The top echelon of American athletes -- in other words, the very greatest and most exciting -- is crowded. LeBron James certainly sits up there, as do Aaron Rodgers, Mike Trout, Kevin Durant, Miguel Cabrera, Arian Foster, and others it would be a shame to leave out. At present, Robert Griffin III might be more exciting than all of them.
We watched RGIII orchestrate miracles at Baylor. This season, without missing a step, he's entered the NFL, and immediately -- almost casually -- assumed his place among the league's best quarterbacks. Through six games, his quarterback rating sits at 100.5. Rookie quarterbacks do not start out like this.
Rookie quarterbacks also tend to throw their share of interceptions. Griffin has thrown a total of two this season, which puts him on pace for five or six on the season. No rookie starter has ever thrown fewer than 10.
This, to me, is a pleasant surprise. The quarterbacks who produce the greatest highlight reels -- Tim Tebow to great extent, Michael Vick to a lesser extent, etc. -- tend to complement them with a wealth of lowlights. RGIII, despite manufacturing heroics and electrifying plays on a regular basis, has a game that's solid-to-great from top to bottom.
His statistics seem likely to regress just a bit as the season progresses. Never mind that for now. He's appointment viewing for NFL fans across the league, regardless of allegiance, and he certainly didn't disappoint his audience Sunday.
Against the Vikings, Griffin finally threw his second career interception, but he also completed 17-of-22 passes, threw a touchdown, ran for two more, and claimed 138 yards on the ground. In doing so, he defeated Minnesota, 38-26, and pulled the Redskins to .500. Fans at our Redskins blog, Hogs Haven, left over a thousand comments throughout the entire spectacle. So did our Vikings blog, Daily Norseman.
I was curious to see how fans on the other side of the ball perceived RGIII, so I read through Daily Norseman's game thread, picked up all the comments weighing in on him, and tried to rate them appropriately as positive or negative.
Across these three hours, Vikings fans had more and more good things to say about Griffin -- even as he scored and scored and scored against them. The Daily Norseman crowd deserves some recognition here, I think. This isn't Week 15, and the Vikings aren't 5-9. They entered this game at 4-1, at the top of the competitive NFC North. They had every reason to hate RG3, and at turns they sort of did, but they were certainly able to recognize terrific play when they saw it.
There is something we all need to nail down, however: what do we call this man? RG3, or RGIII, or Robert Griffin, or what?
Redskins fans, as you can see, are pretty firmly in the "RG3" camp, while the Vikings contingent tended to use Roman numerals more often. Personally speaking, I prefer "RGIII," because it sounds more dignified and "RG3" looks more to me like an HTML color code or Battleship coordinate or something. But he's a Redskin, we can't have him, and Washington fans ought to call him "Bobby Goddang Griff-Triple" if they feel like it.
If you watched this game, there's probably one play that sticks out for you. This is that play. The Redskins' offense was beginning to stall deep in home territory, and despite a five-point lead, Redskins fans were starting to get nervous:
When the Redskins gave up 300 first-round picks for the position to draft Robert Griffin III, I heard a lot of groans from people smarter than I am, but I personally loved the damn-the-torpedoes approach. Washington has spent almost the entire 21st century trying to compete with an offense that languished in the league's bottom third. Their quarterback situation, at times, has been a nightmare.
At Daily Norseman, RGIII drew several comparisons to Vikings backup Joe Webb (!), but he also immediately evoked images of Michael Vick and Steve Young. Again, I find it sort of wild that he could draw such astute statements from opposing fans, literally seconds after he effectively beat them.
No need for a bandwagon. RGIII makes house calls, and in due time, he will visit your town and wreck you.