To see how much influence Robert Griffin III is beginning to accumulate in the Washington, D.C. area, consider that the Washington Redskins quarterback is being given credit for helping the last-place Washington Wizards upset the reigning NBA champion Miami Heat Tuesday night. All he did was attend the game.
Griffin smiled as he was informed about the credit.
"Just say thank you. I don't know. What can you say?" Griffin said when asked after Wednesday's practice for his response. "Those guys are the ones that played. I didn't play the game. Even Coach [Mike Shanahan] said I can't be going over there and rubbing off and using all my magic on those guys when we need it for ourselves. It is what it is, and it was fun to be there, and I'm glad they won."
Just 12 games into his rookie season, Griffin has energized a city desperate for a successful Redskins team. That may sound strange considering that the Washington Capitals have won four of the past five
titles in the NHL and the Washington Nationals ended its season with the best record in major league baseball.
But Washington, D.C., is still thought of as a football town and may have been spoiled by the success the Redskins earned under Joe Gibbs, who guided the franchise to three Super Bowl championships in nine years. The last time the team reached the playoffs was 2007, which was Gibbs' final season in his second stint with the organization.
This season, the Redskins are 6-6, riding a three-game winning streak as they prepare to host the Ravens Sunday. The Redskins are trailing the Seattle Seahawks by one game for the final wildcard berth in the NFC. And much of the team's success is being credited to Griffin, the second overall pick in April's NFL Draft.
He ranks third in the league in passer rating (104.4), is tied for fifth in completion percentage (67.1), and is tied with the New England Patriots' Tom Brady for the fewest interceptions (four) by a full-time starter.
With 714 ground yards, Griffin already has set an NFL record for rushing yards by a rookie quarterback. He has also established team marks in rushing and rushing touchdowns (six).
Griffin needs just four more touchdown passes in one game to join Hall of Famer Sonny Jurgensen as the only quarterbacks in franchise history since 1960 with three four-touchdown games in a season.
"He's a playmaker and an athlete," Ravens free safety Ed Reed noted during a conference call with Washington media Wednesday afternoon. "He has all the attributes of a quarterback to get the ball to his receivers and also to scramble."
Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss said he's been impressed with his quarterback's continued growth despite being the target of many opponents' defensive game plans.
"Every week, he does something that's a little better than he did the week before," Moss said of Griffin. "He just keeps giving us chances, and that's all you want from him. He's ready to keep showing up, and it's hard to show up like that when everybody's keying on you. For him to keep doing it and keep doing it, that just shows you what kind of guy he is."
During the team's five-game stretch in which it won just once, Griffin could have sulked or become frustrated with his teammates. But right guard Chris Chester said Griffin never let the losses weigh on him or affect his personality.
"There were some tough losses in there, but there was always room to be positive and Robert knew this," said Chester, a former Raven. "He knew how good we can be and how good we have been."
If Washington continues to win, the accolades will continue to build for Griffin, who has tried to remain humble. Griffin has wholeheartedly endorsed the team's decision to limit his interviews with the media.
"The reason why we try to limit the interviews is so that he can focus on his job," Shanahan said. "It's hard — with the amount of people that want to talk to him — to do those interviews and keep focus on your job. He's been doing a great job with that. He's a guy that likes to prepare, he likes to practice, he knows what it takes to win. He's a natural leader. We talked about all these intangibles, and that's what we expect out of our quarterback. We can't ask for anything more."