Galley Brother BJ and I spent yesterday in classic Philadelphia fashion: Rooting hard on an NFL game in which our only investment was a default position against our hometown teams. This sort of imbued dissatisfaction is one of the perks of being a Philly fan. Once the Eagles are gone, you can always find a reason to root against the remaining teams. Is this emotionally and spiritually corrosive? Sure. But it’s who we are.
Anyway, until this season, I’d found my anti-Redskins bias waning in recent years. The Skins were so awful that it was hard to hate them. But more importantly, a goodly number of my friends and neighbors genuinely like the team. The prospect of Redskins’ success giving them pleasure made me happy.
But this year reminded me all over again why the Redskins diaspora is so insipid: They’re the most Pollyanna fans I’ve ever seen. Every game is full of promise, they’re always a long win streak away from the playoffs, every above-average player is a Hall of Famer. Listen to the Redskins radio broadcast and it’s way, waaaaay beyond normal sports homerism–it’s like listening to North Korean state radio. Most of the local media is like that, too. (With honorable exceptions for the Czabe and his posse.) The fans–again, with honorable exceptions among my friends and neighbors–are even more happy-go-jacky.
And when the Skins did get a top-flight quarterback in Griffin and did got on a long win streak and did make the playoffs? I’m not kidding when I say that the general sense over the last week or two was that this Redskins squad was a Team of Destiny en march to the Super Bowl.
I was not unpleased to see the Redskins get crushed by Seattle. (For all the same reasons, Galley Brother BJ was pulling for Washington.)
Yet I suspect that today Redskins Nation will still find the glass nearly full. So just a few random thoughts:
* That 7-game win streak? Two wins were against a team that finished 4-12, and was lucky to win 4 (my Eagles). Two more came against an 8-8 squad (Dallas). One win came against 5-11 Cleveland. The only quality wins were against a flailing 9-7 New York and a playoff-bound 10-6 Baltimore. Even an average team would have gone 5-2 during that stretch. A mildly-competent team would have gone 6-1. That 7-0 said nothing about the Redskins except that they were better than mildly-competent.
* As for Robert Griffin III, is he really Fran Tarkenton, John Elway, and Peyton Manning rolled into one? Look, Griffin has a totally bad-ass sports nickname. Maybe the best sports nickname of all time. But if everyone just called him “Griffin” the way we do normal players, would people be running away to crown him the way they’ve been doing all season?
Griffin’s rookie numbers are awesome. Good for him. But quarterbacks have outlier seasons all the time. Michael Vick. Cam Newton. Vince Young. Kordell Stewart. Don Majkowski. Maybe this time it will be different. If the Eagles had Griffin, there would be cautious, albeit occasionally giddy, optimism that he might turn out to be an elite quarterback, should he survive the next few seasons and learn to be a pure-pocket passer.
In Washington, they’ve been sniffing his jock and scouting his place in Canton since the third game of the season.
* Maybe Griffin was worth giving up all those drafts picks. Without actually crunching the numbers, my guess is that he probably was, and then some. The problem is that even if he’s worth it, making that trade was a bid to Win Now. Because having given away the picks, the Redskins will find it comparatively harder to build the team over the next few years. So was Washington’s triumphant three-hour appearance in the playoffs just the start of big things to come? I guess anything’s possible. For now they’ll just have to savor the joy of having been the worst team in the 2013 playoffs.
* But as a parting gift to Redskins fans, I’ll give you two free wins in each of the next four seasons, courtesy of the Philadelphia Eagles. Because no matter how mediocre Washington is, the Eagles have begun a nuclear winter. Like a failed, autocratic state losing its long-time dictator, the Eagles have entered a perfect storm where they lose, simultaneously, not just a coach, but also a head of football operations, the “franchise” quarterback, and probably the entire staff of coordinators and assistants. Basically, the entire organization below the owner has been dynamited. And this happened during a spectacularly thin draft year, affording little opportunity to turn failure into gain.
The Redskins might be annoyingly mediocre. I suspect it will be a while before the Eagles even attain that level again.