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The 5 O’Clock Club: If I can speak simply as a fan for today...

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It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

Philadelphia Eagles v Washington Redskin Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The 5 o’clock club aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

fa·nat·ic /fəˈnadik/ (noun)

1. a person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal

2. (informal) a person who is extremely interested in something, to a degree that some people find unreasonable

3. (informal; disapproving) a person who has very extreme beliefs that may lead them to behave in unreasonable ways

A new hope - Lombardi

I grew up in Southern Virginia. I remember how excited my father was — which led to me being excited — when Vince Lombardi was named coach of the Redskins in the late 60s.

We always love the backup (except for Colt)

I grew up listening to the weekly (sometimes daily) Sonny vs. Billy debates. One thing that never seems to change... Redskins fans are never satisfied with, and always split in opinions about, the starting quarterback.

The Over the Hill Gang

I was proud of the Redskins moniker as the “Over the Hill Gang” under George Allen. It was our identity. George Allen never met a rookie he liked and never had a high draft pick he wasn’t willing to trade for an accomplished veteran. It seems so alien now, but in the days prior to the salary cap and unrestricted free agency, it was a defensible approach to building a football team. Of course, it didn’t win us any superbowls.

Gibbs 1.0

I remember how crushed I was when the new young coach no one had ever heard of — an offensive coordinator who had come up under Don Coryell — lost five straight games to start his tenure, and we (fans) were all screaming for him to be fired and replaced by a coach who knew what he was doing. Thank goodness Bobby Beathard knew better and had the backing of the Squire.

The Diesel

I became a fan of a washed up Jets running back, and — all statistics and rationality aside — I always think of John Riggins first when I think of Redskins players, even though he wasn’t drafted by the franchise and wasn’t with Washington for his full career. I know that for a lot of fans, Darrell Green or Sean Taylor are the essence of the franchise, but for me, in the 80s, when I was in my 20s, Riggo seemed to me to be the embodiment of Redskin football. Those of you who are either too young to remember, or too burned by the Snyder era to still carry the feeling, may not believe me (or perhaps even understand the feeling) when I say that John Riggins is still my image of Redskin football. Other people look at the Washington Redskins and see a mediocre 7-9 squad; I see an on-field bully that hit a rough patch, but is ready to rise to greatness with the next snap.

World Champs

I celebrated 3 superbowls in Joe Gibbs’ tenure, achieved with three different quarterbacks, which I believe is among the greatest coaching accomplishments of all time.

I’m going to Disney WORLD!

I bought the Wheaties cereal box with Doug Williams on the front after one of those superbowl victories, and kept it for years until it got lost (or perhaps secretly thrown away by a mother or girlfriend) somewhere along the way. Doug was a hero to me, in part for being a Redskin quarterback, and in part for shutting the door forever on the ignorant suggestion that a black quarterback couldn’t lead an NFL team to a championship.

AP

Away to Oz

In 1994, I moved to the other side of the world. The internet was a fairly new toy as far as the public was concerned back then. If you want to understand how limited it was, go back and watch the movie “You’ve got mail” which was released 4 years later, in 1998. We had computers with blue screens and the idea of streaming video was still the stuff of science fiction.

The NFL and the Redskins went dark for me.

2012 - Game Pass, RG3 and Alfred Morris

I emerged back into the light more than fifteen years later in 2012 when I discovered GamePass. Live streaming NFL games! I signed up.

It would be easy to surmise that it was the excitement of RG3 that brought me back to the game, but — hard as it might be to imagine this as well — I had never heard of Robert Griffin III before I subscribed to GamePass.

I remember watching a 2012 game, and my first thought was — the NFL has changed! It wasn’t just rule changes, though there had been plenty of those, it was the style of play. There were yellow lines on the screen to show you where the line-to-gain was (Man, I hated that yellow line when I first saw it!). Players were doing ‘sack dances’, which seemed to me then (and still seem to me now) to be just... wrong... the opposite of good sportsmanship and ‘keeping your head in the game’. I really hated (still hate) the showboating. The announcers were different, the TV presentation was different, the uniforms even looked different — and gone were the giant shoulder pads and neck rolls, replaced by a sleeker look and more athletic players.

But I adjusted quickly.

I became an immediate fan of RG3, Alfred Morris and all things Redskins. Thirsty for information about my team, and what had happened with it over the past 15+ years, I scoured the internet, and I found one place that seemed ideal for my needs — something called the “Daily Slop” (which I initially thought was the name of the website, not realizing that it was simply a daily feature of Hogs Haven).

Hogs Haven and the resurgent Redskins

As the 2012 season progressed, I became a daily reader and fairly regular commenter on this site. I reveled in the winning streak that the team put together to win the division championship. That winning streak and the success of Alfred Morris — a 6th round pick who ran for more than 1,600 yards as a rookie — fit my narrative of what the Redskins were.

We were John Riggins. We’d had a rough patch; we’d been humbled; but we came back, and when it was 4th and one and we needed something special to seal the victory, we had come through big.

