That’s pretty much all anyone in the DC area has been talking about this past week. For those of you who aren’t big sports fans (Yes, Mrs. Cutter, this is your cue to stop reading), RG3 is Robert Griffin III, the Redskins’ new quarterback, and the man being hailed as the savior of the franchise.
Griffin, who won last year’s Heisman Trophy, was chosen as the second overall pick in the NFL Draft, and was instantly promoted as the league’s next big thing. The hype was understandable, because after all, when has an NFL team ever gone wrong by drafting a Heisman winner?
In his debut last week, Griffin somehow managed to exceed the already massive expectations of Redskins fans. He threw for over 300 yards and two touchdowns, leading the Redskins to an impressive road win over the New Orleans Saints.
From various reports I’ve heard, during the game, he also managed to rescue three cats from burning buildings, fix the national economy, lower gas prices, and solve the world’s hunger problem. After listening to talk radio the week, I get the impression that most Redskins fans believe that if Peyton Manning, Cam Newton, and Jesus all had a baby together, RG3 would still be a better quarterback than that child.
All of a sudden, the DC area is convinced that a Super Bowl is in the team’s destiny, possibly even this season.
Well, if there’s one thing I enjoy, it is deflating the hopes and dreams of Redskins fans. And so I bring you “The Hater’s Guide to the Washington Redskins” in which I will ridicule my favorite NFL team.
You may be confused as to why I referred to the Redskins as my favorite NFL team, since it is no secret that I have been an ardent fan of the Philadelphia Eagles for most of my life. I recently realized that while I may passionately support the Eagles, they have caused me a great deal of heartache over the years.
On the other hand, the amount of joy I have gained from rooting against the Redskins is almost immeasurable. Just about every season I can depend on at least one incident of ridicule-inducing foolishness from the team.
Ironically, when I first began following football, the Redskins were one of the NFL’s model franchises. They were owned by Jack Kent Cooke, who was regarded as one of the league’s best owners, and they were led by Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs. During Gibbs’ tenure, the team won three Super Bowls, and was a perennial contender.
In 1994, Gibbs retired. While the team did struggle a bit under his replacements, they didn’t devolve into the now-familiar haplessness of recent years until after Cooke died. The team was inherited by his family who ended up selling it to local businessman Dan Snyder.
And that is when the fun began in earnest.
In Snyder’s defense, he’s not quite as horrible as many Redskins fans would have you believe. People give him grief for attempting to squeeze as much money out of the Redskins franchise as possible. In actuality, he is just doing the same thing that most NFL owners do. The main difference seems to be that Snyder is more blatant and less graceful about his money grabs than most of the others.
Renaming the stadium to FedEx Field? Are there any NFL stadiums that don’t have some sort of corporate sponsorship? Of course it didn’t help that Snyder was an early adopter of the practice, and renamed a stadium that was named after the beloved former owner.
Adding in extra luxury suites, charging a fortune for parking, selling off the naming rights for just about everything related to the team, and of course forcing season ticket holders to buy PSLs? Yes, these are common practices throughout the NFL.
I think most Redskins fans would be okay with these policies if the team was winning. But the team is not winning, and much of the losing is a result of Snyder’s actions, and his hands-on approach to the running of the team.
In full disclosure, if I owned an NFL team, there’s a good chance I’d run it similarly to Snyder or Jerry Jones, or any of the other NFL owners regarded as “meddlers.” If I spent a fortune on a team, it would be very difficult to just sit back and let other people run things. For instance, if I owned the Eagles, Andy Reid would have been fired a long time ago.
But alas, I do not own the Eagles, and even compared to his peers, Snyder does seem to take things to an extreme. Reportedly, the reason why the Redskins can’t seem to find a good general manager is because Snyder wants someone who will listen to his advice and cater to his whims. Unsurprisingly, the Skins have been saddled with less than stellar people like Vinny Cerrato running the show.
Under Snyder’s reign, the team also seems to act as if it was a fantasy team. Just about every offseason, the Redskins make flashy moves, acquiring the biggest names in free agency, or trading draft picks for established veterans.
Some of the big names have included Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders, and Jason Taylor. Most of these players have either been past their primes, or too dependent on their former situations for success. Almost all of them have turned out to be disappointments on the field.
Hey, at least the Redskins get the honor of being the “offseason champs.” And considering that the NFL offseason is much longer than the actual season, in a way, isn’t that more important?
To give a better impression of just how comical the Snyder era has been, here’s a quick rundown of some of the more laughable incidents from throughout the years.
The Spurrier Era
Steve Spurrier’s tenure as coach may be my absolute favorite period in Redskins history. It had been long rumored that the University of Florida coach wanted to make the jump to the pros. Finally, Snyder convinced him to make the move, and Spurrier was hired as Redskins coach before the 2002 season.
Spurrier’s tenure started out in grand fashion, with the Skins winning big over the Arizona Cardinals. Of course, there’s one thing in the NFL which has pretty much always been true: Never make a judgement based on a win over the Arizona Cardinals.
Redskins fans were nonetheless excited. The team’s second game was a Monday night matchup against the Eagles, and many fans assumed that this would be a big coming out party for their team.
What happened? The Eagles crushed the Redskins. The lasting memory of the game was Spurrier making this face:
That face would pretty much sum up the Spurrier era in Washington.
The Skins went on to finish 7-9 that year, but the following season, the Skins got off to a promising start. They were 3-1 heading into yet another big game against the Eagles.
Of the four times the Spurrier Skins played the Eagles, this game was the closest, as it came down to a late failed two-point conversion. But the end result was the same: An Eagles victory.
The Redskins went into a bit of a free fall after that. Apparently, Spurrier began to realize that he enjoyed coaching in college a lot better. There, he got to be an absolute dictator, and didn’t have to put in the long hours that are required of an NFL coach.
