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National Columnist

Want to prolong your NFL career? Don't play for Shanahan

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I don't see how Mike Shanahan can coach again. Not after what he did to Robert Griffin III -- and yes, this sentence is phrased exactly the way it's intended. What happened to RG3 didn't simply happen. It was done to him. By his coach.

And so I repeat another sentence written exactly as it's intended: I don't see how Mike Shanahan can coach again.

This is not a call for Shanahan's dismissal, and not because I'm scared to do that. It doesn't take much in the way of toughness to sit at a keyboard in one state and call for the firing of a coach in another, so fear really isn't an issue here. Neither is respect. I'm not refusing to call for Shanahan's job out of respect for him or what John Elway he has accomplished in his career.

I'm not calling for Shanahan's job, because I'm not. What he did to Robert Griffin III on Sunday either is or isn't a fireable offense. I'm not sure. And since I'm not sure, I'll abstain from that part of the conversation and get to this:

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Who would play for Shanahan after this?

Who would play for a coach who did that to any of his players, much less to his best player?

That was negligence, though not in the criminal definition of the term. Shanahan didn't break any laws by letting RG3 hobble around the field Sunday against Seattle, chased by monstrous, muscular men whose intent was to hit him very, very hard. Negligent legally? No.

Negligent morally? Financially? Absolutely. Hindsight makes that perfectly clear -- RG3 needed surgery after what Shanahan did to him Sunday -- but hindsight isn't necessary. If you were watching the game, you saw it. I know I did. So did the coach on the other sideline, Seattle's Pete Carroll, who said afterward, "It was hard to watch RG3 tonight."

Watching on television, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers had the same idea.

"It was clear by the way he was running that he wasn't himself," Rivers told CBSSports.com's Clark Judge. "I mean, everyone could see that."

Exactly. Even RG3's teammates.

"It's obvious to everybody he wasn't a hundred percent," linebacker London Fletcher said after the game.

And still Mike Shanahan played him because he's selfish. He wanted to win this game more than he wanted to protect his player. He also wanted to win this game more than he wanted to protect his franchise, which invested five premium draft picks on RG3 in 2012 -- the four the Redskins traded to get the No. 2 overall pick, and then that pick itself -- and since then has invested $21 million in him contractually. That sentence right there tells me that Shanahan maybe should be fired, but again, I don't have a strong sense of the protocol there. If Dan Snyder fires Shanahan tomorrow, it wouldn't stun me. If he didn't, it wouldn't stun me. I have no advice to give on that matter.

But on the matter of being an NFL player and choosing to put your career in the hands of Mike Shanahan? I have a strong feeling about that, and my feeling is this:

You'd be insane to put your career in the hands of Mike Shanahan.

Shanahan made it exceptionally clear on Sunday just how far he's willing to go -- sorry; just how far he's willing to make his players go -- to further his own agenda of winning at any cost. If I'm a free agent this offseason and the Redskins are interested in me, well, they can lose my number. Because I'm not interested in the Redskins. Not if Mike Shanahan is their coach.

If I'm a returning player on the Redskins, I'm now scared to death of my coach because he has lost the one thing that matters most: my trust. Look, NFL players get hurt all the time. They're sore, all the time. They play with pain more often than they do not. But they run onto that field because they trust that, barring the normal injuries that happen in this game, they will be able to run off it.

What happened to RG3 wasn't a normal injury that happens in this game. It was negligence. Selfishness. Sending limping, weak-kneed RG3 onto that field was the equivalent of rolling a basketball across the highway at rush hour. Maybe the ball will reach the other side.

Maybe it won't.

RG3 didn't make it. His knee gave out on him more than once, but still he played. Still he was allowed to play. He was allowed to play until his knee gave out so violently -- so unnecessarily, hit by nobody, just snapping because it was weak -- that he couldn't play anymore.

I've seen some criticism leveled at Griffin, too, from people who say this was a joint effort: Shanahan played him, yes, but RG3 wanted to play. Didn't volunteer that he was injured, hurting, even hurting the team. Therefore, RG3 shares some responsibility. Which is nonsense.

Players want to play. It's what they do. In all walks of life, people want to do their job. Not that there's any comparison, because there's not, but the analogy works so here's a story about me: A few years ago I underwent an emergency appendectomy. No big deal, it happens, but I was scheduled to fly to Boston the next day to cover a basketball game. Coming out of surgery, in my haze, I called my boss and told him two things:

1. I just had an appendectomy.

2. I'll be on that plane to Boston.

Heroic? Of course not. But I wanted to go to Boston, because that was my job and that's what people in that situation do. My boss hung up the phone with me, called our company travel agent and canceled my plane ticket -- because that's what a good boss does.

Mike Shanahan is not a good boss. He's selfish, concerned only with winning the game even though there are times -- really, there are -- where there's more at stake than a win or a loss. Football is a business to the Redskins, and it's a business to Mike Shanahan, but it's also a business to RG3. He's just 22 years old. If he stays healthy, he figures to earn $100 million or more over the next decade.

Shanahan risked it all because he wanted to beat Seattle.

Because of that, RG3 had ACL surgery on Wednesday. He'll probably play again, but he won't be as good as he once was. Adrian Peterson's remarkable 2012 season after his ACL surgery of 2011 is the exception, not the rule. Most players don't come back from ACL surgery better than ever. Most players don't come back as good.

Some don't come back at all.

Mike Shanahan knew all of that. Didn't care. And if I'm an NFL player, Shanahan is the last man I want to see on my sideline.


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.
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