Mike Shanahan had no choice but to risk Robert Griffin III's health in the playoffs. That's because he gave himself no option. He did it by helping create the situation where the Redskins had to rely on a hobbled Griffin in the first place.
Shanahan mortgaged the future on winning now, when he traded for Griffin in the 2012 NFL draft. He and general manager Bruce Allen gave up a second round choice and two first round picks to select Griffin. Dealing away more than one prime resource for strengthening the team, means you have to win sooner, rather than later.
Especially if you only have 11 wins in your first two seasons. That was the problem facing Shanahan and he decided that he simply had to get Griffin.
Shanahan willingly made the trade to select Griffin against the backdrop of a league-imposed salary cap penalty. He was prepared to sacrifice the picks and deal with the cap limitations, because he needed Griffin to win now.
This undercurrent of desperation created the potential for the kind of chaos that has engulfed the Redskins' return to contention.
Certainly, ten wins, an NFC East title and a return to the playoffs appears to justify that trade. However, that justification is only a superficial one. When Shanahan risked Griffin's health, after he suffered injury in Week 14 against the Baltimore Ravens, he made the Redskins vulnerable to a nightmare scenario.
By valuing him highly enough to risk his well-being, Shanahan has emphasised how mediocre the Redskins are without Griffin. He valued the short-term gain over the long-term prospects of the franchise. That long-term view looks a lot bleaker without Griffin.
The initial prognosis of his injury indicates a 6-8 month recovery period, according to nbcsports.com. However, his torn ACL and LCL could have far more wide-reaching consequences.
The Redskins won't have enough practice time to develop a more pro-friendly offense to better protect Griffin. That will mean more of the same moving pocket, option-read scheme the Redskins ran in 2012. The system calls for designed quarterback runs that will inevitably put increased pressure on Griffin's ailing knee.
In fact, just the mechanics of operating this offense puts Griffin at risk. The play fakes and rollout passes apply strain to the knee ligaments, due to the sharp turns and cuts. Redskins fans saw this problem first hand went Griffin finally went down against the Seattle Seahawks in the Wild Card playoffs.
However, what is the Redskins choice if Griffin is not the same post-injury? What happens to Shanahan's rebuilding project then?
After all, so much of what the Redskins do depends on Griffin. His mobility and ball skills inspired many of the team's ten wins. As a good as rookie runner Alfred Morris has been, the Redskins certainly don't own the league's best rushing attack without Griffin.
A less potent ground game reduces the effectiveness of Washington's vaunted play-action passing game. It is a catch-22 for the Redskins. They need to develop Griffin into a more well-rounded quarterback who isn't put in danger as often.
Yet they also need to maintain the credible threat he skill set poses and that has helped define their offense. Shanahan's risk, of his own making, has stunted Griffin's development right at the time the Redskins need to do their most important work with him.
What is the alternative if Griffin struggles to recover? Rookie backup Kirk Cousins showed some promise. However, with limited cap room and no first round picks, how can the Redskins build a strong enough cast to support a recovering Griffin, or an unproven Cousins?
Bringing him back for the playoffs was one thing. Despite the recriminations that have been levied at the Redskins since Griffin limped off against the Seahawks, many teams would have done the same.
However, as early as the second quarter, it was clear that Griffin wasn't just below-par, he was seriously struggling. He might have been pulled then, but that's from the comforting perspective of hindsight.
The real contentious decision was letting Griffin back on, after he first suffered the injury. It was also an ill-advised move starting him in the winner takes all season-finale against the Dallas Cowboys.
Yet by staking his reputation and possibly coaching future on finally getting things right in his third year, Shanahan needed Griffin more than ever with stakes so high.
That's the gamble he left himself with no choice, but to take. It is already having major consequences for Griffin's future and that of the Redskins.935135