October 11, 2010

Staying Alive

Given the dramatic swings from week to week during an NFL season, it is difficult to get a sense of how good a given team might be or project where they might be headed.

That holds true for teams recognized as “elite” heading into the season, to hopeful playoff teams looking to break through, to struggling teams simply trying to find their footing.

No team may have been more difficult to get a read on than the 2010 Washington Redskins.
Heading into the season with a new general manager, new head coach, new offensive and defensive systems, new quarterback and dozens of new players, putting winning expectations on the Redskins was unrealistic and unfair. Or at least it should have been, in a perfect and reasonable world.

The 2010 NFL universe of course is no such place.

Context, perspective and common sense take a back seat to passion once fur and footballs start to fly in September. The weekly spectacle of the NFL, and the intensity with which fans invest emotions and identify with their teams, quickly turns the dispassionate analysis of May and June to the Monday morning angst or chest-thumping of September and October.

Case in point…your Washington Redskins.

For many, it matters not that this franchise last hoisted a trophy—or even threatened to—19 long years ago. It matters not that as recently as January the team was coming off a 4-12 season and a two-year circus that saw franchise sink as low on the NFL scales of respect and relevance as fans of the burgundy and gold can remember.

Put names like Bruce Allen, Mike Shanahan and Donovan McNabb on the letterhead, and then hit the quarter pole of the season at .500 (2-2), with the wins coming against hated division rivals Dallas and Philadelphia, and you give rise to expectations.

More than that—to playoff expectations.

Yes, the dreaded P word. The word that sent former New Orleans Saints head coach Jim Mora into public paroxysm when an intrepid reporter dared mention the word after a tough loss. The very word that defines success in the NFL.

As fans of a perennial non-playoff-expectant (“losing” is as hard a word to utter as it is swallow) team, Redskins faithful have been left going year-to-year for a very long time, wondering if this is finally the year their team will qualify for…the word.

Well, brace yourselves. One quarter of the way through the first season of the Shanahan Era, the reality is that this team in transition is very much a part of the post-season conversation. At 2-2, with two division wins, the Redskins were alive and well...

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