If the Redskins had a winning record, quarterback Robert Griffin III would be an MVP candidate.
Not rookie of the year, or offensive player of the year, but the most valuable player. Unfortunately, Washington is 3-4 after dropping an eminently winnable game against the division-leading Giants Sunday, 27-23.
First the highlights: The Redskins racked up 480 yards of total offense, 232 yards on the arm of RGIII and another 248 on the ground, on the road against the defending Super Bowl champs. There's something to be said for that -- and for how unflappable Griffin continues to be.
A season ago, Panthers rookie quarterback Cam Newton was the flavor of the month and now, less than a year later, he looks less like an offensive rookie of the year than a journeyman backup QB forced into the lineup because the regular starter is out with an injury.
Watching Griffin, you don't get the sense that this will ever happen to him. No moment seems too big as evidenced by the huge fourth-quarter fourth-down conversion that consisted of equal parts scrambling, freelancing and avoiding Giants pass-rushers before finally finding tight end Logan Paulsen for a 19-yard gain. Three plays later, Griffin dropped a perfect pass into the arms of Santana Moss for a 30-yard touchdown, Redskins led 23-20, and with 1:38 remaining in the game a victory was all about assured.
“Let me tell you something, that guy is flat-out unbelievable,” Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora said via USA Today Mike Garafolo. And Justin Tuck added via the New York Daily News' Ralph Vacchiano: “I’m really mad at the football gods for putting him in the NFC East. He’s going to be a headache.”
Of course, this is Washington, where these same football gods still seem to have an unhealthy obsession with tormenting an organization that has had one winning season in seven years, and last won a playoff game in 2005.
It took just two plays for Eli Manning to connect with Victor Cruz on a 77-yard strike-and-score and that, for all intents and purposes, was ball game. (Insult to injury: That was the longest game-winning TD in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter in Giants history.)
And while there aren't any moral victories in the NFL, there are some positives you can take away from Sunday's effort. RGIII tops the list, obviously, and in addition to the 232 passing yards on 20 of 28 attempts, he added another 89 yards on the ground on nine rushes. Griffin continues to assuage concerns that he can't take a hit -- although he realizes that he'll need to avoid them when possible.
"The fans and my teammates don't want me to love the contact so I don't love contact," Griffin said last Wednesday to Yahoo.com's Les Carpenter. "I'm a competitive guy and I don't mind getting hit but I am the quarterback of this team and I need to make sure I'm the guy not getting hit. It's not a pride thing; it's a matter of being smart."
Griffin then added: "I'll still be aggressive."
Which is exactly what he was against the Giants.
Also noteworthy: Fellow rookie Alfred Morris, who continues to thrive in Mike Shanahan's offense. When it was over, he had 120 yards on 22 carries (5.5 YPC).
Now the lowlights: The Redskins came into the game with five turnovers. By Sunday evening, they had four more -- three coming on consecutive second-half possessions. Griffin was responsible for two -- an interception and a fumble -- but the pick wasn't what bothered Shanahan.
"You're going to have interceptions every once in a while," Shanahan said during the post-game press conference. "Those things do occur but you gotta fight through it. Anytime you have three fumbles lost -- and we've been good … we've done a great job all year. Obviously didn't do that today."
Turnovers aside, the Redskins continue to improve every week. Whether it'll be enough to make a playoff push this year is another issue but for the first time in a long time Redskins fans have hope.