- It pains me when a Monday arrives and we aren’t celebrating a victory, but it pains me more when a loss feels like more than just one loss. The Washington Redskins are 5-3, still sitting in first place in the NFC East, and still in charge of their future, but if we’re being honest this morning, it just doesn’t feel that way.
- Not only did the loss to the Atlanta Falcons sting the hometown fans, the in-stadium experience suffered as a result of the masses of Falcons fans at FedEx Field. This is nothing new, but I am going to allow myself to be distracted by this today. One of the worst parts about being old enough to remember attending games at RFK Stadium is knowing how good it was versus how bad it is now. In 2018, we all can agree on some basic facts. The first one is that the in-home NFL experience has been enhanced exponentially. Without sitting in traffic, paying exorbitant rates for beer and concessions, or subsidizing an owner you might feel has single-handedly ruined your favorite team, you can enjoy the NFL experience from the comfort of your own home. That is before we even get to having to sit at YOUR OWN HOME STADIUM and feeling like you are on the road. Put simply, it sucks, and I am just about done with it. But my feelings on this have evolved in spite of Dan Snyder and not because of him. I never let him get to me or my desire to be at the stadium to watch this team over the years. I know many of you tapped out long ago solely because of the owner, and I get it. My rationale for continuing to go to games was driven by the love of tailgating and the ability to watch a game the way I wanted to, and not based on what the cameras showed me at home. I just love watching live football, but even that is being ruined to some degree, and as much as I hate to say it, the fault lies with more than just Snyder.
- The NFL has entered into a real “Destination Experience” era, with only a handful of places left around the country where stadiums remain steadfastly full of hometown fans. I remember sitting in my seat for ten years to start the 2000’s and even when this Redskins team was terrible, the place was pretty full (or Redskins fans). If you recall, back then, we had a...cough, cough...”Waiting List” for Redskins fans and we spent a ton of time beating each other up when season ticket holders sold their tickets to opposing fans. (We only found out later that Snyder was selling 10,000+ ticket blocks to brokers who were dumping tickets to opposing fans.) Today, we are a lot wiser, knowing full well that FedEx is not sold out and that the nation’s capital and surrounding area is full of fans from all over the country. I am not sure how that rabbit gets put back in the hat, either, short of Snyder removing another 25,000+ seats or so from FedEx (before long, and at this rate, the stadium might eventually be as cozy as your basement or living room). This isn’t a Redskins-specific problem, either. Watch the other games. You can hear a loud roar from most stadiums regardless of which team does something exciting (irregardless, even). I think my realization today stems from me seeing that the NFL...does...not...care about this. They seem to have moved on from the idea of “home-field advantage.” The money these days (and for a while, honestly) comes from television, and that has driven the league to maximize its presence in places like Los Angeles where not even the Rams enjoy a solid home-field advantage. The end result is someone like me sitting at FedEx Field on a day like yesterday in a seat I have sat in for years, realizing that Redskins fans were outnumbered in the sections all around me. You might be saying that this has been going on for years, and you would be right, but for years, it was situation where the dam was breaking, but still standing. I am telling you that I think the dam has burst, and while we may disagree, my report is coming from the front lines, where I have been embedded for about 20 years. We talked about it in the summer, the idea that this year was going to feel different in the stands. I knew that in my gut when I walked out of FedEx Field for the last time in 2017, and that was before the team came clean about the “Waiting List” and yanked out more sections. Well, it’s official...there is no denying that 2018 has been a DRASTICALLY different experience at FedEx. In fairness to the folks at FedEx, I give them credit for working to make the day as enjoyable as possible. They have done well with the hand they have been dealt. As the NFL fully embraces the “Destination Experience” era, I find myself gravitating more toward the home tailgate. I don’t know why it took this long for me. I didn’t spend one penny at the stadium yesterday, as has been my practice for years. I enjoyed the hell out of the tailgate (shout out Danny and Gibby), and I loved watching live football. Watching a loss sucked, but that hasn’t been enough to push me out of FedEx yet. The throngs of fans from everywhere else is doing the job though, because...let’s be honest, opposing fans don’t come to quietly root for their team (nor should they).
- Alright, enough on the stadium. The game also blew. My first thought going into the game was that I was going to get to watch Tevin Coleman up close and personal. He is a free agent at the end of this season, and I don’t know how Atlanta is going to be able to keep him, though I am routinely surprised when teams solve problems like that. If you have been listening/watching on Tuesdays or reading this space, you know I have been pining for this move already. I don’t know how much he will demand in his next contract, but the idea of Coleman and Guice in the backfield is exciting to me. One thing is certain...he gave the Redskins and the Redskins fanbase a solid look at his abilities. It may have been his best game of the season, which is slightly shocking because he did it against a defense that has been shutting running backs down all year.
- The worst part about our defense losing battles early to Atlanta’s offense was that it put our offense in the position of having to play from behind. That is not something a ground-and-pound offense is built to do, even though there was a point in the third quarter where it felt like Alex Smith was building some momentum. By the beginning of the fourth quarter, the game was decided, though it did warm the heart to see Josh Doctson finally pull down a fade for a touchdown. The worst part of yesterday to me was that the outcome kind of reinforced that fear we all share that the 2018 Redskins can’t keep up with a team that can both move the ball and score through the air. As excited as I was to see Haha Clinton-Dix on the field—and he started—it was clear that he doing little more than playing center field early. Deep, deep center field (think the old Detroit Tigers stadium...death valley center field). He came up and made some tackles, but if you were watching on television, he was off the screen. It was telling that Montae Nicholson came back to finish the first half to defend Atlanta’s two-minute drill. Clinto-Dix was back to start the second half after some adjustments and education in the locker room I am sure. Maybe I was expecting too much...clearly he was unable to make the kind of difference yesterday that would have changed the result. Let’s just see how that develops ahead of the tilt against Fitzmagic.
- I can’t get through this Sixpack without a nod to the injuries we are already discussing on other threads on Hogs Haven today. God it sucked to see Morgan Moses, Shawn Lauvao and Brandon Scherff stay on the ground. Moses made it back onto the field, but I am bracing for bad news on the other fronts. This, after Trent Williams shut it down midseason for a month for thumb surgery (gotta admit that at 5-2, midseason thumb surgery for the left tackle was a bit of a gut punch—I can only assume it was unavoidable, though I heard plenty of fans in the stands yesterday questioning that, which I was surprised to hear). Whether you rely on the run or not, you can’t lose 80% of your offensive line in the NFL and feel very good about your chances. Alex Smith can and will run, but he is not built to take those end-of-run shots a handful of times per game. I am desperately trying to tie this whole thing together today with the faintest of optimism. Hahahahaha...so much of the news, feel and tone of this exact second of the season is negative. Still, the Redskins wake up today very much in control of their destiny, and very much capable of beating a Tampa Bay team on the road. In fact, I like this team hitting the road this week...there is a lot to get away from right now. Imagine how bad it feels now...and we are still in first place in the East. A win this week against Tampa Bay would keep our yo-yo emotions bouncing, and would keep a lot of us thinking that...there...still...exists...a chance for this team. I look forward to getting after it in the comments section below, but maybe we could at least start by envisioning a gameplan that beats the Buccaneers. That is going to be a big topic of conversation tomorrow night on The Audible, and I am looking for ideas!
It feels like a lot more than just the third loss of the season for the Washington Redskins to most fans this morning.