The 2012 Redskins hope to replicate the improbable playoff runs that the 2005 and 2007 Redskins were able to accomplish.
1. If you are only going to let your youngest children watch one Christmas movie this year featuring the morally casual lifestyles of Santa's flying reindeer, make it "The Flight Before Christmas." Perhaps I should have been at least slightly suspicious of a children's movie where Norm MacDonald supplied the voice of a flying squirrel that had raised a young reindeer in the absence of a deadbeat dad. It turns out that one of Santa's flying reindeer had used his privileges to take a young doe out flying in Santa's sleigh on a "magical evening" that resulted in her getting knocked up. No wonder the deer population has gotten out of control--Donner, Blitzen and the rest of them can just fly from herd to herd killing it. Leave some cookies out for Santa, but for God's sake, put a few Trojans on the plate instead of carrots for the reindeer.
2. Where was I? Oh yes...improbable runs. Defeating the New York Giants on Monday Night Football would be the first of at least a couple improbable victories necessary to qualify for the postseason in 2012. Twice in the last seven years, the Redskins embarked on improbable stretch runs to make the playoffs.
3. In 2005, the Redskins found themselves at 5-6 and on the outside looking in--sound familiar? Joe Gibbs led a team that, quite honestly, was not what any league expert would have labeled "Super Bowl-ready." Mark Brunell and Clinton Portis spearheaded a rather impotent offense that sporadically outscored opponents, but mostly relied on an above average defense to keep them in games. In Week 7, the 'Skins did manage to beat down the 49ers 52-17, but this team is remembered by most for wins of the 9-7, 14-13 and 17-10 variety.
4. In winning its last five regular season games, the 2005 Redskins played above themselves. At the time, you might have heard me suggesting otherwise, but looking back, it was clear that you had a situation where a very, very good coach was squeezing out every ounce of talent and ability from a team that believed they had a chance on a week-to-week basis. This article is not about comparing Joe Gibbs to Mike Shanahan. Both of them led teams to multiple Super Bowls. Both of them are considered offensive-minded and both of them put some pretty amazing seasons together. Gibbs never had a John Elway, and arguably coached in an era when the NFC, and the NFC East specifically, were elite. The 2012 Redskins will also have to play above themselves--on defense--if they expect to shock the world.
5. The 2005 Redskins got shellacked by the New York Giants in Week 8 that year to the tune of 36-0. Tiki Barber went over 200 yards rushing and the G-men honored their recently deceased owner, Wellington Mara, with an inspired effort. I bring this up because down the stretch, the Redskins would have to face the first-place Giants again. A loss would likely push the Redskins out of wild card contention. The only loss the Giants took over the last five weeks of the regular season that year came against the Redskins, at FedEx Field. Under the bright lights of Monday Night Football, and behind the leadership of their rookie captain, the 2012 Washington Redskins need to channel the effort that was expended on that December day in 2005. That year, 10-6 was only good enough for a wild card. In the "new" NFC East, 10-6 (or perhaps even 9-7) will likely secure the division.
6. In 2007, Joe Gibbs once again found himself looking into the eyes of a team that could have and maybe should have been eliminated from any postseason talk by Week 12/13. After the tragic and untimely passing of Sean Taylor, the Redskins put their 5-6 record on the line against the Buffalo Bills at FedEx Field. I remember sitting silently in my seat that day at the stadium as Joe Gibbs called that infamous second timeout. It pushed us to 5-7 and I recall thinking that it was the exact moment any playoff hopes had died.
7. Beginning on a cold Thursday night affair against the Chicago Bears (the second-coldest I have ever felt at an NFL game), Todd Collins settled down an offense that would average just above 26 points per game over the last four contests of the season. Every game was a must-win affair, and playoff hopes weren't even realistic until halfway through the four-game winning streak.
8. Once again, the 2007 Redskins would need a win against the New York Giants to even have a chance. Once again, it was the second of two games played between the two teams and followed a loss in the first game. What I remember most about that game was the wind. It was in New York and if my memory serves me correctly, our victory was largely aided by the wind. With the lead in the fourth quarter, our defense and the wind stymied the Giants. Who among us didn't believe that Sean Taylor had a hand in that weather?
9. Counting the wins over the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys in the previous two weeks, our matchup with the Giants on Monday once again falls squarely in the middle of a potential improbable run to the postseason. The 2005 and 2007 Redskins combined to go 5-0 against the NFC East--combining the final five games of the 2005 season and the final four games of the 2007 season. If the 2012 Redskins are to march to the playoffs this year, they will have to match that.
10. Thankfully, this team does not have to overcome the death of its best player. It does, however, have to overcome early season errors that cost it victories. Like the teams that have come before it, this version of the Redskins has to eliminate virtually all mistakes if it is to accomplish what those previous teams did. I have used this column already this year to say this and I will say it again. Our best days are absolutely ahead of us. One of them is quickly approaching us and will be shared by the entire Monday Night Football viewing audience.