1. There's no shortage of optimism this week in Redskins Nation. Everyone feels it. Let's not be ashamed of our earnest desire to be 4-5, y'all. Three-game winning streaks mean something, despite where it places you in the order of things.
2. For fans of most teams, rooting for a 4-5 record might not seem like the next step in a season-making run. To Redskins fans, 4-5 is WAY better off than we were just two seasons ago before we stole the NFC East with a seven-game streak. We don't even need to win seven in a row in 2014...we only need to go 7-1!!! I mean, they are making it easy for us.
3. As I always like to re-reiterate, I don't root for higher draft picks. I root for wins. I believe when a team full of young skill players gets wins, it matters more than picking six or seven slots higher. Learning how to win is way more important than accumulating higher draft picks. Don't look now, but this team MIGHT be learning how to win. There will be a very good football player available whenever we make our pick in next year's draft. Incorporating that player into a culture of winning (or at least not a culture of terrible losses) is far more attractive to me than drafting someone super high in the draft and counting on that player to "save" us.
4. Jay Gruden is 1-0 against Dallas. Huge stat in the Meringolo household.
5. When we say that beating Dallas is its own reward, it is clear we are talking about that feeling we all continue to have, even this late in the week. National television...dominant Dallas team...Redskins third-string quarterback...it was there. I am still living off of it. Think about where pretty much all of us were after we took that loss against Arizona. We followed that with a very shaky performance against the lowly Titans. One week later, a win over Dallas and we are all doing the playoff calculations in our heads and hearts.
6. I woke up this past Tuesday morning and flew out to Denver, wearing my Robert Griffin III jersey. The reception for this Redskins fan in the airports as well as the bars in Denver was amazing.
7. Here is a weird travel note that would be better (in my opinion) than 99% of Peter King's travel notes drivel: I sat down at a bar in downtown Denver and the gentleman next to me struck up a conversation around my RG3 jersey. It turned out his wife was the woman who is in charge of digital media content and marketing for the Philadelphia Eagles. One email introduction later, and Hogs Haven is in business--we are going to try and do something in conjunction with them leading up to the Eagles game. He gets up to leave and a mother/son duo sits down at the bar. Again, thanks to the jersey, a conversation gets started and it turns out the dude is a former digital content producer from Redskins.com! Come on...that is just a little bit weird. Good luck out in Denver, Brad!
8. Back to getting to 4-5...and why it matters. For the Washington Redskins and their fans, the magic of 2012 is too fresh in our minds to avoid thinking about. We know what is possible once you get to that .500 level with a handful of games left to play. You don't hear me saying we are better than ANYONE right now. You DO hear me saying that this team can stay in games against just about anyone in the league...assuming the game is not held at night...at FedEx...on primetime television. The similarities between being 2-5 in 2014 and 3-6 in 2012 are striking. You feel like you know what to expect once you reach those records. You feel confident you know where the story is heading, and you begin to come to grips with that reality. Then...a winning streak starts. A winning streak, even one that begins from such meagerness opens up a small window. You figure that if you leave that window open just a tad, the hope fairy will come in and leave a quarter under your pillow. The point is, how do you know the hope fairy isn't a crazy glue sniffer? "Building model airplanes," says the little fairy; well we're not buying it. The hope fairy sneaks into your house once, that's all it takes. The next thing you know, there's money missing off the dresser, and your daughter's knocked up. I've seen it a hundred times.
9. Damn, Chis Farley was a genius, but I digress. Getting to 4-5 before the bye week would make Washington, D.C. feel like Disney World. We would take a hard look at matchups against the Buccaneers and the Rams and we would begin to think that the playoffs aren't completely out of the question...because, well, they wouldn't be. More than that though, is the distinction there would be between teams like Jacksonville, Tennessee, Tampa Bay, Minnesota and Oakland---and Washington. Not being considered among the worst teams in the league is a worthy goal for any team. It matters. It matters in terms of getting free agents to want to come. It matters in terms of how players interact in the locker room year-round. It matters in terms of how the team is covered, and shapes the nation perception. It matters because you should NOT WANT TO BE TERRIBLE, no matter what draft pick you end up earning. I am not saying I am desperate to root for a middling team on the outside of the playoff bubble looking in--but I am desperate to root for a team that at the bare minimum is not considered among the dregs of the league. That is where we were a few weeks ago. I would like to think we have officially moved past that in 2014.
10. I feel like most of you have, at some point or another this season, stated that 2014 is all about 2015. A new head coach with a new offense combined with a bunch of first- and second-year players seeing lots of action has many of us thinking that our "window" could open in 2015 (whenever I talk about the "window" I get killed...maybe I distracted some of those commenters with my discussion of the hope fairy and that window). It stands to reason that much of what is in place this year will continue to be on place in 2015 for better or worse. Playoffs or not, wins this year matter because they help establish the kind of team we want to be, and they establish a base-level performance that the players and coaches can study all offseason. Assuming players like RG3 come back and get time playing in this system, we can absolutely carry momentum from this year to next year.
**Finally, every win we get DOES put us closer to the possibility of playoffs, even if we know we are already in "needing help" mode after eight weeks. Every win is a license to believe...let's keep it going in Minnesota!