EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 21: Quarterback Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins drops back to pass against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on October 21, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)
Robert Griffin III is a believer. Yes, the Redskins might be 3-6, and yes, coach Mike Shanahan sounded like he had given up on the season just 10 days ago after a demoralizing loss to the Panthers, but there are two months to go in the season and, well, a lot can happen.
The Giants are reeling, the Cowboys remain an enigma and the Eagles are in full-on crisis mode. By comparison, the 'Skins are the sane ones. Which is why their rookie quarterback isn't dismissing the possibility that they can make a postseason run.
"I think the playoffs are a realistic goal for us," Griffin said Wednesday, via WJFK-FM.
In general, such sentiments would be regarded as unrealistic PR spin at best, the ravings of a mad man at worst. But the NFC East in 2012 is the exception. It's why, despite Shanahan's ill-timed honesty nearly two weeks ago, Washington is very much alive.
And any success these team has starts with RGIII.
“I thought I was hungry before the bye week. But you come back and realize how much more energy you have," he said via the Washington Post. … "You know that everybody’s looking at me to be the guy to make everything work.”
Griffin's teammates, fully aware of just how important he is to this team's success, named him team captain over the bye week.
“I was trying to think if I’ve ever had a rookie captain. I don’t believe I ever have,” Shanahan said. “You get a guy like Robert Griffin, a rookie coming in, to get voted right away, it’s very hard to vote a rookie to be your captain. But midway through the season, you say, ‘Hey, he’s our leader.’ ”
It's in stark contrast to what's going on with Washington's opponent this week. The Eagles are also 3-6 but have uncertainty up and down the roster, starting with coach Andy Reid and their franchise quarterback, Michael Vick. Neither could return in 2013 and Vick almost certainly won't play Sunday after suffering a concussion last week.
But the unmet expectations that has divided Philly's locker room seem to have galvanized Washington's. Again, it comes back to RGIII's maturity.
“Being the quarterback, you’re going to get a lot of excitement around you, especially in a city like this one,” Griffin said. “They’ve been hungry for a victory for a long time. I plan to be the guy to bring it to them, as the leader of the team. But like I’ve told everybody, it’s not just myself out there. All these guys put in a lot of work, and it’s going to pay off. People are going to see.”
Griffin and the offense could get a boost Sunday: Pierre Garcon, the team's other big-name offseason acquisition, could play for the first time since Week 5. All told, the former Colts wide receiver has appeared in just three games but showed his big-play potential in the opener when he caught four passes for 109 yards and a touchdown against the Saints.
Griffin has been without a go-to receiver for a month now; Garcon's been sidelined with a toe injury and tight end Fred Davis, having the best season of his career, was lost for the season in Week 7 after tearing his Achilles tendon.
But if Garcon can't go, RGIII won't make excuses.
“The way I look at it. I’m my hardest critic, and my dad is also my hardest critic," he said. "If you have a pass that’s not where it needs to be, you fix that. I’m all about fixing my mistakes. …You continue to do what you did to get to this point, whether it’s technique, film work, just being great and approaching every practice like it’s your last practice, like it’s a game.”
When he says it like that it's hard not to believe him.