The easy thing to do would be to knock Robert Griffin III for being soft or foolish, maybe even both. But, yet again, we have to ask the question: Why was he even in the game?
Griffin spent the first quarter Thursday against Detroit taking a pummeling behind an undermanned, overmatched offensive line. To end his second series of the night, Griffin had to pick himself up off the turf after Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy came clean on a delayed blitz and drilled Washington's QB in the chest—on a clean hit, for the record.
By that point it was rather obvious Griffin was headed for trouble if he stayed in. The coaching staff kept him on the field for two more possessions.
"No," head coach Jay Gruden answered when asked if he considered removing Griffin early. "We felt confident in our...offensive line to get something going there the fourth drive. Unfortunately, it didn't happen."
Predictably, Griffin took another shot, this one coming as a pile of players landed on him while he tried to recover a fumble. The result: a stinger and what was later diagnosed as a concussion. Those injuries forced Gruden's hand, as he then had no choice but to sit Griffin for third-stringer Colt McCoy.
For RGIII and the home fans, it had to feel all too familiar. Griffin has had trouble staying healthy throughout his NFL career. The trouble began in earnest, though, during the 2012 playoffs, when an already-hobbled Griffin stayed in the contest despite horrid field conditions. He eventually suffered a torn ACL and LCL when his knee crumpled on a fourth-quarter pass attempt.
Then head coach Mike Shanahan was roundly criticized after Washington's loss for not protecting Griffin by sitting him.
The MMQB's Peter King wrote at the time: "Griffin was so obviously not himself, and so tentative moving around, and the Redskins and their medical staff should have seen this. Griffin clearly has a they'll-have-to-drag-me-off-the-field mentality and needs to be protected from himself. Shanahan should know this. I believe he should have pulled Griffin out of the game before the half, for good."
Yahoo's Dan Wetzel expressed a similar sentiment: "Griffin didn't have a coach Sunday. He had Mike Shanahan, who looked at this mess, looked at each hapless Redskins drive, looked at every painful RG3 step, looked at every awkward, overthrown pass, and instead bought Griffin's weak arguments and then closed his eyes and lied to himself that it would all turn out OK."
Obviously, the stakes were different Thursday, which works both for and against Gruden's call to leave Griffin out there.
The preseason is all about getting players ready for Week 1, so there's an onus to find game reps for even the projected starters. The flip side here: Thursday's game was meaningless. Griffin was without his blindside protector and best offensive lineman, Trent Williams, and the Lions established from the get-go that they planned to come after him.
Detroit hit Griffin on six of his eight drop-backs, including the Levy hit and an early sandwich sack by Tyrunn Walker and Ziggy Ansah—a play on which Walker blew through right guard Brandon Scherff and Ansah shook off a double team where Williams would have been.
Griffin might have had room to tell Shanahan during that playoff loss that he wasn't 100%. He had no real leeway against Detroit. What respectable quarterback is going to ask out of an exhibition game because he's being hit too much?
There were only two ways Griffin was coming out of Thursday's game: either Gruden was going to pull him or an injury was going to end his night. Because Washington's coach failed to take a proactive approach in protecting his starting quarterback, the latter occurred.
Yes, it is a never-ending problem that Griffin cannot stay healthy, and his inability to make it through even two quarters of a preseason game only furthers that perception.
There just was not any reason to expose him to the level of punishment he took vs. the Lions. That's on the coaching staff. Again.
GALLERY: RG III'S HOUSE OF PAIN