Philadelphia, PA – As the second overall pick of the 2012 draft and expected savior of the Washington Redskins franchise, Robert Griffin III is going to be put through a number of comparisons over his career.
Head coach Mike Shanahan made perhaps the oddest one so far following a 38-31 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving.
"He's kind of like 'Cool Hand Luke,'" Shanahan said of his young quarterback, who was born more than 44 years after Paul Newman starred in the film.
Did Griffin even get the reference?
"He must be pretty cool," the former Heisman Trophy winner said with a giant laugh before admitting he didn't know who he is.
There isn't a more chilled person in Landover, Maryland right now that Griffin after the show he put on Thursday.
Four days after leading Washington to a 31-6 win over the Philadelphia Eagles, Griffin became the first quarterback in Redskins history to throw four touchdown passes in consecutive games after reaching the mark versus Dallas.
That's pretty amazing in itself given that the Redskins have been a franchise since 1932, but the fact that Griffin, in only his 11th NFL game, turned the trick in a nationally televised game.
In his return to Texas, where he shined both as a high school player and at Baylor University.
Any worries about Griffin being overwhelmed were quickly put to ease with a side of turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce.
"I had that feeling like I was back home where I spent so many years, but it didn't drive me through the roof emotionally as far as getting charged for the game," stated Griffin. "It was a normal game even though it was Thanksgiving. Every game is big for us at this point and that's how we approached it."
So in the span of five days, the Redskins (5-6) have gone from being three games under .500 to right on the heels of the first-place New York Giants, who host the Green Bay Packers this Sunday before taking on the hosting Redskins next Monday night.
A Monday night game against the defending Super Bowl champions? Sounds like a game tailor-made for Griffin.
"He doesn't get too upset about anything," Shanahan stated. "He just handles himself and goes about his business, works extremely hard to prepare for a game and he knows how to avoid distractions because he focuses on his job. He doesn't seem to let anything bother him. That's why he has the success that he has because he is very disciplined and determined and he works at it."
Of course, Griffin isn't doing it alone. Running back Alfred Morris ran for over 100 yards versus the Cowboys and his performance helped to set up the play action, which Griffin used on his first touchdown pass of the game, a 68- yard catch-and-run bomb to Aldrick Robinson in stride.
It was the first of four touchdowns for Washington the second quarter alone. Following a one-yard scoring run by Morris, Griffin hooked up with Pierre Garcon for a 59-yard touchdown, with the wide receiver deserving just as much credit as Griffin.
Coming across the middle, Griffin actually threw behind Garcon, who reached back to make what he called a "lucky" grab before darting through the defense. Had Garcon not gotten his hand on the ball, it likely would have been picked off.
But taking chances has defined Washington's offense as Griffin has six touchdown passes of 40 yards or longer this season in addition to a 76-yard scoring run of his own. Four of his TD throws have gone for longer than 60 yards.
"Every game in the NFL is a big game. He shows up in big games every time. That's what makes great players in this league, showing up on a big stage and he's on his way to doing that," said Garcon.
While Garcon may have bailed out his quarterback, RG3 was pinpoint accurate on his last TD throw of the quarter. With under 10 seconds until the half, Griffin rolled to his right out of the shotgun and found Santana Moss on the edge of the end zone, putting the ball only where his receiver had a chance for it. Moss did his part by getting his feet down.
"He's just going to get better and better," said Shanahan, also highlighting Griffin's ability to learn from mistakes and avoid repeating them.
That was evident after Washington's opening drive of the game, when Griffin took an intentional grounding penalty on a 3rd-and-10 that helped set Dallas up with solid field position and led to a field goal for the hosts.
Griffin made sure not to duplicate the blunder, hitting on 12 straight passes at one point while completing 20-of-28 passes overall.
"The first third down we had, I made the mistake of not getting to my check down and I made sure I didn't make those mistakes the rest of the game," said Griffin. "Just get it to the guys who are open and trust they'll make the play instead of trying to make the play on your own."
It is tough to say what was more impressive on Thursday, Griffin's four touchdown passes, including a 29-yarder to tight end Niles Paul in the fourth stanza, or the fact that he kept his composure and his offense on the field after the Cowboys charged back to make it a one-score game with 8:24 left in the final quarter.
No big deal for Griffin, who led his offense on an 11-play drive that ate up 5:20 of clock and ended with a field goal that restored a 10-point edge.
Griffin twice saved the drive early on, converting a 2nd-and-11 with a 23-yard pass to Moss before moving the chains on 3rd-and-1 with a four-yard pass to the wideout.
"That was huge. I told the guys that's probably the drive that saved our season," said Griffin.
There have been a number of quality quarterbacks to come through the NFC East: the recent careers of Troy Aikman, Phil Simms and Randall Cunningham come to mind first. It will be a long while before Griffin begins to infringe upon that sort of class, but his early resume has been impressive.
Don't forget to check out his next big performance on Monday night. It won't earn him an Oscar like Newman, but it could be the next step towards an eventual Vince Lombardi Trophy.