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Shanahan’s Folly

[ 119 ] January 6, 2013 |

I would like to posit what I thought should have been an obvious rule: if Dr. James Andrews has to be flown in to supervise your star player on the sideline, he shouldn’t be playing.

Even as a Seahawks fan, that fumble/injury was hard to watch, and it couldn’t have been more foreseeable. I have no idea what Shanahan was thinking on any level.

…the prosecution rests. [HT Morbo in comments]

…more here.


Comments (119)

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  1. Pestilence says:

    Simple: Shanahan was thinking, I’ll get fired if we dont win the wildcard.

  2. John says:

    RGIII looked okay (but not in any way great) last week, but he clearly ought to have been taken out much earlier.

  3. Bill says:

    As someone whose (amateur) playing career was ended by a knee injury suffered by (stupidly) coming back too soon from a different knee injury, it was shocking to me that they’d allow him to play in such an obviously compromised state.

    • Sharon says:

      I thought the same thing. I injured my knee doing road work in the summer. This happened in 1979, before a sports medicine practice was in every decent sized city in the country. My orthapedist wrapped my knee, put me in a thigh to ankle brace and gave me sweet, sweet, cortisone and xylocaine injections for the rest of the summer.

      I have had knee problems ever since.

      When I saw RGIII go down I felt that pop through my TV.

      They should have sat him down for the balance of the regular season. My knee just hurts typing this..

    • Rhino says:

      Players are expendable. They always have been. Just employees, ride them hard and discard them later

      • Timb says:

        Not high first round draft pick, franchise QB’s. they are not expendable

        • Rhino says:

          I have to disagree. LESS expendable, I would accept.

          • John says:

            The Redskins haven’t had a franchise quarterback for almost thirty years. If the Redskins view RGIII as expendable, they are fucking insane.

            • Rhino says:

              Sure… But what other conclusion can you come to? Based on what Shanahan did keeping him in the game, essential indifference to the kids future is really the only thing that explains it.

              I’m not saying its right.

              • Stan Gable says:

                Sure… But what other conclusion can you come to?

                That Shanahan is a moron? WAS surrendered an insane amount of value to acquire him, on the assumption that he’d provide them with ~5 years of value at QB. There’s no justification for trading that away for a marginally better chance of winning 1 playoff game.

        • Belle Waring says:

          I agree with Rhino. Still expendable, but just more expensive. Like a racehorse you think might make it to the Kentucky Derby. You’ll spend a lot of money on keeping it healthy, but when the moment comes where you need it to perform, you’ll shoot it full of painkillers and coke and god knows what else and set it out there to run, consequences to the animal be damned. The players in the NFL are not always treated with much more dignity.

          • John says:

            But, in RGIII’s case, this wasn’t anything close to the Kentucky Derby.

          • Ed says:

            A Kentucky Derby prospect might well be rested and tried in the Preakness or Belmont if circumstances aren’t right. RGIII is the heart of any plans for the Redskins’ future, not only because of his own qualities but because of the king’s ransom in draft picks they surrended for him. Taking care of him is or should be a very big deal.

      • John says:

        Even beyond the fact that destroying RGIII’s career now would be an extraordinarily foolish and wasteful thing to do, it’s also the case that keeping him in made it less likely the Redskins would win this particular game.

        • mark f says:

          it’s also the case that keeping him in made it less likely the Redskins would win this particular game.

          While I stand with Shanahan’s critics, I think what happened once Griffin came out makes this doubtful.

    • Dano says:

      It’s not surprising to me at all. I quit playing as a teenager because it was clear that they didn’t care about my or my teammate’s injuries at all.



      • Richard Hershberger says:

        My father played football in high school and was the first in his family to go to college, in part on a football scholarship. He never encouraged me or my brothers to play. He wouldn’t have forbidden it, but he was just as happy we weren’t interested. If I had sons, I would forbid them from football. Most other sports would be fine, but the cost-benefit of football is just absurd.

