NBC Sports Washington is rolling out the 20 biggest stories in DMV sports in the past 20 years. Here is No. 6.
After two decades of disappointment and suffering, all Redskins fans wanted was hope.
"With the second pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, the Washington Redskins select Robert Griffin the third, quarterback, Baylor."
As NFL commissioner Roger Goodell spoke those 19 words in Radio City Music Hall on that Thursday evening in April of 2012, hope is exactly what Redskins fans got.
Griffin's arrival in Washington came at a hefty price. Washington traded with the Rams to move up from the No. 6 selection to the second pick, costing them three first-round picks and a second-rounder as well. But it didn't matter to many Redskins fans; for the first time in nearly two decades, the Redskins had who they thought would be a franchise quarterback.
The 2011 Heisman Trophy winner came to Washington with sky-high expectations, and it took less than two quarters for the hype surrounding the promising rookie to be justified. In his NFL debut against the New Orleans Saints in the Superdome, Griffin connected with Pierre Garcon on an 88-yard touchdown pass. The 6-foot-2 quarterback was struck by then-Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins on the play, landing on his back. When he sat up, Garcon was running off in the distance. The rookie put his arms up in the air, and a signature pose was born: 'Griffining.'
Griffin finished with 320 passing yards and two touchdowns in the Redskins upset victory over the Saints in Week 1. Griffin was here, and here to stay.
The rookie put together back-to-back incredible offensive performances in Weeks 2 and 3, despite two tough losses to the Rams and Bengals. In Week 4, Griffin led a game-winning drive over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, despite claims that the headset in his helmet went out during the final two minutes.
One of the biggest concerns surrounding Griffin entering the draft was his playstyle and ability for his thinner frame to absorb NFL hits. In Week 5, Griffin suffered the first injury of his NFL career, leaving with a concussion against the Falcons. But the rookie returned to action a week later against the Vikings. With Washington up five late in the fourth quarter, Griffin escaped down the left sideline for a 76-yard touchdown run to seal the victory, perhaps the best play of his NFL career to date.
Washington suffered three straight losses before their Week 10 bye, causing head coach Mike Shanahan to raise public concern about the team. Washington responded with a 31-6 thumping of the Eagles in Week 11, including a four-touchdown, perfect passer rating performance from Griffin. In Week 11, Washington went into Jerry World on Thanksgiving and upset the Cowboys, 38-31, behind another standout, four touchdown outing from Griffin. A week later, the Redskins won their first Monday Night Football game in years over the Giants.
Things took a turn for the worst in the Redskins Week 14 matchup with the Ravens. In the second half, Griffin took off and ran down the left side of the field. As he tried to cut back, Baltimore defensive end Haloti Ngata's shoulder went directly into Griffin's right knee. Kirk Cousins came on in relief for the Redskins and led them to victory, but Griffin was never the same.
Griffin returned to the lineup in Week 16 against the Eagles after a one game absence, wearing a thick brace on his injured right knee. In an ugly contest, the Redskins narrowly edged Philadelphia for their sixth-straight win. In Week 17, a still hobbled Griffin leaned on running back Alfred Morris. Behind the rookie running back's 199 yards, the duo led Washington to a victory over Dallas, and in result, the team's seventh consecutive win and their first NFC East title since 1999.
Griffin's spectacular season earned him 2012 AP Rookie of the Year honors. He finished 2012 with 3,200 passing yards, 20 passing touchdowns, seven rushing touchdowns and just five interceptions.
In Washington's Wild Card matchup with the Seattle Seahawks, Washington jumped out to an early 14-0 lead. But on the Redskins second touchdown, Griffin looked to have further injured his already sprained knee. He stayed in the game, and the Redskins offense stalled from there on out, and Seattle came back with 21 unanswered points. Late in the fourth quarter, a poor snap forced Griffin's knee to bend inward. Griffin tore his ACL and LCL. The Redskins would fail to score again, ending their season.
Throughout the 2013 offseason, Griffin debuted the phrase "All in for Week 1," his motto that he was hoping to be healthy enough to return for the Redskins 2013 season opener. Without taking a preseason snap, Griffin did play in Week 1, but was largely ineffective. The Redskins dropped their first three games in 2013, and slumped to a 3-6 start. But unlike 2012, the Redskins finished the year on a seven-game losing streak. Head coach Mike Shanahan benched Griffin for the final three games of 2013, in order for him to be fully healthy for the offseason. Shanahan was fired after the season ended.
Griffin was once again the Redskins Week 1 starter in 2014, but dislocated his left ankle in a Week 2 victory over Jacksonville. He returned in Week 9, and the Redskins dropped their next three games. Prior to a Week 13 matchup against the Colts, Griffin was benched by new head coach Jay Gruden for veteran Colt McCoy. In Week 15, McCoy injured his neck against the Giants, and Griffin was once again the Redskins quarterback. He started Washington's final two games in 2014, defeating the Eagles in Week 16 before falling to the Cowboys in Week 17.
Entering the 2015 season, Griffin remained the starter but was on thin ice in Gruden's second season at the helm. During a preseason game against the Lions, Griffin suffered a concussion, one that forced him to remain sidelined for the remainder of the preseason. Gruden then named Kirk Cousins the Redskins starting quarterback, with Griffin falling to third on the depth chart behind Cousins and McCoy. Griffin would not play a snap for the Redskins during the 2015 season, while Cousins led Washington to an NFC East title.
During locker room cleanout following the Redskins playoff loss to the Packers, Griffin packed up all his gear, spare one note. The note read, in part: "Forgive them anyway. Be kind anyway …It was never between you and them anyway."
Following Cousins' incredible 2015 season, the Redskins franchise tagged him and released Griffin in March. It was the end of an era in Washington, just four years after the franchise invested so much into him.
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