In the final minutes of Sunday's season-ending 24-14 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was alone on the bench, hands clasped, his eyes closed in prayer. The bulky brace had been removed from his right knee and discarded.
One of the most electrifying debut seasons in NFL history had come to an upsetting end, leaving behind questions if Griffin had been put in harm's way for the sake of a playoff game.
"I think everybody could see after the first quarter that he wasn't always exactly the same, but I got a lot of players that aren't exactly the same, there's not a lot of quarterbacks that are exactly time this time of year," Shanahan said. "But I still thought he could go in there and make the plays he was capable of making against an excellent defense."
Shanahan acknowledged it was a difficult situation, saying it required a gut decision. He said he had consulted with team doctors both before and during the game, restating that he wouldn't have played Griffin if they believed he was at risk of further injuring the LCL in his knee.
"I'll probably second-guess myself when you take a look at the second half, should have I done it earlier?" Shanahan said. "I think you always do that, especially after you don't win."
Griffin originally suffered his knee injury Dec. 9, costing him one game. He had significantly less burst and mobility when he returned, a reality never more apparent then on Sunday. Griffin aggravated the injury on a rollout in the second quarter, leading to a brief trip to the Washington locker room area to get taped up. At halftime, Shanahan asked Griffin if he was healthy enough to continue.
"Robert said to me, 'Coach, there's a difference between injured and being hurt. I can guarantee I'm hurting right now, give me a chance to win this football game because I guarantee I'm not injured,' " Shanahan said. "That was enough for me."
NFL.com's Jeff Darlington reported that Griffin will have an MRI on his knee Monday, but one teammate who spoke to the quarterback said Griffin does not believe he suffered any type of serious tear.
Shanahan faced a difficult decision Sunday. Fair or not, there will be plenty of voices stating Shanahan failed to protect his quarterback.
Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @DanHanzus.