  4. Ni Hao Lao Wai says:

    Shanahan likes destroying his players careers. It makes him feel powerful.

  5. Rob says:

    “I have no idea what Shanahan was thinking on any level.”

    Personal glory.

    The best line was earlier in the game with “Troy and Buck” talking about the USA Today article about how Shanahan put RGIII back in the Baltimore game before Dr. Andrews could keep him out and Aikman saying “I doubt Mike Shanahan would put the franchise at risk” and I wondering what game he had been watching.

    • TT says:

      It’s all about protecting The Shield. No way Aikman would come out and blast a head coach’s integrity on live TV if he wants his broadcasting career to continue for much longer. (Then again, why would anyone ever question the integrity of an NFL head coach….)

  6. cpinva says:

    for a brief (foolish) moment, i thought cousins was coming in. that would have been the smart thing to do, to save your franchise QB. it was difficult watching the rest of the game.

  7. peorgietirebiter says:

    The kid is a real treat to watch play but you have to worry about his longevity. I heard someone commenting on Wilson’s ability to get hit but to always avoid the punishing collisions that wreckless running QB’s are prone too. Vick and RGIII seem more vulnerable than Wilson.

  8. Stan Gable says:

    interesting to see if the DC media ends up discussing in the context of the recent Strasburg controversy.

    I gather that football coaches have more leeway on playing decisions, but this seems horribly shortsighted. DC had a better chance with rg3 to win this one game but there’s no way they win the super bowl with him that hurt. Cousins would’ve given them a better shot I think.

    • Joe says:

      The Redskins weren’t likely to go to the SB or even the championship round. This “one game” was a home game. Short sighted, yes.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      The thing is, after the injury on the second TD I don’t even think RG3 was the best QB in a Redskins uniform. Even leaving aside the moral and longer term issues, Shanahan was acting as if Rex Grossman was the backup.

      • John says:

        Given that Griffin was completely terrible after that, I don’t see how Cousins could have been worse. Hell, I doubt Rex Grossman would have been much worse.

        • Stan Gable says:

          rg3 has never played as a standard drop back qb, it’d be like asking Peyton Manning to run the read option on 1 week of practice. Unlikely to end well….

        • Laen says:

          As a long time Bears fan I completely disagree…Rex Grossman could have been much worse.

          • John says:

            I lived through two years of Rex Grossman intermittently being the Redskins starting quarterback – I understand that he is not a good quarterback. But RGIII was completely useless out there after the first quarter. He had 84 yards passing and 21 yards rushing in the whole game. Of those, 66 yards passing and 12 yards rushing came in the first quarter.

            After that, here’s what he did –

            1. Got sacked, fumbled the ball
            2. threw an incomplete pass
            3. threw an interception
            4. threw a pass for 3 yards
            5. threw a pass for 5 yards
            6. threw a pass for no gain
            7. incomplete pass
            8. sacked again
            9. incomplete pass
            10. threw a pass for 8 yards
            11. rushed for 9 yards
            12. incomplete pass
            13. incomplete pass
            14. sacked
            15. fumbled and taken out of the game by injury

            In the 40 minute, 57 second period between that second touchdown in the first quarter and Griffin being taken out of the game, the Redskins had possession for 12:50 and got a grand total of three first downs (plus another they got as the result of a Seattle penalty).

            Grossman would have had to be brutally awful to be measurably worse than this performance.

            • mpowell says:

              Well Grossman could replace those fumbles with INTs, but he might also put together a stretch of high quality play from time to time.

              NFL coaches do lots of moronic things. The irony is that most players who are injured or hurt get cut from their teams because when you evaluate players objectively, the talent gap is fairly narrow and nagging injuries quickly debilitate otherwise decent players. But with a situation like this you get a lot of wishful thinking that an injured RGIII will still be better than Kirk Cousins.

