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What was Mike Shanahan thinking in keeping injured Robert Griffin III in wild-card game?

Dan Wetzel
Yahoo Sports

LANDOVER, Md. – Across failed series after failed series, painful step after painful step, Washington coach Mike Shanahan stuck to his guns and to his hobbled quarterback Robert Griffin III, whose damaged knee left him almost incapable of playing.

Finally, midway through the fourth quarter, a low snap caused Griffin to bend awkwardly. His injured right knee crumpled and hyper-extended under him as Seattle recovered the fumble. Suddenly few here at FedEx Field cared that Seattle was in business inside the Redskins' 10-yard line, en route to a 24-14 victory in Sunday's NFC wild-card game. The Seahawks will play in Atlanta on Sunday.

Griffin sprawled out on the field, gripping his knee as the stadium grew quite silent. The future of Washington's franchise quarterback suddenly hung in the balance.

View photo

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Robert Griffin III limped through much of Sunday's playoff game against Seattle. (AP)

RG3 eventually got to his feet and hobbled off the field. There was no early word on his prognosis. Kirk Cousins replaced Griffin but was unable to lead a comeback.

[Photos: Robert Griffin III plays hurt ]

The questions for Shanahan will continue long after the pain of this loss goes away. Or maybe it's just one question: Why was the Redskins' franchise quarterback still playing when he was clearly injured?

Griffin was ineffective after a first quarter hit on the Redskins' second drive of the game. Later, Seahawk Bruce Irvin knocked him down on a late hit.

From that point on, Griffin could do little, amassing just 44 total yards of offense before getting significantly injured. Gone was the trademark speed and elusive running game. So too was his ability to throw downfield as he struggled to push off his right leg. He even threw a pick.

The entire ordeal was painful to watch and had many wondering if Griffin III was being unduly risked for injury and whether Shanahan was pressing for a playoff victory while putting the health and future of his star rookie at risk. This was especially questionable because Cousins was terrific in a supporting role during the regular season. The Washington offense did nothing, allowing Seattle to mount drive after drive and finally take the lead.

[Related: Twitter reacts to Griffin playing through injury]

Making matters worse for Shanahan was a USA Today report Sunday that countered Shanahan's reasoning for putting RG3 back into a December game against Baltimore when he originally hurt the knee.

Shanahan said RG3 was cleared to return to action by famed surgeon Dr. James Andrews. However, Andrews told the newspaper that wasn't the case. His account suggests Shanahan lied.

"[Griffin] didn't even let us look at him," Andrews said. "He came off the field, walked through the sidelines, circled back through the players, and took off back to the field. It wasn't our opinion. We didn't even get to touch him or talk to him. Scared the hell out of me."

Now here was RG3, in even worse shape, clearly incapable of making the plays to defend himself, and eventually crumpled on the field in a heap.

The game was lost. For Washington, the hope is that's the worst news of the day.

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