The Redskins, RG3 and the Knee

by E. "Doc" Smith on January 9, 2013

The Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III is looking at surgery for his torn ACL/LCL in his knee, following a dramatic season which ended at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks last Sunday. After hobbling on his injured knee following victories over the Baltimore Ravens and the Dallas Cowboys, the Redskins enjoyed a 7-0 run that propelled them into the playoffs as the winner of the NFC East. My younger brother and I were even looking forward to a potential Redskins vs. 49ers game at Candlestick; if only the Minnesota Vikings could beat the Green Bay Packers and the Redskins could defeat the Seahawks. So much for the best laid plans of mice and men. The Vikings lost, making the plan moot.

Nevertheless, the Redskins could still make things interesting, and after going up 14-0 on the Seahawks, they seemed to be in command of the game. It was not to be, as the Seahawks scored 24 unanswered points and RG3, the franchise QB gets injured, aggravating his knee. The debate in DC rages on. Should Mike Shanahan, the coach of the Redskins have pulled the clearly hobbling QB and replaced him sooner with Kirk Cousins, the back-up who saved the day after RG3’s initial injury a few games earlier? Should he have left RG3 in the game as he did, risking Heisman Trophy winner and savior of the Redskins franchise?

For me, growing up a Redskins fan in DC meant annual trips to the famed DC/RFK Stadium, the home of “the Squire”, aka the late owner Jack Kent Cooke; hating the Dallas Cowboys and the heartbreak of losing to the Tom Landry led teams with Roger Staubach and Tony Dorsett; the Jimmy Johnson led teams of Troy Aikmen, Michael Irvin, “Prime Time” Deion Sanders and the 38-9 Super Bowl debacle at the hands of the Raiders; listening to Sonny Jurgensen, Sam Huff and Frank Herzog call games on the radio; losing to the undefeated Miami Dolphins in the 1972 Super Bowl and getting our revenge 10 years later with Coach Joe Gibbs and the Hogs; the joy of watching the talents of Charley Taylor, Art Monk, John Riggins, Doug Williams, Gary Clark, Clint Didier, Mark Moseley, the “Fun Bunch”, the “Smurfs” and the cherished victories over the Broncos and the Buffalo Bills in the subsequent Super Bowls, and joining the 49ers and the NY Giants as NFC powerhouses of the ’90s.

Now that I’ve made San Francisco my home, I’ve happily become a 49er fan, As ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser, a former sports writer for the Washington Post once said, “You root for the City you live in”. He’s right, but I will always be the kid who ran around Rock Creek Park’s fields at Carter Barron with a yellow Redskins helmet on, pretending to be running back Larry Brown. My Dad was actually from Baltimore, but never liked the Colts. He felt they weren’t the most racially diverse team back then, and when they sneaked off to Indianapolis in the dead of night in the ’80s, he hated them even more. In an ironic twist of fate, he once told me that many African Americans in Baltimore rooted for the Cleveland Browns instead, in part because of Jim Brown. He had mixed feelings about the Browns becoming the Ravens in 1995, but was pleased Cleveland later got the Browns back. He loved the Ravens almost as much as the Redskins. As for my Mom, she was a Redskins fan all they way, and grew up near the old Griffith Stadium, next to Howard University where my Uncles played and starred as football players in the 1950s.

The competitive, professional athlete will typically demand to stay in a game, even if in pain, until they can no longer physically perform. RG3, the rookie QB is one such player and demanded to be kept in the game, despite an injury that everyone could see, kept him him from performing at a level high enough to beat the surging Seahawks, one of the hottest teams in the league right now- just ask the 49ers. The Chicago Bears found themselves in a similar situation not long ago, when their QB Jay Cutler took himself out of a game, and drew the ire of his team and the fans for not “toughing it out”.

Before I offer my opinion, I can recall attending a Pittsburg Steelers vs. the New York Jets playoff game at Shea Stadium in the 1980’s. The Steelers, winner of multiple Super Bowls were in the midst of a transition, phasing out the injured and aging QB Terry Bradshaw. The game was even, until the Steelers inserted Bradshaw for several plays, producing some incredible passes, and culminating in the go ahead touchdown. Once the Steelers were ahead, they pulled Bradshaw and maintained the lead to preserve the victory with their back up QB. Bradshaw was amazing, even hobbled, however the Jets never had an answer. That’s how good he was.

Shanahan didn’t pull RG3 it until it was too late, and by then, the Seahawks were on a roll. RG3 claimed he would have thrown a fit if he was pulled earlier, but sometimes a coach needs to believe what his eyes are telling him and go against the player in the best interests of the team. Kornheiser agreed with Shanahan, but would have pulled RG3 at halftime, as others have suggested. Kornheiser noted that his daughter, a die-hard fan, would have pulled RG3 after going up 14-0, and based on what I’ve seen and with 20-20 hindsight, I tend to agree with her. In Shanahan’s defense, RG3 was cleared by the doctors and football, lest we forget, is the most violent of sports. Any player can be permanently injured any time they step on the field.

According to news reports, RG3 is possibly looking at 8 months to a year to recover; the Vikings star running back, Adrian Peterson had a similar injury and came within 9 yards of breaking Eric Dickerson’s 2000+ yard, single season rushing record after coming back from surgery, so all is hopefully not lost for RG3.

DC is in love with RG3. After winning the NFC East, beating the dreaded Cowboys twice, the Giants and Eagles, ‘Skins fans have a lot to be happy about following their horrible, previous seasons. RG3 has the opportunity to join the hallowed ranks of Jurgensen, Billy Kilmer, Joe Thiesmann, Doug Williams and Mark Rypien as one of the most beloved of Redskins quarterbacks. He should recover and learn from this, as will Shanahan, who won Super Bowls with the famed Denver Broncos’ quarterback, John Elway.

It’s been said that the RG3 injury may change NFL protocols, and shape the way coaches deal with injured players in the future. Let’s hope that RG3 and Redskins haven’t paid too high a price for that.

E. Doc Smith is a lifelong Redskins fan and has attended every Redskins-49ers game at Candlestick Park since 2002, including the Redskins first ever victory there in overtime, which improved to 1-9-1.

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