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RGIII Injury: A Season of Decisions Leading to Surgery

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Robert Griffin III is out of knee surgery, having had the newly re-injured right LCL fixed and the previously repaired right ACL strengthened.

Guesstimates on RGIII’s rehab have ranged from six to 14 months.  Six months from today is still about three weeks before the start of the Redskins’ 2013 training camp. Fourteen months from today will be a month past next year’s Super Bowl.

“Robert Griffin III had successful knee surgery early this morning,” surgeon James Andrews said in a post-operative statement. “He had a direct repair of his LCL and a re-do of his previous ACL reconstruction. We expect a full recovery and it is everybody’s hope and belief that due to Robert’s high motivation, he will be ready for the 2013 season.”

An optimist would note that Griffin beat the recovery time by two months after having former Redskins offensive lineman Mark Adickes operate on his ACL while at Baylor in 2009. A pessimist would point out that Griffin’s rehab will likely be complicated and extended by that previous injury, putting his, and Washington’s 2013 season, in jeopardy.

A realist would say that as well as fellow rookie quarterback Kirk Cousins played off the bench in relief stints against Atlanta and Baltimore and in his lone start at Cleveland, the former Michigan State standout is no RGIII. The Redskins wouldn’t have won their final seven regular season games and their first NFC East title in 13 years with Cousins at quarterback. RGIII scares defenses. Cousins doesn’t.

What’s more, as terrific as running back Alfred Morris was in 2012, Griffin’s fellow rookie record-breaker had easily his worst game of the final 11 weeks against the Browns, who didn’t have to worry about RGIII’s fleet feet and could focus on the powerful sixth-round pick.

On Monday, I blasted coach Mike Shanahan for thinking short-term with his heart instead of long-term with his head when opting to leave the obviously gimpy and ineffective Griffin in the wild-card game against Seattle until the quarterback finally could no longer move.

Some have suggested that Shanahan’s decision bordered on the criminal and that Redskins owner Dan Snyder should either suspend or fire the coach. I’m not a big Shanahan supporter, but come on folks.

Even if the coach overruled Dr. James Andrews about Griffin, the evidence of which is murky at best, Shanahan’s the boss (other than Snyder, who thankfully isn’t consulted on in-game decisions). And as Griffin said after the season-ending loss, he wanted to keep playing so badly that he was willing to risk further injury and would even have tried to remain in the game if Shanahan had said otherwise.

This wasn’t a case of Gary Gaines and Boobie Miles of “Friday Night Lights” fame where the high school coach had all the power over the teenager (even so, Miles wanted to play on his badly injured knee).  Griffin is a soon-to-be 23-year-old college graduate with a fiancee and who, with endorsements, probably earns about the same $7 million per year that Shanahan does.

As I was pondering what to write after it became apparent that Andrews had also worked on Griffin’s ACL, a sacrilegious – at least to Redskins Nation – thought popped in my brain.

Ready? The Redskins would have been better off losing the winner takes the NFC East season finale to the hated Cowboys. If Rob Jackson doesn’t make that leaping interception with 3:00 left and Tony Romo drives Dallas 71 yards for the touchdown to beat Washington 25-21, the Redskins would still have made an amazing run with six straight victories before the final heartbreaking defeat left them at 9-7 and on the outside looking in at the playoffs. That would still have been much better than anyone figured last summer and better than even the Redskins themselves could have predicted when they stood at 3-6 with two games left against the Cowboys and one each with the defending Super Bowl champion Giants and AFC North king Baltimore.

More important, Griffin wouldn’t have reinjured the LCL he had sprained against the Ravens because there would have been no Seahawks game. He probably could have avoided surgery and finally taken some extended time off this winter for the first time since he finished up his post-ACL 2010 season at Baylor.

Washington would be heading into 2013 as the NFC’s young team on the rise as was the case when it won eight of its last 11 games under rookie coach Joe Gibbs in 1981. The Redskins won the first of their three Super Bowl trophies in a decade the next season.

Now, the dreams of a long-awaited repeat of that run of excellence are on hold until we see how Griffin’s knee responds to surgery and rehab and how long before he’s himself again at quarterback.

David Elfin began writing about sports when he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is Washington’s representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and the author of seven books, most recently, “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last two Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since last March. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidElfin 

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