Let's be honest. Being a Redskins fan isn't always fun.
In fact, it's been downright crummy of late.
Most of that displeasure comes from a three-win season, but there's also the little wrinkle that the mainstream coverage of the team consistently portrays the organization as incompetent or racist. Often both! The lion's share of the national media and, suddenly, much of the government aren't shy about pegging the franchise and its fans as misguided at best, immoral at worst.
Cheer up, my fellow backward-thinking cave-dwellers.
I'm here with some good news.
There's much to celebrate about being a Redskins fan.
That's right, I said "much!" After having to write so many downer articles last year (you try finding the "bright side" of a 3-13 season), I want to start things off on a positive note.
To that purpose, here are five reasons for Redskins fans to be happy. Yes, happy!
1. Robert Griffin III is healthy: I beat this drum over and over in 2013. Even though the team insisted otherwise, RGIII wasn't at full speed. It seems obvious now, and quiet admissions of this fact have come trickling out during training camp.
I must have said "he's injured" or "he's playing hurt" a dozen times in columns I wrote for this very website in 2013. Yet, the Redskins did themselves (especially Griffin) no favors by maintaining the fiction that he was 100%. Without a secret infusion of alien DNA like the one that fueled Adrian Peterson's recovery, there's a dramatic difference between the season immediately following a major knee injury and two seasons after recovery.
We're about to bear witness to that difference.
I can't say this enough: Barring another injury, Griffin is going to have a huge season. MVP-caliber. Please quote me on this in four months. I beg you. Beg.
2. DeSean Jackson: You know what you don't see in the modern NFL? A team releasing a skill player who is 27 years old, healthy, very motivated, and coming off of his best statistical season. His presence potentially transforms an above-average group of backs and receivers into one of the better units in the league.
Getting a player like that - at a discount to boot - is a big deal. I bring this up because today's NFL is a league premised on parity. The top front offices succeed not because they have more money, but because they are better than the competition at evaluating talent, because they structure contracts creatively, and because they have a little luck when it comes to things like injuries (see #1 above).
A top-level player like Jackson falling into a team's lap simply does not happen in today's NFL. That odd fact pattern led a lot of people to be wary of Jackson - under the "there must be something we don't know" theory.
I'm not wary. This is a big deal. Did I say that already? Good. It's a big deal.
3. The early part of the schedule bodes well: The NFL is more "year-to-year" than any of the other major professional sports leagues. Having said that, to the extent that it's possible, Redskins fans should be cautiously optimistic about the early slate. The Texans were awful last year (even worse than Washington!), the Jaguars overachieved to get to 4-12, Jackson gets his first crack against his old team in Week 3, and a so-so Giants team follows at home.
I'm not saying Washington should be 4-0 after that quartet of games. You could make the case that three of those four teams will be decidedly better in 2014 than they were last year. I'm only saying that those early opponents give the Redskins a real chance to get the season off to a winning start, building momentum before butting heads with the defending world champs in Week 5.
4. A new coaching staff brings hope: Just for argument's sake . . . from a purely strategic, X-and-O standpoint, let's hypothesize that Jay Gruden's staff is a wash over the old staff. Even if that were true, the switch would still be an improvement simply by virtue being something different.
Both fans and players had "Shanaclan" fatigue by the end of last season. Gruden isn't a retread hire of a coach in the twilight of his career, a flashy college head coach, or someone with no experience at the coordinator level. This is the kind of hire that a good organization makes.
That doesn't necessarily mean it will work out. Washington clearly had many issues besides the head coach and OC in 2013. However, this is a move that shows some maturity, patience, and even wisdom. This is the first time this century that I've felt like a new Redskins coach would still be in town five years after being hired.
5. Tradition: It's easy for younger fans not to realize this (or for older fans to forget), but Washington has one of the strongest traditions of any franchise in the NFL. The Redskins are over eight decades old and boast five world championships, including three Super Bowl titles.
Yes, it's now been more than 20 years since that last one, but remember that most of the NFL hasn't won a title during that stretch.
It's true: The Dolphins, Jets, Chiefs, Raiders, and Bears haven't won a championship more recently than Washington has. The Bills, Browns, Bengals, Titans, Jaguars, Texans, Chargers, Eagles, Lions, Vikings, Panthers, Falcons, and Cardinals have never won a title during the Super Bowl Era.
In other words, when supporters of other teams mock the haplessness of the Redskins, it's more likely than not that their team hasn't won a title in the past two decades, either.
Only four franchises have won more total NFL championships than Washington has (Packers, Bears, Steelers, and Giants). That's elite company. For all of their recent struggles, the Redskins still look more than respectable in terms of historical success.
So, please try to remember that there's plenty for Washington fans to cheer. Try to ignore the din of voices slamming the team. Forget about the national outlets rating Washington in the bottom three of the NFL in their preseason power rankings. Put last year to bed for good. As we prepare to watch the 2014 Redskins take the field for the first time tomorrow night against the mighty Patriots, fans are steadfastly optimistic despite recent failures, overwhelmingly hungry for a winner, and newly galvanized by finger-wagging commentators.
A superstar quarterback poised for a season of redemption. A talented new weapon at wideout. A workable early schedule. A promising rookie head coach. A history that includes a quintet of world championships.
Maybe there's good reason - or five good reasons - to get excited about what's to come.