With McNabb gone, the Redskins have no one who resonates nationally. The NFL said the jerseys of Orakpo and Cooley rank in the top 100 in sales since April, but neither is among the top 25 best-selling.
Nielsen also compiles regional data, and for that purpose Washington is combined with Baltimore in one market. The most recent ratings for the Baltimore-Washington area are from last fall. The top Redskin on the list: Joe Gibbs, the Super Bowl-winning coach who retired after the 2007 season. Four other retired Redskins (Sonny Jurgensen, Joe Theismann, Darrell Green and Riggins) and three Baltimore Ravens appear on the local rankings before the first current Redskin, Cooley, the stalwart tight end.
“Beauty’s in the eye of the beholder,” said cornerback DeAngelo Hall, the MVP of last season’s Pro Bowl. “No, we don’t have Peyton Manning and Tom Brady and Drew Brees, and all these flashy Twitter people that got a million followers and all this. But that ain’t going to win us no games.”
For many of the fans who showed up Saturday, waiting through some brief rain showers for post-practice autographs and photos, the shift from popularity contest to a new way of running the team is promising.
“They’ve been very low-key,” said David Wilson, 35, who was born and raised in the District. “The attention’s more on practice and fundamentals. It’s a different feel, a different vibe, and that’s great.”
“I give it two more years,” said James C. Scott, who came from La Plata with his father, James L. Scott, and 4-year-old son A.J., all wearing Redskins jerseys. “He’s doing things slowly, building. Any one bad apple in the bunch ruins it for everybody. We didn’t need those bad apples.”
Saturday afternoon, as he signed autographs for fans, Shanahan was asked, “Who’s the quarterback going to be?” One fan looked directly at the coach and said, “If y’all beat anybody, beat Dallas. Please. Please.”
Those questions and refrains could have been from nearly any year in the past. Instead, they came during a preseason in which the Redskins are scarcely in the news, which is just fine with them.
“It just feels normal,” Hall said. “I think everybody made a big deal about all those other headlines from the past. To me it just feels like football. The storyline is the scheme, the guys, the new additions. It’s not what scandal is going on. That’s what you need. It’s welcome.”