September 29th, 2013
Cue Redskins playoff talk in 5 . . . 4 . . . 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . .
One of the small annoyances of living in DC is being around what I suspect might be the most Pollyanna-ish fanbase in all of sports. Yankees fans think they’re entitled to success. Lakers fans expect success. DC sports fans think that success is always just around the corner. I think I’ve told this story before, but if not, here’s the perfect distillation of the difference in mindset between Philly and DC:
On Monday, December 20, 2004, I was driving from New Jersey to DC. The day before, the Eagles had beaten the Dallas Cowboys, giving them a record of 13-1, the best in the league. The team was a buzz-saw, having gone to three consecutive NFC championship games in the preceding seasons and now, loaded with Terrell Owens and Donovan McNabb having a quasi MVP season, they were dominant.
However, in the course of the Dallas game, Owens broke his ankle while being horse-collared by the filthy, cretinous Roy Williams. On sports-talk radio, all the way through Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and northern Maryland, caller after caller and host after host rent their garments and caterwauled about the end of the Eagles’ season. The Super Bowl dream was over. The Eagles wouldn’t win another game. It was, people pretty much agreed, nearly impossible to envision them scoring again.
Yet once I crossed the Susquehanna River and tuned into DC sports-talk, it was like phasing into an alternate universe. That weekend, the Skins had just beaten the hapless ’49ers who, at the time, had 2 wins and would finish with the worst record in football. This glorious victory left Washington sitting at 5-9. And what did the good people of Washington think?
As hosts and callers carefully explained to one another, if the Skins just won out (even though they hadn’t won consecutive games all season long) and they got some help, then they could easily slip into the playoffs at 7-9. But Redskins fans weren’t just thinking playoffs. They were thinking Super Bowl!
Washington fans believed that the Eagles were now mortally wounded without Owens. And with a weak top-seed in the division, Washington could easily pick them off. And then the NFC was wide open. With their victory over 2-12 San Francisco, the Super Bowl was now within reach.
This is how sports fans really think down here. And it hasn’t much changed. Both fans and the press in DC have been itching to put Robert Griffin into Canton since his first game. To say these people are in love with Griffin doesn’t begin to describe it. I’ve been in towns with Mike Schmidt, Dr. J, and Michael Jordan (during his Wizards incarnation) and I’ve never seen a city fall this hard for an athlete. To live up to the woo they’ve been pitching, Griffin would have to win three rings, post Elway-like career numbers, and build a children’s hospital.
So now that Griffin has got his QB rating up to a lofty 84 and the Skins have moved into second-place in the division standings with their 1-3 record, let’s help our Redskins fans plot out their path to the 2014 Super Bowl in Jersey:
Technically, you can take your division with just three wins. If all the teams in the division lose all of their out-of-division games, and then split their division contests, then a 3-win team can totally make the playoffs.
This year, the NFC East might be almost that bad. As of today, there are three NFL teams that are 4-0. The entire NFC East has 4 wins right now. And if you only really need 3 wins for the playoffs, the Redskins are actually ahead of the game because they’re on pace for 4 wins and they already have a win out of division! If anything, they seem like a lock for 5 wins (at least!) with 6–or even 7–a real possibility. After all, they still have New York (twice), Dallas (twice), Philly, and Minnesota. Every one of those games is winnable. And the way the NFC East looks this year, a 7-win team will probably run away with the division.
So the Redskins are now it perfect position for the playoffs.
And once you’re in the playoffs, anything can happen.
The real question in Washington this week should probably be about 2015: When the Redskins start their quest to defend their Super Bowl title, should Griffin be favored to win his second MVP?
Redskins fans discuss!
Let’s discuss the Iggles-Broncos game instead JVL!!!!!!!!!!!
Tagged as: Is Chip Kelly the new Steve Spurrier?, I hear Matt Yglesias is a huge Chip Kelly fan.
There’s more magical thinking in DC than there is in Hollywood.