“I knew if I could just take all the worries out of my mind, I could just play, have fun and ball out.”
Do you get the feeling that if Griffin weren’t busy leading his football team to the upset of the NFL’s opening weekend he would probably be leading a meditation retreat — or leading all of us in the serenity prayer?
The kid was so good, playing a shell game with the football — never letting the New Orleans Saints know when or whether he had it in his hands. He rolled out and fired precise ropes to his receivers, made monster play after monster play. His rookie debut was surreal, all right.
But the big takeaway is that a 22-year-old could be this serene.
Take the end of this stunning 40-32 Redskins victory. Washington had already scored four touchdowns and had dropped more points than the team had scored in almost seven years on a stunned Superdome. Just 2 minutes 25 seconds remained and the Saints had crept within a touchdown and a two-point conversion for the second time in the fourth quarter.
One last time, here came the pressure. One last time, here came the noise and belief from the crowd.
And Griffin coolly crushed their hope.
Walking nonchalantly behind center, facing second and 13, he dropped back and found Logan Paulsen across the middle for the most crucial of the Redskins’ 22 first downs.
Griffin was so in control, so poised amid the outsize expectations for his rookie debut. His ability to slow the game and the moment was better than all the highlight throws and naked-bootleg runs combined.
The numbers and records will rightly be talked about; they have to be. But it’s the calm during the storm that defined Griffin best Sunday in what he couldn’t help but call a “storybook” beginning to his NFC career.
“The poise that he played with and some of the throws that he made . . . ” Coach Mike Shanahan said, catching his breath afterward. “Just to execute the offense in this environment; you can’t hear the snap count.”
Only one quarterback playing his first NFL game — Fran Tarkenton in 1961 — ever had a better passer rating (139.9). No Redskins quarterback playing in a non-strike season had hooked up with a receiver for a touchdown as long as 88 yards since, heck, Billy Kilmer in 1975.
“Best I’ve ever seen a quarterback play in his first game,” Sonny Jurgensen said, nodding, in the entrance to the visiting locker room afterward.
Meanwhile, Griffin walked around with his uniform still on, like a kid in Little League who didn’t want to take it off after he hit his first home run. He held a football at the dais of his first post-game NFL news conference, finally acknowledging it was the same ball he threw across the middle to Pierre Garcon, an 88-yard touchdown that was the first of his career.