Before the team’s final game that season, he basically quit and retired to the golf course before taking another college job the following year. Sadly, Spurrier was gone from the NFL, and I was left with a small void in my life.
Joe Gibbs returns and a legend is slightly tarnished
Snyder figured that since all his other coaching hires had failed, he’d go back into the team’s past and replicate one move that actually worked. He coaxed Joe Gibbs out of retirement.
Naturally, Redskins fans were ecstatic. Gibbs was back! Surely, the great Joe Gibbs would find a way to set things right!
They were overlooking the fact that at the end of his first tenure, there were already signs that Gibbs had lost a few miles off his fastball. Not to mention that the NFL that Gibbs was returning to was changed from his day, as he had never had to deal with free agency or coach’s replay challenges.
Of course, he also didn’t have to deal with Dan Snyder as his owner back then either.
After a poor 2004 season, it appeared as if Gibbs had made a big mistake. The Redskins were just as hapless as before, finishing 6-10. The problem seemed larger than even the most optimistic Redskins fan could handle. If the great Joe Gibbs couldn’t make this team a winner, was it simply an impossible task?
For some reason, the sporting gods like to give fans JUST enough hope to keep them going. And so, Redskins fans got the 2005 season.
At the end of November, with the team sitting at 5-6, it looked like just another disappointing season. But then under the leadership of veteran quarterback Mark Brunell, the team rallied to win their final five games to capture a wild card berth in the playoffs. Even more impressively, they even won their first game before bowing out in the divisional round.
Curiously, the 2005 offseason was the first in which Snyder didn’t make many moves. Instead, he allowed his team to grow under the coach.
But that small glimmer of hope that the playoff win provided convinced Snyder that a Super Bowl was on hand. So he went back to his old ways and brought in some big name talent: Brandon Lloyd! T.J. Duckett! Antwaan Randle-El! (“He’s not gonna be catching touchdowns, he’s gonna be throwing touchdowns!”)
So how did the 2006 Redskins do? Poorly!
Whatever steps Brunell took to revitalize his career in 2005, they didn’t carry over into 2006. He looked skittish and was soon replaced by young Jason Campbell.
2007 looked like it was going to be another lousy season in DC when safety Sean Taylor was shot and killed in his home.
Perhaps inspired by Taylor’s death, the Redskins went on another impressive season-ending run. Once again, their miracle run was fueled by a former backup quarterback. Journeyman Todd Collins came in relief of injured starter Campbell, and despite never really looking like a competent quarterback thus far in his career, he managed to lead the team to the playoffs.
Perhaps the team’s highlight was when they won the season finale over the Cowboys by 21 points. Since Taylor had won 21, everyone began to declare that the margin of victory was in his honor. Those same people didn’t appreciate it when the Redskins subsequently lost their playoff game by 21, and I asked if that was also in Taylor’s honor.
The Jim Zorn/Bingo Situation
Despite making the playoffs, Gibbs resigned after the 2007 season. The team took their time in finding a replacement, and made the odd choice of first hiring offensive and defensive coordinators.
Amazingly, the team found that no coach wanted to come in and work with pre-selected coordinators, or have to answer to Snyder and his yes men. So the team then decided that the offensive coordinator that they had hired would also make a swell head coach. And thus began the Jim Zorn era.
Under Zorn, the Redskins returned to their losing ways in 2008. The losing continued into 2009, so the team decided to bring in veteran offensive coordinator Sherm Lewis as a “consultant” to help Zorn with play calling.
While this move was questionable enough, it was made more laughable by the fact that Lewis had been working as a Bingo caller at a senior center.
Lewis didn’t make much of a difference, and not surprisingly, neither Zorn nor Lewis were retained at the end of the season.
Of all of the team’s acquisitions throughout the years, Albert Haynesworth might have been the absolute dumbest. This was a player who was known to have some “issues.”
He once stomped on an opponent’s helmetless head! He was known to be unmotivated and lazy at times. And the best year of his career came immediately before he was to reach free agency.
To the credit of Redskins fans, most of them even realized this was an insanely bad idea at the time.
Sure enough, Haynesworth was a disaster. While he didn’t stomp on anyone’s head, and admittedly, he did have a few good moments, he was out of shape and unmotivated for much of his tenure.
When coach Mike Shanahan came in and realized that he had to deal with the unpleasantness that was Haynesworth, he set about embarrassing him. Shanahan made him pass fitness tests before even being allowed to practice with the team.
Having gone through all that, maybe I can forgive the fans for their insanity. I know how all-consuming the love of one’s football team can be, and how it causes you to talk yourself into things. Hell, I talked myself into thinking Bobby Hoying was going to be a star. I even had his jersey!
In my defense, I witnessed the greatest performance in Hoying’s life. He was truly amazing that day, and I don’t think a single person in the stadium didn’t think we had a star on our hands.
Anyway, I think post-traumatic stress is the only way to explain the overenthusiastic optimism that some Redskins fans still have towards the team. I realize that there are fans of every team that might be a little out of touch, but some of the exchanges I’ve had with Redskins fans really make me wonder.
You’d think after years of big offseason moves, they’d have become desensitized or at least more realistic. Nope, they still got all excited about trading for Donovan McNabb, thinking they finally had a star quarterback on the roster.
In a way, I admire their optimism. I mean, this is a fanbase that has believed that McNabb, Patrick Ramsey, and Jason Campbell were all going to be franchise quarterbacks. If they can still hope and believe that the next guy is really going to be the answer, well then, I suppose its nice to always have hope.
Hey, maybe they’re right, and maybe RG3 really will be the savior of the franchise and lead the team to a championship.
Then again, Shane Matthews had a pretty good debut for the Redskins too. Just saying.