The worst kept secret in the NFL has now become a reality.
On Thursday evening, thirteen minutes after the start of the NFL Draft, Commisioner Roger Goodell strolled up to the podium at center-stage inside Radio City Music Hall. He looked down at the card in his hand, stared out toward the crowd and confirmed to those in attendance, and to the millions of viewers watching around the world, what the football world had been speculating for several weeks.
Robert Griffin III is a Washington Redskin.
The Redskins got their man at 8:13 on Thursday evening, inaugurating the Griffin III era in Washington amid thunderous “R-G-3” chants in Manhattan.
“Hail to the Redskins, hail victory,” Griffin proclaimed with a smile roughly an hour after being selected. “I’m proud to be a part of the burgundy and gold.”
The polished quarterback — as smooth a talker as he is in the pocket — conducted nearly two hours of interviews after being taken second overall, answering many of the same questions dozens of times. But each interview he took part in sounded like the first time he had spoken to a reporter all evening.
At one point, Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, baffled by how impressive Griffin’s media sessions were going, asked the public relations attendants escorting Griffin around the Radio City Music Hall how long he’d been talking and with how many outlets. Those details will show up in his Monday Morning Quarterback column.
But long before Griffin III was speaking with members of the media he had fielded a phone call from the Washington executives who decided to make him the fourth quarterback the Redskins have drafted in the first round since 1961.
“Coach [Mike] Shanahan called and said he was excited to have me as a part of the organization,” Griffin said. “I talked to [owner] Dan Snyder. He said that they’re relying on me. They picked me, they gave up a lot of picks to get me and they’re relying on me, and I understand that.”
Griffin says his first order of business will now be to convince the veterans in the Redskins locker room that they can trust in him to help revitalize an organization that has won just two playoff games in 19 years.
“You have to have your team behind you, otherwise you won’t be successful,” the 22-year-old passer said. “If your teammates come to you and say ‘hey we’re relying on you,’ that’s the most important thing. Fans, the owner, the coaches, they’re all important but you have to have your team behind you.”
With Griffin now added, the Redskins will look to continue to supplement their roster on the second and third days of the NFL draft. Washington isn’t scheduled to make a pick in the second round because it traded that selection — along with three first round draft choices — to the St. Louis Rams for the chance to move up the board to draft Griffin.
The Redskins’ next selection (No. 69 overall) comes in the early stages of the third round. The team will make a pair of fourth round picks and is currently scheduled to have one pick in each of the draft’s final three rounds.
But this draft class will forever be known as Griffin’s.
For better or worse, whether he becomes a superstar of fails, the 2012 draft will be remembered as the year Mike Shanahan made a daring trade to try to add the franchise quarterback the Redskins have been searching for over the past two decades.
“I know the expectations are high and the excitement’s even higher,” Griffin said about the overwhelming giddiness Redskins fans have been exuding over the past few days. “But I wouldn’t tell them to shut it down. I’d say keep it going because it’s going to inspire a lot of guys on the team to go out and play at a high level.”