Being old enough to recall the Joe Gibbs "glory days" is a luxury many Redskins fans don't have.
I'm just like you. I'm frustrated when the Redskins lose. I still get irritated when Washington slogs its way through another losing season.
Yet, unlike younger fans, I never have to wonder if I'm going to die without seeing the Redskins win a Super Bowl. Because I've already seen it. Three times.
That's definitely a plus.
The reason for the preamble is that, despite the optimism afforded by some great memories, I don't want people to suspect for a second that I think 3-5 is a "good" record. I don't. I may not be as upset as most fans under 30 (or a lot of fans over 30), but I would never say that the Redskins are having a great year, or even that the Redskins are an above-average team.
However, I think context matters in figuring out where this organization stands as of today.
Most of us—at least the realistic among us—realized coming into 2015 that this was not going to be a short-term build. A combination of a little bad luck, more-than-a-little incompetence, and a wildly unjust salary-cap penalty left Washington with one of the weaker rosters in the league.
It may not be a "great" year, but a big change in the front office and some enhancements to the coaching staff have led to a year of progress.
Now halfway through the season, I thought it might be helpful to see how the 2015 Redskins compared to the 2014 edition in basic terms:
2014 (16 games): 18.8 PF/G, 27.4 PA/G, -0.75 TO/G, 70.6 PenYd/G
2015 (8 games): 19.8 PF/G, 24.4 PA/G, -0.25 TO/G, 52.75 PenYd/G
The Washington numbers for this year aren't excellent. There's no denying that. But, so far, each one of these key measures is better than last season's. More points scored per game. Fewer points allowed per game. Better turnover ratio. Less penalty yardage per game.
Harsh truth time. The Redskins are very probably going to finish with a losing record this year. Again.
But, as someone looking for a silver lining, I can find a pretty shiny one. I take solace in the fact that Washington has simply been much more competitive this year than it was last year.
Remember those soul-crushing defeats? The games that stopped being enjoyable in any way at some point in the second quarter? 45-14 to the Giants. 27-7 to the Bucs. 49-27 to the Colts. 24-0 to the Rams. 44-17 to the Cowboys.
This year, the most lopsided of the Redskins' five losses was the 27-10 margin against the Patriots—the undefeated defending world champions, and probably the best team in football.
I know. "Hey, at least we're not getting totally blown out!" is a pretty low bar. And there's also half a season to go, so a lot of (bad) things could happen between now and the end of 2015.
After all, Washington was also 3-5 in both 2013 and 2014, then went a combined 1-15 the rest of the way. This time around, the evaporation of the solid running game we saw in the first part of the season has coincided with some injuries along the offensive line. Likewise, the Redskins' run defense has been the worst in football over the last three games. Washington has to get those problems under control—and fast.
But I still haven't felt like the Redskins have been completely out-classed by anyone in the same way that they were in several games the last two years. One important step toward being a playoff contender is to be a team that has the ability to compete in every single game it plays.
At the halfway mark of the 2015 season, the Redskins appear to have a handle on that much.