As a rookie quarterback in 2012, Robert Griffin III was electric as the starting quarterback for the Washington Redskins and led the team to the playoffs for the first time in five years.
Griffin, who completed 65 percent of his passes while accounting for 27 touchdowns compared to just five interceptions, looked like a franchise quarterback and the team’s decision to trade a package including to first-round picks to draft the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback looked justified.
Then, the team’s playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks rolled around and it all fell apart on a soggy FedEx field.
Already hobbled by a sprained lateral collateral ligament that he’d suffered about a month before, Griffin reinjured the knee trying to field a bad shotgun snap and didn’t even try to recover the ball.
Ignoring this, coach Mike Shanahan and his staff elected to keep Griffin in the game and he eventually suffered a torn ACL and LCL when his knee crumpled on a fourth-quarter pass attempt.
The Redskins lost the game and lost their franchise quarterback as Griffin, who is still in the NFL as a backup to Lamar Jackson in Baltimore, was never able to regain the form that made him a Pro Bowler and the NFL offensive rookie of the year in 2012.
The Kansas City Chiefs, who have a dynamic young quarterback of their own in reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes, would be wise to use Griffin as a cautionary tale.
Less than 10 days ago during a Thursday Night Football game against the Denver Broncos, Mahomes, who was already dealing with an ankle injury, dislocated his right kneecap while executing a quarterback sneak.
While it was debatably foolish enough to run that sort of play with a hobbled Mahomes in the first place, the Kansas City Chiefs are on the verge of compounding that mistake tenfold.
Mahomes, who was initially given a minimum of a three-week timetable to return to the field after an MRI revealed no structural damage, is already back taking reps at practice. Though he’s been ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Packers, Mahomes could play in Week 9 against the Vikings.
If the Chiefs allow him to, they are playing with fire.
Mahomes, 24, is arguably the most valuable asset in the NFL and needs to be treated as such. By playing him so soon after an injury, the Chiefs would be valuing short-term success over long-term viability, a very Redskin-ian way of running a football team.
“Anytime you dislocate something, you’re at increased risk for doing it again,” Dr. Steven Struhl, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in shoulder and knee-related injuries and conditions, tells InsideHook. “It’s such a violent injury, that when you have a dislocation, something’s got to give. Something’s got to rip. When it rips, now you have less soft tissue constraints and the chances you could do it again go up, especially when you don’t have surgery to correct the damage. Even though there was no structural damage picked up by the MRI, he probably did stretch the ligaments to a degree, so they’re probably not perfectly normal and there is an increased risk.”
Dr. Struhl points out that Mahomes was very fortunate to dislocate his kneecap and get away with no structural damage. That won’t happen twice.
“If he does it again, he won’t be so lucky. The chances that he rips something are much higher. He could also shear off a piece of a bone when it goes from being dislocated to not dislocated. That creates a number of problems. Redislocating it would almost surely create a surgical problem. “
They can’t keep him in bubble wrap forever, but a surgical problem is exactly the type of problem the Chiefs will want to avoid with a game-breaking quarterback like Mahomes. Give him the time he needs to heal completely — and then give him a little more. Don’t even think about putting him back on the field before he’s ready. It isn’t worth it.
Just ask Griffin.