Should the Redskins Have Benched RGIII for Kirk Cousins?

Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistJanuary 6, 2013

Were the Redskins right in allowing Robert Griffin III to remain in the game?
Were the Redskins right in allowing Robert Griffin III to remain in the game?Al Bello/Getty Images

Head coach Mike Shanahan and the Washington Redskins decided to play Robert Griffin III in the NFC Wild Card game against the Seattle Seahawks despite RGIII suffering from a knee injury. 

The end result was an ineffective Griffin, who appeared to further injure himself in a losing effort, which brings up the question—why was Griffin allowed to stay in the game in the first place?

Washington jumped out to an early 14-0 lead, courtesy of two RGIII touchdown passes, but do not let those numbers fool you. Griffin was ineffective the entire game and finished with just 84 yards passing on 10 completions. 

Griffin was visibly in pain the entire game, limping around the pocket and down the field any time he decided to run the ball himself. 

The decision to keep Griffin in the game culminated in his knee giving out late in the fourth quarter with the team down seven. RGIII fell to the ground while attempting to recover a bad snap and had to be helped off the field. 

Not only was the decision to keep RGIII in the game hazardous to his health, it was short-sighted and shockingly aggressive from Shanahan. 

Of course, after the game Shanahan told the media he would not have played Griffin if he thought he could further injure himself (h/t Mike Jones via Twitter):

Shanahan: "we would not play Robert if we thought there was a risk of him further injuring that LCL"

— Mike Jones (@MikeJonesWaPo) January 7, 2013

What is interesting is that Shanahan and his staff appeared to have more foresight than this. The team drafted Kirk Cousins in the fourth round of last year's draft despite having already selected Griffin in the first. 

It is not as if Cousins has never shown the ability to win games, either. Cousins did quite the opposite back in Week 15 when he lead the team over the Cleveland Browns by throwing for 329 yards and two touchdowns. 

Having a fourth-round rookie start a playoff game is not ideal, but putting him in the game with a 14-point lead is not a horrible idea. 

Heck, riding the hot hand of rookie running back Alfred Morris would have likely worked out just fine with Cousins at quarterback. Morris had gained 80 yards on just 16 carries. If that number were bumped to around 25, we could be talking about a Washington victory with RGIII on the bench. 

Instead, Shanahan and his staff allowed Griffin to stay in the game, which allowed him to continually be on the receiving end of vicious hits. He had a target on his back thanks to his highly publicized injury, and the physical Seattle defense took advantage every chance it could. 

The signs for Griffin's injury were there. He could not plant to make a throw, and he certainly could not move like he was earlier in the season. 

As a result, Shanahan and his staff has jeopardized the future of the Redskins with one short-sighted mistake, if Griffin truly ends up being further injured. With all respect to Cousins, Griffin is the man the organization gave up four high-valued picks for in order to move up and select. 

It is understandable to want to keep your best player in the game, but Griffin was not even playing well. Shanahan probably had Griffin telling him he was fine each and every time he came to the sideline, but the final decision needs to come from a doctor, not a 22-year-old rookie and a stubborn coach attempting to change his legacy. 

How Shanahan handled Griffin was both stubborn and short-sighted. Griffin should not have remained in the game. The risk of further injury simply was not worth it, and Cousins had a better shot at winning the game for Washington at that point. 


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