“The one thing I try to do is not stress about anything or to go out and prove anything to anyone,” he said after outplaying Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who will one day go to the Hall of Fame. “I just go play and have fun; this is a game that I have played for a long time.”
Again, he added, “My mind was really clear going into this game.”
This is what walking into the World Series of Poker for the first time must be like. No one knows your tells, your strategy or your style. No one knows anything about you other than what they’ve seen and heard about you in smaller games.
The first drive was critical, geared toward giving Griffin confidence and comfort in the pocket. Quick screens. Sleight-of-hand option plays, so it was hard for the camera, let alone the Saints, to follow the football.
They took the bubble wrap off after that. Garcon got free running a crossing pattern, slipped underneath and then outside. Eighty-eight yards. Gone. Griffin’s first touchdown of his NFL career was the longest Washington pass play from scrimmage in nearly 40 years.
His virtuoso performance wasn’t just about a new era in Washington; it transcended football. Griffin’s numbers and poise at least measured up and sometimes blew by some of the great rookie debuts in modern sports history. It was Stephen Strasburg fanning 14 Pirates in June of 2010 at Nationals Park; it was LeBron James’s scintillating 25 points and nine assists against a good Sacramento squad in 2003; it was Tiger Woods’s hole in one in the final round of his first PGA tournament in Milwaukee in 1996; it was Magic embracing Kareem as if he had won the title in 1979, after Kareem’s sky hook beat the Clippers’ in Earvin Johnson’s first NBA game.
The greatest affirmation of all was the quiet, the utter silence in the Superdome.
“Who dat?” many of the Redskins players yelled as they ran toward the locker room afterward. “We dat!”
In the end, Griffin was still on the field, talking to the cameras and the microphones. The general manager, Bruce Allen, hugged him as he left the field. The kid then threw his skullcap into the stands as dozens of Redskins’ fans chanted, “RGIII! RGIII! RGIII!” from the stands above.
No one asked him about the past. No one asked him about the future. It was then you realized the best thing about Griffin is maybe the best thing about many of these newly acquired Redskins: they don’t have a memory of the awful times past.
They are like Griffin — staying in the moment, happily trapped in time, enjoying the brilliance of their new shining light behind center. And Sunday at the Superdome, what a moment it was.
For Mike Wise’s previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/wise.