Hindsight is 20/20 except in Washington, where apparently the MRI machines aren’t in focus, because Robert Griffin III is leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when he’ll be back again. He’s Pensacola-bound Tuesday to be “examined” by Dr. James Andrews.
This is not good news. Andrews was in Washington on Sunday. Griffin was in Washington on Sunday. There were wonderful hospitals in Washington on Sunday, as there are every other day of the week. But the MRI exam taken of Griffin was open to interpretation, according to Coach Mike Shanahan, and Andrews was needed at the national championship game Monday night in Miami. So they’re all Pensacola-bound. Perhaps they have a Magic Resonance Imaging machine there. That would be nice.
It was difficult to distinguish between old and new injuries on the MRI taken here, it seems. Maybe Andrews left his good eyeglasses back in the office. Although hundreds of thousands of medical degrees have been issued in Washington since Sunday night’s game ended, Andrews has had his longer, so fine, let him take a good, close look. Even when we finally learn the answer to the big question — how bad is it? — a million little ones will remain, leaving Washington Redskins fans right back where they’ve been so many Januarys before: second-guessing, what-if-ing and finger pointing. If you thought this offseason would be different, think again.
Speaking of thinking again, it’s easy to propose that Shanahan should have removed Griffin after the first time he went down hard, stayed down, and pulled off his helmet — his version of a distress signal. It’s easy to say Griffin should not have been playing. And it’s way too easy to make the Mike Comparison (Rizzo vs. Shanahan) and the Superstar Comparison (Stephen Strasburg vs. Griffin) and declare the Nats the winner.
What we know is that Strasburg will be rested and ready when he reports to Viera next month. What we don’t know is when Griffin will be rested and ready again. What we know about Griffin is that he is a fitness freak, a workout warrior, and no matter the injury, my money’s on him to recover from it. A knee injury, no matter the severity, isn’t the guaranteed career-ender it was not so long ago.
What the Redskins hopefully have learned is that Griffin, while both savvy and smart, is not a doctor. He doesn’t play one on TV, but apparently he plays one on the sideline and at Redskins Park. The coaching staff listened to his self-diagnosis, and because they desperately wanted to believe it, he was allowed to play, and keep playing. It must be hard to say no to Griffin, but someone has to be the grown-up. The Redskins have an entire coaching staff of grown-ups, including the grownup-est of all, Mike Shanahan. He would have been booed to Kingdom Come if he had sat RGIII after that first hit. So what? His job isn’t in jeopardy; the Redskins are considering extending his contract.
Don’t get me wrong: I think letting Griffin start Sunday was the right call. Letting Griffin continue to play after he went down the first time was not. It was clear he could run, sort of, but he couldn’t cut and he had no burst. That’s one of his weapons gone — and incidentally, without the notion that Griffin could break loose at any time, Alfred Morris’s threat level is lowered considerably. It was also clear Griffin couldn’t throw with his normal accuracy because he couldn’t plant his injured leg. A quarterback who can’t run and can’t throw is . . . you or me. With Korey Lichtensteiger on the sideline, further depleting a banged-up offensive line, the Redskins needed to find a quarterback who could run and throw. If only they were allowed to have two on the active roster . . . oh wait!
And before the finger-pointing ends, let’s direct our attention to the field conditions at FedEx. Was the field responsible for Griffin’s second injury? It certainly didn’t help. Asked about the field after the game, Griffin departed from his usual loquacious diplomacy and said simply, “That’s just part of our home-field advantage.”
Read between those lines.
The field looked dreadful on TV (it was the first thing Joe Buck and Troy Aikman mentioned at the opening of the telecast), and a lot of players from both teams limped to the sidelines during the game. Some returned; others didn’t. It has looked increasingly bad over the final home games of the regular season, but never as barren as it looked Sunday. There is no excuse for this; Landover is not Green Bay. Dan Snyder has been willing to spend a lot of money on FedEx Field; it’s time to spend a lot of money on the field at FedEx.
“It’s not a perfect field, we know that,” Shanahan said Monday, adding that he is not opposed to artificial turf and that the field is something the team will look at in the offseason. “. . . I thought the field was okay because I didn’t see guys slipping. But you would like to have the perfect field, yes.”
Snyder has spent money for the best orthopedist money can buy. So are the Redskins listening to him? Depends whom you ask. Shanahan tried Monday to clear up the confusion about what Andrews said and when, and as usual, the waters are merely muddier. Too bad, because Andrews is the perfect answer to the conundrum the Redskins faced Sunday. When an injured player wants to get back on the field and a coach wants to believe he’s healthy enough, someone has to be King Solomon. Andrews seems suited for the part.
Sports does not embrace caution, nor does it celebrate a “me-first” attitude. Think of every canned sports quote you’ve ever heard, from “leaving it all on the field” to “giving 110 percent.” What is cliché to us is gospel to athletes — they really believe this stuff. It’s asking a lot for one of them to change that attitude in the middle of his first playoff game.
That’s why the decision needs to be made by someone, if you’ll pardon another cliché, with no dog in the hunt. Andrews is paid by the Redskins but not beholden to them. If he’s fired today, every other NFL team in the country will try to hire him. Plus he has a healthy little practice down South; he’ll be fine.
Griffin, however, may not be. And until there is some hierarchy and cohesion in making decisions about injuries, during and between games, the Redskins may not be fine, either.
For previous columns by Tracee Hamilton, visit washingtonpost.
More on the Redskins:
Eugene Robinson: Don’t blame Shanahan
Poll: Was Shanahan wrong?
Photos: Griffin’s knee injury