A couple of hours before game time at FedEx Field yesterday, Bobby Felder was less than pleased.
The local jazz and blues legend and longtime Redskins fan, 75, was looking dapper in a Redskins-burgundy sweater and black corduroy slacks. He was happy to be tailgating with family and friends in their usual spot close to the stadium, but the 2005 edition of the team has disappointed him.
"I had high hopes this year," he said. "I was ready for the Super Bowl. I hate going to the games knowing we're going to lose."
Felder's son, Ron, a Brandywine computer service technician, was just as critical as his father but a bit more optimistic. He predicted a win against the San Diego Chargers, led by former Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer.
Felder's discontent and Schottenheimer's return to FedEx Field -- along with last week's return of former Redskins coach Norv Turner, now the Oakland Raiders head coach -- prompted thoughts of second chances, second comings and "If only the 'Skins had kept. . . ."
The Felders had their choices, including cornerback Fred Smoot, now with the Minnesota Vikings; Stephen Davis, a punishing Carolina Panthers running back; Champ Bailey, a Denver Broncos cornerback; and Brian Mitchell, a retired kick returner.
Bobby Felder's old friend and fellow tailgater Harold Goffney, a sporting goods entrepreneur, blamed Redskins owner Daniel Snyder for allowing so many quality players to get away.
"Snyder has a penchant for bringing in big names like Deion Sanders," Goffney said. "Guys like that sell jerseys and add money to his pocketbook, but they don't win games. He's actually playing fantasy football."
Bailey, the Broncos cornerback, was a top pick for Walt Lund, 49, a maintenance worker from Goldvein, and Cindy Shockley, 44, a Mary Kay saleswoman from Fredericksburg.
In fact, Bailey got more votes in an informal tailgate survey yesterday than any other former Redskin. Traded to the Broncos two seasons ago, he has been injured this year and is not quite up to the Pro Bowl level of play Redskins fans remember.
Lund also liked Davis, the Panthers running back, who he said would have fit Coach Joe Gibbs's running scheme better than Clinton Portis.
Lund and Shockley are part of a large group of tailgaters from Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania that has merged over the years as the fans have parked next to one another on game days and shared drinks, food and fun.
Rita Cocchiaro, 77, a tap and ballet teacher from New Carrollton, is also part of the expanded group. She recalled buying $10 tickets on game day at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium and sitting in temporary bleachers that skirted the field. She fondly recalls Redskins running back John Riggins bowling into her.
"I thought I was going to have a heart attack," she recalled. "It was cool."
Cocchiaro also recalled listening to Sammy Baugh, the Hall of Fame Redskins quarterback, broadcasting games on the radio.
Ray Augusterfer saw Baugh play.
Now 76, the retired engineer from Edgewater was in the stands with his uncle for the Redskins' first game in Washington, on Sept. 16, 1937, in which they defeated the New York Giants. He also recalls a Baugh drop-kick that traveled 85 yards, still a Redskins record. (It got a good roll.)
Augusterfer, sitting on his SUV tailgate yesterday and decked out in a Redskins jacket, gray sweatpants and a vintage leather football helmet that Slingin' Sammy himself might have worn, said his uncle bought the fifth set of season tickets the Redskins ever sold.
"I was at every game except during the Korean War," he said. "My uncle died during Korea, and nobody picked up the damn tickets. When I came back and found out, I could have killed some Americans."
Augusterfer, who made it back onto the season ticket list in 1965, had his own list of players he hated to see get away, in addition to his sentimental choice, Baugh. They include Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Trent Green, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brad Johnson and Davis.
His daughter-in-law Kim Augusterfer, 36, an Annapolis certified public accountant, had her own choice: Steven Alexander, a tight end whose Redskins career was mediocre at best.
"Why him?" her father wanted to know.
" 'Cause he looked good in leather pants," she explained, laughing.
Ray Augusterfer's old hero, arguably the most famous Redskin, would have been watching the Redskins-Chargers game on TV until about a year ago. Now 91, Sammy Baugh lives in a nursing home in the West Texas ranching town of Jayton. He has Alzheimer's disease.
He fell and broke his hip in May, son David Baugh said, but he has regained much of the weight he lost and is resting easy.
A few years ago, Baugh told Texas Monthly writer Jan Reid that if there was one Redskins coach he would have loved to play for, it was Steve Spurrier, he of the pass-happy offense that sputtered in the NFL after years of success at the University of Florida. Spurrier has experienced something of a coaching rebirth back down south in the collegiate ranks at the University of South Carolina.
It was an old North Carolina Tar Heel who famously opined about second chances and going home again. You can't do it, Thomas Wolfe observed.
But sometimes you can. It was another old Tar Heel some decades later, a basketball player by the name of Jordan, who managed to pull off a second coming with the Chicago Bulls after indulging his fantasy fling with professional baseball.
Of course, the ultimate homecomer for the Redskins is Gibbs, who, in the grand tradition of legendary Chicago Bears coach George Halas, returned after a dozen-year hiatus to see whether he could rekindle the Super Bowl magic for his former team.
His Redskins fell just short yesterday, in overtime, losing for the second week in a row to a former coach.
Musician Felder was disappointed though not surprised. Tailgater Maxine Jackson, 48, tried to look on the bright side.
"This year's better than last year," she said, "and if they keep getting better every year, that's what's important."
Goffney managed to be optimistic about the man chiefly responsible for all the former Redskins who have found new life elsewhere. "He's going through growing pains," he said of Snyder. "He'll get better."