Defining moments change as time passes and careers progress, and the moments themselves are more or less immense depending on the perspective of the observer.
Signature moments can be plenty, yet are just as subjective.
From this observer's viewpoint, Michael Vick's first signature moment as a professional football player took place 10 years ago, when he made an epic play with his legs to cement a victory over the Minnesota Vikings.
That moment also ended up defining Vick. He never broke from the stigma that he was a running back with an arm, rather than a quarterback with legs. That play was magnificent, but it was entirely instinctual and represents—to this day—Vick's tendency to succeed when he doesn't have to think, but simply do.
Fast forward a decade to Sunday. Coincidentally, also against the Vikings, Robert Griffin III experienced the first major signature moment of his career by also making an epic play with his legs to cement a victory over Minnesota.
Both were unbelievable touchdown runs, with Vick's coming from 46 yards out in overtime and Griffin's totaling 76 yards on a late-fourth-quarter third down from the edge of his own red zone. And in both cases, the young quarterbacks improvised without going through full progressions on designed passing plays. It was the 13th start of Vick's career; it was the sixth start of Griffin's.
Vick dropped all the way back to his own 43-yard line out of a play-fake and decided he was rolling out to run immediately upon seeing no open receivers. He got all the way to the Minnesota 21-yard line before contact. He split two tacklers at that spot and then pranced into the end zone.
Griffin dropped back to his own 16 and made a slightly stronger effort to find a receiver, but still took off almost immediately. From there, he carried the ball 84 yards without being touched once.
Do you see RG3's 76-yard TD run as his first signature moment?
Ideally, though, this won't also be a defining moment for RG3. His goal should be for that moment to come in January or even February. And while it wouldn't be unsuitable for that play to be a run, it might be ideal for it to be a pass. He likes to think of himself as a quarterback with legs, not a running back with an arm. Vick continues to fight that stigma, too.
But on this play, Griffin made the right decision. It was a third down with the game on the line. His goal was simply to convert, and once he saw Minnesota show blitz he made a calculated decision.
Griffin used his head to gain the necessary yardage. After that, he used his ridiculous athletic ability to put the icing on the cake and turn the play into the longest run from an NFL quarterback in 16 years.
The Vikings showed blitz, with six defensive players stacking up at the line. Four defenders were clearly devoted to coverage, with one single high safety not factoring in against a scramble.
Here's where it became a team effort, because Griffin was probably assuming that he'd be finding the edge more quickly if he had to take off against an inside blitz like that. But center Will Montgomery brought blitzing linebacker Chad Greenway with him to the right, exposing the 2 hole for Griffin to step into as soon as a) there was nobody to throw 'hot' to and b) the blitz didn't hit right away.
He reached the end zone 10.8 seconds later. That's a 40-yard dash pace of 4.89 seconds, and he ran laterally to the sideline after breaking the line of scrimmage and then slowed down in the final five yards. But even with the slowdown at the end of the run, he ran the last 60 yards in a straight line in 6.1 seconds and the last 40 yards in 4.0.
Would Vick have made that play in that moment? He, too, broke a Minnesota blitz with his signature run back in 2002, but the entire play seemed more organic and less deliberate. I don't know, maybe I'm selling him short. Regardless, Griffin rose to the occasions with a game-changing play that displayed both his world-class athletic ability as well as his smarts.
If it's a sign of things to come, we'll be in store for quite a few more signature moments over the next decade.