Robert Griffin III may yet rescue the Washington Redskins from more than a decade of blundering incompetence, but the young quarterback -- with little help from his porous offensive line -- will not be President Obama's savior this Election Day.
In losing to the Carolina Panthers, 21-13, Sunday, Griffin's team turned a historical hoodoo on the president, who now sets out to become just the second incumbent president in more than 70 years to win a second term after a Redskins loss in Washington.
It's known, with affection, as "The Redskins Rule," and Carolina's quarterback Cam Newton (two touchdowns, one by air, another by foot), with an assist from the hapless home team, turned the letter of this nearly impermeable law against Obama.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first beneficiary of the Redskins' influential performances. His 1940 and 1944 re-election bids were both sealed by Redskins wins. Frank Filchok, who would be banned from the league later in the decade for alleged contacts with gamblers, threw for one score and ran for another in the 1940 game, then tossed two more touchdowns four years later.
But no president has felt the effects more often than Richard Nixon. In three different elections -- 1960, 1968 and 1972 -- his fate was predicted by his favorite team's fortune: a loss, then two victories. (Note: Nixon ran in 1960 as the incumbent party's candidate, a distinction also covered by "The Rule.")
Nixon's connection with the Redskins went beyond political pandering; he is widely reported to have asked then-coach George Allen -- a friend and father of 2012 Virginia Senate candidate George Allen -- to run what would later be called (by Allen's daughter) "the most notorious play of the Redskins' 1971 season."
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Decades later, Jennifer Allen, writing for ESPN.com, recalled her famous father's most bizarre moment in football.
"Deemed the underdog, the Redskins took an early 10-3 lead. In the final minutes of the first half, the Redskins were on the 49ers' 8-yard line, positioned to score," she wrote. "My father called a play he had never before called, and would never call again -- a reverse to the wide receiver -- something he once referred to as a 'trick play' and a 'gimmicky play.' The 49ers defense read the play at the snap of the ball, and turned it into a 13-yard loss. Noting its gross failure, one TV broadcaster quipped, 'That must have been a play Richard Nixon called in to George Allen.'
"The subsequent field goal was blocked, and the game's momentum quickly shifted. Washington went on to lose 24-20. In the postgame locker room, one player claimed that my father had received 'executive orders' to call the play. My father neither denied nor upheld the truth of this claim. He simply spoke of the reverse as 'the game's big, big play ... when we came away without any points.'"
Nixon, who once used the presidential helicopter to drop in on a Redskins practice, might have flown too close to the sun, though, as he chose, less than two years later, to resign the White House in disgrace rather than face impeachment proceedings tied to the Watergate scandal.
The only other time "The Redskins Rule" failed to correctly predict the candidate who would spend the next four years in office (Nixon's resignation cut short his second term) came in 2004.
On Halloween afternoon, the Green Bay Packers barged into the nation's capital and knocked off the bumbling Redskins, 28-14, a victory that should have spelled the end of then-President George W. Bush's administration. But the Kerry campaign fumbled the ball on Election Day and for the first time since they started playing pro football in Washington, "The Redskins Rule" was broken.