  9. There is really no excuse for not having Cousins ready to go all week. He should have been in there on the first possession after the second TD or, at the very latest, he should have started the second half.

    I’ve read a few comparisons to Grady Little leaving Pedro in, but that’s not an apt comparison. Pedro’s ability to continue pitching in the major leagues was not at issue. And from a more cold-blooded business point of view, the Red Sox hadn’t invested so much of their future in Pedro.

    I hope the best for RGIII and can’t imagine what Shanahan was thinking.

  10. LosGatosCA says:

    Here’s the thing. Any NFL sports franchise aims to be a well functioning machine and players are just wear-parts within it.

    At the same time professional sports participants are competitively driven to do any thing to win and will sacrifice longer term stability for short term wins/glory.

    It’s not new and it’s not changing. It stretches back at least to Pheidippides hat Greek guy who collapsed – AFTER THEY WON the battle.

    There’s no cure for it.

    • LosGatosCA says:

      Aside from folks like Jim Brown, Sandy Koufax, Barry Sanders who leave before they become permanent pain victims, most people who escape that fate are more lucky than smart.

      See Jerry Rice, Jerry West, Terrell Owen as examples who took every chance but their bodies could cash the checks. West broke his nose about 10 times IIRC he played through a ham string injury in the 1969 finals. Rice and Owen both came back from knee injuries way too early, yet suffered no permanent damage from it. Zeke Thomas scored 25 points in a quarter against the Lakers in the finals on one leg.

      Ronnie Lott had part of a finger amputated so his ability to play would not be in question.

      Call it sacrifice, call it stupidity, call it whatever you want – it happens all the time.

      • Rhino says:

        Lol, I call it steroids…

        • LosGatosCA says:

          I don’t think Lott had part of his finger amputated due to steroids.

          • Rhino says:

            No, but it seems obvious to me that a lot of these miraculous recoveries and extend careers can be laid at the feet of steroids and other PEDs.

            That’s a lot of why I oppose drug rules in sport: this stuff has legitimate medical use, and I think players have a right to whatever medical help they want. If that happens to be something some other guy is using to bulk up, that comes nowhere close to overriding the rights of an injured player to the best treatment possible.

            • LosGatosCA says:

              My point is that they actually AREN’T miracle recoveries, they are athletes ignoring the required recovery time without regard to their personal health.

              • Richard Hershberger says:

                Two other factors:

                (1) The rehab process is undertaken with unlimited resources and a highly motivated patient with this has his top priority. This is quite different from a scenario where everyone is counting therapy sessions before the insurance company cuts them off, while at the same time the patient is working a job and raising a family.

                (2) I suspect there is some element of under-promising so they can over-deliver. If they tell the press it will take six months, then the guy is back on the field in four, everyone involved looks like a hero. Promise four months from the start, and they are just doing their job. If there is a setback and it really does take six, then everyone looks bad.

    • Jon C says:

      Here’s the thing. Any NFL sports franchise aims to be a well functioning machine and players are just wear-parts within it.

      True. But when the wear-part cost your franchise three first round draft picks and a second round draft pick, AND they drafted another rookie QB apparently for the purpose of having a talented backup . . .

      Sports franchises also have to have long-term plans in which they can calculate the cost of their wear-parts.

      • Stan Gable says:

        Sports franchises also have to have long-term plans in which they can calculate the cost of their wear-parts.

        Yeah but I don’t see who has that responsibility in an NFL franchise. Sitting Strasburg for the playoffs was a GM level decision. I think in the NFL, the GM is basically subordinate to the head coach, so I’m not sure who exists organizationally to make those cost-benefit calculations.

    • cpinva says:

      true enough.

