Drafted at pick No.3 in 2004 behind Richmond midfielder Brett Deleidio and Hawthorn spearhead Jarryd Roughead, Griffen failed to meet the lofty expectations set on him as a talented junior, despite a whirlwind debut in 2005 where he kicked two goals.
After sitting on the bench for the first half he finally got the nod from coach Rodney Eade to play at half-forward, and within minutes kicked his first ever goal at AFL level.
He played 17 games in his first year and showed glimpses of his talent but it wasn't until 2008 and 2009 that he began to consistently show what he was capable of.
By the 2010 finals series he had marked himself as one of the Bulldogs' most important players.
Griffen, now a two-time Charles Sutton medalist and All Australian midfielder, said he was "over the moon" to finally notch up his 200th game.
"Time has flown and I've enjoyed every minute of it," he said on Thursday.
"It took me a few years to realise how hard I had to train. I was a careless kid who came in, and I think the standards probably weren't there for the first few years.
"I had a lot of good guys around me like Scott West and Luke Darcy who really trained me up well. I think after being in the system for four or five years I realised I had to lift my standard, and that's when I played better footy.
"When I first started I didn’t think I'd make 200 but to make it, I'm very happy."
Bulldogs coach Brendan McCartney has seen Griffen improve further under his tutelage, and described his captain as "a big brother" to the new breed of pups at the Whitten Oval.
"Having coached against him for a long time, I loved watching him but we were fearful of what he could do to us," McCartney said.
"Now that I'm coaching him, I still find myself watching him sometimes, marveling at the things that he does. Rare power is good to watch and good for the game.
"There's different styles of captaincy. There's captains who are strong and firm and make great speeches and then there's Ryan, who we all love and is like a big brother.
"I know that he cares for them deeply and they’re very important to him."
The Bulldogs face North Melbourne on Sunday, and McCartney said the players would use Griffen's milestone as inspiration.
"I think the players will draw on it," he said.
"That brotherly influence, they have a lot of respect for this man. But once the game starts, you've got a job to do and you sort of get on with it. If I need to bring it up at half-time though, it'll get a run."