Look, the eye test will tell you Griffin should not have been out there. The more you watched him — his gait, his body language — you just cringed in pain for the kid.
But if you’re Mike Shanahan, you know two things: 1) you wouldn’t be here if No. 10 had not taken you along on this magic-carpet ride with him. And 2) Robert Griffin III has shown to have more recuperative powers than Lazarus, having already played the same week he suffered a concussion and he took the practice field after what everyone thought was a grotesque end-of-the-season knee injury against Baltimore.
You were either going to the mountaintop with him or down in flames. There was no in between. When you’re dealing with the guts and heart of men like Shanahan and Griffin, that’s how it’s always going to be.
Also, ask yourself this — and be honest: Would you have felt any differently about Shanahan’s decision if Washington wins this game, that somehow, some way, a hobbled Griffin led them back from the brink to their first playoff victory in seven years?
He would have been feted like Willis Reed was in 1973, like Kirk Gibson double-clutching his fist as he limped around the bases after his miraculous walk-off homer.
The point is, many of us feel differently — offended in some corners, disgusted in others — because of the outcome. I don’t remember anyone questioning the coaching or medical staffs of the Knicks, Dodgers and Bulls for putting their players at risk of further injury.
Those are the forever moments in sports we put up on pedestals, to remind us, after all the money and the glory and the fame, how much another human being actually wants it.
Did Shanahan err? Probably. Did Griffin? Sure. But it’s not that easy to just tear the coach apart. In fact, I can’t do it. Mike Shanahan and Robert Griffin III, had they been born at the same time, could have been brothers from another mother when it comes to who they are as people, as persevering survivors.
The reason more than 80,000 people rose in euphoria at FedEx Field the past few months is precisely because of the heart and resilience of the coach and the quarterback. You take that away from them, you make them rational, clear-thinking adults in the crucible of competition . . . there is no playoff game for the first time in 13 years in Washington on Sunday.
It’s their nature. It’s who they are. And all the recriminations in the world will not change that.
For previous columns by Mike Wise, visit washingtonpost.com/wise.