      At the same time professional sports participants are competitively driven to do any thing to win and will sacrifice longer term stability for short term wins/glory.

      and that’s why there are supposed to be people to stop them, if for no other reason than they’re hurting the team. if not the coach (also driven to compete/win), then supposedly the team dr. maybe what needs to happen, is that a team dr. gets hit with a malpractice suit, and loss of license, because they practiced sports, instead of medicine.

      i’m not a dr., and i could see that griffin shouldn’t have been out on that field, at least after the second TD. he really shouldn’t have been out there at all. cousins is a perfectally serviceable QB, he’s shown that already. he’s as mobile as wilson, with a good arm. from a strictly business perspective, shanahan violated his fiduciary responsibility to the team, by putting griffin out there.

  11. Sherm says:

    Shanahan has shown no regard for the kid’s health all year. Why expect him to change for the playoffs? That was a disgrace. Cousins should have been in the game in the second quarter.

  12. shah8 says:

    Maybe Shanahan saw what happened to Webb last night? Cousins didn’t really play that well, but then, he had no real time to do anything.

    Speaking of Webb, distancing from how bad his first half was, by numbers, he was almost respectable just looking at the stat-line. One more TD than Dalton or Luck, and more effective drives (2 for sure) than Dalton, at least.

    It’s just a tough, tough, thing to go into a playoff game as a backup QB, especially if you’re lacking in real experience. Does make me wonder about if Ponder really couldn’t play, since he had a deep bruise on his triceps. You hear about broken thumbs and hobbling ankle and knee injuries, and people fighting their way through, what was so bad about a *bruise*?

    • Rhino says:

      A bad bruise can be worse than a broken bone, for some bones and some bruises. Imagine what a lump of swollen meat the size of a golf ball, hard, not able to expand or contract with the rest of the muscle, would do to your throwing mechanics

    • Chet Manly says:

      Deep muscle bruises are no joke. They can be really debilitating and take months to heal. When you hear “deep tissue bruise” or “muscle contusion” they mean internal bleeding.

      The inflammation can cause extensive tissue damage even if there wasn’t much from the original injury and can really restrict range of motion and badly weaken the muscle. In Dalton’s case I’m not surprised he was sidelined because you can’t throw a football without using the triceps.

      When he was in his 20s my dad had a deep tissue bruise in his thigh from a jack that kicked out and caught him in the leg. He was young and very fit, but he wasn’t able to walk without a limp for two months.

    • Hari says:

      RGIII wanted to play through his injury. Wise decision or not, he showed his mental toughness. Ponder didn’t even try. He probably knew the Vikes didn’t have a chance to win in Lambeau, so he opted out so as not to get the blame for the loss. Also, Frazier was an idiot for sticking with Ponder in games where he sucked. Frazier should have put Webb in a few games, just to give him the reps. Practice is one thing, but game time is a whole ‘nother level. The Vikes should dump Webb, trade a few draft picks for a real starting QB, & make Ponder the back-up.

  13. Todd says:

    Dr. Andrews is the Skins’ team doctor. He is on the sidelines for the vast majority of their home games.

  14. Jim Lynch says:

    I just heard Sanders, Faulk, and Irvin on the NFL network speak in highly respectful tones of RG’s having played hurt. Each obviously considered Shanahan’s to have been the proper decision. Of course, whether they will still believe that if RG’s knee has suffered permanent damage that limits his game remains to be seen, but they were all of the same mind tonight.

    • LosGatosCA says:


      Check Hines Ward’s reaction to Ben Roethlisberger being out from a concussion:

      “I’ve lied to a couple of doctors saying ‘I’m straight, I feel good,’ when I knew I’m really not straight. But I don’t think guys really about the future when they’re playing currently in the NFL,” Ward told Bob Costas, as transcribed by Pro Football Talk. “Trust me, the players, they wanna go out there because these games, you don’t get back. You’re never gonna get this Baltimore-Pittsburgh game back.”

      “This game is almost like a playoff game,” Ward said. “It’s almost a ‘must’ win. So, I can see some players or some teammates kind of questioning like, ‘Well, it’s just a concussion. I’ve played with concussions before. I would go out there and play.’ So, it’s almost like a 50-50 toss-up in the locker room. You know, should he play, shouldn’t he play. It’s really hard to say.”

