One of my most memorable moments as a ‘Skins fan comes from a time where no football was being played. The 1999 season had just wrapped up, and for the first time since I was a wee little boy, the Redskins had won a playoff game (against Detroit, lost to Tampa Bay thereafter), but it wasn’t just the fact that they had made the playoffs. The Redskins were, like now, extremely fun to watch. Quarterbacked by Brad Johnson, the receiving corps of Albert Connell and Michael Westbrook was something to admire. Along with the emergence of Stephen Davis at running back, this was a team to beat. Hell, they hung 50 on the Giants in the second week of the season! Sure, their defense couldn’t stop me if I was running with the ball (because I’m damn good), but who cares! When you can light up your opponent like that, defense can take a backseat.
However, I’d like to point out that the anticipation of something can often be better that actually experiencing or getting the thing in question. Isn’t the anticipation of Christmas better than it ever is? You could get a Ferrari! But all you get are some new socks, and a nice shirt. That’s what the start of the new millennium felt like for me; the Redskins were that sought after Ferrari, and I was antsy like a kid right before Christmas.
In the offseason, the Redskins were by far the busiest team in the NFL. This wasn’t a team that was standing pat, and comfortable with what they had. They had signed Jeff George to be the backup (later to be the starting quarterback, barf), Deion Sanders (to pair up with Champ Bailey at corner), Bruce Smith at defensive end, and Adrian Murrell to backup Stephen Davis. What a compilation of players! How could this get any better? Oh wait, it did!
The Redskins had the #2 and #3 picks in the draft that year. Not only were they trying to win now, but they could build a foundation! With those picks, they took LaVar Arrington, outside linebacker from Penn State, and Chris Samuels, offensive tackle from Alabama. Ok, how could this get any better? Sportscasters were predicting a Super Bowl appearance from the Burgundy and Gold, and there was no one more excited than this young man who forced his parents to buy the NFL Sunday Ticket so we could watch the Redskins stomp the league that year.
Again, anticipation is sometimes the best feeling in the world, and this team certainly gave us all something to anticipate. They even delivered for a while, starting off the season at 6-2! However, the wheels eventually came off, through poor coaching, and lack of depth at just about every position. Our heroes ended the season 8-8, which led to the firing of the head coach Norv Turner. Deion Sanders retired in the offseason, and all of the anticipation, all of that nervous energy, now felt like that pair of socks and the sweater. If I was old enough to drink (mind you, I was 16), I would have cried in my beer.
While I’m much more educated to understand the value of depth on a team, the offseason between 1999 and 2000 was one of the more amazing times to be a Redskins fan, and while that offseason would put this team in a vicious cycle for years, I still fondly look back at what "could’ve been".