By: Eric Thomas
The NFL has always rewarded tough guys. They backslap players who play through injuries. The focus is win now, because you might not get another chance. If you’re sore, rub some dirt on it and get back in the game.
This is the player’s mentality, and it should be commended. If someone is going to play in the NFL, if someone asks you to run through a brick wall your only question should be “How fast?”
But if you are going to be a head coach in the NFL, your job is to be the boss. You’re paid to make unpopular decisions and tuck your head when the inevitable storm starts raining down. This is why Mike Shanahan deserves the heat he’s getting for Robert Griffin III’s knee. You can’t assume the role of the boss and defer your decisions. That’s not how it works. You can’t hide behind your rookie quarterback, even though he’s spent the season hiding behind him.
Dr James Andrews might want to enter witness protection. Unfortunately, the people who set him up in the federal program are often Skins fans. He might need to defect to a country without an American embassy. How a purported ligament genius looked at RG3’s play in the first half of that playoff game and stood by idle is a mystery to everyone with eyes. Dr Andrews might be more hated in DC than Dan Snyder right now and that’s saying something.
People think the “toughness” question can be applied no matter what the circumstances. People have been holding up filament all week, attempting to compare and contrast the situation with Christian Ponder, RG3 and Jay Cutler. Cutler, especially, was of course widely ridiculed for sitting on the sidelines in the biggest game of his life.
Players everywhere piled on, calling Cutler soft. Ponder avoided the scrutiny and there have been other players who didn’t dress for playoff games. Perhaps we should keep in mind that there may have been more factors in NFL players criticizing Cutler. Maybe they just don’t like him. Acting like every situation is the same is stupid. The only thing those three incidents have in common is all three teams lost.
You would think that in this era of player safety and concussion controversy, an apparent genius like Dr James Andrews would watch with a more strict eye. Redskin fans were screaming on Twitter at halftime, calling for RG3 to have a seat.
Kinda ironic this is happening in DC, in the same season where Nats management sat Stephen Strasberg. As much as I hate this comparison, because one of the players gets tackled and the other doesn’t, there is one undeniable aspect: Strasberg is healthy and rested for spring training.
I totally get that teams and coaches are supposed to put it all on the line in the playoffs. Caution to the wind and all that. But when you’re a team that gave up you two drafts for one player, you have to make a business decision. RG3 got them to the playoffs, just like Strasberg. Sometimes that’s enough. This is where the player and the head coach have to part company. The player can only think about now. The head coach has to see the big picture. The doctor CERTAINLY has to think about the big picture.
I don’t fault RG3 at all for saying he can play. That’s what he’s supposed to do. Shanahan needs to protect the product. He failed.
Part of being the boss is living with the consequences. Some fans might argue that Mike Shanahan’s goose was cooked either way. If he sat RG3, the chorus of boos would have rang down from high. They would have been roasted for thinking about next year in a playoff game they were winning. It would have been bad, but not nearly as bad as selfishly keeping your star player in the game when he’s already injured. If Shanahan doesn’t like the criticism, tough. It’s the job. Take the criticism now and have your star quarterback available in training camp. That’s a lot better than hoping for successful surgery and rehab.
Some fans shrug their shoulders, saying that RG3 will be back by the start of next season. Right. That’s coming from the same optimistic source that kept the kid in the game. At a minimum, his growth will be stunted. He will have to go without training camp or offseason workouts this year. Treating Griffin like he’s already a veteran is understandable after this year, but he will enter his second season at a disadvantage. That’s all on Shanahan.
If I was a Redskin fan, I would want Shanny on the next MARC train. Get RG3 a coach he deserves, and not one that he must succeed in spite of. Shanahan proved he didn’t have the stones to make the tough decision, and Griffin’s knee was the casualty.