Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Two plays from Robert Griffin III's first season stand out to me.
The first moment happened just 11 and a half minutes into Griffin's NFL career. On 1st-and-10 from Washington's own 12-yard line and facing a heavy blitz, Griffin unloaded a deep ball to Pierre Garcon. Griffin, still on the ground after getting tackled by Malcolm Jenkins, lifted his arms in the air to celebrate as Garcon sprinted the rest of the way for an 88-yard touchdown.
The second moment came Sunday against Seattle when Griffin went to the ground again, this time reaching for a fumbled snap inside the Redskins' 10-yard line.
Griffin got up the first time. The second time, he wasn't so lucky.
As I watched Griffin's season end in agony, my mind conjured up images of other gruesome sports injuries I've seen in recent years. I remembered Willis McGahee's knee going into two different directions during the 2002 BCS Championship Game. I thought of Tom Brady getting taken out by Bernard Pollard in 2008. I felt my stomach churn as my mind replayed the moment when Derrick Rose's knee buckled in last year's playoffs.
I knew right away that Griffin had torn his ACL. Dr. James Andrews, a man you never want to be associated with if you're an athlete (because it usually means you've suffered a career-threatening injury), confirmed the bad news on Tuesday. Some outlets are reporting that Griffin has already had surgery and is now facing a 6-to-8 month recovery.
Did head coach Mike Shanahan make the wrong call leaving Griffin in as long as he did? It's a question that's been haunting Redskins fans for the last three days and one that could follow Shanahan for the rest of his tenure in Washington.
Clearly, Griffin was hobbled all game. Keeping him in not only put the Redskins at a disadvantage, but it may have added months to Griffin's recovery time.
There's a part of me that understands why Shanahan left him in and it's the same reason why I'll never fault Grady Little for keeping Pedro Martinez in against the Yankees back in 2003.
If Michael Jordan got hurt in a playoff game, do you think Phil Jackson would have taken him out? Of course not. You go with the once-in-a-generation superstar who got you to this moment.
Griffin and Martinez fall in the same category. If the choice was between a tired Martinez and Alan Embree out of the bullpen, I'd take Martinez every time.
It's a lose-lose situation for Griffin. If he had come out, the media would have crucified him for not "manning up" the same way Jay Cutler was criticized for sitting out the second half of the 2011 NFC Championship Game with a bum knee.
The other side of the coin is this. While not on Griffin's level talent-wise (few are), backup Kirk Cousins has done well when given an opportunity. Cousins beat the Ravens, a playoff team, in overtime earlier this season and then played well the following week in a win against Cleveland while Griffin rested his injured knee.
Maybe none of it would have mattered. The Seahawks are really hitting their stride right now and enter Sunday's game as just three-point underdogs against the top-seeded Atlanta Falcons. RG3's health certainly would have made a difference, but there's no guarantee that it would have changed the outcome.
Now it becomes a waiting game. Will Griffin be ready for the start of next season? If we trust the 6-to-8 month window that Griffin has been given, that takes us to about August. The regular season doesn't begin until September, so that's obviously encouraging for fantasy owners.
The 6-to-8 month recovery timetable is about average for an injury of this nature (Adrian Peterson made it back in about that time), but remember, this isn't the first time RG3 has torn his ACL. RG3's lengthy injury history could cause doctors to take things slow with Griffin and let him recover at his own pace.
The healing process is different for everyone. It's been well established that Peterson is a freak of nature and Wes Welker recovered relatively quickly from his knee injury as well but others like Derrick Rose have proven to be more fragile. Rose injured his knee nine months ago and still isn't close to returning.
If Griffin can't make it back in time for the start of the season, or at all, that would open the door for Cousins (101.6 QB rating in three games) to become the starting quarterback and possibly a legitimate fantasy player. Griffin's injury would also give running back Alfred Morris a huge boost in the rankings. As the focal point of the Redskins' offense, Morris (1,613 rushing yards as a rookie in 2012) should easily be a top-three fantasy running back for next season.
Before the injury, I would have recommended Griffin as a strong keeper candidate for dynasty leagues but now I'm not so sure anymore. Now that Griffin has had two knee surgeries, he may alter his style of play to avoid having another one. Griffin is a strong passer, but his ability to run is what makes him an elite fantasy player (he set a rookie QB record with 815 rushing yards this season).
And even if Griffin continues to run with reckless abandon, he'll need to be smarter about sliding and running out of bounds or else his career could be a short one.
At age 22, there's a good chance Griffin can fully recover from this and be an effective player in this league for many years to come. Let's just hope he's standing upright for his next highlight.