By any measure, the Redskins have a larger fanbase than any other D.C. team.
But as the team’s on-field success has waned in recent seasons, and as the population of the area has mushroomed, a more interesting question might be this: Is Washington’s love affair with its pro football team significantly different than those in most NFL cities?
And I don’t know how you measure that, but by television ratings anyhow, the Redskins seem pretty middle-of-the-road; a bit better than that when they’re great, and a bit less than that when they’re struggling.
This season, for example, the Redskins finished 19th in local television ratings, according to SportsBusiness Daily’s Austin Karp. That’s behind NFC East rivals like the Cowboys and Eagles, behind region rivals like the Ravens and the Steelers, but ahead of similar hubs of young transplants like San Francisco and New York. (The Redskins averaged a 26.6 household rating in this market; the heavyweights like the Saints, Broncos, Packers and Chiefs all had average household ratings of well above 40.0.)
Last season (again via Karp), when the Redskins were not terrible on the field, they finished 16th in the ratings, ahead of San Diego, Philadelphia and Detroit, which all passed Washington this season.
In 2011, when the Redskins were both terrible and boring, they finished 21st in the television ratings.
That’s all middle-of-the-road stuff.
In a related note, I finally tracked down the rating for Washington’s finale, that dreadful bit of masochism in New Jersey. The game earned a 19.1 rating in Washington, making it the Redskins’ least-viewed local game of the season. It also finished beneath the rating later that night for the Cowboys-Eagles Sunday Night Football finale, which earned a 20.9. That means at least four weeks during the past season, the Cowboys finished as the highest-rated program in Washington.
(It also happened when the Redskins played on a Monday, when the Redskins had their bye, and when the Redskins were destroyed by the Chiefs.)
In merchandise sales — another popular measure of popularity — the Redskins ranked 10th in the NFL from April 1 to Sept 30.