Redskins

Redskins

Thursday night, the Redskins hold the second overall selection in the NFL Draft. The last time Washington held that pick was eight years ago when the team famously traded to land Robert Griffin III. Below is part of a series of reflections on RG3's rookie year. JP Finlay wrote on Monday on the night Washington traded with the Rams to get the second spot, then Mitch Tischler described what it was like being embedded with the young quarterback for an early series of interviews leading up to and after he was drafted. On Wednesday, Pete Hailey described the day Griffin lit up the Cowboys on a national stage. Next up: Ethan Cadeaux on how Haloti Ngata's hit on Griffin changed the QB's career forever.

In unison, fans of the Burgundy and Gold sang "Hail to the Redskins" as loud as they could walking down the concourse ramps at FedEx Field on Dec. 9, 2012. The Redskins had just defeated the Baltimore Ravens in a thrilling overtime clash in the rain, Washington's fourth consecutive win. 

I was a high school sophomore and happened to be present at the game, too. The win was supposed to be one Redskins fans would remember for a long time. Washington moved to 7-6, above .500 for the first time since Week 1, and remained in first place in the NFC East.

 

But this wasn't a happy victory for many Redskins fans. All anyone could think of was this: How injured is Robert Griffin III? 

With the Redskins down eight with just under two minutes remaining, Griffin was tasked to lead Washington on a game-tying touchdown drive. After a first down loss, the Redskins were stuck in a second-and-19 situation from their own 26-yard line. After evading pressure, Griffin took off running, just like he had done many times with success during his magical rookie season.

After making one defender miss, Griffin cut back inside, where he found Ravens defensive lineman Haloti Ngata. Griffin dove forward just as Ngata was ready to make his hit, and the quarterback's right leg hyperextended over Ngata's back in an awkward position.

The entire FedEx Field crowd went silent. Griffin remained down on the field, but would eventually limp off the field under his own power.

Fellow rookie Kirk Cousins entered the game in place of Griffin, but after one play, RG3 immediately put himself back in the game despite serious discomfort. Griffin would return for four more plays, completing two passes despite being able to put no bodyweight on his right leg. He once again came out of the game, leaving Cousins to finish the drive for him.

Cousins didn't let his fellow rookie down. With just 29 seconds remaining, he would find Pierre Garcon on the right side of the end zone for a touchdown. On the two-point conversion attempt, Cousins crossed the goal line untouched on a beautifully designed QB draw. The Redskins would win on a game-winning field goal in overtime.

Griffin suffered a sprained right knee and was forced to miss Washington's Week 15 matchup versus Cleveland. Cousins delivered again, as Washington won 38-21. Redskins fans were thrilled about the victory, of course, but wondered one thing only: When will Griffin be able to return?

That return came a week later against the rival Philadelphia Eagles. The Redskins would sneak out of Lincoln Financial Field with a 27-20 victory, but it wasn't pretty. Griffin was wearing a hefty knee brace on his right leg, practically limiting any mobility he had.

Every Redskins fan knew that Griffin was still significantly injured, and in reality, likely shouldn't have been playing. Sure, this magical rookie year had been amazing, but this was about protecting the long-term future of Griffin. After all, he was the No. 2 pick in the draft and expected to be Washington's franchise QB for years to come. 

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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. 

 

I was there at that game, too, and it was the best Redskins game I had been to up until that point. The stadium was full and it was rocking. Still to this day, I don't believe I've seen FedEx Field the way it was that night.

A week later, the Redskins hosted the Seattle Seahawks in their first home playoff game since 1999. 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 immediately went into a little shed behind the Redskins bench (this was before the blue medical tent). For the next 10 minutes, I don't think any fan watched any of the actual game. We were all just focused on when RG3 was leaving that red shed.

Griffin eventually came out of the shed and stayed in the game. 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, and just like that, his season was done. Griffin wouldn't know this then, but his career would never be the same.

Redskins fans will always wonder what would have happened if Griffin stayed sidelined following the Redskins' second touchdown. Would Cousins have led them to victory? If so, could RG3 have returned the following week? All of these questions are valid, but of course, can never be answered.

Griffin coined the phrase "All In For Week 1" throughout the 2013 offseason, hoping to return from his knee injury on time for the Redskins season opener. He did, but he was ineffective, which was the theme for much of the season. The Redskins slumped to a 3-6 start and finished the season on a seven-game losing streak, where Griffin was benched for the final three-game sin order to preserve his health. 

RG3 was once again the starter in 2014, but fractured his ankle in Week 2 of the 2014 season and missed the next seven weeks. He started just four games the rest of the season. A preseason concussion in 2015 cost him his last chance at being the Redskins starter. Cousins led Washington to the playoffs in 2015; it was clear RG3's time in D.C. was done.

The rise was magical. The fall was massive. But RG3's incredible 2012 season gave Redskins fans something they had not seen for a long time before, and have yet to see since.

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