An afternoon that began with so much promise — with the burgundy-and-gold carrying its seven-game winning streak into the franchise’s first home playoff game since 2000, then sprinting to a 14-0 lead behind Griffin, its brilliant rookie signal-caller – ended in about as ugly a fashion as possible: with the Redskins losing a slim fourth-quarter lead and watching their franchise cornerstone crumpled on the battered turf, holding his injured right knee.
The most successful and captivating Redskins season in a very long time is over, and where there ought to have been a silver lining of hope — for a future tethered to the 22-year-old Griffin, who has lifted the Redskins to unimaginable heights in his first season — instead, as 84,325 fans headed for the parking lots, there was only concern for that same future.
And there were questions, lots of questions. Chief among them: Should an obviously hobbled Griffin have been in the game at all when his knee finally buckled in the fourth quarter? And if Griffin was insisting on staying in, as he later said, should someone have overruled him?
Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan, who ultimately made the decision to allow Griffin to continue playing Sunday, despite visual evidence that suggested he was compromised, acknowledged afterward that it was a “gut” decision, but one that he based upon multiple conversations with Griffin.
“He said: ‘Trust me. I want to be in there, and I deserve to be in there.’ And I couldn’t disagree with him,” Shanahan said. “You have to go with your gut. I’m not saying my gut was right. . . . I’ll probably second-guess myself.”
Said Griffin: “Mike asked me if I was okay, and I said yes. I’m the quarterback of this team. My job is to be out there, if I can play. . . . I wasn’t coming out of that game.”
Griffin was expected to undergo an MRI exam Sunday night to determine the severity of his injury. Four weeks ago, in a regular season game against Baltimore, Griffin suffered a grade-one sprain of his lateral collateral ligament; since returning to action two weeks later, he has worn a bulky brace on the knee to protect him from further injury.
For winning 10 regular season games and its first division title in 13 years, for reeling off seven straight wins after a 3-6 nadir at midseason, for recapturing the hearts and imaginations of their beleaguered fans, the Redskins’ reward was this — the franchise’s first home playoff game in 4,751 days.