Fire Mike Shanahan
The Wild Card weekend featured four pretty lackluster games. Other than the Texans’ win over the Bengals – which wasn’t the most entertaining game anyway – the games were decided long before the final gun. In all cases I would say the better team won. The most intriguing aspect of the first weekend of the playoffs was two decisions made by two coaches about who to start at quarterback. One coach should be praised; the other I would consider firing on the spot.
The two major quarterback injuries last weekend were Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins and Christian Ponder of the Minnesota Vikings. Both teams appear to be on the rise with good young talent; one has a superstar quarterback, and the other possibly has the quarterback of the future. Vikings’ head coach Leslie Frasier should be praised, and if it wasn’t for Mike Shanahan’s pedigree, Shanahan should be fired.
Coaches can’t admit this publicly, but both coaches had to know neither team – even with a healthy starting quarterback – was going to the Super Bowl. I don’t think – even with a healthy quarterback – either team was getting out of the first round. Both teams made great improvements throughout the year. Despite losing, the Vikings got into the offseason with a ton of momentum. The Redskins, however, got into the offseason with a huge question. It was a question that could have been avoided if Shanahan would have done what he was supposed to do.
Even if Ponder is not the answer for the Vikings at quarterback, Frasier showed restraint and an understanding of the bigger picture. He was not going to risk his young quarterback to try and get a win that ultimately would have bought the team one more playoff game. Assuming Ponder plays, and assuming Ponder wins, he is still going to be hurt. Every game he played from last week on out would have been one more week he would have been hurt. There is no way they win three straight road games with a less than one hundred percent Ponder. Frasier knew this, so he didn’t play him and risk making the injury worse. Because of Frasier’s decision, the Vikings go into next season with a chance to build on 2012’s success.
On the other hand, Shanahan made the complete opposite decision in an even more extreme case. Unlike Ponder, every Skins’ fan knows RGIII has a chance to be (or might already be) a superstar. RGIII has the look of a multiple Pro Bowl quarterback. In just one short year, he has become one of the darlings of the National Football League. The offense – unlike Ponder’s – is centered on the quarterback. Unless Shanahan actually thought his team could make a run at the Super Bowl, he risked throwing away the future of the franchise to try to squeeze out one more win. Like Ponder, RGIII was not going to get better playing, so even if they won, Washington would still have to win two road games with a less than one hundred percent franchise player.
To make things worse, Griffin’s injury was to an extremely critical part of the body for a mobile quarterback. While RGIII has quickly become a solid NFL passer, his bread is still buttered with his ability to run and create. Not only was his knee going to limit his mobility against Seattle, they risked that part of his game being hampered for the rest of his career.
It was not like the Redskins were going up against an offensive juggernaut who just tries to outscore you and not play any defense. They were playing the Seattle Seahawks who have one of the most dominate defenses in the league. This was a team that sacked Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers eight times in one game. Shanahan was throwing his prize rookie and future of the franchise to the wolves. Even though the home team got out to a great start, RGIII had no chance.
Everyone could see – with his RoboCop looking knee brace – RGIII was not himself. How Mike Shanahan didn’t see after just a few series that this wasn’t a good idea, I don’t know. The former Broncos’ and Raiders’ coach still didn’t take him out until disaster struck. Even if the doctors cleared him and Griffin was begging to play before the game, the coach has to step in and say ‘no’. It had to be obvious in pre-game warm ups, and if not it was obvious to the rest of us after one quarter, that the former Heisman Trophy winner had no business being out there.
Now, because of Mike Shanahan’s and maybe owner Daniel Snyder’s inability to look past immediate glory, the Washington Redskins may have set themselves back five years or more. People come back from knee injuries faster and more successfully than ever in today’s game. You only have to look at Ponder’s teammate Adrian Peterson for proof of that. Unfortunately, the long-term consequences Shanahan might have caused if his quarterback can’t come back full strength next season would turn the team from one of the most promising teams going into next season, to a team who again will be struggling to find its identity.
Good thing you had John Elway to pad your resume, Mike. If you didn’t you might have been fired on the spot.