HOOTY HOOO! WE'RE GOING TO THE PLAYOFFS! NFC EAST CHAMPS! Smell ya later Cowlosers!
While I was cheering on the Skins in the bowels of an Adams Morgan bar, I heard a voice from the crowd shout "Tony Choke-mo!" Sure, it's a stretch, but I'll take it. Is there a better way to end the regular season? No (with the possible exception of this). Did I imagine it playing out the way it did? Also no.
Part of writing about sports is prognosticating and feigning expertise on topics about which no one can be certain. Heck, Mel Kiper has built a career on selling guesses. Any of you who recognize my name know that I've done my fair share of holding forth and forecasting, whether anyone asked for my two cents or not. First, let me thank you for patience. That done, let's take a gander at my biggest whiffs this season, shall we?
7-9 record prediction: At the end of every podcast, Ken would ask us to give our season record prediction and everyone would make fun of him for finding 11 wins the first time he saw the schedule (Ken, consider this my overdue apology). We convened for our most recent podcast some time ago, at which point I had no reason to waver from my 7-9 call. In my defense, Steve Shoup stuck to 6-10 last I checked. I've always erred on the side of pessimism when it comes to the Redskins, preferring to be pleasantly surprised if they do well instead of bitterly disappointed when they're circling the drain. Let's just say that this year, I've been ecstatically surprised.
Offensive line: Another cause for celebration that I didn't anticipate: Like a lot of Redskins fans, I was wigged out about the health of the offensive line. I pegged the unit as our biggest weakness in '12 and lived in fear of our precious RGIII playing behind a patchwork group, but the same five guys started every game until week 15. I'd be surprised to hear of anyone who saw that coming.
Tight end: This season was supposed to witness the resurgence of Fred Davis as tight ends became more popular targets around the league. And while Davis began the year as one of RGIII's go-to guys, his injury opened the door for Pierre Garcon's triumphant midseason return. Tight ends haven't factored into the game plan nearly as much as I expected, and Griffin seems to have found a new favorite receiver in Garcon: Pepe averages a little under eight targets per game since week 11, nearly twice as many passes thrown his way as anyone else in that time frame.
LaRon Landry: Ask me this time last year if Landry would stay healthy for all of the '12 season and I would have chortled a hearty chortle. For the record, the team shouldn't regret parting ways with Landry—he refused to get what trainers believed was necessary surgery after missing the better half of two seasons. The regrettable part would be that the alternative treatments (plasma and stem cell therapy) seem to have worked just in time for him to go to the Jets. Even if he'd stayed in DC, he's still no Sean Taylor.
Seahawks: Seattle had been so irrelevant—not to mention far away—for so long that it didn't even occur to me that they would be good this year. I didn't think they would be bad, per se, I just didn't think about them at all. Whoops. See ya next weekend, suckazzzz!
Coaching: I've disagreed with Shanahan, Kyle, and Haslett more times than I can count, but man have they coached the hell out of this team. The halftime adjustments on defense have been nothing short of masterful given the personnel limitations we've faced. And the offensive playcalling shows remarkable flexibility, nuanced assessment of each player, and gutsy confidence for a father-son duo who had no prior experience running an offense like this one. It's the flexibility part that astonished me the most coming from Mike Shanahan, who I'd all but pegged as a stubborn coot. Consider me corrected.
Giants: Turns out Big Blue can't back into the postseason every year. Bringing your A-game each week matters, and inconsistency will get you sooner or later. What's surprising is how long it took New York to suffer for it. This season reminded the Giants and all of us who overestimated them that you can't assume your way into the playoffs.
Mike Wilbon: I've met Wilbon a few times and always found him impeccably polite and charming, but I'm friends with Dan Steinberg and can say from experience that he's a hell of a guy—I wouldn't be at The Washington Post or Hogs Haven without him. I was disappointed to read Wilbon trashing Washington sports fans, a group without whom he would never have risen to fame. But I was disturbed to see how he reacted to being challenged by pro-Washington voices, especially that of his former WaPo colleague Steinberg. Here are some media reactions. Of all the things I've been wrong about, this one I'm saddest to admit: Wilbon's not the guy that I or his other DMV fans thought he was.
So tell me, Hogs Haven faithful, what have you been wrong about this season?