Andy Stynchula, who played for some truly bad Redskin teams in the early 1960s, commiserated with a group of current Washington players this week at a local charity golf tournament.
"I told them I know what they are going through," he said. "Seeing them out there has brought back a lot of memories. The situation I came into here was so similiar, I was a rookie with a new coach, a new staff, a bunch of new young players, a new system."
Stynchula's first Redskin team, in 1960, finished 1-9-2 for the second worst record in the franchise's history. The only opponent that team beat was the Cowboys, who were in their first season.
"I thought we had some good players on that team, but we had bad management," Stynchula said. "I think this team has lots of potential. But right now they are showing nothing to give us hope. I can see a catastrophic season, because it's going to be tough to turn things around now. You only can be sympathetic and patient."
If the Redskins lose Sunday in Chicago, their 0-6 start would be second only in team history to the 0-9 getaway produced by the 1961 Redskins. That bunch was the sorriest Washington has seen, ending with a 1-12-1 record by beating the Cowboys in the final game. The Redskins had tied the Cowboys a month earlier to break a 17-game losing streak, still the team record.
The 1981 Redskins have a long way to go before ending up in the team record books. Thirteen other Washington teams lost five straight, including two coached by Jack Pardee. Five teams had losing streaks of at least six games and six won three games or fewer.
Interviews this week with players from those poor Washington teams revealed one consistent thought: the 1981 Redskins had better win soon or this season will only get worse.
"This team is going to win some games," said Vince Promuto, a standout guard during those dreadful early '60s. "I think they have some talent. But the best thing that can happen to them now is a win. That will make them believe in themselves. When you are 0-5 and a rookie, like many of them are, you start wondering if you better protect your own job and worry about your own security."
Promuto is a lawyer in Connecticut who attended his first Redskin game this season last Sunday. He said he looked at the offensive line, looked at the rookies trying to block more experienced players, and recalled his early years with the team.
"It brought back memories," he said. "I saw them on TV against Dallas and I thought they had lost some crispness in the San Francisco game. I think they were starting to doubt themselves. They need to establish a running game, because even though Joe Theismann is talented, defenses can tee off on him if he has to pass all the time.
"They just can't start doubting themselves. Once that happens, bad things happen."
According to Ron Breedlove, a linebacker from 1960 to 1964, the more this team loses, "the more dumb mistakes it will make. You make mistakes and you know they are wrong, but you keep making them. Then you lose your aggressiveness. You try to be careful. Right now, it's a case of them making too many errors.
"I think they were overrated coming out of training camp. They have some fine young talent. But they miss the experience of older players.
"One thing that's encouraging, however, is the way (Coach Joe) Gibbs has handled the situation. He's carrying the burden on his shoulders and he isn't panicking. The players see that, and it helps."
Ralph Guglielmi, the quarterback on the 1960 squad, said the easiest thing for the Redskins to do now "is forget how to win. It's easy to know how to lose. The more you lose, the more people point fingers at each other.
"I think this team can win. They have as good, if not better, players than we had, they have more speed, they're bigger. They have good athletes, but not a lot of great athletes. In order to win in the NFL, you have to have a certain number of great athletes, and it takes time to acquire them.
"Realistically, you have to look at their schedule. It's going to be tough for them to win more than four or five games. At best, maybe they can pick up some of the pieces before it's over."
Of course, Guglielmi has particular empathy for Theismann. Like most of the others interviewed, he believes Theismann is playing well, considering the circumstances.
"We create little monsters and heroes on football teams," Guglielmi said. "The quarterback always gets too much credit or too much blame. Joe's done a good job. But he'd be helped by a win, too."
Bobby Mitchell, who played with Sonny Jurgensen on the 1965 team, the last to start with five losses, says that no matter what happens this season, these Redskins can't be compared with the earlier squads.
"When I reported in 1962 from Cleveland, I was standing on the training camp field with (Coach) Bill McPeak and I asked him if everyone was there. He said yes and I couldn't believe it. I almost fainted. There were no football players.
"Even when we added Sonny and Sam (Huff) later on, we really had maybe seven or eight real players. The rest were pretty mediocre. Now, I think the team has excellent personnel, but they haven't been together long enough. Until they are, you don't know how good they can be."
Mitchell said that when any team is 0-5, "you start wondering if you are doing your job. You start to press, you hesitate a bit. Any indecision leads to bad plays and injuries. I've been through it. You tell yourself you have to do something and you make mistakes and you look foolish instead. That's what I've seen in our games."
No matter what the Redskins' final record is, the fans should not be shocked, Breedlove says.
"The management never promised anything at the beginning of the season," he said.