Robert Griffin III: Moving forward, Redskins need a new plan

The Washington Post’s LaVar Arrington describes the complex coach-player relationship in the NFL and how that dynamic played a key role in Mike Shanahan’s decision not to bench Robert Griffin III in the Redskins’ loss to Seattle on Sunday. (The Washington Post)

It’s time to dial back the debate on whether Mike Shanahan should have pulled Robert Griffin III earlier in Sunday’s playoff game and focus on the next important decision Shanahan will make: when to bring Griffin back.

Orthopedic surgeon James Andrews said after Tuesday’s procedure that he expected Griffin to be back for the 2013 season. The most optimistic prediction has recovery taking six to eight months. Lesser optimism gives it nine to 12 months. The least optimistic, of course, is that Griffin will never play again.

I refuse to believe that third scenario, given Griffin’s tremendous work ethic. He’ll be back to pulling tires, eating Subway sandwiches and washing them down with Gatorade before we know it. But in six to eight months? That would put him ready to play for the season opener — without any offseason work, training camp or exhibition games. (If the Redskins use him in any exhibition game for the rest of his career, they’re crazy. Talk about a ridiculous risk-to-reward ratio.)

But whatever the Redskins do, they will be scrutinized like never before — and that’s saying something, in this town. Bring him back too early, and all the strides the Redskins made this season — largely behind Griffin — will be lost. Bring him back with a completely unchanged playbook, and Griffin may be lost, for good.

The Redskins botched this. The apparent lack of communication between Coach Mike Shanahan and Andrews is inexcusable, and leaves us wondering who knew what and when he knew it. Leaving Griffin in Sunday’s game after the first time he went down is also inexcusable, given Kirk Cousins’s success during the season as his backup. We can speculate till the cows come home about Cousins, but three quarters would have given him a better shot than the seven minutes in hell he was given Sunday. (Okay, it was 6 minutes19 seconds.)

Unless something dramatic happens, the same people will be called upon to make the same decisions about Griffin sometime this summer. By then, the outrage of January will have been replaced by . . . outrage over something else, I would imagine. Outrage is all the rage these days. But the Redskins need to remember what they’ve heard over the past five days, from doctors, other players, fans and yes, even the media.

Even if they are heartless automatons who care nothing about Griffin as a person — and I don’t believe that to be true — they need to remember that they made him the face of the franchise for a reason. A ruined Griffin doesn’t just hurt them in the bank account and on the draft board — it kills the esprit de corps among Redskins fans that they managed to build this season. (That also hurts the bank account.)

They need to prepare a new playbook for Griffin, with fewer scripted runs, and they need to fine him every time he refuses to step out of bounds in an effort to get one more yard. They need to prepare a playbook for Cousins. And they need to prepare a playbook for a blend of the two, in case Griffin is ready to play during the season and the Redskins want to try to work him back in, though that would be hard.

There is no question when Griffin thinks he’ll be ready — two weeks sooner than anyone’s prediction. He’s that guy. That’s one reason they made him captain. And that’s one reason he should never have the final say in whether he is ready to play.

Shanahan will be more cautious than Griffin, but will he be cautious enough? I think so, after this week’s outcry. He seemed confused when questioned Sunday about who said what and what happened when on the sideline. That’s hardly surprising. During a game he should not be making medical decisions. He’s got 53 players to watch, and everybody’s talking at him, including son and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

The hope, of course, is that Griffin and Shanahan — like everyone else — have learned a lesson from the events of this past weekend. Griffin has to acknowledge that his style of play is going to shorten his career if he doesn’t take more precautions. The Redskins, as a franchise, need to have a strict protocol in place, and while Shanahan and Griffin and the trainers can express opinions, a doctor should make the final determination.

But that’s only the hope. And as Shakespeare wrote,

The Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg, LaVar Arrington, Jason Reid and Jonathan Forsythe discuss Robert Griffin III’s knee injury, the complex relationship between Griffin and Mike Shanahan, the warrior mentality that forces most players to play through injury and finally offer some bold predictions for the 2013 Washington Redskins. (The Washington Post)

“The miserable have no other medicine

But only hope.”

Definitive proof, at least, that Shakespeare was a Redskins fan.

For previous columns by Tracee Hamilton, visit washingtonpost.
com/hamilton
.

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