Last week, I said the Washington Redskins needed a win. One of the biggest reasons for claiming that first victory was to maintain team morale. I can’t think of a much better way to hurt morale than to allow a team that hasn’t beaten you at home in its last 21 attempts to finally accomplish that very thing. The last time the Detroit Lions defeated the Washington Redskins on their home field, the Redskins weren’t even in DC. They were in Boston, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in the White House. Something was definitely accomplished at FedEx Field on Sunday. The only problem is that it wasn’t an accomplishment worthy of any praise.
I think back to when I first began watching Redskins games as a kid growing up in Richmond, VA. I remember another 10-6 season that the Redskins had back then. We were in a similar situation as we were at the end of last season. We were facing the Dallas Cowboys for the NFC East Title. The game was on December 16, 1979 at Texas Stadium. The Redskins ended up in a “win or go home” situation due to the results of other games that had taken place that day. In the end, the Redskins ended up blowing two big leads (17-0 and 34-21).
Quarterback Roger Staubach, in what would be his final regular season game before his retirement, worked his magic and “went out with a bang” as he led the Cowboys to a late rally to top the Redskins 35-34. They not only lost the game. They were also eliminated from the playoffs. The sting of that loss, compounded by the absence of running back John Riggins the following season, contributed to the Redskins only being able to manage a 6-10 record in 1980. Jack Pardee would then lose his job after only three seasons as the Redskins’ head coach.
A newspaper article that I still remember reading during the 1980 season claimed that this team had no business being 10-6 the previous year, simply because too much was expected of them this year. I look at what is going on now, and I’m amazed at how history seems to be repeating itself. History is painful after Sunday’s loss to Detroit for a number of reasons. The loss on Sunday to Detroit felt like multiple daggers to the heart. It was very discouraging for the Redskins to allow a team to “come into their house” and break a 78 year home winning streak. “Protect Your House,” as one of my Facebook friends said, but the Redskins failed to do that. Granted, the game wasn’t as lopsided and wasn’t unofficially over at halftime as it has been the last two weeks. However, the defense continued to give up big yardage.
Matthew Stafford had a big day with 385 yards passing. Add to that the yards on the ground by the Lions, and the Redskins defense once again gave up well over 400 yards total for the day. In these first three games alone, the Redskins defense has now given up a total of 1,464 yards. You have to go back to 1966 before you can find another defense that has allowed this many yards through the first three games of season. (Is that why you’ve retreated from the sideline to the booth, Jim Haslett?)
As I’ve said already, these aren’t the kinds of records that you want to break. The only things that break in these situations are spirits, confidence, and morale. Granted, it’s only the third game, and last season, this team was dealing with a 3-6 record at one point. They were able to win out and claim the NFC East Title. However, that was last season, and the landscape this season looks nothing like that.
The excessive hype and overconfident predictions going into this season feel very annoying now. I’ve always made a habit of not being so bold as to make those kinds of forecasts ahead of time, especially ones that may be a little too unrealistic. I was very surprised, and even angered, by Mike Shanahan’s statement last month about anything short of the Super Bowl being a failure this year for the Redskins. Allow me to share a statement of my own with you, Coach. Your failure is already happening, and it may eventually be your undoing.
Maybe I should also point out another little tidbit of information to you, courtesy of STATS LLC. Of the 161 NFL teams that have begun 0-3 since 1978, only five have made it to the postseason. In other words, the odds of your making it to the playoffs now are definitely not in your favor, to say nothing about the Super Bowl. It also wasn’t realistic to think that RGIII would be at 100% at this start of this season. We can see for ourselves now that he wasn’t. Some of the insecurity and frustration that RGIII “vented” in a press conference last month was also disturbing. It exposed what was beginning to feel like a conflict between Coach and QB. It seemed apparent, at least to me, that neither of them were on the same page. RGIII was sounding like he was trying to utilize his own timeline for his return after Shanahan had already made up his mind that RGIII would not play in the preseason.
A NFL football team consists of 53 players. It takes more than just one of those players to make a team operate well and to win. Unnecessary distractions, divisions, and disarray that take place off the field will eventually show itself on the field. A team that isn’t united and focused cannot and will not be successful regardless of how talented the players are. Right now, there doesn’t seem to be anywhere near enough unity and focus with the Redskins. This team is now 0-3. They allowed an opponent to come onto their home field last Sunday and defeat them for the first time since 1935. You have to go back 47 years before you can find another NFL team that has given up as many yards of offense to its opponent as the Redskins have this season through the first three games.
I hope that in time, I’ll be able to write something just a little more positive and upbeat about what I’m seeing with this team. First however, I need a reason to do so. Right now, I don’t enough of one. I’d like to think that eventually, playoffs or no, Redskins fans can eventually enjoy some of the bliss from a season ago. To be continued…….