In Week 6, Cornelius Griffin played about as well any NFL defensive tackle can play. In the Redskins' 13-10 win over the Chicago Bears, Griffin had 10 tackles and two sacks, both of them coming on the Bears' final possession when the game was on the line.
It was not an aberration. Griffin has been playing at a very high level all seson long.
That's why it's difficult to understand the fact that he's listed as a fourth alternate in this year's Pro Bowl race. Fourth alternate? Are you kidding?
Griffin's been the heart and soul of the Redskins' defense all season long. He missed the game at Philadelphia due to a hip injury, but other than that, Griffin has been the focal point of a defense that has a real chance to finish at the top of the NFL rankings.
Let's put it this way: If Cornelius Griffin is a fourth alternate to the Pro Bowl, then Peyton Manning is a journeyman quarterback.
Even though the 6-3, 300-pound fifth-year player out of Alabama has been a dominant force during many stretches of 2004, Griffin has always preferred to look at the larger picture.
"It's never about me, individually," he says. "It's only about the team and trying to win games."
Even so, Griffin should have received greater recognition in terms of the Pro Bowl.
Says Gregg Williams, assistant head coach in charge of the team's defense: "He's as active as any defensive tackle in the league. I don't know another defensive tackle in the NFL I'd rather have right now than Cornelius."
The soft-spoken Griffin is not one given in to self-promotion. He put it this way at mid-season: "Sure, I'd like to make the Pro Bowl. But I'd rather make the playoffs."
Griffin's teammates, particularly those along the defensive line, know they're lining up next to a player who is in the midst of a special season. Just ask eight-year NFL veteran Renaldo Wynn.
"Cornelius is having a phenomenal year," Wynn says. "He doesn't like to take a lot of credit. He's just a guy who likes to go out, work hard and have fun with his teammates. He's definitely a guy you can depend on, play in and play out."
Griffin should have made the Pro Bowl as a starter this season, becoming the first Redskin defensive tackle selected to play in the post-season, all-star game since Dave Butz in 1983.
Butz led the 14-2 Redskins defense of 1983. The numbers for Butz, named one of the Redskins 70 Greatest, in 1983: 69 tackles, 11.5 sacks and five forced fumbles.
When the Redskins signed Griffin in the offseason, head coach Joe Gibbs said the team had worked very hard to get him.
"We felt as though Cornelius was one of the top defensive linemen out there," Gibbs said.
He is. Through 14 games, he had 85 tackles and five sacks. That's 85 total tackles for an NFL defensive tackle. That's phenomenal.
In fact, Griffin is the Redskins' top find in a 2004 free agent class that also includes cornerback Shawn Springs, linebacker Marcus Washington and punter Tom Tupa.
Marcus Washington is deservedly heading to his first Pro Bowl, but he should have other Redskins traveling with him. You could make a serious case for any of the team's Pro Bowl alternates. But Griffin's absence is the most shocking of all.