This fall, the Washington Redskins will have to go to Plan B.
Quarterback Robert Griffin III underwent surgery on his ACL and LCL on Wednesday. Optimists and apologists say he will be ready for Week 1, so sure, go ahead and renew your season tickets. But the timetable's probably just the latest spin on this debacle, which has diminished the franchise's best player in 40 years and coach Mike Shanahan's chances of finding himself in Canton.
Realistically, Griffin will be limited at best next season. It will be Kirk Cousins' team in 2013. Frankly, that's a big setback. Cousins has demonstrated he can be a fair replacement, but he's not Griffin. At least some of Alfred Morris' success as a rookie was predicated on Griffin's threat, so the running back only will be able to do so much without that fear. Surely the defense won't win many games. No, this past season was about Griffin raising a tattered franchise back to respectability. Now the Redskins don't know when Griffin will return or how effective he will be.
Indeed, only a handful of days in, 2013 is looking rough. Without a first-round pick and with another $18 million salary cap sanction to hamper free agent signings and a tougher first-place schedule, Washington already would have been pressed to repeat as NFC East champions. Griffin's injury is a backbreaker.
Perhaps Griffin is the next Adrian Peterson, and he returns stronger than ever. But there's a reason the Minnesota running back's comeback was exceptional -- he was an exception to the norm. Plus, that was his first such surgery; this is Griffin's second, which makes the rehabilitation process that much more difficult. And rushing Griffin back only would leave him susceptible to further problems.
Shanahan isn't the only one culpable. Dr. James Andrews has some explaining to do given the apparent miscommunication with Shanahan on the sideline. The truth probably lies somewhere in between accounts of the coach and doctor, but there was enough time before Griffin returned to the field to determine he wasn't truly ready. If Andrews was worried, that should have been enough to keep Griffin out.
Owner Dan Snyder also gets a piece of the culpability. The FedEx Field surface was disgraceful. It was practically a sandlot. Go to College Park and see Maryland's FieldTurf surface. It's beautiful. With a repaired knee, the last thing Griffin needs is to stumble over potholes next season.
Snyder needs to pull Shanahan and Andrews into his office and burn some ears. It's not meddling or interfering when you come down on your top people after they jeopardize a franchise player. Snyder has a billion dollar company and deserves some answers. Shanahan has total control, so there's no shuffling the blame. Frankly, Shanahan is lucky to remain employed.
Even Pro Football Hall of Fame voters may want answers from Shanahan when he becomes eligible. Shanahan has enough victories and championships to merit selection, but the postseason mark includes a 14-year gap since his last title. Playoff success in Washington would have sealed his Canton bid. Now voters may need to evaluate the harm to Griffin's career before they approve Shanahan. They may not be satisfied with Shanahan's excuse -- that a 22-year-old player said he was fine.
The Redskins need more transparency and accountability from their coach. Otherwise, it's hard to trust him to protect Griffin -- or the team's future.