Robert Griffin III's astounding NFL debut has just about sent D.C. sports fans into a tizzy. A 19-for-26 passing performance for 320 yards and two touchdowns and another 42 rushing yards on the road against a solid team like the New Orleans Saints will do that. It has given legitimate hope to Redskins fans that maybe this season will be different.
We don't have to travel too far into the local sports past to see something similar. Both the Capitals and the Nationals drew great hope from the initial performances of Alex Ovechkin and Stephen Strasburg.
Ovechkin debuted against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Oct. 5, 2005, with loads of hype but relatively low expectations given he was 20 at the time. But just 40 seconds into his first shift he drilled Radoslav Suchy into the boards behind the Columbus goal and literally dislodged a support beam. The game had to be delayed. It was the perfect entrance for a player who would win two Hart Trophies by the time he was 23. Oh, Ovechkin also scored two goals in a 3-2 victory.
Strasburg's debut had far more hype as every national media outlet in the country had a representative or three on hand along with the sellout crowd at Nationals Park on June 8, 2010. He lived up to all of it with 14 strikeouts against the Pittsburgh Pirates in a 5-2 win. Strasburg fanned eight of the last nine batters he faced with the crowd growing more incredulous with each passing swing-and-a-miss.
Tommy John surgery later that season robbed the Nats of Strasburg for almost all of 2011. But his first full season in 2012 was a success with a 15-6 record and a 3.16 ERA, and it looks like, at the very least, he contributed to a playoff team. Ovechkin had 98 goals and 198 points total in his first two seasons but needed three years to help the Caps reach the postseason. They haven't missed out on the Stanley Cup playoffs since. Can RGIII help the Redskins make that leap right away?
- Brian McNally