I am back a day later than I expected because of a canceled flight out of Dublin, Ireland and a rerouting the next day from Dublin to Frankfurt to Washington. The sports news in Ireland does not focus on US happenings in any great detail but one headline in one of the tabloids did catch my eye one day. It was last week and it was after the story broke that there may have been some “less than full candor” coming from Mike Shanahan about the decision to put Robert Griffin III back into the Ravens game a month ago when Griffin first injured his knee. The Irish tabloid had one of the sub-headlines on the back page that read:
“Redskins’ doctor says Redskins’ coach is a liar.”
The British and Irish tabloids are very simple and basic publications; they are insensitive to nuance. After seeing that the Redskins lost last weekend, I was sure that there would be second-guessing in the Washington papers when I got home, but I did not come close to imagining the tsunami of tsouris I would encounter. The sports sections of both the Washington Post and the Washington Times are focused on the injury, the surgery, the rehabilitation schedule, the how and why this happened and just about nothing else. Allow me to intervene here for a moment:
The fact that Mike Shanahan did not tell the truth about how Robert Griffin III went back into the Ravens game while injured is not surprising at all. One of the key skills necessary to be a football coach is the ability to “make up a plausible story” that fits the needs of the moment. Coaches lie all the time. They lie to recruits; they lie to agents; they lie to players; they lie to reporters. [By the way, all those folks lie to the coaches too. It happens all the time.] Therefore, no one should be shocked to learn that what Mike Shanahan said right after the Ravens game about having had a discussion with the doctor who said that Griffin was good to go back into the game was “less than truthful”.
I think that there is a much more interesting dynamic at work here in terms of the thought processes of the folks who make the decisions for the Washington Redskins. [Aside: Based on all I have read to date, it would seem as if Danny Boy Snyder has stayed out of the way in terms of decision making here and that is a good thing. I doubt he would have been able to do that 5 years ago.] Let me explain…
After the injury in the Ravens game, Griffin sat out the next game against the Browns but returned to the field against the Eagles. For anyone who watched that game and did not see immediately that Griffin could not run – or even walk – the way he did in the opening game of the season, there are only two conclusions I can reach:
A. You are too blind to qualify for a driver’s license – or –
B. Your surname is Shanahan.
In my Mythical Picks for the final game of the year against Dallas, my comment about Griffin was:
“Is Robert Griffin III fully healthy? He did not run all that well last week against the Eagles.”
After watching the Redskins/Cowboys game, it was clear to me that his injury was more than a boo-boo – and I am not a physician or a trainer. In the Cowboys game, it was also clear to me that his knee injury was affecting his throwing motion and that his passes were not what they had been in previous games. The fact of the matter is that the Redskins won their final game of the year despite Griffin’s diminished running and passing skills. And that leads to a question that would test the prevarication skills of any football coach:
You have another rookie QB on the bench (Kirk Cousins) who has led a fourth quarter winning drive for you and who started and won the Browns’ game for you but you played a clearly diminished Robert Griffin III over him in a playoff game. Therefore, how much worse is a 100% healthy Kirk Cousins than a Robert Griffin III playing at 50% of capability?
I’ll hang up and listen for the answer – not a word of which will be the truth.
I spent about 90 minutes last night watching a recorded version of the Redskins/Seahawks game. Forget the theoretical debate about whether Griffin should have started the game. I think he should not have but I can respect the opinion of those who think he should. It was blatantly obvious to me after Griffin was hurt again in the first quarter of that game that he should never have been allowed on the field again. He was injured before the game started; he was more seriously injured in the first quarter; his mobility was limited on the first play of the game; his mobility was almost nothing by halftime. He should have been on the sidelines not because he was “ineffective” or because he “did not give the team a good chance to win”. He should have been on the sidelines because on the field, he was a sitting duck and every step he took on that miserable field and every hit he took made the knee worse and worse. And now we have surgery and questions about his viability for the opening game of next season…
I do not read minds so I cannot pretend to know what Mike Shanahan was thinking as he allowed/encouraged/enabled Robert Griffin III to start on an injured knee in three consecutive games. I do know this:
Mike Shanahan is the head coach of the Redskins and has final say on all “football matters”.
Who starts and who plays in any given game is a “football matter”.
The entire burden for the outcome(s) of those decisions rests in Mike Shanahan’s lap.
Speaking of NFL coaches, I have to say that I was surprised to see Andy Reid take the job as the coach of the KC Chiefs. Reid already did one stint taking over the worst team in the league when he signed on with the Eagles. [Recall that the Eagles had the #2 pick in the draft that year only because the expansion Cleveland Browns had the #1 pick.] Now, after more than a decade with a competitive team, he chose to go to the worst team in the league again (arguably) and to a team that has serious QB talent issues in a year when there are not a lot of great college QBs in the draft. This almost sounds like a case study in masochism…
Finally, here is an item from Brad Rock in the Deseret News:
“Last week’s Poinsettia Bowl ended with the announcement that longtime BYU assistant coach Lance Reynolds was retiring.
“Yes, you could call it a Reynolds wrap.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………