“The prestige and status of the Washington Redskins within the D.C. area reached their absolute bottom — the lowest point in the existence of the franchise in this city since 1937 — on Sunday at FedEx Field,” wrote The Washington Post’s Thomas Boswell, who deserves an honorary geology degree for his experience covering this team.
It was Boswell who described Rock Bottom as “like a cheap motel” after the Redskins, because of a scheduling quirk, lost two games in three weeks to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in December 1994 to fall to 2-13.
“Once you arrive there, you can rent a room and stay there indefinitely,” Boswell wrote. “The Redskins may soon be eligible for citizenship.”
Twenty-five years later, the Redskins might as well run the Rock Bottom Embassy.
“Each [rock-bottom moment] comes with the feeling that it’s never been worse, and yesterday is no different,” Kevin Sheehan said Monday on The Team 980. “It seems like a new low, especially in light of the recent claims of being close or having a damn good culture."
“The phrase ‘rock bottom’ gets thrown around a lot; we’ve probably heard it a number of times this season,” ESPN’s John Keim tweeted Monday. “Was Sunday rock bottom? Well, six games remain. But I do know it was an absolute low. And I do know it’ll be hard to ever witness a worse season here.”
“Dan’s not selling the team, and as long as he owns it, there are likely more rock bottom moments to come, if you’ll even be paying attention,” Sheehan suggested.
As you brace for the next dig, here’s a look back at some of the other rock bottom moments in Redskins history.
In 1959, the Redskins started the season 2-1 before suffering an ugly home loss in Week 4.
“Supposedly striving to stay at the top of their division, the Washington Redskins hit what looked suspiciously like rock bottom in losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 27-6, at Griffith Stadium yesterday,” The Post’s Jack Walsh wrote. “Yesterday’s crowd may not have been watching the worst pro football game ever played here, but it would have to be mentioned prominently on any list of really bad ones.”
The Redskins fumbled seven times and Washington quarterbacks Ralph Guglielmi and Eddie LeBaron combined for 23 passing yards, but they had a long way to go before they hit rock bottom. The Redskins dropped eight of their last nine games that season, then went 1-9-2 in 1960 and 1-12-1 in 1961.
Washington won no fewer than five games from 1964 until the mid-1990s, when that dreaded phrase returned to the pages of The Post.
“We’re probably at rock bottom right now,” Coach Richie Petitbon said in 1993 after the Redskins fell to 1-5 and into sole possession of last place in the NFC East with a 33-6 loss to the Phoenix Cardinals at Sun Devil Stadium. “We have to regroup and see if we can come out of it.”
The loss came on the heels of a 41-7 loss to the New York Giants, the franchise’s worst back-to-back defeats since 1961.
“Two years ago they won the Super Bowl,” Tony Kornheiser wrote in The Post. “Last year, even after backing in to the playoffs, they were a fumble away from making the NFC championship game. Now they’re praying nobody flushes. Surely there’ll be a call for a sacrifice.”
Five weeks later, the Redskins lost to the 2-7 Los Angeles Rams in Anaheim to fall to 2-8.
“This is it,” beat writer David Aldridge wrote in The Post. “Rock Bottom."
Then, in 1994, after the Redskins fell to 1-7, coach Norv Turner benched rookie quarterback Heath Shuler in favor of a little-known seventh-round draft pick.
“Circle the date of Oct. 17, 1994,” Boswell wrote. “For the Redskins franchise, the anointment of Gus Frerotte to the job of Jurgensen and Kilmer, Baugh and Theismann, Rypien and Williams, surely marks rock bottom. Well, at least so far."
Frerotte won his first career start but lost his next three. After a 26-21 loss at Tampa Bay in Week 14 dropped the Redskins to 2-11, Turner revealed to reporters that he told his team more than a month ago that they had hit rock bottom.
“Well, we didn’t,” Turner said. “This is as low as you can get.”
He was wrong again. Two weeks later, the Redskins lost to the Buccaneers at RFK Stadium, becoming only the sixth team to finish a season 0-8 at home.
“The descent is over,” cornerback Darrell Green said after that loss. “We’ve been on the ground for some time now.”
The Redskins got off to another ugly start under Turner in 1998.
“It’s rock bottom,” wide receiver Leslie Shepherd said after Washington’s 38-16 loss to the Denver Broncos in late September dropped the Redskins to 0-4. “You always say: ‘Don’t panic. Don’t worry.’ Well, panic. Worry. We’ve got to get out of it.”
The Redskins lost to the Dallas Cowboys the next week to fall to 0-5 and traveled to Philadelphia for a battle of winless teams in Week 6.
“There are going to be bodies carried off the field,” Shepherd predicted. “There are going to be some guys laying it on the line. You lose to a team that’s 0-5, that’s rock bottom.”
The Redskins lost, 17-12.
“See, the Redskins may think they just hit rock bottom, but they haven’t,” Michael Wilbon wrote in The Post. “Rock bottom comes next week in Minneapolis when the Vikings hang a 56-10 whipping on them, or something close to that. Rock bottom is when Randy Moss and Cris Carter and Jake Reed are dashing up and down the carpet in the Metrodome like Carl Lewis in the 100. Next week, boys and girls, might be sacrificial.”
Wilbon wasn’t far off; Washington lost to the Vikings, 41-7.
“If you get to the point where guys aren’t going hard, you’ve got nothing,” Shepherd said after yet another blowout loss. “If you don’t have everybody, you have nothing. It’s rock bottom. I know I say that every week, but it gets worse and worse.”
“We are rock bottom," Green said after the loss in Minneapolis. “I’m at a loss for words for this. … This is the lowest. Sitting on the sideline, it just hit me. Win, lose or draw, that’s us, and I’m a part of that. I began to ponder it on the sideline and I got really emotional. It’s an accumulation of things. I’ve never felt like this. I don’t know why. I’ve lost before. [But] I’m only human.”
The Redskins defeated the Giants the following week to earn their first win of the season and rallied to finish 6-10.
There have been plenty of rock-bottom moments since Snyder purchased the team in 1999. After the Lions snapped their 19-game losing streak with a five-point win over the Redskins in Week 3 of the 2009 season, NBC Sports Washington analyst Trevor Matich said it was “beneath rock bottom.”
“The only way it could have been worse if they would have been beaten by Maryland,” Matich said.
There were low moments during a 3-13 season under Coach Mike Shanahan in 2013, including a 45-10 loss to the Chiefs at snowy and empty FedEx Field in Week 14. The 2014 season included a 24-0 loss at home to the Rams, who sent six of the players they acquired with the picks in the Robert Griffin III trade to midfield for the pregame coin toss.
“I’ve said we’ve hit ‘rock bottom’ before,” Ryan Kerrigan said after the loss. “That downplays rock bottom if you keep saying it every time you play."
When will people learn it can always get worse? “Redskins appear to have hit rock bottom," read a headline in the Boston Globe before the 0-4 Redskins’ game against the Patriots in October of 2019.
ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt got it right a few days later, after Washington’s 33-7 loss to New England, when he devoted his “SportsCenter” monologue to criticizing the way Snyder and team president Bruce Allen have run the Redskins.
“Rock bottom isn’t a moment,” Van Pelt said. “It is a seemingly perpetual state.”
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