Good news: Robert Griffin III has a mild sprain in his right knee, one he suffered after taking a(nother) punishing hit, this time during Sunday's overtime win against the Ravens. For all that RGIII has done right this year -- and the list is long -- the biggest criticism has been his unwillingness to alter his playing style.
It's a double-edged sword, however; the success of the Redskins' option offense is contingent in large part on Griffin's ability to run. And it caught up with him against Baltimore.
Now the 'Skins sit at 7-6, winners of four in a row, and in the thick of the playoff race. They'll almost certainly need to win their final three regular-season games -- and hope that the Seahawks or Bears (the Nos. 5 and 6 seeds in front of them) lose.
But here's the thing: Griffin won't be 100 percent this Sunday when Washington takes on Cleveland. And while the Browns are playing much better now than they were earlier in the season, they're still a team the Redskins should beat. Knowing that, and that Washington is playing not for Week 15 but for January football, should coach Mike Shanahan think about sitting RGIII and going with his other rookie, Kirk Cousins?
We've written previously that Cousins should be up to the task; he's fared well in relief appearance against the Falcons and the Ravens.
“I have a lot to live up to if my number does get called because of the way he’s played," Cousins said via the Washington Post. " … He’s doing a tremendous job. I’m trying to learn from him as I watch and stay locked into these games when I’m not playing.”
But coaches are risk-averse and and present-oriented -- two traits (character flaws?) that make it more likely that a less-than-healthy Griffin would start over his backup. Then again, Shanahan drafted two quarterbacks last April when the team appeared to have much bigger needs.
“For me to put Kirk in that situation as the second-team quarterback so early in his career kind of gives you an idea what I think of Kirk,” Shanahan said.
We'll know more in the coming days, but it's a situation the Steelers have faced on several occasions during Ben Roethlisberger's tenure, the most recent coming late last season. Roethlisberger suffered a high-ankle sprain against the Browns in Week 14 and with the division title on the line, he suited up the next week against the 49ers. Roethlisberger played one of his worst games of the season, throwing three interceptions, taking three sacks, and the Steelers lost. He sat out the following week against the lowly Rams, Charlie Batch pitched a shutout, and Big Ben returned in Week 17.
Pittsburgh would run into the Tim Tebow buzz saw in the wild-card round but might things have turned out differently if Roethlisberger sat out that San Francisco game, too?
The situation is slightly different for Washington; they're not in control of their playoff destiny like Pittsburgh was a year ago and have no margin for error. And while Shanahan has a lot of faith in Cousins (and he should), RGIII, even at 75 or 80 percent, gives the 'Skins the best chance to win.