Ah, yes, there they sit, with a 2-1 record against the NFC East. Well, how about that? Who saw that coming?
Well, Griffin did. He didn’t misspeak; he wasn’t misinterpreted. Griffin said at the bye nearly three weeks ago that he was rededicating himself to being better in the second half of the season. What a knee-slapper. Better? Sure, there’s always room for improvement, but Griffin already had strapped the Redskins on his back through seven games. The only time Griffin hasn’t carried the Redskins was Thursday evening, when Kory Lichtensteiger literally picked up Griffin and carried him. (Shouldn’t Lichtensteiger get the rushing yards on that play?)
What Griffin brings to the Redskins is not just amazing physical ability and mental acuity for someone of such tender years. It’s his sense of his team as a whole, of what he needs to do and say to make them believe. Not believe in him — that’s a mission accomplished simply by his play. But he has made them believe in themselves and the team. That’s leadership, and that’s something the Redskins have sorely lacked for some time.
So during the bye, his teammates decided to go all-in with their rookie quarterback. They didn’t elect him captain based on his singing voice or his signature Texas tapenade. Anyone with any smarts knew he would be a great NFL quarterback. Not everyone thought that at midseason, his name would be among the names thrown around as candidates for most valuable player. Jimmy Johnson, during Thursday’s Fox telecast, was just the latest.
But it’s too soon to bandy about postseason awards. Let’s look at the here and now. Expectations for Griffin were high, but how many people expected him to raise the confidence level of an entire team based on his old-soul self-possession and sheer willpower? He was very good before the bye, but since, the Redskins have put a whooping on two opponents. Granted, those were not the Eagles or Cowboys of old, either. Those were, in fact, some old Eagles and old Cowboys. (There is nothing sadder than an old cowboy, believe me.)
But that doesn’t matter, because those aging nemeses are division foes. That’s why talking about the Redskins making a playoff run may seem nuts, except that they are making a playoff run. Other than that, it’s crazy talk.
With five games remaining, the Redskins can win the NFC East. Granted, the division title is no great prize this season. But even the AFC West is allowed a postseason berth. The Redskins’ chances depend on running the table in the division, getting at least one more win somewhere (against Baltimore or at Cleveland), a dab of luck, epic failure by other teams and even better efforts than we saw against the Eagles and Cowboys. It may seem unlikely, but it is possible. Redskins fans should rejoice in the word “possible.” When was the last time they’ve been able to say it on Nov. 24?
As fate would have it, the big test is the next one: at home against the Giants on Dec. 3, which happens to be a Monday night game. If they can defeat the Giants — who are 2-2 in the division and 6-4 overall entering Sunday night’s game against the Packers — well, then, the Redskins will have all their ducks in a row. Then it’s up to them to knock ’em down.
Every scribe that touches upon the Redskins is no doubt starting to feel like Bart Simpson, writing “Robert Griffin III is great!” over and over on a chalkboard. Yes, there is room for improvement, but it’s still true. It’s not just the numbers, although those are fairly amazing, such as his 158.3 quarterback rating against the Eagles and his four touchdown passes to four receivers against the Cowboys. (His getting everyone some touches is a tribute to his talent and Kyle Shanahan’s play-calling.)
“He makes things happen,” Coach Mike Shanahan gushed after Thursday’s win. (For Mike Shanahan, that’s gushing, even though it sounded like he was describing his plumber.)
Griffin’s true gifts are not just his arm, legs, brain and ability to make Mike Shanahan smile. (Griffin must be hard to buy for at Christmas.) His really remarkable gift is his ability to make the Redskins believe they can win. No Black Friday traffic and long lines for him. He’s already the gift that keeps on giving.
For previous columns by Tracee Hamilton, visit washingtonpost.