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Decisions On and Off the Field

Students discuss Coach Shanahan's playoff game decision 

Learning from Coach Mike Shanahan’s playoff management of the Washington Redskins

To play or not to play … that was the question.

Washington Redskins Head Coach Mike Shanahan’s decision to play quarterback Robert Griffin III (RGIII) in the second half of the team’s January 6 playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks has been hotly debated — given the mobile QB’s limitations after aggravating a torn ACL and LCL early in the game.

At the Mount, Kirk Davidson’s MBA 536: Business Ethics and Social Responsibility course and Sandra VanFossen’s MBA 501: Management Skills Development course recently participated in a joint session to answer the question: “Should Coach Shanahan have substituted the second-string quarterback (Kirk Cousins) for the second half of the game, or continue to play RGIII in the second half?”

The Mount MBA students — challenged in class to become integrated decision makers, understanding that the choices they make can have ramifications in cross-functional areas — believe some considerations may have been ignored on the football field.

The students researched and discussed the relevant stakeholders, and the economic, political, and ethical considerations influencing Shanahan’s decision. Based on the assumed goal of the Redskins winning the game and gaining all the associated benefits, secure team cohesion, and do what is best for RGIII, recommendations were offered for what Coach Shanahan should have done.

The Redskins traded three first round draft picks and a second round pick to obtain RGIII.

In the class discussions, ethical considerations focused on treating RGIII as a person with dignity, rather than as a product to be used — regardless of whether or not he was physically capable of playing at the highest level. It remains unclear whether the Redskins medical personnel officially cleared RGIII to play in the game.

NFL players who sit on the sideline due to injury often face attack from media and fans portraying those players as “wimpy.” Four out of the five groups in the joint class session agreed that RGIII should not have played the second half. 

“RGIII should not have started because it would have been more valuable in the long run for the stakeholders and RGIII himself to prevent a serious injury,” said Anthony Golden, MBA student. “They had a capable back-up quarterback in Kirk Cousins.”

The students acknowledged it was a tough decision for Shanahan, and would be for any anyone to make in the heat of the game. One thing is certain, however: Knowing that RGIII would go on to tear his ACL in the second half of the game makes the decision a bit easier — recovery time is expected to be 6-8 months.

“He wanted to play,” Mike Rath, MBA student, argued for the other side. “RGIII had earned his spot in the playoff game and believed that he could still play even after the injury.”

Learn more about the Mount’s Masters in Business Administration program.

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