It is hard enough just to win a football game as an NFL quarterback, let alone create positive attention for yourself and your team in the process.
But Robert Griffin III did just that in his NFL debut on Sunday.
The Washington Redskins rookie signal-caller finished the game 19-of-26 passing for 320 yards with two TDs and no interceptions, leading the Skins to a stunning 40-32 victory over the New Orleans Saints in front of a deafening capacity crowd at the Superdome.
Helped by a creative game plan, Griffin was able to keep the Saints defense off-balance and on the field, leaving Drew Brees and the high-octane Saints offense on the sidelines. The Redskins finished with a time of possession of 39:10, over 18 minutes more than the Saints.
With his performance, RGIII thrust himself and his team into the national conversation. And for the first time in a long time, it was for something positive.
In the first quarter, Griffin threw a slant pattern over the middle to his favorite receiver, Pierre Garcon. After catching the pass in stride, the former Indianapolis Colt evaded defenders and ran down the field untouched for an 88-yard touchdown.
While all this was going on, Griffin had an interesting vantage point. He had been knocked to the ground while releasing the pass and remained on the turf as the play unfolded in front of him. As he watched Garcon get free and begin his run to the end zone, Griffin sat up and raised both arms above his head, pointing both index fingers to the ceiling.
The image was caught on camera by numerous media outlets. A Redskin fan's blog, Burgundy Blog, seized the moment and dubbed the pose “Griffining," a direct reference to the now-infamous “Tebowing” pose popularized by New York Jets backup quarterback Tim Tebow during his time with the Denver Broncos.
And from the looks of it, Griffining is here to stay.
For the Redskins franchise, the win in Griffin’s debut is huge. But the positive press he created in the process is even more significant. The Redskins have been more than just bad since they last won the NFC East title during the 1999 season. They have been a lightning rod for negative attention, becoming the laughingstock of the entire league.
Last winter, they became embroiled in the Bountygate scandal that rocked these same New Orleans Saints.
Gregg Williams, mastermind of the taboo scheme while defensive coordinator for New Orleans, held the same position with the Redskins immediately prior to joining the Saints. After the story initially broke, attention quickly shifted to the Redskins as to whether or not the same bounty system was implemented while Williams was in the nation’s capital.
Current NBC analyst and former Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy even asserted that it was the Redskins who injured Peyton Manning’s neck during a game in 2006, eventually necessitating a career-saving operation for the future Hall of Fame quarterback. Gregg Williams was the Redskins defensive coordinator at the time.
Adding insult to injury, the most prominent Redskins player rumored to be involved in a possible bounty scandal was the late Sean Taylor.
Did RGIII's debut performance erase the negative memories of the past few months for the Washington Redskins and their fans?
The oft-misunderstood strong safety had gained hero status after he was killed at his Miami home while defending his family during the 2007 season. Whatever positive image Taylor may have maintained after his death quickly eroded with news of his possible involvement in the bounty system.
The negativity currently associated with the Redskins franchise was not dissipated in any way by other recent news stories, including the lawsuit by owner Dan Snyder against Washington City Paper for an article they published regarding his ownership, the salary-cap penalty levied against the team for financial maneuvering during the uncapped year of 2010 and the dual suspensions of Trent Williams and Fred Davis for failing a drug test.
But at least for this week, the Redskins can forget all that negative press and finally bask in the warm glow of rave reviews—of their quarterback, of their team, of their franchise.
Fans of the Washington Redskins should savor this unadulterated positivity, because it has not been witnessed in a long time.