When the end came for the Washington Redskins, there was no reason for them to be embarrassed this time. Players who had hung their heads for years could hold them high after unexpectedly accomplishing so much. Finally, the Redskins appear to be moving in the right direction — and even a clunker in the first round of the NFC playoffs doesn’t change that.
The Redskins’ best season in 21 years ended Sunday night in a 24-14 loss to Seattle, which got 132 yards rushing from Marshawn Lynch and benefited by facing an injury-weakened Robert Griffin III. While taking a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, the Redskins flashed the winning look they displayed throughout their seven-game win streak to close the regular season. It just didn’t last long.
Griffin’s ongoing knee problems derailed Washington’s offense and quickly ended the party-like atmosphere surrounding the organization’s first playoff game at FedEx Field since the 1999 season. What a season it was, however, for the Redskins and their loyal, long-suffering fans.
From 3-6 to winning the NFC East division championship, the Redskins often surprised even themselves.
In Griffin, the Redskins have the franchise quarterback for whom they’ve been waiting since owner Daniel Snyder purchased the team. Rookie running back Alfred Morris emerged as a stunning sixth-round find en route to finishing second in the NFL in rushing. Pierre Garcon displayed the toughness some NFL observers believed he lacked. And the Redskins accomplished more on defense than the sum of their parts indicated they should have.
Pro football in these parts hadn’t been as much fun since the early 1990s. Now, there’s something on which the Redskins can continue to build.
Coach Mike Shanahan began to regain his swagger as an elite team-builder. Yes, he should have pulled Griffin earlier from Sunday’s game and put in backup quarterback Kirk Cousins. But he made the right calls on so many major decisions in the past year, including approving the record price it took to get Griffin, paying Garcon big money to lead the receiving corps and believing that the unheralded Morris was the right guy to carry the load in the running game.
The Redskins still have a long way to go to reach the Super Bowl, which is Shanahan’s top goal. But let’s look at the building blocks now in place that could help them get there:
Time to heal
It was obvious to anyone who watched Griffin the past few weeks: the NFL’s top dual-threat quarterback was essentially playing on one leg. Griffin’s knee injury, which he aggravated late in the first quarter against Seattle, was the biggest factor in Washington producing only 203 total net yards against Seattle.
In the first quarter, Griffin failed to connect with Garcon in the end zone after planting on his right knee and throwing across his body. Although Griffin remained in the game — he teamed with Logan Paulsen on a short touchdown pass two plays later — he limped and was examined by team medical personnel after the drive that gave the Redskins a 14-point cushion.