So let’s get this straight. Daniel Snyder says orthopedic surgeon James Andrews will have the final say on when Robert Griffin III is ready to play. Mike Shanahan doesn’t disagree, but adds that he would sit Griffin if he felt it was necessary, even if Griffin didn’t. After an exam by Andrews, in which Andrews actually “put his hands” on Griffin — this shouldn’t be a big deal, but apparently it was unusual enough that Griffin felt he should mention it — and now Griffin says he’s done all he can do to get ready. He’s leaving it up to the experts.
Who are the experts? Good question. Griffin probably would still like to be the expert. Last week he announced he wanted to play in a preseason and fully expected to; Shanahan needed roughly two seconds to shoot that down. The troubling part of that exchange was Griffin’s admission that “I don’t understand all” of Shanahan’s plan for his rehabilitation. Griffin later issued a statement saying there was no rift between him and his coach. Having to issue such a statement is usually not a good sign. Griffin said Wednesday that he’d thought about not being honest in his interviews, but has decided against being “Bill Belichick” all week, for which we give thanks.
Between minute-by-minute updates on Griffin, Kirk Cousins’s foot injury and the Battle for the Clipboard between Rex Grossman and Pat White, it’s Quarterbackpalooza 2013. Or just another summer in Washington.
Of course, Andrews should be the expert and probably will be the expert, now that he has Snyder’s imprimatur. The idea is to eliminate last season’s kerfuffle over the quarterback’s ability to continue to play against Seattle. Yet Griffin said that while Andrews will make the decision, he hasn’t given Griffin any advice for the next three weeks, nor has he given Griffin a date for his final ruling.
What’s interesting about all the hoo-ha over Griffin’s status is not the details so much as it is the continuing demonstration, through word and deed, that no one is communicating well with each other. That little exchange involving the preseason — in which Griffin has no business playing, by the way — turned into Griffin talking about promises made and Shanahan reiterating that if there were no setbacks, Griffin would be ready for Week 1 of the regular season.
It’s become bizarre, the constant back and forth between the coach and quarterback. It’s great for the media, because let’s face it: Griffin is the gift that just keeps giving. He talks a lot, and he actually answers questions. It’s great for fans, because it gives them something to talk about before the season starts.
But it can’t possibly be great for Griffin, who clearly needs firm answers — he doesn’t seem to thrive under uncertainty, and because I suffer from a similar condition I have some sympathy for that — and while rehab often offers no firm answers, he at least ought to know what he should be doing, when he’ll see Andrews again, and on what day Andrews will make his decision about Week 1. It doesn’t need to be revealed via sky-writing over Redskins Park, but it’s clear from Griffin’s behavior that knowing those three things would ease his mind and help make that “Operation Patience” T-shirt easier to don.
And if the situation is not great for Griffin, it’s really not great for Shanahan, who lacks the public charm necessary to combat Griffin’s news conferences. And it’s not great for the team, either. Players don’t mind if a teammate holds out for more money and they forgive suspensions more quickly than fans. But they don’t like being constantly asked about someone other than themselves. Ask the Washington Nationals about Stephen Strasburg’s rookie year, or Bryce Harper’s rookie year.
One of the hardest parts of managing a large group of people, no matter what the profession, is learning that what motivates one person means nothing to another. Griffin clearly needs to have a sense of control over his own health, his own body. Is Shanahan able to bend enough to at least give him the illusion he has that? Given past practices, I’d say it’s doubtful.
And then there’s Andrews, who has to walk a fine line between dealing with his patient and dealing with the team, because he works for both. Is he Griffin’s doctor, or is he treating Griffin in his capacity as the Redskins’ team doctor, or both? Pulling off that double play — he really is the expert.
For more by Tracee Hamilton, visit washingtonpost.com/hamilton.