      And by ‘really hard to say[ he meant Big Ben was a shirker.

  15. LosGatosCA says:

    This whole thread reminds me of a group of filet mignon eaters finding out that the steers were killed without a second thought.

    • J.W. Hamner says:

      Well Ta-Nehisi Coates is a prominent example of someone who gave up the NFL based on the info coming out regarding head injuries, so it’s not out of the question that the RGIII stuff tonight will cause others to quit it.

      At the same time a steak eater is allowed to want a more humanely treated cow without being a hypocrite.

      • LosGatosCA says:

        I’m not calling folks hypocrites, I’m just wondering what they they think is going on to get the players ready to play each week. And what do they think keeps them motivated to play with aches, pains, and injuries at such a high level.

        The focus and intensity it takes to be a high functioning professional athlete is the mental equivalent of 95 mph fastball to a civilian. I remember a quote from a player at NFL training camp who was put into return punts but had never done it before. After the game he was asked about it: “I didn’t think a human being (himself) could be hit that hard and still live.”

        He didn’t make the team.

        I’d love to see most of the people who post about sports just stand in a batters box for a Strasbourg 98 mph slider without crapping in their pants. Or stand in the middle of a kick return with no other goal than to survive. Take a penalty kick in the teeth or a slap shot to a face mask. Try to take a charge against the smallest player on the average NBA team – you now the 6’1” point guard that’s 180 pounds of muscle running right at you-without any equipment to protect you.

        The average person has absolutely no clue about the physical and mental disparity between professional sports and normal life.

        • derp says:

          Most MLB players would crap themselves if Strausborg was throwing his off speed pitch
          at 98.

        • John says:

          What’s your point? What does this have to do with this game?

          The general issue that sports is hard doesn’t have very much to do with the specific question of whether Griffin should have been playing that game.

          • LosGatosCA says:

            The point is that these people are moving in a whole different sphere at a whole different speed with a whole different focus. Lots of times this type of risk taking is rewarded and the civilians are none the wiser. And when it doesn’t work, the civilians say, ‘hey – that was obvious’ when it’s really not.

            I’m not defending Shanahan, I’m simply saying it’s more of a high wire act than a lot more risk taking is going on then the average fan is nearly aware of, at all levels. Even with the ‘good guys.’

            • LosGatosCA says:

              I’m simply saying it’s more of a high wire act with a lot more risk taking going on then the average fan is nearly aware of, at all levels. Even with the ‘good guys.’

              • mpowell says:

                Sure, playing professional sports is punishing and it is difficult to appreciate the degree. But running a crippled scrambling QB onto the field is just bad strategy. And that was apparent to most observers not named Shanahan for a good portion of the game. This wasn’t just about long term risks.

                Other QBs have been benched when they couldn’t play effectively due to injury: Ponder this year, Cutler previously. Sometimes the guys take a little criticism for it, but you still have to make the right decisions.

              • Cody says:

                Sure. I understand there is a lot of physical danger that we brush off.

                However, that doesn’t change the fact he shouldn’t have been playing. He was clearly at increased risk to get re-injured and not playing at 100%.

                He shouldn’t have been playing. You’re always rolling the dice when you go out there, and he was playing saying “hit-me” at blackjack with a 20 for a game that really didn’t have a lot of meaning in the long-term.

                The Coach should have known that. He should see that they will be to the playoffs again with a better team and what little advantage RGIII gave over Cousins was not worth it.

  16. john says:

    The bigger question to those of us in the stands at the game, was why the fuck didn’t Kyle Shanahan run Morris more, esp with Griffin hurting. THAT’S what cost them the game.

    • Rhino says:

      What cost them the game was the way the Seahawks played for three quarters.

      • John says:

        The fact that Griffin was useless for two and a half quarters surely helped.

