“Every year I think we’re going to be 10-6, 12-4,” a Redskins fan named Gus Strange told me in the summer of 2010. “You know you’re a real fan if you stick around through the bad years. And honestly, last year we weren’t that far away….”
“Come to Redskins training camp on August 1st any year and ask how many wins, and you’ll get the exact same result,” Chris Cooley told me then. “It doesn’t matter what the team is, who the coach is: everybody’s gonna say that.”
Cooley, as it turns out, is a wise man. (Also, I am evidently out of training camp ideas. But I still love this one.)
In that summer of 2010, the Redskins were coming off a 4-12 meltdown, had just hired a new coach, and were attempting to climb their way back to respectability. The Vegas over-under for their win total was 7.5 You’d think caution might have been in the air. And yet when I surveyed 36 fans during a training camp session, the most popular prediction was 10-6. The average prediction worked out to 9.9 wins. Thirty-five of the 36 respondents I queried said the team would be at least .500. People were inhaling the sweet smell of grass, and it smelled good.
The Redskins finished 6-10.
(Speaking of grass, someone asked Trent Williams on Thursday about the best part of the first day of practice.
“Just starting football season up again, that smell, that fresh-cut grass when you walk out here,” Williams responded. “There’s no feeling like it.”
The interviewer then asked Williams what the fresh-cut grass smelled like. Williams pointed out that we could all smell it. And indeed, we could. It smelled like fresh-cut grass. I now plan to ask the entire roster what popcorn smells like.)
Anyhow, the Redskins are coming off a 3-13 meltdown, have just hired a new coach, and are attempting to climb their way back to respectability. The Vegas over-under for their win total is 7.5. And caution is just another name for that yellow flag they use across town at RIR. Why be cautious when a near-certain playoff team is in your midst?
So I talked to 12 random-ish fans on Thursday. All 12 thought the Redskins would win at least nine games. The average response was about 10.7 wins. They left me filled with joy and hope. Everything is awesome.
Daniel O’Neill, 26, of Richmond, 12-4
“I think we’ll go 12-4, is probably solid, but I’m hoping for 13-3. I think we can do it. Nobody in the NFC East did anything but us. I don’t have the NFC East doing anything. I’m going to call it right now, we’re going to win the NFC East again. Hands down. There isn’t any competition.”
Stuart DeMattia, 28, of Gaithersburg, 11-5
“Playoffs are a sure thing. When Jay Gruden was the coach of the [Orlando] Predators, they didn’t miss the playoffs. Every year he took them to the playoffs. So I’d say 11-5 is a realistic possibility.”
Sonia Short of Washington, 13-3
“I think it’s gonna be the reverse of last year. Look at our team this year!”
Demetrius Farmer, 18, of Washington, 12-4
“About 12-4. We just got DeSean Jackson, and now we’ve got a whole bunch of receivers. They should be able to stretch the field more for [Robert Griffin III].”
Person whose name was blotted out by the rain but whose face I can picture perfectly, 9-7
“The reason why I’m starting low is because we’ve got a new offense, new coach, and we’re playing a lot of playoff teams this year. So I give us a couple years. We’re definitely going to win the NFC East, that’s for sure. I would love to see us win 13 games, 14 games, go deep in the playoffs. We’ve definitely going to make the playoffs, though. If we do better than that, then good deal. Then I’m wrong, but it’s a good wrong.”
James Zimmerman, 23, of Chester, 9-7
“I don’t think it’ll be too high, because of all the changes. Maybe in two years it’ll go up.”
Jim Gibson, 44, of Linden, Michigan, 10-6
“I’m gonna go 10-4. I believe in them. I like them. I’ve always liked them, and I just believe in them. I think they’ll put it together. I don’t take it personally or anything [when they lose]. I understand that things happen. It’s hard to be on top all the time.”
Pascal Todd, 19, of Washington, 9-7
“I’m gonna go with 9-7. I think the defense will be improved. Still bad, but not as bad as last year. But the offense will click this year with DeSean Jackson and the health of RGIII. So I think it’ll be more offense than defense.”
Taylor Burton, 33, of Richmond, 10-6
“It’s got to be 10 or 11 wins. We’ve got Jay Gruden now! He’s a beast of a man himself. It brings in the bloodline of Jon Gruden, and that’s what we need. Do you know what No. 10 did his first year in the league? All he has to do is perform half as good as he did then and we’ve got the division.”
Maurice Perry, 53, of Dumfries, 10-6*
“I’ll tell you what, it depends on that offensive line. If that offensive line is half as good as the Hogs, no one will want to play the Redskins. I’ll go 10-6.”
Keith Clayberg, 61, of Spotsylvania, 12-4
“I was gonna give ’em 12-4. They patched up a lot of the holes on that offense. They just went off-course last year. I’ll give ’em 12 wins this year; I think they’re gonna rebound this year.”
*(At this argument, Perry revised his prediction to 11-5.)
Ashley Robinson, 27, of Richmond, 11-5
“We’re optimistic, but we’re realistic. Go to Dallas, they’re gonna tell you that they’re gonna win the Super Bowl. No one’s saying that over here. We’ve just got faith in our boys.”