At Redskins Fan Appreciation Day on Saturday, nearly 25,000 fans converged on Redskins Park to show their love for the Washington Redskins.
The attendance alone in 90-plus degree heat exhibited just how passionate fans are for their burgundy and gold--an affection that was reciprocated with a day of festivities and exciting football.
There's an understandable sense of optimism surrounding Redskins Training Camp this year, as fans anticipate a turnaround in the win-loss category this year. Despite the team's recent woes (15-33 since 2009) Washington's hungry fan base craves a champion.
Much of the enthusiasm stems from the immense talent of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, as his moniker 'R-G-3' echoed throughout Redskins Park all afternoon long.
Redskins' owner Daniel M. Snyder told reporters at the end of practice that he was happy to see such a successful turnout by fans, and expressed his own excitement with Griffin III.
"This was a top pick in the the draft—a Heisman-winning quarterback," Snyder said. "It's a big deal for everyone, and for Redskins Nation, it's as good as it gets. It's exciting for us."
Griffin III didn't disappoint during practice, flashing his trademark speed, athleticism, arm strength and accuracy, to the approving cheers of Redskins Nation.
But as we prepare to see Griffin III and his first NFL action tomorrow night, what are the realistic expectations for his rookie campaign?
There have been eleven rookie quarterbacks to lead their teams to the postseason since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970. Most recently, the Cincinnati Bengals' Andy Dalton faced fellow rookie quarterback T.J. Yates of the Houston Texans in the AFC Wild Card game last season, which marked the first playoff game of the Super Bowl era to pit two rookie quarterbacks.
Of the eleven rookie quarterbacks who have taken their teams to the playoffs, five registered a win while the other six all lost in the opening round.
The Baltimore Ravens' Joe Flacco in 2008 and the New York Jets' Mark Sanchez in 2009 had the most playoff success in their rookie seasons. Both former first-round picks led their teams to a pair of road wins in the postseason, but both teams fell in the conference championship game.
Therefore, there is some precedent for rookie quarterbacks winning playoff games, but none of the young signal-callers reached the Super Bowl. But history is not a gauge for future outcomes, and there is no ceiling of success on an overachiever like Griffin III.
Going into the 2011 college football season, Baylor wasn't expected to do much in the Big 12, being picked 6th in the conference's preseason poll. Griffin III had other plans for the team, leading the Bears to a 10-3 record, including a 67-56 win over the Washington Huskies in the Alamo Bowl.
Griffin III played in 41 career games at Baylor, starting 40, while shattering many of the school's passing and rushing records in just three full seasons. He was eventually named the recipient of the 2011 Heisman Trophy—the first in school history.
Griffin III was not perceived as a first-round draft pick prior to his junior year, but by the end of the 2011 season he had established himself as perhaps the best quarterback talent in the draft.
As expected, the Redskins selected the Consensus All-American with the No. 2 pick in this year's draft, making him the first Baylor quarterback drafted in the first round since 1954 when Cotton Davidson was taken with the No. 5 overall pick by the Baltimore Colts.
Just weeks later, the 22-year-old former track star was named the starting quarterback of the storied Washington Redskins franchise during rookie mini-camp.
Although his professional career has just begun, Griffin III's football résumé is already more impressive than many of his NFL quarterback counterparts', and his off-the-field achievements are just as noteworthy.
The Copperas Cove, Texas native obtained his bachelor's degree in political science in three years with an overall 3.67 GPA, while appearing on the Dean's list twice. During his final year of collegiate sports eligibility, Griffin III studied for a master's degree in communications and received First Team Academic All-Big 12 honors for the second time in his college career.
I've come to believe that Griffin III can do almost anything that he sets his mind out to do.
But with the decorated college star having not taken a single NFL snap, you certainly won't hear head coach Mike Shanahan talking about a championship game in February, as he prepares his team for its first preseason game on Thursday.
During recent press conferences, coach Shanahan has reiterated that as physically gifted as Griffin III is, he still needs time to develop. The two-time Super Bowl champion head coach recognizes that his third championship ring is dependent upon the development of his new franchise quarterback.
While history may cast doubt on a rookie quarterback hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in February, Griffin III has a made a career of ignoring the odds.