in last season’s Wild Card game is fresh on the mind. This means one can understand why he wants to stick to the timetable and make sure things are as good as they can be before his franchise QB can comeback. Shanahan probably feels a little bit responsible for RGIII’s injury because he didn’t pull him out the game when he saw what was happening. I love RGIII’s passion and willingness to be there for his team, but he has to understand the long-term future as well. It’s okay to sit out the preseason games if it means being close to 100% when the games start to count. It’s also okay to live for the next play if something just isn’t there. I believe Shanahan does have the best interests of the team at heart, and he will not be as quick to trust in RGIII’s words as he was last season. That in itself is not as bad as it sounds in this case.
By Charles Taylor