x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Mike Shanahan hasn't got a leg to stand on over RG3

The Washington Redskins head coach made a gut call over his young quarterback last week, and he got it drastically wrong.

Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III injured his knee last week against Seattle Seahawks in the NFL play-offs and has had to have surgery. Matt Slocum / AP Photo
Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III injured his knee last week against Seattle Seahawks in the NFL play-offs and has had to have surgery. Matt Slocum / AP Photo

He listened to his gut. So said Mike Shanahan -which, given the din inside a football stadium, suggests his gut is quite loud.

Loud enough to drown out the brain waves that surely were telling the coach of the NFL's Washington Redskins to remove from the game his wounded quarterback, Robert Griffin III, for the sake of the young man known as RG3 and for the club's sake, too.

RG3 was reduced to a limp after an early injury to his right knee. But Shanahan's excuse for not replacing him was far more lame, a decision that set the bar for coaching idiocy so high, on 2013's first weekend, that no one is likely to surpass it over the next 11 months.

The backstory: Griffin sprained the lateral collateral ligament (LCL) in his right knee a month earlier. Shanahan acknowledged awareness of the injury, which is not necessarily incapacitating but worth monitoring, especially when the sprained knee belongs to your best player.

Cut to early in last Sunday's play-off game against Seattle, Griffin's knee buckled on a roll-out pass. He flung off his helmet in frustration, perhaps worried his game was over.

But no. Shanahan, heeding messages from his midsection instead of his head, exposed the Redskins' Hope Diamond to further injury and embarrassed a league supposedly exhibiting greater concern for player safety.

It would be a relief to know that the bootleg keeper that Griffin ran - well, more like walked - in the fourth quarter was called by the person who executed it.

If it were Shanahan who dialled up a play for someone who probably should have been in a wheelchair, I would prefer not to know.

No medical degree is required to reasonably conclude that Griffin had become vulnerable to serious injury. Sure enough, in the fourth quarter, the knee buckled when he bent over to fetch a wayward centre snap, and he collapsed.

Surgery on the knee, described as "total reconstructive", happened on Wednesday after a torn anterior cruciate ligament, along with the torn LCL, was diagnosed.

Shanahan, who failed at his role to control potential damage to Griffin, went into damage control for himself after the game. His defence: Griffin wanted to stay in.

Well, of course. RG3 is 22 and a football player, and football players never want to come out. They are raised to play in pain. Only wild horses could have dragged him out. Or the donkey that is his coach.

Shanahan is 60, an NFL coach since before Griffin's birth. He knows better than to rely on any athlete to offer full disclosure about an injury.

Otherwise, the concussion protocol instituted by the league in part to protect players from themselves would be unnecessary.

Besides, even if Griffin were a robot (as his Star Wars-ish nickname might convey) rather than flesh, fast-twitch fibre and blood, the Redskins would have been better served with their backup Kirk Cousins. Pressed into duty three games earlier, Cousins threw for 329 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-21 victory over Cleveland.

Yes, that is a small statistical sample, but it would seem to suggest that Cousins at 100 per cent would have presented Washington with a clearer lane to victory than RG3 on one leg.

Now they must hope that Griffin's rehabilitation proceeds as scheduled, which would deliver him to training camp in optimum shape. Justice dictates that Shanahan endures sleepless, guilt-ridden nights, until then.

It is never too late in life to learn. Perhaps Shanahan will have discovered that, when his gut tells him something so loudly that he cannot hear his brain, the proper response is: pipe down.

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