|Matt Slocum/Associated Press|
|FedEx Field's poor playing surface was a topic of conversation on Sunday long before Robert Griffin III's injury.|
With Robert Griffin III visiting Dr. James Andrews for further examination of his injured right knee, the debate rages on about whether or not he should have played in Sunday's 24-14 wild-card loss to the Seattle Seahawks. And if his knee proves to be injured to the point that it might affect his 2013 season, the second-guessing will grow even stronger.
Yet, in reality, only the Washington Redskins and RG3 know the right answer -- or what they believed to be the right answer, based on the medical information available as they prepared to play the Seahawks. If Griffin had not exhibited the capacity to play for Washington coaches and the team's medical staff during the week, he would not have been cleared to play. Clearly, he must have demonstrated that he could go.
However, everyone is in agreement about one thing: FedEx Field was not a championship-level surface on Sunday. This is something the team must admit. The field was, in fact, horrible; it made the old Vet look like a lush surface. Players on both teams were constantly slipping. If the NFL wants to strongly promote player safety, then this type of lackluster playing field cannot be accepted. I understand that it is hard to grow grass in that part of the country in January. It's hard to grow grass in a Wisconsin winter, as well, but the Green Bay Packers' surface looked fine and played fine. (Certainly doesn't hurt that Lambeau Field features grass fortified by synthetic fibers.) From the first play of the 'Skins game to the last, FedEx Field was a mess, and it made the game hard for players who just couldn't get solid traction.
The field looked bad and played even worse, and the Redskins have to take full responsibility.
A home field should offer an advantage to the home team. In fact, the home playing surface and weather should dictate how a team is built. For example, when Bill Belichick's New England Patriots were a power team in their early Super Bowl runs, their field was slow and heavy, making their opponents look sluggish. This always affected Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, who preferred to play on a fast track. When the Pats changed their surface from natural grass to field turf, they altered their team to adjust to the faster surface. As long as RG3 is behind center, Washington should want a fast track that highlights his amazing foot speed and lateral quickness. On Sunday, FedEx Field hindered the Redskins as much as (if not more than) the Seahawks did.
Let me take this opportunity to go a bit broader on the topic of RG3. We all loved watching the rookie sensation play this season. His leadership and mental toughness immediately transformed the Redskins into a playoff team. And regardless of the extent of the injury, RG3 will eventually be back and ready to lead the Redskins for many more years. But he must learn to not be as reckless when he runs the football. The idea of his movement creates just as many problems as his actual movement. With the option coming into full focus in the NFL, the potential for injuries to star quarterbacks becomes much greater, which is the downside of the spread-option attack. The more teams commit to this style of play, the more they must accept that their quarterback will take some incredible hits that could lead to injury. In the end, teams must ask one question: Is this style of play going to produce a Super Bowl winner, or will the classic pocket passer always prevail? And we all know that the pocket passer with the ability to move will win out.
Robert Griffin III through the yearsCheck out the best photos of RG3.
RG3 can be that type of player -- the pocket passer with the ability to turn a bad play into a good play, keeping drives alive. I love the line in "The Usual Suspects" when "Verbal" Kint explains the mysterious Keyser Söze to Agent Kujan in a very fitting manner: "The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist." Much like Söze, the trick for RG3 and all these option quarterbacks will be to convince the NFL world that they want to run with the ball, while in reality they actually minimize contact by taking off only when the play breaks down.
Quarterback movement drives defensive coordinators nuts, but preparing for a "running quarterback" is not a challenge. Therefore, the quarterback who can run but really just moves around to throw it down the field is the most dangerous player. Think of Ben Roethlisberger. This type of signal-caller prevents opposing coordinators from calling certain defenses on third down and makes pass rushers think about containing rather than rushing. The read-option will have a place in the NFL as we move forward, but as RG3 matures, he will move and throw rather than move and run.
I sincerely hope Griffin's injuries do not impact his game next season. And going back to my original point, I sincerely hope the Redskins take better care of their field in the future.
Follow Michael Lombardi on Twitter @michaelombardi.