NFL seasons aren’t one game long. (They’re 16 games long, actually.) Starting a season with a loss doesn’t mean the world is ending. (That’s what starting a season with three losses means.) NFL teams aren’t judged by how they look in September. (Well, they are, but I’m just trying to set the stage here.)
But if NFL seasons were one game long, the Redskins would be in serious trouble. Because Sunday’s dud against the Eagles at home was the fifth — yes, fifth — straight time the Redskins have opened a season with a loss.
The last time the Redskins won their first game? Trust me, it feels like a long, long, long, long time ago.
That early September joy feels like a generation ago. And it got me wondering: who else in the NFL has lost five straight season openers?
Here’s the answer: The Browns.
Yup, only the Redskins and the Browns. (The Jags had lost four straight, but upset Houston on Sunday.) That’s a bad club. You never want to belong to a club where the only other member is the Browns.
(Which reminds me: Since 1992, only two teams have failed to make the playoffs in consecutive seasons: the Redskins and the Browns. That’s another bad club. These teams should stop joining bad clubs.)
It goes without saying that you don’t have to win your opener to have a good season. The Redskins lost their first two games last season, both at home, and still finished above .500. But in these short sprints that make up a pro football season, there’s a feeling that Washington is always running uphill, always chasing their campaign, always trying to get things back on track, always trying to keep potential disaster at bay. Because they’re always in last place after one week.
The Redskins have averaged 15.2 points in their last five season openers. That’s better than only Cleveland, which has averaged 15.0.
The Redskins have a minus-59 point differential in their last five season openers. That’s tied for last with Cleveland, which also has been outscored by 59.
And four of those five season-opening Washington losses have come at FedEx Field. (Congratulations, fans, the season has finally arrived! Welcome to Landover! Please enjoy this cover band and football team! Now go home and weep.)
“I don’t know what more we can do in the summers,” Josh Norman said, when asked about this streak. “I really don’t. I wish I knew. If we did, I’m pretty sure we’d get it corrected. But it ain’t nothing we can do, man. We play hard. We just came up short. You come up on short on stuff. It sucks, but ain’t nothing you can do about it.”
“I really don’t know,” said Chris Thompson, when asked the same question. “I just think we’ve just got to find a way to win games early on, we’ve got to find a way to not lose games at home. That’s it. We’ve just got to find a way to get it down. And for the fifth year in a row, we didn’t get it done.”
I think it’s fair to question the coach on this; Gruden has never won a season opener in Washington and has never had a winning record here after three games. It’s fair to question the presumed home-field advantage; by at least one measure, Washington has the weakest home-field advantage in the NFL, and there were plenty of cheering Eagles fans on Sunday. It’s certainly fair to question the players; over the last four seasons, the Redskins have been outscored 38-7 in the fourth quarter of their opening game. There’s closing strong, and then there’s getting outscored 38-7.
It all just leads to muffled emotions and tempered expectations, things that are sometimes hard to reverse. And no one knows that better, yet again, than the fans in two cities: Washington and Cleveland.
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