Later today we’ll learn the extent of Robert Griffin III’s injury — or at least his latest one — after his MRI. It could be just a minor re-aggravation, or it could be something much more serious.

But really, the severity doesn’t matter. At all.

After a night to reflect on my lengthy rant on the handling of Griffin during the Redskins’ playoff loss yesterday to the Seahawks, and the senseless stubbornness which was at play, the presence of something much greater than the need to win at any cost — even torn ligaments — has become clear. There is an embedded sense within football culture that if you’re not hurting, you’re not trying.

It will never change, or even flirt with change. So Redskins fans can only look back now, and know that cyclical mindset steeped in masculinity may have cost their team a playoff win.

Last spring the Redskins drafted Kirk Cousins with their fourth-round pick, a move which was widely criticized at the time. Why the hell would you spend a draft pick on a quarterback only three rounds after you took your franchise arm with the second overall pick? Soon, we learned the answer to that question. Griffin’s playing style in the NFL leaves him vulnerable, and easily susceptible to injury. That’s why he missed a game earlier this year after originally suffering the knee injury he aggravated last night, and that’s why he was hobbled for the past month.

Cousins filled in just fine, thanks, presiding over a win, and coming into a game cold to throw the winning touchdown pass. Yet he still sat and watched last night, keeping his hands warm while Griffin had only 41 passing yards after the Redskins’ opening score in the first quarter. He claimed he was hurt, not injured, which is an atrocious cliché, and as Deadspin’s Josh Levin wrote, that’s where Shanahan’s failing began.

Washington’s players and head coach talked about the “difference between being injured and being hurt,” the importance of being there for your teammates, and how, in the words of Robert Griffin III, “you have to step up and be a man sometimes.” This is the way the NFL talks about a player who came into the game with an injured knee, hurt it again in the first quarter, and finally left the field for good after twisting that same knee again in FedExField’s chewed-up brown turf. Though Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan will surely get barraged with questions about what and when he knew about his quarterback’s injuries, this litany of post-game clichés reveals why, so long as there is pro football, there will also be players jeopardizing their health as coaches stand by and let them. In the minds of the men on the field and the ones on the sidelines wearing headsets, this was not medical malpractice. It was playoff football.

Therein lies the core of a deeper problem. Frankly, why do we as fans care at all who is tough, or who is a little wimpy sissy man? If a player is injured — or yes, “hurt” — to the point that he can’t produce to the best of his capabilities, he should be pulled from the game immediately.

Griffin had reached that point, and it was obvious to everyone in the building and in every living room or alcohol-consuming establishment. Obvious to everyone except Shanahan. But in the mind of both the coach and the player, what transpired was not only the right way, but the football way.

The result of such dark-age thinking was then just a byproduct of football, as Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post observed. Stupid, incomprehensible football.

This is the game that we, as a nation, have chosen. So when Griffin lies in a heap, unable to move, playing hurt — perhaps playing injured and not knowing it — and you hold your breath or curse the coach for endangering him, just remember: War is hell and nothing else is close, but the NFL may be the closest legal form.

That was the ending Shanahan must have realized was forthcoming, yet he still decided that 25 percent of Robert Griffin III was better than 100 percent of anyone else, even Cousins.


And now the links part of the links post…

  • Even more Shanahan ranting, because he’s just the dumbest. [Dan Graziano]
  • Don’t tell anyone, but in a month the NFL season will be over. I know, I’ll try not to speak of it. That’s when we’ll begin scrutinizing soon-to-be temporarily unemployed men, and the millions they are about to receive from…who? There’s a free agent list for that. [Rotoworld]
  • Chris Clemens may have a torn ACL. Thanks, FedEx Field. [PFT]
  • What, you haven’t ranked your top 200 players for the 2013 fantasy season yet? [Matthew Berry]
  • A lot writers said a lot of nice things about Doug Marrone. So feel good about yourselves, Bills fans. [Deadspin]