Raise your hand if you'd rather be lucky than good.
Because that's the Redskins' situation now.
For the last few years we've come to think of the Redskins as an unlucky team. We remember No. 1 draft choices that turned sour from the start, like Heath Shuler and Andre Johnson. We remember losing crucial players in surreal ways, like when Gus Frerotte knocked himself woozy by smashing his head into a concrete wall celebrating his touchdown run--or when Sean Gilbert took a hike because he said God told him to hold out. We remember key games that were lost in unspeakable ways, like the 1996 overtime "Boomer Game," in which Boomer Esiason threw for 522 yards, and Arizona won after Scott Blanton's game-winning 38-yard field goal was nullified by a holding penalty on Scott Galbraith. Blanton subsequently missed from 48, and Arizona got a field goal to win. Had the Redskins won that game, they would have finished 10-6 and made the playoffs. The mere recitation of these things still can make people on the corner of 18th and K cry.
For years under Norv Turner every time good luck was needed, the Redskins got bupkus. That continued into the first game of this season, when the Turk Brothers were unable to negotiate the snap-and-hold portions of the field goal attempt that could've won the game in regulation time--and the game slipped into overtime, and Dallas won.
Please, Tony, stop, I'm weeping here.
Be strong. It appears the worst is over.
Now the Redskins are swimming in good luck. Let me show you:
In Game 3 they got the Jets without Vinny Testaverde, and drew Rick Mirer instead. This is like preparing to play Andre Agassi at Wimbledon and getting Andre Cold Duck.
In Game 4 they were down 21-0 on three Tim Biakabutuka touchdowns, when Carolina's daffy coach, George Seifert, decided to rest Biakabutuka. For what, Lent? The Redskins climbed back into the game, but were trailing 36-35 and Brian Mitchell appeared to fumble a punt on Washington's 19-yard line with 4 minutes 19 seconds left. The Redskins challenged the call, claiming Mitchell was down by contact, and replay bailed them out. The Redskins then went 69 yards and got the winning field goal.
In Game 5 Jake Plummer broke his finger on Shawn Barber's face mask, leaving Dave Brown to try to rally the Cardinals. Dave Brown. Hahaha.
In Game 9--yes, the loss to Philadelphia--the Redskins turned over the ball five times and allowed two long kick returns, and they were still ahead, 28-27.
In Game 10 the Redskins got a gift penalty late in the fourth quarter by the Giants' Percy Ellsworth that allowed them to run down the clock and kick a game-clinching field goal.
In Game 11 they not only got a gift touchdown pass to Mike Sellers--which should have been intercepted in the end zone--but they got three shots to kick a game-winning field goal, like it was a carnival game! Their luckiest stroke of all might have been winning the coin toss in overtime.
You don't get much luckier than this. If I were Norv Turner, I'd take the day off and start playing Powerball.
You want more good luck?
We're heading into Game 12, and Brad Johnson is still upright. (Are you happy, Wilbon?)
Everyone's upright. The Redskins are the healthiest team in the NFL. It used to be Johnson would sneeze and break three ribs. Here, he's Charles Atlas.
It can't be that the Redskins are good. You've seen them. What do your eyes tell you?
In their last four games, the Redskins have lost two. And nearly lost two more. This season half of the Redskins' wins feel like losses. Yet they're in first place in their division, and they're 7-4. They have the second-best record in the entire NFC!
Can you believe that?
The Redskins play at Detroit on Sunday, and with their newfound luck they'll probably see Gus Frerotte on the other side of the line. Frerotte will be so nervous, his head will explode.
I love reading the quotes from Redskins players about how tough, close games like the ones against the Giants and the Eagles "build character." Oh, please. If that's true, the Redskins already have enough character to touch the moon. The fact is, they barely beat a 5-6 team and a 3-9 team. At home! It's not about character this year, it's about luck.
The problem around here is that everyone expects skill in all three phases of the game; on offense, defense and--here's a hoot--special teams. That's what the Redskins had for a decade under Joe Gibbs. Mark Moseley never missed field goals. Art Monk never turned the wrong way and stupidly stayed in bounds with the clock running out. No team ever churned out touchdowns on successive 91-yard drives late in the game against the likes of Darryl Grant, Charles Mann, Dave Butz and Dexter Manley. Gibbs's Redskins crushed opponents. They were a dominant, artful team. They made their own good luck. Those days are gone, boys and girls. Stop and smell the 7-4. And don't ask, "How?" Ask, "How many?"
We have reached the point in the season where you actually can use the word "playoffs" and not laugh. The Redskins' 7-4 record might be a mirage. But this hotel room only has one window, so this is the only view we've got.
The Redskins have five games left: at Detroit, home against Arizona (with Jake the Snake in working order), at Indianapolis, at San Francisco and home, in the January cold, against Miami. At the beginning of the year you would have thought that the games against the Lions, without Barry Sanders, and Indianapolis would be the easiest--since all the other teams were in the playoffs last year. Now Indy looks like a dynasty in the making, and Detroit's Bobby Ross looks like Coach of the Year.
Everyone's trying to figure out how many wins the Redskins need to make the playoffs. Will 11-5 get them a bye? Will 10-6 win the division? With all that clawing in the fratricidal NFC Central, will 9-7 get them a wild card?
Or will the Redskins collapse, as they've done before?
Behind St. Louis are four teams tied at 7-4, and five more are within shouting distance. Heading into December it's all still up for grabs.
"Everybody talks about how weak the NFC is," Keith Sims said. "Why can't we be the team?"
All it takes is luck.
Join Tony Kornheiser online Friday at www.washingtonpost.com at 2 p.m. EST for "The Tony and Mike Show."