Sorting the Sunday Pile, wild card weekend: Shanahan did RG3 wrong

Sorting the Sunday Pile, wild card weekend: Shanahan did RG3 wrong

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer

Sorting the Sunday Pile breaks down all the biggest stories from each week of NFL action. Send love, hate or general snark on Twitter to @WillBrinson.

Through about 55 minutes of game action, everyone and their brother wondered why Redskins coach Mike Shanahan wouldn't go to Kirk Cousins with Robert Griffin III clearly hampered by a knee injury.

Shanahan finally did just that, but only after RG3, the face of the Redskins franchise, left with what looked like a nasty knee injury. Griffin took a fumbled snap and, while he was scrambling for the ball in the shoddy FedEx Field turf, his knee bent in a way that it shouldn't bend.

We don't know yet what the specifics of RG3's injury are. And we don't know (and probably won't ever know) the full details surrounding the shady goings-on involved with the decision to put Griffin back in the game against Baltimore a few weeks back when he originally injured his knee.

We do know, however, that Griffin entered Sunday's game injured. There was no question about this. Griffin had on a knee brace and if he was operating at 100 percent I've got some magic beans to sell you.

"Robert will have the MRI and we'll check that out and see how serious that is," Shanahan said on Sunday night. "I talked to Robert and Robert said to me, 'Coach, there's a difference injured and being hurt. I guarantee I'm hurting right now, gimme a chance to win this football game because I guarantee I'm not injured.' So that was enough for me. I thought he did enough for us this year to have that opportunity to stay in the football game. It's always a tough decision, when to pull a guy, when not to. But I talked to him at halftime and I had to feel good about him to go back in.

"And I told him we're gonna run the football and you're gonna have to prove (it) to me. As I said before, he said today, 'Hey, trust me. I wanna be in there and deserve to be in there.' And I couldn't disagree with him."

Despite the injury to Griffin, Shanahan played him anyway. That Griffin helped take the Redskins out to a 14-0 lead early on is irrelevant, because eventually the rookie started taking too many shots from Seahawks defenders. He was limping all over the field, he wasn't as mobile as he normally is, he couldn't plant and drive the ball and Griffin couldn't really move in the pocket.

The Redskins drafted Kirk Cousins for a reason -- they told as much when their other rookie stepped into the starting lineup after Griffin's injury and helped beat the Browns and vault Washington into the playoffs.

But for whatever reason, Shanahan wasn't comfortable with using Cousins on Sunday night and it borders on negligence. Griffin simply wasn't healthy enough to be in the game. He stayed in the game anyway and he suffered what looked like a serious injury, even after everyone, including Shanahan, could see how bad he looked.

"I think everybody could see after the first quarter that he wasn't exactly the same," Shanahan said Sunday. "But I've got a lot of players that aren't exactly the same. There's not a lot of quarterbacks that are the exactly the same this time of year. But I still thought he could go in there and make the plays that he was capable of making against an excellent defense.

"You don't always have to run the football but you got to be able to sit back there and throw it and he was able to do that. He just wasn't able to scramble like he normally does."

Shanahan wasn't the only one who noticed either ...

Awk-ward. Look, We've seen Griffin avoid a major injury on a play in the Ravens game where things sure looked major before. Here's hoping he once again avoids a serious injury (and he reportedly says Griffin's too much fun to watch to see him hurt.

Whatever the case is, Griffin wasn't going to Shanahan under the bus. After the game he said it was a "simple process" for deciding if he'd stay in the game -- Shanahan asked him whether he could go and he said yes.

That's not surprising, because all of that is very much how Robert Griffin III rolls. But even RG3 acknowledged that he put himself "at more risk" by staying on the field.

"I think I did put myself at more risk by being out there," Griffin said Sunday. "But every time you step out on that football field you're putting your life, your career and every single ligament in your body in jeopardy."

But he should, at the very least, be aware that his coach let him stay in a game he had no business staying in. For the long-term success of the Redskins and the long-term health of Griffin, that's something that can't be acceptable going forward.

Don't Forget the Seahawks
It's fairly rare that a team wins a wild-card playoff game and gets none of the press, but that's going to happen with the Seahawks this week, thanks to RG3's injury.

They shouldn't be overlooked though. After all, they did, yanno, win the game. And in the win, Seattle looked good and, more importantly balanced. Russell Wilson didn't have a monster game, but he didn't panic when Seattle got down 14-0 and he made some big throws to move the ball and pick up points. (He also missed several big ones.) His composure in the pocket is stunning, no matter how many times I see him calmly sit back and wait/evade pressure.

The news that Chris Clemmons is likely done for the year hurts Seattle badly. And if I was inclined to pick them over Atlanta next weekend, the idea that they'll be a sexy upset pick for the public (at +2 in the Georgia Dome) is kind of terrifying. But they've got two tall, strong man corners in Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner.

If Seattle can limit Julio Jones and Roddy White there's no reason to think they can't win against the Falcons. It'll be a fun game to watch. Hopefully we'll get a chance to talk about it some time this week in between the debate about the Shanahanagans from Sunday.

