“The Lerner family, under the daily direction of [General Manager Mike] Rizzo, they’ve done an excellent job,” said Sam Hyder, 64, of Upper Marlboro. “They have gotten rid of some of the players they were paying too much for with little production. And I think the biggest, most productive move was bringing in Davey Johnson. He knows baseball. He knows the players. He’s helped make them winners.”
Still, the Redskins — who play their first home game of the season at FedEx Field on Sunday — are viewed favorably by a majority of area fans, and increasingly so over the last year. Favorable views of the Redskins are up from 55 percent a year ago to 62 percent, with strongly favorable views up from about a quarter of fans to a third. Negative views have dropped from 34 to 22 percent for a franchise that has enjoyed just two winning seasons in the last 12.
Now, Griffin’s arrival signifies the potential for change.
“I’ve always liked them just as much,” said Robert Gez, 24, who grew up in Darnestown as the son of a Redskins fan and now lives in the District. “But in terms of the chance to win the Super Bowl, it feels better. Every Redskins die-hard fan, you get so hopeful at the beginning of the season. Hopefully it’s different this year.”
The Redskins, who arrived from Boston in 1937, predate any of the other major professional sports teams in town — basketball’s Wizards, hockey’s Capitals, soccer’s D.C. United and the Nationals. They remain most popular among African American sports fans, Maryland residents, those who are less affluent and those without college degrees.
But the Nationals’ rise, on the field and in popularity, comes at a time when the Capitals are coming off five straight playoff appearances and now sell out all their home games. Those developments, said Capitals and Wizards owner Ted Leonsis, could show that Washington is maturing as a sports town.
“This means we have a fantastic community,” Leonsis said. “The Nats are growing. The Caps have grown. The Wizards are growing. The Redskins are doing great. Fantastic! That’s a great thing. It shouldn’t be Redskins versus everyone else. No. We want this to be a world-class sports town.”
To that point, one possibly concerning element to the Nationals: More than one in four respondents were unable to rate the team. With October baseball approaching, and a Washington representative in the playoffs for the first time since 1933, that may be getting ready to change, too.