Thursday, November 22, 2012
Could RG3 be MVP?
By Dan Graziano
Robert Griffin III has thrown four touchdown passes in back-to-back games -- both victories.
The young man, who will not turn 23 until after the Super Bowl, just threw eight touchdown passes in a span of five days. More importantly, he won two games in those same five days, against division rivals. Robert Griffin III, the quarterback savior for whom the Washington Redskins giddily traded three first-round draft picks and a second-round pick back in the spring, is sowing the seeds of the biggest of football dreams.
There are the team dreams, which he'll assuredly and accurately insist are the most important. And the stunning fact of the matter is that the Redskins' 38-31 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday left them 5-6 and a game and a half out of first place. If the Giants lose Sunday night to the Packers, the Redskins would host the Giants two Monday nights from now with a chance to tie them (and possibly the Cowboys as well) atop the division. Just 18 days after a loss to Carolina dropped them to 3-6 and coach Mike Shanahan made his ill-advised comments about using the rest of the season to evaluate, the Redskins have legitimate mathematical reasons to dream about still making this year's playoffs.
And then there are the individual dreams, including the idea being put forth by some in NFL commentary circles that Griffin is the Most Valuable Player in the NFL. It's inconceivable to think a player could actually win that award on a team with a losing record, and it's almost impossible to imagine it going to someone on a non-playoff team. But when you watch Griffin make huge play after huge play with his arm and his feet for a team that's banged up on defense, at wide receiver and at tight end, you can't help but think the literal definition of the phrase "most valuable player" applies.
Griffin is the Redskins' do-it-all leader, whether he's hauling off and firing a 68-yard touchdown strike in the second quarter of a nationally televised Thanksgiving Day game or picking up three first downs on a comparatively mundane five-minute fourth-quarter field goal drive his team absolutely needed after the Cowboys had cut a 25-point lead down to seven. He's not perfect, though he may have looked it Sunday against the Eagles, and he showed that with the interception that set up the aforementioned lead-trimming touchdown. But his presence and poise on that field goal drive showcased Griffin's range. He's more than just a spectacular athlete getting by on his skill. He's got real, serious quarterback stuff inside of him -- the kind of stuff that keeps his fourth-quarter interception from building into something worse at the worst possible time, an internal metronome that keeps him in the same, steady rhythm regardless of stress or situation.
Griffin is making history every week. Twice in the same week, in this particular case. Teams that play Sunday and go on the road to play Thursday are supposed to look tired, to suffer from the travel, the tight turnaround and the lack of preparation time. The Redskins did not look anything like that on this day, and as usual they were taking their cue from their irrepressible 22-year-old leader. Playing near his old college stomping grounds, with his Baylor coach among those in attendance, Griffin took over the game with three touchdown passes in a 28-point second quarter, and it was all the shell-shocked Cowboys could do from there just to make it a game.
It was an MVP-caliber performance, just as Sunday's was and just as many others have been in this remarkable young man's 11-game career. Whether he can win the award this year will come down to what happens over the final five games. If the Redskins keep winning these division games and the Giants can't pull out of their swoon and the Cowboys keep muddling along and Washington swipes that division title, absolutely. He'll have made the kind of case that puts him right in the middle of the MVP discussion with guys named Brady, Rodgers and Manning. And given the way he plays every week, on big stages against his fiercest rivals and with his own team struggling in other areas, he'll be a worthy candidate.
The likelihood of that happening remains slim, of course, and along with it the likelihood of Griffin doubling up on Rookie of the Year and MVP. But to lock in on that kind of triviality is to miss the point of what we're watching here. Which is the early part of what looks to be the brilliant career of an MVP-type player who's got a chance to find himself in that conversation for years to come.