After Robert Griffin III suffered a knee sprain Dec. 9 against the Baltimore Ravens, fans of the burgundy and gold exhaled a sigh of disbelief.
On the surface, the injury looked like a season-ender, as Griffin’s knee wrapped around the helmet of Ravens defender Haloti Ngata. But an MRI revealed a sprain, not a torn ACL as feared.
Nonetheless, Griffin was inactive for his team’s Dec. 16 matchup against the Cleveland Browns, and it was backup quarterback Kirk Cousins who led the Redskins to a 38-21 win. In his first NFL start, Cousins racked up 329 yards passing, two touchdowns, and a single interception.
Griffin remains the team’s starter, but how long should he sit out as the Redskins chase down a playoff spot in the NFC, Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate this question.
Riley: Following the trip to Cleveland, Washington closes the season with games against the Philadelphia Eagles (4-10) and the Dallas Cowboys (7-6), Washington can afford to sit Griffin possibly until Week 17. The Browns have been playing solid football but so has Washington, and with the ability that Cousins showed filling in against the Ravens, I fully believe that Cousins can guide this team to two wins against a pair of the league’s worst teams.
Green: Two road games for a backup rookie quarterback is a tall order compared to a couple of games at home in the friendly confines of FedEx Field. Both Cleveland and Philadelphia are hostile road environments that would shake even the most experienced signal callers, let alone a rookie who’s barely seen a quarter worth of action this season. If Griffin is healthy then he should play, period. Washington can’t afford the take-it-easy approach. They’re in the hunt for a playoff position and they need to take advantage.
Riley: Washington has been playing lights-out the last few weeks so I tend to believe that they can bring meet the Browns and Eagles with the same defensive intensity and power running game that they’ve been displaying for the last month. Griffin is an important part, but with the team believing in themselves now at 7-6, I can’t see why they would let up with Griffin on the shelf. A healthy Griffin going into the last game of the year is exactly what Washington wants. He’s spectacular and I think he could seriously lead a deep run in the postseason—if he’s healthy.
Green: The Redskins are 7-6 largely thanks to the efforts of Griffin. Yes, they’ve played better as a team as of late, but Griffin is the straw who’s been stirring the drink. We saw this team without Griffin last year, when they finished as a bottom-five team. Take Griffin out, and this team has no chance. They can’t afford to play the what-ifs at this stage because they’re not that strong yet. The so-called power running game that they have mainly works well because Griffin is drawing the eyes of the defense when the team is in the pistol formation. Cleveland and Philadelphia are not going to lay down. If I’m a Redskin fan who hasn’t seen the playoffs in years then I’m praying that RGIII is starting as soon as possible.
Riley: If I’m a Redskin fan who hasn’t seen the playoffs in years then I’m just hoping that the team makes the right decision for the sake of the franchise and not just for one season. If RGIII can lead the team to the brink of the playoffs in his first season, then imagine what he can do as he gains more experience and more weapons. Washington is going to be good for years down the line thanks in part to their superhero signal-caller. It’s not worth risking further damage to a horrific-looking injury simply to make the playoffs one time. I say rest RGIII until he’s fully functional.