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RGIII's benching affects integrity, John Madden says

If the Washington Redskins decided to bench Robert Griffin IIIfor competitive reasons, it wouldn't be the first time a franchise player had temporarily lost his starting job.

If coach Mike Shanahan opted to keep Griffin off the field because the quarterback was hounded by an injury, that certainly would not be without precedent.

Shanahan didn't cite either of those reasons in Wednesday's rambling press conference. He continually drove home the point that Kirk Cousins is starting the final three games to ensure that Griffin doesn't suffer a new injury that will affect his offseason program.

In a Wednesday interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Hall of Fame coach and broadcaster John Madden cried foul, labeling Shanahan's machinations "baloney."

"I like Mike Shanahan, and I'm not talking behind his back," Madden said, "but when you say something like that, you know that's not right. You're not going to sacrifice regular season games. There's only 16 of them a year. You're not going to sacrifice regular season games for an offseason program.

"I don't understand what they're doing. It's hard to take, 'Well, we're watching out for RGIII's health and his welfare.' You know, if you felt (that way) about his health and welfare, you probably would have done something about it a year ago, or maybe even earlier in the season, when he started the regular season without any preseason practice."

It's a fair point. Football is a contact sport. If Shanahan wanted to ensure Griffin's health, why play him for 13 games? Why not sit him once the Redskins were eliminated? This coaching staff was well aware that Griffin needed the game experience to develop as a pocket passer.

"His playing is going to to help him," Madden continued. "He needs experience, he needs snaps, he needs reps, he needs to get his confidence back ... Where did 'shut him down' ever come up in football? I never heard 'shut him down.' I mean, that was a baseball thing -- a pitch count, (as in), 'He's thrown so many; now we're going to shut him down.' I've never heard of a football player ever being shut down. Now if he's hurt, that's a different story. If he's hurt and can't play, then we're talking about a different ballgame here."

What has Madden particularly nonplussed is that Shanahan has put the integrity of the game in jeopardy.

"This is still regular-season football," Madden explained. "Draft order, that's one small thing, but you still owe it to the people that are playing, that are still in the playoff picture. And when you can affect that and you don't affect it with an all-out performance, then I think that affects the integrity of the game ... If you're in the regular season, there's only one way to play, and that's to play your best people to win the game, every regular season game."

Madden's soapbox soliloquy is music to my ears. Football players have one job above all others: compete. It's at the heart of all professional athletic leagues.

Colts coach Chuck Pagano said it well this week when asked if he would rest players down the stretch now that he has wrapped up the AFC South.

"They give you a 16-game schedule," Pagano said. "and we are going to play it."

The NFL has tried its best to legislate against late-season forfeits, popularized by former Colts president Bill Polian and coach Tony Dungy last decade. The schedule now concludes with key divisional matchups designed to prevent teams from making a mockery of 6 to 12 percent of the schedule by benching the best players in the league.

UPDATE: Mike Shanahan responded to John Madden's comments Thursday: "I respect the heck out of John. Everybody's got an opinion about everything. Especially when you are getting paid."

*The latest "Around The League Podcast" recapped all the Week 14 games. *

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