This isn't a situation that calls for nuance. Shanahan needs to start acting like a... uh-oh, I almost said "role model." Let's just leave it at "adult."
The career of one of the most exciting young quarterbacks in years is in serious jeopardy, all because Shanahan put winning above the health of his young star.
It's an old story in the NFL, this business of players being little more than commodities, and this one played out in gory, slow-motion detail.
Griffin, the dazzling, 22-year-old rookie quarterback with a history of knee problems, was limping all over sloppy FedEx Field in the 'Skins playoff loss.
Playing with a heavy brace for the third game since spraining the ligament, Griffin fell awkwardly after throwing a pass in the first quarter. He was obviously hurting. Team doctor James Andrews was already on record as saying he was "scared to death" his patient would re-injure the knee, this time badly.
When Griffin comes up limping again in the fourth quarter with the game on the line, Shanahan asks his young quarterback if he can continue. Griffin says yes. Shanahan sends him back out.
What happened between Shanahan and Andrews is a little more murky, which can obviously happen in the heat of a close playoff game. What passed between the two on the sidelines will probably remain a mystery. They had differing stories until they, uh... let's just say they seemed to come up with a new one for the media.
In any case, even non-coaches, non-doctors, and non-orthopedic surgeons -- let's say the millions of people watching the game, for example -- could see plainly Griffin should have been yanked immediately. The 'Skins have a capable backup in Kirk Cousins.
Nope. Griffin stays in until his knee locks up. End of story and probably the beginning of the end of Griffin's career as it might have been.
Almost any athlete with competitive fire, which Griffin has in spades, is going to say yes under those conditions. He's played hurt before: he kept playing at Baylor after he tore his ACL in a meaningless romp over Northwestern State.
So, at that stage in the Redskins' playoff game, it was up to an adult to just say no. It was up to someone with a little perspective, a little wisdom, maybe even a little compassion.
Someone, in other words, besides Mike Shanahan.
Long Road to Return
The official word is that the surgery performed on Griffin in Pensacola this week was "successful."
The quarterback had a "direct repair" of the lateral collateral ligament and a "re-do" of his previous ACL reconstruction. Recovery time is expected to be six to eight months, the medical people say, but it is well known that this type of injury can take up to 18 months before the injury is fully healed, if ever.
It is also well known that athletes usually come back a shadow of their former selves after this type of injury. There are exceptions, of course, like the Vikings' Adrian Peterson, but not many.
This injury might affect Griffin's case more than usual. He is not your classic, drop-back passer. He has a rocket arm, but he also depends on his superb athletic gifts; that's one of the things that makes him so effective in the Redskins' offense. A pure pocket passer would probably not work in the Washington scheme.
Yes, it's easy to second-guess. But, this is a situation where guessing shouldn't even enter into the equation. Shanahan should have pulled him, period. That should have been the end of the story: Redskins lose but look toward a bright future with a terrific young QB.
Now it's very possibly the end of what once looked like a Hall of Fame career.