(Eds: Updates with details, quotes. Adds byline. With AP Photos.)By JOSEPH WHITEAP Sports Writer
Over five days, Robert Griffin III completed 34 of 43 passes with eight touchdowns to six different receivers and earned the nickname ”Cool Hand Luke” from his coach.
Now he’ll get to see exactly who this ”Cool Hand Luke” guy is.
Mike Shanahan said Friday he’s sending Griffin a DVD of the 1967 Paul Newman movie referenced by the coach after the Washington Redskins’ 38-31 Thanksgiving win over the Dallas Cowboys. The movie came to Shanahan’s mind because he felt that Griffin is the type of player who ”doesn’t get too upset about anything.”
But RG3 had no idea who or what ”Cool Hand Luke” is, laughing and telling reporters it must be someone who is ”pretty cool.”
So Shanahan said he’s texted Griffin to explain and that a copy of the movie is on the way – and that he understands why a 22-year-old quarterback wouldn’t know anything about a 45-year-old movie.
”I did let him know it was a compliment,” Shanahan said.
For any other player, the episode might be a bit of trivia swallowed up in a big victory, but nothing about RG3 is trivial. He is proving worthy of the big stage, and he’s stepping up his game at just the right moment, so much so that another three-word description is starting to emerge: ”potential MVP candidate.”
The Redskins were on the ropes less than a week ago, and the scuttlebutt was that defenses were starting to figure Griffin out or that he had hit the rookie wall after a pair of subpar performances that sank the team’s record to 3-6, prompting Shanahan to sound like a coach who had given up on the playoffs.
Then came a perfect 158.3 quarterback rating with four touchdown passes in a 31-6 win over the Philadelphia Eagles, followed by a 132.6 rating and four more TDs in the Redskins’ first Thanksgiving win over the Cowboys in franchise history. Griffin is also the first Washington player to throw for four scores in consecutive games.
”We’re clicking at this point, and we’re clicking at the right time,” Griffin said, ”because this is what we have to do. Every game is important. Every game could be like the last game of our season.”
The Redskins are now 5-6, behind only the New York Giants (6-4) in the NFC East. The Giants host the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night. If they lose, first place will be on the line when they visit Washington the following Monday night.
The win-or-else mentality has reached the point that Shanahan opted to receive when he won the coin toss Thursday instead of deferring to the second half, as he did earlier in the season.
”It’s what I always do in playoff time,” he said. ”I always take the ball.”
Griffin remains one of the most accurate passers in the league, completing 67.5 percent of his passes with only four interceptions. The receivers who were much-maligned a few weeks ago are starting to come into their own as a group. Pierre Garcon, who returned to the lineup Sunday despite a torn ligament in a toe on his right foot, reached backward to snag the ball for a 59-yard catch-and-run touchdown against the Cowboys.
”It’s not a finished product by any means, but we’re on the right track,” Shanahan said. ”I think there’s definitely a sense of urgency when you know that you cannot stumble.”
Notes: Shanahan expects rookie LB Keenan Robinson to be out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle. The coach was awaiting the results from the MRI but said: ”Right now, it doesn’t look good.” … Shanahan said he didn’t expect LB London Fletcher to play because of a sprained right ankle, but Fletcher started, had an interception and played in his 235th consecutive game. ”I’m never counting him out again,” Shanahan said. Fletcher reinjured the ankle during the game and needs some extra days of rest, which is exactly what the Redskins can give him with 10 days between games.
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