Robert Griffin III changes face of Washington Redskins

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How do you become the face of a franchise without playing a game? Step 1, win a Heisman trophy; Step 2, go to a team with no recognizable players.

This is the quick path quarterback Robert Griffin III took as he rose to king-like status in Washington. Griffin was a household name before he even stepped off the plane in Washington, and has been gaining even more support since.

The Washington Redskins, for the better part of a decade, have been irrelevant and forgotten in the NFL. Despite an incredibly large fan base and an owner willing to spend big money, the team cannot find a formula for sustained success. They have only reached the playoffs twice since 2000. In this time the team had also struggled to find a player to be the face of the team.

This weekend I ventured down to Washington to take in a game and witness the newfound passion Redskins fans have for their team.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been legitimately excited for the Redskins,” said Jeff, a season ticket holder for three years. “The ‘92 season was probably the last one. It’s been tough to stay optimistic for this long. A lot of ‘fans’ gave up and started cheering for Baltimore. I can’t respect those people though; I’m a Redskins fan for life.”

Looking around the stadium, it was clear that many fans have chosen to live in the past. Of the tens of thousands of Redskins jerseys being worn this Sunday, only about 35 per cent are of players that are on the current team.

Old time favourites like John Riggins, Darrell Green and the late Sean Taylor far out represent current players- except for one current player that is.

Griffin’s number 10 jersey is widely represented by fans. Back in May, it was the second-highest selling jersey in the NFL, only a month after he had been drafted. It shows the kind of hope that Griffin provides to Redskins supporters.

Griffin was the first quarterback the team selected in the top five of the draft since Heath Shuler in 1994. He is the player that they believe can bring them back to the glory days of the 1980s, when the team was respected and revered.

“We’ve seen a lot of quarterbacks come through here. [Patrick] Ramsey was okay but he took a hard shot, and after that was never really the same. [John] Beck was like a deer in the headlights. [Donovan] McNabb, don’t get me started on that.

I got a free jersey of his with my season tickets and I gave it away because I was never going to wear it … We’ve always had a decent defence, but for the first time in a while we have an offence that can back it up,” said Jeff.

The second overall pick in the 2012 draft, Griffin has the ability to make all the throws asked of an NFL signal caller while also making electrifying plays with his feet. So far this season the Baylor product has thrown for 1,161 yards and four touchdowns, and rushed for 241 yards and four more touchdowns.

“I don’t expect a miracle this season,” added Eric, another long time Redskins fan. “I would be happy if we were just in contention. Moving forward though, if Griffin stays healthy he is going to be awesome. He has the right mindset and attitude, and he gives them a chance to win.”

Though some fans may have more unrealistic expectations of the Redskins chances this year under Griffin, there was no denying the support the rookie received from the NFL’s third largest stadium.

Chants of “RGIII” rattled the stands every time the offence was on the field. Unfortunately for me, my chance to see the electrifying rookie was cut short after he left the game against the Falcons with a head injury in the second half. However, Griffin is expected to be fine and play next week.

There will surely be some growing pains in Griffin’s rookie year, as most first-year players experience. But for now he has the Redskins playing some of the most exciting football in the NFL. His first five games have all been decided by eight points or less.

It is this type of exciting football that tortured Redskins fans have missed in past years. With Griffin at the helm, the Redskins are heading towards sustainable success. For years to come politics will no longer be the only thing to focus on in the country’s capital.

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