RGIII's MVP Hopes Rest on Strong Finish to Rookie Campaign

Matthew BrownCorrespondent IDecember 1, 2012

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 22:  Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins warms up before taking on the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day at Cowboys Stadium on November 22, 2012 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

It has been 34 years since Houston Oilers great Earl Campbell won NFL MVP honors as a rookie. It has been 19 years since Joe Theismann won NFL MVP honors as a member of the Washington Redskins. Robert Griffin III has an outside shot at being the first Redskins rookie to be voted NFL MVP.

Standing in Griffin's way of achieving something remarkable are five monumental games and a slew of stiff competition in his fellow players.

To say that Griffin has been electrifying so early in his NFL career is an understatement. His combination of passing acumen, running ability and exceptional veteran calm has forced teams to revise their defensive approaches.

We could sit here for hours and laud RGIII for being a uniquely gifted individual, but there is neither the time nor the space.

Where Griffin has taken the league by storm, his competitors have somehow managed to produce equally impressive seasons.

It seems like just yesterday that Peyton Manning was sidelined for a season and surrounded by doubts that he would ever step foot on a field again, let alone regain his sure-fire Hall of Fame form.

Manning now has the Denver Broncos sitting atop the AFC West at 8-3, and is having one of his best seasons in terms of yards, completion percentage and passer rating.

Given the story of Manning's unexpected return to elite status and his history as one of the game's best, Griffin has to catch fire down the stretch just to keep pace with the seasoned vet.

Luckily, Griffin caught fire out of the bye week, throwing eight touchdowns to just one interception in two games played in the span of five days.

It would be impressive for anyone, but that two-game hot streak doubled his passing touchdown total, and forced him into the MVP discussion in earnest.

Just being in the discussion doesn't help Griffin, because three of his closest competitors, including Manning, are former MVPs.

Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady are putting together their typical amazing seasons and have their respective teams in the playoffs barring catastrophe. Griffin's recent performances have the Redskins whispering playoff run, but it would likely require running the table to accomplish.

As improbable as a playoff run may be from a numbers standpoint, Griffin would receive a colossal boost from such a feat, adding to his rookie legend.

Griffin's legend, already facing stiff competition, would have to contend with Adrian Peterson's comeback story.

Peterson tore his ACL and MCL in a December game against the Redskins, ending his season on injured reserve. Though the injury isn't career-ending in this day and age of medical science, logic dictates that Peterson should have missed some time early this season, or been limited in some way.

Instead, Peterson is leading the NFL with 1,236 rushing yards, 14 rushes of 20 yards or more, while averaging 112.8 yards per game and an astounding 5.8 yards per carry, rivaling some of the best seasons produced by Jim Brown and Gale Sayers.

Peterson, Manning, Rodgers and Brady are a formidable enough group of MVP candidates, but then you have Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt.

It isn't often that a defensive player is seriously considered for MVP honors, but Watt has been unstoppable this season, notching 14.5 sacks and leading Houston's top-10 defensive unit.

It helps that the Texans are 10-1, but that just means Watt gets the attention he deserves with his production and consistency.

Griffin doesn't have the luxury of a feel-good story or a winning record to propel him to the front of the line in the MVP voting, but an odds-beating run to the playoffs and a slew of touchdowns would.

At 5-6 with half of their division schedule remaining, the Redskins have no choice but to win out. Those eight touchdowns in two games prove Griffin is capable of shouldering that load where his teammates failed earlier in the season.

The team's record may not reflect it, but the hype surrounding RGIII is real, and warranted by his continuing success and the inability of opposing defenses to figure him out.

He has revitalized a floundering franchise and stirred up playoff conversation, while dazzling defenses and putting on highlight reel performances week in and week out, all as a rookie. If that isn't MVP-worthy, then the criteria are flawed.