An NFL season of strange breaks and bounces and very little luck ended for the Washington Redskins last night not on the field, but in front of the television set.
As the 10-6 Redskins watched their year grind to a halt with the San Francisco 49ers' 31-16 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, they were left wondering why their first 10 games didn't go as well as their last six; why San Francisco, Dallas or the New York Giants couldn't have lost just once more, and why a team supposed to be better than any other Redskins team in the last five years couldn't make the playoffs.
"It was just a disappointing day overall," Coach Joe Gibbs said after the 49ers' victory kept his team out of the playoffs for the first time since 1981, his first season here.
"I wish we could have had a chance to get in," he added. "We'll just have to try and get it back next year."
Sadly for the Redskins, there was the realization yesterday that it's been a steady downhill progression from the glory days of three years ago: from Super Bowl champion in 1982 to conference champion in 1983 to division champion in 1984 to nothing in 1985.
"It sounds like we're going down," running back Keith Griffin said. "I've thought about that. You can only be on top so long, like the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"I was just thinking: it looks like I'm hitting the team on a downswing," the two-year veteran continued. "Hopefully, that's not true. Hopefully, we can pick up next year where we left off last year."
Many moments in football are bittersweet. For the Redskins, yesterday was one.
How could you be sadder than they were, watching helplessly, then not making the playoffs? Then again, how could you be any happier, knowing that a team that started 5-5 finished 10-6 and nearly snuck into postseason play?
"It was two different teams -- the first-half team and the last part," General Manager Bobby Beathard said. "It's disappointing when you look far back, but some of the more recent things are on the positive side -- the last five or six games, the way we hung in there and did what all good teams do."
A season of transition is likely to beget an offseason of even more changes, but Gibbs and Beathard said it was too early to discuss specifics.
"I'd like to sit down and think about the season for a while," Gibbs said, but Beathard added that personnel meetings probably will begin this week.
Veteran strong safety Tony Peters, who lost his starting job to rookie Raphel Cherry and did not play at all Saturday at St. Louis, might not return next season.
"It's his decision," assistant head coach/defense Richie Petitbon said yesterday, "but it'll probably be tough for him to make the team . . . I would think he's probably at the end, but it's his decision to make."
However, the top issue is the probable return of quarterback Joe Theismann, who broke his leg when the team was 5-5 and has vowed to come back next season at age 36.
Jay Schroeder, who had a 5-1 record in relief of Theismann and continually drew Gibbs' praise, said he "really didn't care" if he was No. 1 on the depth chart next spring.
"I'll work as hard as I did the last two years," Schroeder said.
Also this offseason, running back John Riggins, 36, is expected to make a decision on retirement. Riggins has refused comment on the subject, but others within the Redskins organization have said privately they believe he will retire.
Kicker Mark Moseley's future appears to be in doubt once again after he missed eight of his last 15 field goal attempts in the final four games. Moseley, 37, survived a training camp battle with Tony Zendejas last summer.
But the future looks bright for running back George Rogers, whose team-record, 206-yard day against the Cardinals gave him his third 1,000-yard season (1,093) in his five-year career.
Now, if he would just stop fumbling . . .
"I'll be more adjusted next year than this year," Rogers said. "I think I'll have a better year."
He said he might adopt Griffin's remedy for fumbles and carry a football around his house with him this winter.
"I just might do that," he said, smiling.
When asked if it would have helped him to have become the permanent starter earlier in the season, not in Week 14, he said, "That couldn't have hurt none."
Petitbon, who has been rumored to be a candidate for the New Orleans Saints head coaching job, said yesterday he still has not heard anything from the Saints.
Petitbon, who grew up in New Orleans, said he would discuss the job with the Saints if he received a call.
Wide receiver Art Monk finished the season with 91 receptions. Last year, he had a league-record 106. Those are believed to be the best consecutive season totals ever in the NFL.