Ten Yard Fight: Winning Games Is the Only Way We Will Learn How to Win Games

1. I feel like I have been writing the same series of Tuesday columns for the last few years. This is the point of the season where I say that there is no such thing as a good loss. Granted, I was entertained throughout our tilt with the Cowgirls, and I did take comfort in some of things I saw on the field. As Mr. Mackey would say though, "Losing is bad, mmmmmkay?"

2. I hear some of you out there suggesting that we have to take baby steps. We have to crawl before we can walk. We have to "get there." With all due respect, that is simply not true in the NFL. You know how you learn to win in the NFL? BY WINNING. It is just that simple. Winning begets winning. If we are serious about carrying over stability and continuity from 2011 into 2012, then we need wins this year to help us be winners next year. You don't learn how to win in the NFL by "almost winning." You don't become a winner in this league by falling just a hair short on any given week. When you lose, you are learning how to lose. You are reinforcing a culture of losing. Every loss makes you more of a loser, and less of a winner. Harsh words, I know--and not applicable to all walks of life--but in the NFL, that is the way it works. Every loss is a bad loss.

3. Unlike in the NBA, MLB and NHL, there are only sixteen games in an NFL season. The importance of winning games is ratcheted up significantly. While it is possible for a team to start a season slowly, there is a limit to how bad you can be and still overcome it to be a contender. Of course, relatively speaking, in each of the listed leagues, every game is as important as every other game. In the NFL though, a single loss or worse--a losing streak--is amplified due to the shortness of the schedule. Every loss is a bad loss.

4. As Kevin pointed out this morning, the Redskins franchise is now teetering on the brink of being a losing franchise--HISTORICALLY. We have been so bad in recent years, our record going back to the freaking 1930's is now poised to drop below .500 when this season comes to a close. Our culture of losing has not only impacted the here and now, it has impacted the way you look at our franchise over time. That is sick. Every loss is a bad loss.

5. I am one of the lucky ones. I barely remember sitting in my parents' basement watching John Riggins breaking that tackle on 4th down in the Super Bowl against the Dolphins, but I do remember it (I was in kindergarten). What I remember most is not necessarily the play but the celebration by my friends and family. The following year, our team was even better and we made it back to the Super Bowl. We lost, and I was too young to understand why (though I vividly remember watching Marcus Allen tear us apart) but the burgundy and gold faithful that was gathered together on that day stuck together. You did not hear things like, "We suck," or "We are the worst team on the planet." Fans were upset, but they were still fans of a Super Bowl team, and that seemed to define them more than the loss. We went back with Doug Williams and Mark Rypien, completing a decade of winning that invigorated an entire fanbase. With each loss over the last few years, we have eroded that feeling. Nobody can take away our Lombardi Trophies, but now we are starting to become more known for losing than winning. Every loss is a bad loss.

6. We have (had) been known as winners for a long time. We have had lean periods before in this franchise, but they were generally buoyed by a rich history of winning. People in despair during the 50's and into the 60's may have been alive long enough to remember Sammy Baugh crushing it in his heyday, for instance. There are still fans like me who were in grade school with a memory of Mark Rypien and The Posse to desperately hold on to. I have to ask though...have we ever been so far removed-- not just from a championship but from respectability--as we are now? An entire generation of Redskins fans has never known anything but losing. Every loss is a bad loss.

7. We have a load of young players on this team. They are getting valuable experience. They are learning on the job. They are no longer hindered by distractions like Albert Haynesworth and Donovan McNabb. But they are not learning how to win. On one hand, once they get more proficient at their jobs, wins will be more attainable. On the other hand, winning is very much a learned behavior. Every loss is a bad loss.

8. Home field advantage may be overrated in today's professional sports environment, depending on which former players or coaches you are listening to in an interview. But I tell you who it matters to greatly: the fans, especially the diehard fans. With every loss, the Redskins lose people willing to give up their Sunday to come to the stadium and cheer. The diehards are still there, but an entire tier of fans that would be happy to shell out a few bucks to support a winner is choosing to stay home rather than have to sit through watching this year's version of a duct-taped roster. You know who fills those empty seats? Opposing fans. Let me be very clear when I say that I do not blame the fans who are no longer interested in watching this trainwreck live. I understand it. I need to be there. I need to feel it. If anyone needs their head checked, it is probably fans like me. We can point to ticket prices, beer prices, traffic and horrendous commercials played during the game on the big screen as reasons why we might choose to stay away. But if we were winning games, I do believe we could scrounge up 90,000 Redskins fans willing to pack FedEx. Every loss is a bad loss.

9. We all immediately recognized the silver lining in our loss this past week, didn't we? As we watched other bottom-dwelling teams get wins, we all contemplated our updated draft position. I did it too. I hate it, because you know what kind of fans do that: fans of losing teams. Losers find the good in losing. Did we all forget that Joe Gibbs won for a decade without the benefit of a regular supply of high first round picks? (I know I just over-simplified the way he built his teams with Bobby Beathard, so try and grant me a little room there.) Winning games does far more for your team than a high draft pick. Every loss is a bad loss.

10. Let's end on that sentiment. Winning games is far more beneficial to the long-term building of your team than the higher draft picks you get from losing. I believe that, and if we want to close the loop by quoting someone who knew something about it:

"Winning is not a sometime thing; it's an all time thing. You don't win once in a while, you don't do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing."
Vince Lombardi

Every loss is a bad loss. To suggest otherwise is to completely disregard and discard what little bit of our rich history some of us are still holding on to--a sliver of a winning tradition that we hold on to for those who have never experienced it.

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