At the midway point of the 2012 season, the Washington Redskins had just three wins in nine games. Morale was low among the coaches, players and fans. The team had scored only one touchdown in each of their past two losses. The lone bright spot on the team was their rookie quarterback, Robert Griffin III.
After the team's disappointing loss to the Carolina Panthers in Week 9, head coach Mike Shanahan told reporters during his postgame news conference, "Obviously, we're not out of it statistically, but now we find out what type of character we've got and how guys keep on fighting through the rest of the season."
During their bye week, the Redskins voted and selected RG3, nose tackle Barry Cofield and defensive end Stephen Bowen as co-captains—joining left tackle Trent Williams, linebacker London Fletcher and special teams linebacker Lorenzo Alexander.
In the team's selection of RG3 as a co-captain, a rarity in the NFL for a rookie, a reinvigorated, determined and confident team emerged—led by Griffin, who at the time was already on pace for a record-breaking season.
Through nine games, RG3 had 1,993 passing yards and 529 rushing yards—seven passing yards shy of becoming the third NFL rookie quarterback to eclipse the 2,000-yard/500-yard benchmark (Carolina Panthers Cam Newton in 2011 and Tennessee Titans Vince Young 2006).
According to Washington Post reporter Mark Maske, it was the first time Shanahan had a rookie on a team he had coached as a captain.
“It’s very hard to vote a rookie to be your captain,” Shanahan said. “But midway through the season, you say, ‘Hey, he’s our leader.’”
What ensued was a steady progression of wins as a natural leader emerged in RG3 because of how players gravitated toward and entrusted him not only with leadership skills, but also his ability to inspire and instruct even the most seasoned veterans.
Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss, who has been with the Redskins since 2005 and the second-longest tenured player behind tight end Chris Cooley (2004), told the Washington Post he knew RG3 was their guy.
"Everybody gets in line behind him and says, ‘Take us to the promised land.’ I know it sounds funny saying that, but he shows what it takes every day to get to where he’s trying to get by how he prepares. It shows up on the field on Sundays. There’s no question you want that guy to be a captain.”
The Redskins rallied behind RG3 as the team went on a seven-game winning streak to close the regular season, won the NFC East title for the first time in 14 seasons, went from worst to first in the division and returned to the playoffs following a six-year absence.
It doesn't happen very often that a franchise, let alone the Washington Redskins, entrusts the direction of the team upon a then-22-year-old rookie. Then again, the 'Skins haven't had a Heisman Trophy-winning, second overall NFL draft pick, record-setting quarterback all in one.
Vince Lombardi may have said it best when he said, "Leaders aren't born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that's the price we'll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal."
And with that, a team leader emerges to lead the Washington Redskins to continued success and a much-anticipated 2013 NFL season.