Meeting Robert Griffin III came as a surprise, and when he walked in the room the surprise continued. Griffin is not alarmingly big like many football players, but he does exude a palpable charisma. Throughout our interview, I found myself struck by his calm demeanor and almost politician-level of preparedness for any question I asked. I sat down with Griffin during a recent adidas commercial shoot and we talked for a little over 10 minutes, and though I was asking the questions, RGIII was clearly in charge. Of everything.
Below is an edited transcript of our conversation. The 2012 football season will be a lot of things, and it could break down in a million different scenarios, but I will make one ironclad prediction after hanging out with RGIII for an afternoon: He won’t be frazzled, he won’t break down. While there remain plenty of questions for Griffin to answer on the football field, he certainly has the poise and authority that the Redskins have lacked at quarterback for some time.
JP: So what do you think so far? I don’t know how much time you’ve actually spent in D.C., I know you’ve been out in Ashburn a bunch with the OTAs and stuff, but how has it been going?
RGIII: It’s going good. I haven’t had a chance to be in D.C. too often. It’s the whole DMV area, it seems to be pretty cool. Anywhere I go people are real accepting of who I am and what I represent and what I can help the Redskins do. It’s going to be a lot of fun, it’s definitely a lot of fun in this area. It’s not just because of myself. I’m just a tool to give people hope, they really do believe in the team and the defense we’re going to have and the endless possibilities on offense.
JP: Are you surprised at all by the magnitude of the fan reaction? I mean, people went crazy when they made that trade to bring you to town. How are those expectations? Is it fun to see all that?
RGIII: It is fun, it’s fun to be wanted. You know that’s what I said going into the combine, you want a team to fall in love with you. You know by the grace of God I was able to have a whole community fall in love with me as well, before I even play a down or take a snap. That’s definitely a great feeling. For some guys it’d be too much, the pressure would get to them, and you can’t blame a guy if that did happen.
I just try to keep it positive and look at it in a good way. It’s excitement, that’s going to bring the Washington Redskins more support. The fans have something to cheer for. The sky is the limit. We can’t go down, we can only go up. That’s a great feeling.
JP: So far everything has been great. There haven’t been any games. Nothing bad has happened yet. Are you nervous at all with the expectations? Does any of that make you freeze at all, or blink?
RGIII: No. I mean I don’t read the newspapers or do that type of thing. Of course when people are saying bad things about you, eventually you’re going to hear it. It’s just something that comes with life.
There is a lot of excitement. I’ve heard from many fans they are with us through thick and thin, whether it’s bad at first or whether it’s great. What I pray for is that it’s great, and continues to be great. But you’ll have down games here and there. Do I accept that? No. But that’s something that comes with the territory of being in the NFL.
People are going to praise you when you’re on top, and they’ll kick you when you’re down. It’s just something you have to deal with whether people aren’t expecting anything of you or they are expecting the world of you. There’s going to be naysayers, they’re going to be people that immediately jump ship. But the people that stay on, most importantly teammates, the more they stay on your side, then you’re always working in the right direction.
JP: Coach Shanahan named you starter basically from Day One, as soon as you were drafted. Did you expect that? Were you happy with that? Were you surprised by that?
RGIII: I didn’t expect it, wasn’t surprised, shocked or any of those things. My job was to come in during rookie minicamp and show them that I’m what they thought I was, if not better.
I thought I did a good job of at least coming out and showcasing my skills. And through OTAs it’s just a grind because you’re running a new offense. By no means is it like college where you tear up the defense every day. These guys are professionals and they try and take away everything that you’re trying to do.
JP: And there are some studs on that side of the ball too.
RGIII: They’re really good too. It’s a different atmosphere in practice. One time you get ‘em, one time they get you. The more you can limit mistakes is the biggest thing. It’s a fine line between playing stupid and playing fearless. Luckily, I’ve been able to be more on the fearless side.
Coach showed support for me right from the get go. And then when the vets came in, you know you walk in the locker room and everyone is looking at you sideways, trying to see, “Who is this guy?” I think I was able to prove to them that I do have something to offer. Whether it’s great or it’s just a little bit, I do have something to offer and they can believe in me.
JP: How is the offense looking? I’m not sure how much you’ve followed the local football scene here, but there’s been talk in the past about maybe the coaches not tailoring the offense to quarterback’s strengths. Have you seen that at all? Does the offense seem to flow the way you want it, the way you hope it would?
