The RGIII magic finally ceased Sunday at Fed Ex Field (USA TODAY SPORTS IMAGES)
WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- Most of you are going to lambast Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan for the next six months. You are going to call him irresponsible, liable for his quarterback's knee injury and even a liar -- in the wake of USA Today's Dr. James Andrew's report.
I'm not going to verbally berate Shanahan. He doesn't deserve that. And here's why.
1) An unwritten NFL rule: At the end of the season, your best player doesn't come off the field unless he says so.
Example A: DeMarcus Ware played against the Redskins in week 17 with one arm. He was quite ineffective. But you better believe Cowboys coach Jason Garrett had no reservations risking further injury to Ware in case he did produce a game-changing play.
Okay, so you'll argue that the quarterback position is a different animal.
And I'll argue Donovan McNabb threw four touchdowns on a broken ankle. Steve McNair played some of his best football on one leg. I shouldn't even have to explain Brett Favre's history to you -- or how about Jay Cutler's legacy for sitting out an NFC Championship game and costing his team the game.
NFL players, specifically superstar quarterbacks, are the closest thing we have in today's society to Roman gladiators. Simply put, there just isn't a way to tell these guys to come off the field. Especially when you are someone as highly respected as Robert Griffin III. And especially when the season is on the line.
2) If you put in Kirk Cousins after half time and lose, Shanahan looks even more foolish than some of you think he looks now
I can picture the Fox broadcast like clockwork.
Kirk Cousins throws a pick-six to the locally despised Seahawk defender Richard Sherman. The lanky cornerback streaks down the sideline, jumps into the stands -- a la RGIII's Minnesota touchdown run -- and puts a finger to his lips, hushing a silent Fed Ex crowd.
Joe Buck: "You've gotta' think every Redskins fan in the country is fuming at Mike Shanahan's decison to sit his pro bowl quarterback. Troy, It's win or go home."
Troy Aikman: "If I'm RGIII, there's no way I would allow myself to come off the field. I'd be sick to my stomach watching this as a competitor."
Fox then cuts to the sideline. First it's DeAngelo Hall throwing his helmet in disgust. Then it's Rex Grossman trying to coach up Cousins. Finally a close-up of a teary-eyed Griffin.
By sitting RGIII, not only would Shanahan have potentially betrayed the entire fan base, he'd have seriously jeopardized his relationship with Griffin. Although it would never be admitted publicly, an underlying resentment would exist for a long period of time -- potentially dividing the locker room. And D.C. residents know very well how fractured relationships can cripple success over night.
Damned if you do, damned if you don't.
3) What other NFL coach would have benched RGIII?
Listen, I'm a Cousins believer. But the Redskins had the lead going into the fourth quarter, even if it didn't feel like it. Please name me one NFL coach who would've put his balls on the table like that. Maybe someone like Tony Dungy. Probably not.
When your Mike Shanahan, and you've won seven games in a row, and your team captain tells you this quote:
"I can guarantee I'm hurt right now but give me a chance to win this football game because I guarantee I'm not injured," as Shanahan relayed his quarterback's message to reporters following the game.
If you honestly could look Griffin in the eyes and tell him to go sit on the bench, you are a machine. It's human nature to reward the people you love and trust, even during underlying circumstances.
4) Just because RGIII lacked scrambling ability, doesn't mean he couldn't be effective
Yes, I will obviously agree that RGIII was more hobbled than he was in Philadelphia in week 16. But who is to say that he couldn't find some rhythm in the touch passing game like he did against the Eagles? On the Thanksgiving Day game in Dallas -- one of Griffin's best career games -- the quarterback rushed for a mere 29 yards.
This is a pro bowl quarterback we are talking about here. He beat out the likes of Drew Brees, Eli Manning etc. at the throwing position. He's proved he can deliver damaging blows to the defense using his arm, even on a bad knee.
There's no doubting that Griffin had a poor performance in his first ever playoff game. I'm sure lots of it was based on the additional pain he suffered after landing awkwardly in the first quarter. The combination of that, and Seattle's staunch defense was too much to overcome.
But admit to yourself when he trotted out on the field, down 21-14 with 7:08 left to play, you hadn't ruled out the Redskins chances. He's proved to be magical all throughout 2012. He alone spews optimism and the chance to win, even on a bum knee. On Sunday, he finally failed.
Griffin's knee will be debated about until training camp. Before you go and rip Mike Shanahan a new you-know-what, just remember the decision wasn't as easy as a yes-or-no answer. And I truly would've made the same one he did.