Washington Post sports columnist Thomas Boswell has written a superb piece that compares how the Washington Nationals and the Washington Redskins have handled Stephen Strasburg and Robert Griffin III, respectively.
Strasburg and Griffin are both in their early twenties, phenomenal athletes, and at the top of their respective sports, baseball and football. And both have suffered serious and potential career-ending injuries. Yet, the coaches and general managers of both teams have made very different and consequential decisions about how to handle these two star players.
The Nationals, Boswell observes, have gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure that Strasburg, a pitching sensation, has adequate time to heal and is not overextended. Why, the Nats even ended Strasburg’s 2012 season in September, just prior to a playoff run, to ensure that he did not reinjure his arm.
This invited the scorn and derision of fans, sports writers and pundits. At the time, after all, Strasburg, was pitching quite well. So why the cause for alarm?
Because, said Nats’ general manager, Mike Rizzo, “‘I know what I see… [and] the danger area is coming,’ either for a 2012 injury or, more likely, damage that would show up [next year], in 2013,” Boswell reports.
Coaches and general managers of professional sports teams, Boswell points out, “live by their eye. They know what to look for and trust what they see. What others miss doesn’t escape them.”
“In recent months,” he continues,
both [Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan and Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo] faced an ethical crisis. What their eyes saw, or should have seen, was obvious. Would they have the wisdom as team-builders, the moral courage as leaders, or perhaps just the decency as men, to act on it? One did. One didn’t.
Boswell is absolutely right. Which is why I called upon the NFL to suspend Shanahan for at least several games. His decision to continue playing Griffin last Sunday — long after it had become obvious to everyone that Griffin was seriously injured and highly vulnerable to greater injury — was reckless and unconscionable.
I don’t ascribe malice to Shanahan. I’m sure he meant well and thought he was doing the right thing. But the truth is that what he did was wrong — seriously wrong. And it’s important that the NFL make an example of Shanahan, so that other coaches don’t repeat his mistakes.
Griffin underwent reconstructive surgery of his right knee on Wednesday. Let us hope that the surgery went well; and that this gifted young athlete returns to the gridiron in September fully healed and physically prepared for the new season. And let us hope that his coach has been forced to do penance away from the game.