After Final Game, Washington Redskins Wonder What Might Have Been
SAN FRANCISCO The equipment people hoisted the burgundy duffel bags onto a cart and wheeled them to the bus for the final time. Ripped athletic tape and hand towels were strewn about the floor, below a counter of powdered electrolyte packets and carbohydrate gels they don't need to fuel up anymore. A lone shower spout someone forgot to turn off spewed hot water, and steam rose from the cold floor as the last of the Washington Redskins filed out of the locker room.
"If we win that Rams game, the Bengals game doesn't matter, this game is for a playoff spot," Pete Kendall said, incredibly still beating himself up for a moment of brain lock more than two months ago that led to a St. Louis score. "If I had knocked down that pass instead of trying to run -- that's how I have to look at it."
Randy Thomas was in self-blame mode, too.
"No finger-pointing," began another of the team's veteran offensive linemen in the aftermath of the sixth loss in eight games, "but you got to point the thumb."
Postcards from over the edge, snapshots from a season gone awry.
Few of them wanted to talk about Clinton Portis's plethora of yards or Jason Campbell's progression, how the defense needs just a few offseason tweaks to be even better.
On the day the season died in a meaningless game 3,000 miles from home, no one wanted to put down the hammer and pick up the feather, not even Jim Zorn.
It wasn't merely about depressing losses to the Rams and Bengals, the coach said. "Even the tough games -- the Steelers, the Ravens -- I just feel like we're so close," Zorn said. " Just a handful, but those handfuls all meant something.
"So when I say, 'What if?' I say, 'Oh yeah,' because the question gets answered very easily: We did fail."
Given their pulsating start, the Redskins did an unimaginable flip-flop -- 6-2 to 2-6. Sunday's loss didn't erase their soulful effort to beat the Eagles a week ago, and a victory over the 49ers on this afternoon would not have mattered anyway.
But they had a chance to finish on a high note, hit a couple of decent milestones by closing out the 49ers in the final week. Zorn could have become the first coach in his maiden Redskins year to finish above .500 since George Allen, and Daniel Snyder could have posted his first back-to-back winning seasons since he bought the team in 1999.
Instead, there was this numb feeling of regret all around, this sobering realization that, in October, they were a genuine contender to host an NFC playoff game, and now they have to watch a Philadelphia team they beat twice go to the postseason.