The Gathering Storm

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Fear not, Redskins fans. Things are going to get better. We'll just have to sift through a substantial amount of garbage before that happens.

Thank God for DVR.

Especially the fast-forward button.

If there's a silver lining around the dark cloud that is the 2013 Washington Redskins season, it's that embittered fans live in an age that provides technological salves that ease the pain of being affiliated with a bad football team. To wit: If I wanted to continue watching football after the Redskins fell hopelessly behind against the Chiefs (which occurred roughly 20 minutes into the game on Sunday), I wasn't forced to bear witness to the entire disaster.

Instead, I could bounce around the league with Red Zone, enjoying the numerous exciting games, fun weather, and wild finishes. I could stop watching the Redskins for a while, returning later and fast-forwarding through the inept special teams, the seemingly-indifferent tackling, and depressing shots of a crowd that must have numbered in the tens by the fourth quarter.

I don't know what I'm expected to say about this team at this point. We write because we must, we root because we're loyal. But we all know they're terrible.

I said a month ago that they were struggling, overmatched. and destined for a bad finish. Now we've entered the time of year when the only thing left to discuss is gossipy, behind-the-scenes nonsense.

Why? Because the Redskins are so bad that what happens on the field is moot at best, a foregone conclusion at worst.

Here's how the rest of the year will play out. First, I think there's a better chance than not that we've seen the last of Robert Griffin III in 2013. And I'm fine with that.

After all, Washington didn't play him in preseason for the express purpose of protecting his still-healing knee. These last three regular-season games are approximately as relevant as those preseason contests (where the Redskins went 4-0, by the way - remember that?). In addition, having Kirk Cousins compete and play reasonably well will enhance his trade value, which might allow the Redskins to augment the drafts diluted by the Griffin deal. The Redskins will finish 4-12.

Dan Snyder will determine there's no way to get out of paying the rest of Mike Shanahan's contract, but the internal deliberation on that point will delay the inevitable firing. Shanahan will survive until the end of the season, but be dismissed shortly thereafter. If he doesn't wind up the next head coach of the Texans, I think his career in the NFL is finished. Kyle will return to Houston with his dad, or land on his feet elsewhere.

A few intriguing coaching candidates will float around in various media stories about the Redskins. Ultimately, Snyder will probably wind up choosing a little-known, Jason-Garrett-equivalent over whom he can exert more influence than he could Shanahan. That's both because picking a college coach or an assistant with no NFL head coaching experience would be a change of direction, but also because we're back to a point where pro head coaches of repute might think twice (or even three times!) before agreeing to spend years dealing with Dan Snyder.

In other words, we're less likely to get a Schottenheimer or a Shanahan (Jon Gruden) than we are a Spurrier or a Zorn (Les Miles?!?).

Privately, Griffin will be a part of the selection process. I'm not saying the decision will be his, or that he'll have veto power, or anything close to it. But Snyder obviously values Griffin tremendously. Say what you will about Snyder's leadership, but he's absolutely correct that Griffin is a true franchise player - the first one Snyder has had during his tenure. Griffin is the face of the Redskins, and he has the bona fide talent to carry that mantle for the next decade if he stays (gets?) healthy.

If you doubt the premium Snyder puts on that relationship, the obvious example that points to the bond between the two is the immediate Art Briles talk that followed the Redskins' 45-10 loss to the Chiefs. This, despite the fact that Mike Shanahan not only hasn't been fired, but also has another season left on his contract.

Briles will likely stay at Baylor, but not before Snyder makes him a very, very attractive offer.

The Redskins' draft will go fairly poorly unless they can somehow swap Cousins for picks, but they'll get a player or two who can contribute - hopefully a defensive back. Next year, though, could still provide cause for hope.

The NFL is a year-to-year league, if not a week-to-week league. Washington's season tanked as completely and totally as the 2012 Boston Red Sox season did. There, with much the same roster, Boston was back on top this past October.

Yes, I understand that the respective structures of MLB and of the NFL are very different. But I bring up the Red Sox as an example of a team that wound up with leadership it didn't want (and leadership that awkwardly failed to understand the team, the fans, or the media). I think that has happened in Washington with the Redskins. As with the Red Sox, a change at the top - even if it's a lateral move in terms of coaching ability - could provide a boost simply by virtue of being something different.

And let's not forget that the Redskins play in a division that should be very, um, competitive again next season. There are no Seattle- or Denver-like looming juggernauts. Philly will be pretty good (and Foles appears to be for real), Dallas will be pretty good, and the Giants will probably be improved. But a refocused Washington squad with a healthy quarterback can compete with any of those teams. The Redskins will also have the benefit of a last-place schedule.

So, I'm actually looking forward to 2014. I don't think Washington will be a Super Bowl contender, but a vast improvement over this dismal performance is very much within the realm of possibility. Let's face it - it can't get much worse.

The problem is that Redskins fans have a lot of stinking, slimy muck through which to wade before we again permit ourselves the luxury of optimism. Three more games, a lot of speculative, irrelevant nonsense from talking heads, and what is sure to be an ugly divorce between owner and coach all remain to be settled.

If only we could fast-forward through the garbage.

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