We begin our 2012 DC Pro Sports Year in Review with a look at the Story of the Year, the Team of the Year and the Sportsman of the Year. Don't forget to check out Part 2 of our 2012 DC Pro Sports Year in Review, which focuses on Coach of the Year, Executive of the Year and Decision of the Year. Look for future articles with more year in review awards coming up soon...
STORY OF THE YEAR -- Washington Nationals break DC's 79-year baseball playoffs drought
Rob Carr - Getty
TEAM OF THE YEAR -- Washington Nationals
The Washington Nationals were expected to improve on their 2011 record of 80-81 and third place in the National League East. But how many could have predicted the Nats would win 98 games -- tops in the Major Leagues -- and score 137 more runs than they allowed? The great Nationals team arrived a year early and it was fun to watch a young team sprinkled with a few veterans run rings around the baseball world for much of the year. From Bryce Harper's Rookie of the Year campaign, to Adam LaRoche's career year to Ian Desmond becoming a star shortstop to the best starting rotation in baseball, so many things went right for the Nats this year. Perhaps more impressive, though, was the way this young team overcame the things that went wrong, such as long injuries to Michael Morse, Jayson Werth, Drew Storen and Ian Desmond -- not to mention Stephen Strasburg's innings limit. [More on that later.] Orchestrating all the magic was Manager Davey Johnson, who did the best work of his career, so far, in the 69th year of his life. Putting all the pieces together was GM Mike Rizzo, who built this young team from the bottom up and watched it all come together a year ahead of time.
The 2012 season ended with a vicious punch to the gut for Nats fans as the team blew a six run lead in game five of the NLDS and lost in the wee small hours of the morning of October 13, but this young team was built to last for years. Expect the Nats to come back roaring in the final year of Davey Johnson's baseball career, determined to send the old man off with a World Series championship.
AP PHOTO/PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS
SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR -- Robert Griffin III
This young man has taken the football world by storm since he being selected by the Washington Redskins with the second overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. The Redskins gave up four high draft picks over three years to move up from the sixth pick to the second pick -- a steep price, indeed -- but have to feel great about this investment in their future. Griffin became the first quarterback born in the 1990s to start an NFL game on September 9, 2012, when he led a newly-potent Redskins offense to put up 40 points on the New Orleans Saints in their own building. Griffin won Rookie of the Week honors for that performance, as well as Offensive Player of the Week, the first time a rookie QB had won that award in his first game. Griffin went on to win the award again after a week 4 win over Tampa Bay and was named Rookie of the Month for September. [He won the award again in November.]
Griffin faced his first big setback when a hit from Sean Weatherspoon of the Atlanta Falcons in the third quarter of a game in Atlanta gave the young QB a concussion. He missed the rest of the game, but came back for the next one, a home matchup against the Minnesota Vikings, and led the Redskins to victory with a 76-yard scramble for a touchdown. The win ended Washington's inglorious 8-game home losing streak and Griffin won Rookie of the Week honors for the third time in 2012.
The Redskins went into a tailspin, losing three straight games and falling to 3-6 as they headed into the bye. With most of Washington figuring the season was basically over, Griffin assured his teammates the team would recover and contend for the playoffs. His teammates responded by making Griffin a co-captain on November 14 as the Redskins prepared for a home game against division rival Philadelphia, also 3-6.
Griffin made good on his prediction and promotion by completing 14 of 15 passes for 200 yards and 4 TD, as well as rushing for 84 yards against the Eagles. His passer rating for the game was a perfect 158.3. It was the first time a rookie had ever passed for 200 yards, 4 TD and rushed for at least 75 yards in an NFL game and Griffin became the youngest player in NFL history to post a perfect passer rating. He was awarded the Offensive Player of the Week for a second time and won Rookie of the Week honors for the fourth time.
Griffin suffered a knee injury late in the fourth quarter of Washington's 31-28 overtime win against the Baltimore Ravens and missed the next week's game in Cleveland, which the Redskins won with fellow rookie Kirk Cousins behind center. However, Griffin returned in week 16, wearing a special restrictive and protective brace over his injured knee against the Eagles. Clearly unable to run as he normally would, Griffin became a pocket passer, posted a passer rating over 100, threw two TD passes and led Washington to its 9th win of the season. The Redskins had won six straight games since Griffin assured his teammates they would turn their season around.
Griffin was named to the NFC Pro Bowl squad on December 26, the only non-specialist rookie to win that honor in the entire league. It was the first time a rookie QB had been named to the original Pro Bowl rosters since Dan Marino in 1983.
Griffin has become the toast of the town and one of the biggest sports stars in North America. Children sing songs about him during the holidays and companies fall over each other seeking an endorsement deal with RG3. Griffin earned more money than any NFL rookie in history before throwing a single pass due to his endorsement deals.
Look for future 2012 Year in Review articles coming soon...