        • john says:

          All the more reason to run. Morris had 33 carries last week and only 16 this week. He gained 80 yards, so he was effective, why not use him more? They led 14-13 with 6-7 minutes to go! It would have saved Griffin and they would have controlled the clock. Kyle Shanahan is a dope.

          • LPBB says:

            What are you talking about? Didn’t you read all those articles in the past month telling us that the Redskins success this season proves that Kyle Shanahan is an offensive genius and not simply a product of nepotism? [/sarcasm]

            Strange how this “genius” never manifested itself until he had a very athletic, very talented QB to work with.

            • Cody says:

              I think it’s pretty clear Shanahan can draw up a great offense for his QB.

              He maximized Griffin’s skills. The rest of his coaching skills…

              I don’t know about. He seems a fine play caller. He did seem to stick pretty hard to the pass, but I don’t think you can run against this Seahawks team all that easily.

              • john says:

                5 yards a carry versus 4.2 yds per pass attempt. Which was working better?

                • djw says:

                  Isn’t it plausible that once it was pretty clear to the opposing team Griffin was playing hurt, the run defense could focus more on the remaining threat and contain Morris relative to the first two drives.

              • cpinva says:

                i don’t know how to break the news to you,

                He maximized Griffin’s skills. The rest of his coaching skills…

                but that’s kind of what good coaches do. they figure out what things a player does really, really well, and set them up to take maximum advantage of those skills. unfortunately, grossman just isn’t very good at any one thing, and mcnabb’s skills were worn down by age/overuse, and he wasn’t going to let some snot nosed kid tell him what to do.

                young shanahan has worked with cousins also, who everyone (i think) can agree is not griffin. he’s gotten maximum effect out of him as well. not to say shanahan the younger is a genius, but he seems to have done pretty well, when given decent material to work with, and not just under daddy.

    • Chester Allman says:

      Read elsewhere that Morris’s early success had a lot to do with the Seahawks linebackers playing wide – which they were doing to guard against outside runs by Griffin, but which left big lanes inside for Morris to exploit. Once Seattle realized it didn’t need to worry about Griffen running, the linebackers moved in and Morris became a less effective weapon.

  17. JMG says:

    Shanahan played a blind man in a Super Bowl. Remember the film of Terrell Davis in Super Bowl XXXII?
    Compared to him, Bill Belichick is Jerry Garcia.

  18. Steve S. says:

    Even as a Seahawks fan, that fumble/injury was hard to watch, and it couldn’t have been more foreseeable. I have no idea what Shanahan was thinking on any level

    Dang, we’re in complete agreement. I was thinking the whole game through that this was at least coaching, and maybe medical, malpractice.

    Still, a great win for the Seahawks.

  19. Mart says:

    Vikings Coach Frazier sat Ponder and took a loss with Webb. From Dave Campbell at AP – “Ponder said his injury was more in the triceps muscle, describing the problem as a deep bruise.

    “The biggest thing is the loss of flexibility. I couldn’t get the ball in the position to where I could throw it normally and lost a lot of power and everything. It wouldn’t have been wise to play,” he said.”

    Oviously RGIII was in worse shape than this. Really no excuse for playing him at all, let alone after halftime.

  20. Omar says:

    I watched Shanahan for years in Colorado. He will never take responsibility for anything that goes wrong. He plays favorites with reporters–and they all know it–and Skippy must be one of his boys. Skippy attacked Dr. Andrews for daring to dispute Shanahan’s tale about consulting with the Doc before sending Griffin back into the Ravens game (Andrews has said he didn’t examine Griffin and didn’t talk to Shanahan about the knee sprain at the time) and wondered why he waited until now instead of taking it up through management channels. What Skippy is too dull to see is that in the intervening three weeks maybe Dr. Andrews did try to work within channels in the Redskins organization, but saw that Shanahan wasn’t going to back down from blaming him for the consequences. In that case, he had to go public with his contradiction of Shanahan’s story or be the malpracticing doctor who ruined RGIII’s career.

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