Redskins' Bottom Line

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By Thomas Boswell
Saturday, December 3, 2005

Of the 28 teams in the NFL at the start of '93, how many have won fewer games than the Redskins the last 13 seasons?

Here's a hint. It's possible nobody in the whole Washington area will guess low enough. Although the farther you travel from this city, the more likely you are to get a realistic answer on how bad the Redskins have been and for how long.

The answer: two.

Of the teams that have been in operation for the last 13 years, only the Cincinnati Bengals (71) and Arizona Cardinals (73), two perennial joke franchises of the NFL, teams synonymous with ineptitude, have won even fewer games than the Redskins (85).

Two other clubs also have 85 wins in this period. These teams are the true comparables to the Redskins. Cover your eyes. They're the bag-over-your-head New Orleans Saints and the perennially dismal Detroit Lions, who fired another coach this week.

Let me read your mind. Since you're probably in denial (like me), your first reaction is, "But they're getting better now."

Sorry, they aren't. The Redskins have been even worse in the last four years (.390 winning percentage) than they were in the entire 13-season span (.421). If you're like me, you have to pick your jaw up off the floor after reading these numbers. I dug up this stat because I suspected the Redskins might be surprisingly bad. For the last decade, those who run the team, as well as those who root for it, have lived in a fantasyland, assuming that the team was just a new coach or a couple of players away from contending again. But I never dreamed the Redskins had fallen so far.

Almost everybody in this town, including me, has been judging this team with a warped yardstick for many years. That has ugly consequences. A bad team realizes that it will require considerable improvement just to become mediocre. To reach "good" and "very good," much less "great" is a long-term project. Yet, for at least the last 10 seasons, ever since Norv Turner's '96 team got back above .500 (9-7), Washington has expected that a return to Redskins glory was imminent.

With hindsight, it's fairly clear that the Redskins have never been more than "pretty good" at best since the 1981-92 Gibbs era. However, the team lives and works in a worshipful community that enables its delusions of grandeur. This creates unrealistically high expectations every season. No wonder we've seen years of bizarre behavior and precipitous decision-making.

As an extra twist, the Redskins' owner is perhaps the team's number one lifelong fan. No one believes the Redskins mythology, the conceit that the team is perpetually on the cusp of returning to the top, more than Daniel Snyder. His misperception of his team, viewing the franchise through love eyes like millions of others, has led him to fire coaches and (more important) blow up his entire roster several times. From Norv Turner to Marty Schottenheimer to Steve Spurrier back to Gibbs, the Redskins have never had consecutive coaches whose style of play or preference in personnel bore any resemblance to one other.

The process of seeing the Redskins more clearly and evaluating them in some sane, rather than instant gratification mode, can't start too soon. For example, the Redskins are about to play back-to-back games on the road against teams with losing records -- the St. Louis Rams (5-6) and the Cardinals (3-8). There is, as usual, plenty of misplaced optimism in Washington surrounding these imminent Redskins road adventures. Win these two games against "losers" and, who knows, Washington may be back in the playoff chase. On the fringes. If you squint and the light is just right. (Get out the Bandwagon.)

A reality check may be helpful. Since '92, Washington has played two or more consecutive games on the road 27 times. How often have the Redskins won two in a row away from home? Answer: three times. But they've lost back-to-back on 13 occasions.


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© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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