Just last year we were making headlines as a Super Bowl contender. Sure, those were the views and predictions of our own misguided players, but at least they made the national sports news. People still thought enough of Joe Gibbs and our history to inflate the hype a little bit. This season we are not just being rated low--we are being completely ignored. People don't just think we are going to be a bad team--they don't even think about our team at all. When the starting quarterback-of-the-future goes down the way Jason Campbell did last Saturday night, you'd think it would be news in the NFL world. Outside of the obligatory mention on 'Sportscenter' of the injury (centering on analysis of the Steelers), there was no real follow-up to the situation--let me state at this point that I do not demand or expect such treatment, nor should any of us.
It is simply in stark contrast to the way the Redskins have been covered in recent years. Let's not sugarcoat facts either--the Redskins have been largely irrelevant in the NFL for some time. This would not be the first season following a disappointing year with letdowns at numerous positions and more questions than answers leading into camp. Yet you could still turn on an episode of 'NFL Live' and see the talking heads disagree on whether or not this would be the year they would snap out of it. The consistent mediocrity of the 'Skins polarized those in the national media for years. Is Norv good enough to get this team deep into the playoffs? Is this year's batch of offseason signings going to finally solidify the roster? Are they serious about Danny Wuerffel? Does Vinny Cerrato have naked pictures of Dan Snyder? Has Spurrier ever heard of pass protection?
I have yet to read anywhere that an analyst has picked the Redskins to finish higher than 20-25 in the league. Plenty/most of the rankings put them between 26-30. It is a different day in 'Skins country. And it is refreshing. Plenty of league experts have never gotten on board with Snyder and his style of running this team. And those nay-sayers seemed to fuel the steady diet of the one or two experts who could list a reason or two that the Redskins would in fact get it done that particular year. But for the first time in a long time, we find ourselves at a place where nobody even cares enough to support or nay-say. Outside of the beltway, that is.
And this is where Joe Gibbs has historically succeeded. The underdog role was one he relished. He loved to be able to make it plain to his players that they were not expected to win, ever. His job was made extremely difficult by the cacophony of high expectations in recent years, some emanating from his own roster, some from the so-called experts.
Finally, in his second term, he can enter a season and point directly at the silence that pervades the NFL landscape with regard to his team. Finally, he can tell his team with certainty that nobody thinks they are good enough. Finally, he can tell his players that in a national column dedicated to NFL news, that rambled on for 5 pages, written by a man who seemingly takes pleasure in trashing the 'Skins, the following things warranted mention above the plight of their perhaps soon-to-be-star QB's graphically horrific injury:
- Buffalo Bills' head coach Dick Jauron's attention to the Red Sox/Yankees playoff chase (not saying all Yankee/Red Sox fans are Dicks, but...)
- The Jets playing Mozart over the loudspeakers during practice (will prepare them for symphony of boos when they get waxed this season by their entire division)
- How Eric Mangini lost 35 pounds in the offseason
- The length--in pages--of some rookie contracts (mortal lock that some of these contracts are longer than the longest book any of them have read)
- What Chris Simms (who is not even playing) thinks about his situation of not playing. (spoiler alert: he is surprisingly upbeat...the way you might be if you were ludicrously wealthy and knew that even if you get cut you will still get paid a ton of money by someone else next year)
- The plight of Tim Couch (he might be smarter than a 5th grader, but he also throws like one.)
Once again, we can relish our underdog status. We may have had no business thinking we were that great over the last, say, decade or so, but we weren't alone in that rush to ridiculous pre-judgement; once again, the unrealistic expectations are our own and only our own. This team should welcome this new Hype-less era, and prove it on the field.
As the late great poet Chris Wallace said, "Show me, homey."