It’s no secret that Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan has been under fire this week after Redskins star quarterback Robert Griffin III tore up his knee in Washington’s first round playoff loss last weekend. But don’t count NFL commissioner Roger Goodell among his critics. Goodell has officially come out as saying that Shanahan did nothing wrong in leaving his injured star in to risk the injury he eventually sustained.
Goodell had this to say to the Washington Post:
Goodell said it was a “medical decision” and noted Griffin had no problem with it, either.
“Now, people can argue whether it was the wrong decision, but it was a medical decision and that’s what we want it to be,” Goodell said.
“Will we make further changes? Yeah, I would anticipate we will. We’ll always look at that and try to see what else we can do to make sure the proper medical attention is being given, that they make the best medical evaluation and it’s their determination to make.”
Asked if independent doctors were needed on the sideline, not those chosen by the team, Goodell insisted the physicians were impartial.
“When you say independent, all these doctors work for other institutions,” he said. “And they’re well-respected and the medical care in the NFL is outstanding. And if they have a concussion, they have to see an independent neurologist before they’re cleared to play.”
People are already taking the opportunity to jump all over Goodell for this one, and naturally so since the guy is a scumbag, but let’s try to be objective here.
First of all, during the actual game itself, Shanahan was told by Redskins doctors that Griffin was able to continue playing. If the doctors say the man can play, Shanahan almost has to let him continue playing. Imagine if Shanahan had pulled RGIII out, the Redskins lose the game, and reports surface that RGIII had been cleared to continue playing. Shanahan would be getting absolutely destroyed in the paper and the move would likely cost him his job.
Secondly, at no point did RGIII actually ask out of the game. Granted, it is the coach’s job to protect the players, even from themselves sometimes, but with team doctor’s saying he was healthy enough to play and the player himself not asking out, what option does Shanahan really have at that point?
Thirdly, how many athletes do we celebrate for playing with potential career-ending injuries? Off the top of my head, I remember Emmitt Smith playing with a separated shoulder in the 1994 playoffs to lead the Dallas Cowboys to a win over the New York Giants. RGIII playing through his leg injury would have been celebrated if he’d escaped without turning it into roast beef.
On the flip side, I also remember Dallas Mavericks coach Don Nelson taking a beating for sitting Dirk Nowitzki in the 2003 NBA Playoffs after the star forward sustained a knee injury, even though doctors cleared him to play. The move soured Nelson with the team and fans alike and eventually cost him his job, even if it did potentially save Nowitzki’s career.
Ultimately, the decision whether or not to play your star player with an injury is a no-win one, so rather than dump all over Roger Goodell (and Mike Shanahan, for that matter) for what happened to RGIII, can’t we just accept that ultimately it’s no one’s fault? I mean, besides probably center Will Montgomery’s for the bad snap that led to the injury. Come on, Will!