April 26, 2012 could well be the day the tide finally came in for the Washington Redskins.
Sometime around 8:30 pm on Thursday evening, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will officially announce that Robert Griffin III, Quarterback, Baylor University, has been selected by the Redskins.
There will be much rejoicing, and I will be among those letting my inner child dance. Anyone who has lived the burgundy and gold life for any length of time will understand.
Sure, there are “ifs” involved—in the real world there always are. As people are quick to remind us, there are no sure things.
So let's deal with them right off the top.
Yes, RG3 played at Baylor, and yes, it is true that no great NFL quarterback has ever come out of the Big 12 Conference. There are familiar Big 12 names—Vince Young, Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy—but no Big 12 quarterback has ever established a championship or Pro Bowl legacy in the NFL.
So while one can opt to project from that RG3 will continue the trend, I submit that there is another wy to look at it. Before Jerry Rice no one talked much about the SWAC either.
Great players are not defined by where they played in college.
Then there is the eye ball test. This one I admit will linger for a while, even for some of those among us who are "all in" on RG3. The first time I watched one of his ubiquitous highlight reels I had the same reaction I got when I first studied the St. Louis Rams' Sam Bradford two years ago—the man ain’t big. In fact, he tends to thin. Those runners legs, and that track-star body in general, may not hold up.
Griffin's measureables, 6' 2 3/8" ht., 225 lbs., are fine on paper. But the eye test suggests a lithe, sinewy athlete and not necessarily an NFL stud. With the way pro quarterbacks get hit these days, and the way NFL pass pockets buzz with linebackers and defensive linemen creating mayhem at knee level, you would kind of like your franchise quarterback to have trees for legs, a la Ben Roethlisberger. RG3, for all his world-class speed and athleticism, has sprinters legs.
For a guy who will be standing and moving in and around in traffic as much as he is going to be, particularly early in his career, and who is going to be taking his fair share of big hits and in-traffic takedowns, that lean body and hurdlers legs are going to be at risk. There is simply no way around it. I expect I will not be the only Redskins fan cringing every time he goes down in a pile.
So yes ... there are ifs.
Happily, as I dug deeper and started researching him in earnest, I discovered that what sets Robert Griffin III apart, and makes the cost the Redskins paid to secure his services more than palatable, are not primarily his eye-popping athletic skills and measurables. Although they are real, and they are spectacular.
No, what sets this guy apart is what he has inside ...
This is when I "fell:"
RGIII Shows His Smarts
Before I watched that clip of his interview with NFL.com's Steve Mariucci, all I knew about this Baylor kid with the braids (I have it on good authority they are not dreadlocks) and cute moniker was what the collective media kept saying about his freakish athletic skills. When I saw the way he handled himself with Mariucci, however—and specifically, the way he handled the chalkboard portion, including poking fun at Mariucci for his distraction tactic, then drew up the protection scheme unbidden—I became convinced there was a man there.
Watch Mariucci's face at around 3:05. I felt the same way.
It's true what they say about first impressions.
I first wrote about "rising tides" in football context it in a piece about Jason Campbell in 2008, when it looked like he might be on his way. That was before we discovered that, for all his positive traits, Campbell lacked the field generalship and playmaking ability to become The Man.
I wrote about it again when the Redskins traded for Donovan McNabb in 2010. That one was less about McNabb than it was about the impact a franchise quarterback can have on an organization; what landing one can and will mean for the Redskins if and when they finally get one. I was hopeful then McNabb could be that guy for 2-3 years while the Redskins found and groomed his successor. That history, sadly, has been written otherwise. No need to flog that deceased equine.
The point that is worth making again is this:
The Redskins have thrown their hat in the franchise quarterback ring. Not for a veteran stopgap on the downhill side of a career this time, but for a young potential superstar whom only the tiniest fraction of observers fail to praise, in glowing terms, for his physical abilities, leadership and character. And one who also potentially represents what Redskins fans have longed for for many years—a homegrown quarterback star.
The one constant through 20 years of awful-to-average (read: non-winning) football the Redskins have endured has been substandard quarterbacking. No quarterback equates to no sustained success in the NFL. In 2012, the Redskins have boldly pulled the trigger and taken a calculated gamble to finally, mercifully, stop the bleeding.
With a legitimate quarterback to build around, the Redskins can join the ranks of teams fans and experts alike love to heap praise upon, teams like the New England Patriots and the New York Giants, who have the services of such a player, and embark on the less difficult (using that term advisedly) task of building around him piece by piece. Receivers, running backs, linemen, coaches—everyone associated with an NFL franchise—become better with The Man at quarterback.
If Robert Griffin III survives his inevitable learning-curve and avoids serious injury long enough to mature, it will allow the Redskins build around him… and the long years of wandering the NFL desert may well be over for Redskins fans. Yes, it's a big if. The biggest. But the right answer can be transformational.
It may very well all be turning around for the Washington Redskins ... if they have found their franchise quarterback—the rising tide that lifts all ships.