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Why does one NFL team continue to let their star QB get injured?

An NFL head coach says he’s never seen anything like it at any level of football.

Lions Redskins Football RGIII in a familiar pose. Source: AP/Press Association Images

IN A PRE-SEASON game last week, Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III was repeatedly hit by Detroit Lions defenders until finally he had to leave the game with a concussion.

Because pre-season games are meaningless and Griffin’s short NFL career has been marred by injury, many wondered why head coach Jay Gruden didn’t pull his quarterback to keep him out of harm’s way.

Source: NFL

Most starting quarterbacks play only a few possessions per game during pre-season. If there’s even the slightest possibility that a quarterback is hurt, coaches will usually put in a backup rather than let the starter play through it.

And why wouldn’t they? It’s pre-season! On Sunday, Marcus Mariota took one hit against the Rams, and the Titans pulled him instantly. So why didn’t Gruden do the same?

In a column on Bleacher Report, NFL reporter Mike Freeman shared comments from an anonymous NFL head coach who suggested Gruden’s decision to keep Griffin in the game was “personal.”

“I have never, ever, on any level, seen a head coach treat his quarterback with such a lack of respect,” the coach said.

The coach told Freeman:

What is baffling is that I can’t think of a single head coach in the NFL who would take an injury-prone quarterback, put him behind a very shaky offensive line, in a pre-season game, watch him take those kinds of hits and leave him in the game. It looks personal to me.”

This isn’t exactly the sort of press you want before week one, but for Washington it’s par for the course. Since Gruden took over as head coach before the start of the 2014 season, his tumultuous relationship with Griffin has been extremely public.

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Jaguars Redskins Football Gruden and RGIII don't appear to have a great relationship. Source: Nick Wass

On the one hand, Gruden has very openly bashed his quarterback’s ability.

“Robert had some fundamental flaws,” Gruden told’s Dan Hanzus after Washington fell to 3-7 following a home loss to Tampa Bay last year. He continued:

His footwork was below average. He took three-step drops when he should have taken five. He took a one-step drop when he should have taken three on a couple occasions and that can’t happen. He stepped up when he didn’t have to step up, and he stepped into pressure. He read the wrong side of the field a couple times.”

Griffin, to be fair, hasn’t exactly been a passive bystander through all this. He has sparked controversy after losses by saying he can’t win games all by himself, which many interpreted as him throwing his teammates and coaches under the bus.

During this year’s training camp Griffin told reporters he thought he was the best quarterback in the NFL. When this quote blew up, he quickly blamed the media for taking his words out of context and using them for headlines and clicks.

Still, as Freeman notes, it’s rare to hear coaches criticise their quarterbacks as openly as Gruden has. It’s even rarer for an injury-prone quarterback to stay in a preseason game when his line can’t protect him.

Already this off-season we have seen a player blow his finger off with fireworks and another get his jaw broken over $600, and Deflategate has now dragged on for longer than an entire NFL season. It’s hard to be the most dysfunctional franchise in the NFL, and yet, Gruden and Washington are making a very strong case for first place.

- Emmett Knowlton, Business Insider.

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