There was little drama at the top of Thursday’s NFL Draft where a pair of quarterbacks heard their names called in the order everyone expected. But while the name of Robert Griffin III’s Washington Redskins jersey could have been ironed on weeks ago, the lack of suspense did nothing to quell the excitement for a fanbase desperate for a franchise quarterback to lead it back to greatness. As Mark Maske reported:
After years of trying, the Redskins hope they finally have landed a dynamic player at the sport’s most important position who can help rekindle the franchise’s past success. Team officials had targeted Griffin from the moment they completed their blockbuster trade with the St. Louis Rams in March to move up four spots in the first round, paying a heavy price in future draft choices to do so.
“We tried to keep it secret as long as we could,” Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said at Redskins Park soon after the pick was made, describing team officials as “elated” with the selection.
“He wants to be the guy,” Shanahan added. “He’s going to do everything he possibly can to be successful. You don’t have to be around him very long to figure that out.”
Griffin wore burgundy and gold striped socks and a light blue suit to the draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York. “I’m real excited,” he said in a conference call with reporters. “A team finally fell in love with me. They want me for who I am, and I can’t wait to go play for them.”
For a football-crazed city long deprived of a competitive football franchise, Griffin III could finally signal progress and another step toward returning the Redskins to the upper tier of the NFL totem pole. Owner Daniel Snyder paid a heavy price to trade up to the No. 2 spot for the chance to draft the Heisman Trophy winner, but if Griffin III is as good as the Redskins believe him to be, he could have bought redemption for himself and his team. As Jason Reid wrote:
For the Washington Redskins, the drafting of quarterback Robert Griffin III on Thursday represents the best hope for stability at the game’s most important position. For team owner Daniel Snyder, Griffin offers the potential to rehabilitate a battered public image.
In a move that offered as much suspense as a traffic light changing colors, the Redskins selected the top-of-the-marquee prospect with the second overall pick — and in the process may have provided Snyder with a late-round mulligan. After more than a decade’s worth of head-scratching personnel moves, silly fantasy-football roster management and self-inflicted public relations disasters — all against a backdrop of also-ran seasons — Snyder may have finally found the type of game-changer he needs to restore the District’s most popular sports franchise.
Snyder authorized the Redskins to pay a record price to move up in the draft and take Griffin: three first-round picks and a second-rounder to the St. Louis Rams. If Griffin fulfills his almost too-good-to-be-true potential, that decision will prove to be the kind of bold stroke that can revive a franchise.
In a spring that has already seen the Washington Capitals stun the NHL by ousting the Boston Bruins to reach the second-round of the Stanley Cup playoffs and the Washington Nationals bolt to the best record in the National League, Griffin III’s arrival adds another reason for optimism in the nation’s capital. As Thomas Boswell wrote:
In those old Greek masks you always see outside theaters, Melpomene is the muse of tragedy wearing a sorrowful down-at-the-mouth mask, while Thalia, the muse of comedy, is always smiling. If a theater produced only tragedies, they’d shut the damn place down and run Melpomene out of town.
But in sports, because it’s real, fans can get trapped behind their self-imposed mask of mock tragedy for years, even decades, if their teams stay bad or embarrassing enough; the sad bill of fare seems to last for eternity.
There’s a new mask in Washington. Finally. Wear it, laugh behind it and prank with it until they pry it from your cold, dead, playoff-eliminated hands.
It’s not time for a parade, not by a long shot. But finally Washington fans can break out a smile, even a huge giddy grin if we like, one that will remain for days, weeks and probably for months.
They don’t give out the Stanley Cup for a first-round upset in the National Hockey League playoffs. Beleaguered owner Daniel Snyder didn’t just sell the Redskins. The Nationals still have 144 opportunities to make us forget a 14-4 start. And a five-game winning streak by the Wizards is like finding an empty canteen in the Gobi desert.
But for now, make way and give us some elbow room. For the moment, the Capitals are hailed as big-game players, Robert Griffin III is arriving any nanosecond and the Nationals have the second-best record in baseball. And Washington is a normal sports town — a theater with more than one mask.
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