Just when you thought the hype surrounding Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III couldn’t escalate any further, the frenzy has continued to build this week. As Griffin continues to lead Washington’s once improbable quest for a winning season, the spotlight on him only intensifies.
On Sunday, the Redskins’ rookie quarterback was the subject of a CBS “Sunday Morning” segment that credited him with uniting politically polarized Washington, quoting some high-profile elected officials. On Monday night, Griffin played in his second nationally televised game and led the Redskins over the New York Giants for Washington’s first three-game win streak since 2008. (The victory also marked the Redskins’ sixth of the season, meaning they will at least finish one game better than last year’s 5-11 record.)
Following the game, analysts such as Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young, fellow Super Bowl-winning passer Trent Dilfer and former Super Bowl-winning coach Jon Gruden raved about Griffin’s play, which ESPN highlighted over the next 48 hours.
On Tuesday night, Griffin attended his first Washington Wizards game. Sitting courtside in owner Ted Leonsis’s seats, he stole the spotlight from the home team’s players, who upset LeBron James and the defending NBA champion Miami Heat.
When the long-suffering Wizards pulled off the upset, fans and commentators wondered tongue-in-cheek if it was Griffin’s aura that had caused their good fortune.
“It’s humbling. You never go somewhere expecting people to chant your name,” Griffin said, referring to the response he got at the Verizon Center Tuesday night. “. . . It just means you’re really doing something for the city.”
With Griffin at quarterback, the Redskins are playing meaningful December games for the first time since 2008. He boasts the third-best passer rating and sixth-best completion percentage in the NFL. Griffin has thrown 17 touchdown passes and just four interceptions (the latter is tied for best in the league among starting quarterbacks through 12 games). And Griffin has accumulated 714 rushing yards, a new NFL single-season record by a rookie quarterback.
On Wednesday, a representative from the Pro Football Hall of Fame came to Redskins Park to collect the jersey and cleats that Griffin wore while he set the record Monday.
“Everyone wants to be in the Hall of Fame, so, we’re in there,” Griffin said after uncomfortably enduring the brief transfer ceremony of his memorabilia to the possession of the Hall of Fame official. “But I have a long career, prayerfully, and this is only the first step. It’s an honor to have my jersey and my cleats, although they’re very dirty, in the Hall of Fame.”
Following the “Monday Night Football” broadcast, Gruden gushed over Griffin, saying he his skills, and the plays the Redskins are running for him, have changed the pro game.
Griffin’s response: “I don’t think it’s me by myself, necessarily . . . God has blessed me with speed, and good decision-making, so [coaches] allow me to go out there and trust me even in crucial situations to throw the ball and run the ball or whatever it is. When a coach buys in and the whole team buys in, you can have what we’re doing.”
Griffin’s opinion of himself may not be lofty. His goals are, however. He spoke Wednesday of his intention to develop into the best quarterback to play the game and help the Redskins become perennial contenders.
A short time later, Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan took the podium for his post-practice news conference and when asked about the quarterback, he praised the rookie for how he continues to handle himself.
“He’s doing a great job” of focusing, Shanahan said. “He’s a guy that likes to prepare and likes to practice. He knows what it takes to win, and he’s got all the natural intangibles, and that’s what we expect out of our quarterback, and you couldn’t ask for more.
“ . . . The more you get to know him, the more you’re just amazed with how he handles himself and how well he prepares. You don’t know that until you spend some time with him. He kind of surprises me almost every situation on how well he handles himself.”