Ray Rice, Playoff Fumbling Machine
The Ravens diminutive running back is one of the more sure-handed running backs in football ... in the regular season. The playoffs are a whole different story, however, and Sunday afternoon saw Rice fumble twice against the Colts, bringing his postseason total to five for his career.

To put it some more perspective, Rice has played in eight playoff games. And he's fumbled five times in those. During the regular season over his five-year career, Rice averages one fumble every 173.7 carries.

In the postseason? Rice has averaged a fumble once every 24.4 carries. That's an insane difference and it's possibly one that could be explained by a sample size or sheer randomness. But the sample-size argument doesn't really work since we have such a broad brush with which to paint Rice's full career. He's not a fumbler (80th in fumbles among running backs in 2012, 35th in 2011) and it's just a concerning trend that won't go away.

Which is precisely why Bernard Pierce saw heavy action out of the Baltimore backfield late in the game Sunday.

Chalk It Up
Wild-card weekend was fun, but it was also relatively boring: only the Texans didn't win by double digits. In addition, all of the favorites won and managed to cover.

That's the first time since 1986 that all four faves covered and (duh) it's something you almost never see. This is especially true when one of the favorites is starting a rookie quarterback on the road.

What does this tell us? That the NFL is top heavy right now. We've known this for a while, bit's becoming more and more clear. It resulted in some snoozers during the wild-card action, but it should mean better and better football as we move along in the postseason.

Book the Broncos
Things ... can happen. And the Broncos could lose against the Ravens in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. But I sure wouldn't bet on it (speaking of betting: Denver opened up at -9, which was a little lower than I expected) despite the increased emotional lift Ray Lewis gives Baltimore.

Think about how big, then, the Texans loss in Week 17 (coupled with Denver's victory over the Chiefs) really was. Denver went from being the No. 2 seed in the AFC to the No. 1. That means a matchup agains the Ravens, whom the Broncos recently beat by 17, in a game wasn't that close. They could've gotten lucky and landed the Colts as well, of course.

But the real shift is what happened when the Patriots picked up a bye and the Texans did not: had Houston won, they'd be hosting the winner of Ravens/Colts and the Broncos would probably be welcoming the Patriots for the divisional round.

That game's a toss-up, making Houston's loss a monster swing in terms of how the AFC should play out. (Hint: it's probably going to involve the Broncos and Patriots in the championship game.)

Chip Kelly
So it's looking more and more like Chip Kelly is, somehow, going to return to Oregon next year. That's not a guarantee and it's possible that by the time you're reading this he's already hooked up with an NFL team. It's a fluid situation (but props to CBS Sports Jason La Canfora, the only guy who's been pointing to Oregon for more than 24 hours).

What baffles me is the outrage over what Kelly's doing while looking for a job. It's been assumed he wants to leave Oregon for the NFL and I wouldn't blame him if that was the case. I also don't blame him for what he's doing right now, which is getting wined and dined by billionaires and doing his due diligence on the teams interested in him.

Cleveland's got a pile of cash, but they also have a first-round pick invested in Brandon Weeden, who isn't an ideal quarterback for Kelly's system. Philadelphia has tons of talent, but there's a serious question about whether or not they'll give up control to a guy coming out of college.

And that's an issue for Kelly: the thinking is that he wants to make sure he can get his guys in to run his system. Maybe those type of guys don't have a history of working out, but I'd point you to Pete Carroll and John Schneider, a coach/GM tandem that's doing incredible things in Seattle right now, with Carroll having ample control.

But biggest issue is with the people who think Kelly's just out there leveraging his way to a raise ...

He probably is going to get more money. Phil Knight doesn't mind slinging it around. But think of Kelly as a normal dude, who's got a great job and has an opportunity for a financial windfall and a promotion to the highest level of his profession. What person doesn't at least listen to the opportunities that are out there? He's not required to take the jobs and he's not saying he's gone just by listening.

Next Up for the Colts
It's probably time to draft some offensive linemen. Please don't let this come across as me complaining about their 2012 NFL Draft class; GM Ryan Grigson killed that draft.

But I look at the Coby Fleener pick at the top of the second round and wonder what might've been for Indy if they'd taken either Cordy Glenn or Mitchell Schwartz, both of whom had very nice seasons for Buffalo and Minnesota, respectively.

It was never more clear than Sunday that Indy needs help on the offensive line. They should be able to pick up some line prospects in the upcoming draft, even though they won't be picking in first 20 selections. They've also got plenty of defensive positions they need to fill. Tight ends are a dime a dozen these days (they even got a better one in the third round in Dwayne Allen!) so that's maybe the only issue with the Fleener pick.

On the other hand, he might end up being great and he does have a good relationship with Luck, which can't be underestimated. Plus, hindsight's always 20/20 and we're nitpicking at this point. The Colts have a bright future especially if they keep hitting on draft classes like last year.

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