RGIII: The biggest thing I’ll say to that is every coach has an offense. Every quarterback is going to run that offense differently. Every quarterback is going to have certain plays within that offense they like, some that they don’t like. I don’t know the history of Coach Shanahan and haven’t talked to his quarterbacks about whether he molds the system to them or gives them suggestions, but from what he’s told me, is that he is going to listen to me. I listen to Coach.
If there is a certain play where I go, “Coach you know I really don’t like this play for this game.” And they might think it’s the greatest play ever created, but if he feels I’m not comfortable with it, he won’t call it.
JP: So that’s worked well so far?
RGIII: Right now, it’s just about learning the offense. There is no input.
They don’t call a play and I say, “Coach, I don’t like that play.” That doesn’t happen. But as you learn the offense you figure out, “I like that play a lot, I really don’t like this play a lot.” And they’ve told me they’re going to listen to me on those types of things and of course when it comes to doing other types of things outside of the pocket and running the ball, there’ll be little tricks here and there, but the majority of our offense will be throwing the ball and running the ball with power.
JP: Cool. So you really know how to cook beignets? That’s a difficult recipe right?
RGIII: [Laughs] It’s not too difficult. I do know how to cook them.
JP: Those guys, you’re going to get them hungry talking about it. Those are big boys, that’s a lot of beignets you’d have to cook.
RGIII: Yeah, you know that’s a lot of games, 16 games. Hopefully more in the playoffs. It’s always fun trying to find a way to motivate people.
The division we play in is a tough division with a lot of great defensive ends, but I need my offensive line to step up and be that great offensive line that we need to be able to dominate games. So for every no-sack victory, beignets are theirs.
JP: You know back in 1991, the last Skins team that won a Super Bowl, Mark Rypien bought the whole offensive line Rolexes. I don’t know if that’s something you’ll commit to at this point …
RGIII: [Smiles] You know, when they made the trade for me and people we’re saying, “Hey, they’re going to win the Super Bowl.” I’m not going to say, “No guys, calm down, we’re not going to win the Super Bowl,” because that’s everybody’s goal.
JP: I meant buying five Rolexes.
RGIII: I would love to do something like that. To me, if you win the Super Bowl, you’ve reached the pinnacle of sports, until the next year and you got to go do it again. So if we won a Super Bowl, shoot, I’d buy them two Rolexes [each].
JP: Is that also, the beignets and stuff, is that a way for you to be humble in this process? As much as you are, now, the franchise, is it a delicate line for you to walk?
RGIII: You got to be stern and firm when you can be, but when it comes to things like that, it shows the linemen, “Hey, he does care about us. He knows that without us, he can’t be successful.”
It’s the same thing I told my offensive line in college, if they’re not great, we can’t be great. And it really does start there. If you can dominate a game in the trenches, you can do whatever you want on the outside, because DBs can’t cover a guy for four seconds.
I just want to show them that I care, but not in an in-genuine way. So it’s not like I’ll just go buy them all scooters. At least they know, I have a part in making the beignet, and I appreciate them keeping me off the ground.
JP: I’ve seen you be active on Twitter during the Caps games and stuff, but there’s a crew of young athletes in town with you and Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg …
RGIII: John Wall.
JP: Right, John Wall, Ovi. Is that pretty cool? Have you got to talk to those guys at all?
RGIII: On Twitter I’ve talked to Stras and John Wall, aside from that I haven’t really had a chance to. The one thing I don’t want to do is distract guys. You know, Stras and Bryce, they’re playing right now. John Wall, I haven’t had a chance to reach out to him yet.
JP: Are they going to get you out to Nats Park to throw a first pitch?
RGIII: I would hate to do that.
JP: Really? You get nervous?
RGIII: No, I would hate to do that before I play. I would hate to do something like that before I play. Let Fletch go throw out the first pitch, Fletch has been here for a long time. He’s done the football thing for a while, he’s proven. Not that I’m not proven, according to most guys I’m not proven, but in my own mind I am and now I just need to go out and prove it. But I would hate to throw out that first pitch and I still haven’t taken a snap.
JP: Well did you see John Wall’s pitch when he threw it? It was about eight feet short.
RGIII: [Laughs. Laughs again.]
JP: So you got to do better than that.
RGIII: Well, they always tell you, “Don’t throw it as hard as you can.” And don’t miss, get it to the plate. If you loft one up there and it gets there, people don’t care. You just got to get it there.