Watching Robert collapse in the playoff game against Seattle crushed my spirit, and the offseason between 2012 and 2013 (“All in for Week 1”) was hard on me in my role as a fan, far away from other fans.

Hope springs eternal

Like fans everywhere, in every sport, for every team, each subsequent off season has been a time of hope and rising expectations for me. My father was raised in New York, but he was born in Chicago, and was a lifelong Cubs fan, so I knew a thing or two about approaching every season as a new opportunity.

An odd marriage

I ended up with my name on the byline of Hogs Haven articles in a strange way. I’m not a professional writer. I didn’t apply for a position writing for Hogs Haven. I have no ability to analyze NFL football beyond that of a typical fan in a bar on a Sunday afternoon screaming, “No freakin’ way that was holding!”

I ended up writing articles for Hogs Haven because in the long offseason from February to July it’s really hard to fill an NFL site with content, so the guys responsible for coming up with that content wrote me an email. They had noticed that I often wrote long and tedious comments that had decent grammar with most of the words spelled right. Would I be willing, they asked, to help fill some of the available space in the offseason with some articles similar to my rambling comments?

Sure, I could do that.

So, here I am a couple of years later, with four 5 o’clock club slots to fill each week during the season.

The struggle

But I sometimes feel a bit conflicted when I write a Hogs Haven article. See, at heart I’m just the fan I’ve been since the days of Vince Lombardi, Sonny & Billy, Art Monk & Doug Williams. I’m still the fanboy who rooted for RG3 and Alfred Morris. In 2018, I wanted to believe that Derrius Guice was going to be the key to a reinvigorated running game.

Following the gut-punch injury to this wonderful young man, and — after sneering at Adrian Peterson’s attempts to extend his career with the Saints and Cardinals last year — I now find myself ‘all in on All Day’, who seems to be the team’s new workhorse running back.

But when you write an article on a website like this one, that’s not who you are expected to be. Opinions aren’t expected to be irrational; they should be supported with evidence. Optimism in the face of recent failure is labeled “delusion”. There’s a responsibility to be... well... responsible with the things that you write and publish.

I try hard to keep those things in mind when I take on the strange role of writer on Hogs Haven. I try to keep a level of somewhat ‘objective’ perspective appropriate to a fan site (which doesn’t set a very high bar for being objective to be honest). I try not to simply write in the prose of an unabashed fan, though I’m not often reticent about letting my underlying optimism about the Redskins bleed through.

I feel a little less constrained in the comments section of the site, where I feel less obligation to act as a representative of the Hogs Haven ‘brand’, but even there, I self-censor. I’m sometimes amused when fans from rival sites criticize me for the way I handle myself in the comments section of this, or sometimes their, site. They feel that a ‘professional’ writer should be somehow more objective and above the fray. The joke is this — I’m no professional... I’m just a fan with a keyboard who can spell most words correctly.

Still, I’m cognizant of the need to suppress my tendency to don burgundy-colored glasses and gush about the team.

Cutting loose

Today, I’m going to ask your indulgence. While I’m never perfectly objective in my approach to writing about the Redskins on this site, today I want to take off all the shackles and do what I was asked to do so long ago — publish a rambling comment as an article.

The ramble begins

The preseason is almost over for the Redskins. The time to prove it on the field will be upon us on Sunday. This is my last opportunity to wallow in unconstrained optimism and lofty expectations.

Let me tell you what I — a lifelong Redskin fan — expect in 2018.

I expect double-digit wins. I expect to be in the playoffs.

I look at a roster filled with names that may not be recognized by non-Redskin fans, but that I have become intimately familiar with in recent years and I like what I’m seeing. I think the team has taken a very good approach to roster-building since 2014, and we’re now — finally — arriving at the payoff.

I liked the move to insure that the Redskins would have a pro-bowl level veteran quarterback this season because I didn’t (don’t) think this is the time to hit ‘restart’ with a rookie. The team has perhaps 3 good seasons left with some key players at key positions: Trent Williams, Ryan Kerrigan, Josh Norman — Left Tackle, Pass Rusher, Cornerback. Very few teams can boast three great players in those positions at the same time; by trading to insure that the team had a veteran quarterback capable of winning 11 games a season, the front office did what it could to insure that the remaining productive years for those key players aren’t wasted.

NFL: Washington Redskins at Los Angeles Chargers Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Frankly, I would have been perfectly happy with Case Keenum. But here’s the rub: there’s no guarantee that the Redskins would have gotten Keenum, or retained Kirk, or signed any other specific quarterback that they coveted. Free agency is largely about allowing highly-sought-after players to make a choice. Cousins chose the Vikings over the Jets despite a contract worth about $6m less in total value. The Skins paid a price (it hurt when Fuller was traded) to achieve certainty and stability at the QB position. I hated to lose Fuller, but you gotta give something to get something, usually, and the ‘Skins were the first cab off the rank in the 2018 race to secure a quarterback that involved about a third of the league. The deal made it certain that the team wouldn’t be left scrambling for a dance partner in late March.

Denver Broncos v Washington Redskins Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

I’m now a fan of Alex Smith, but not just because he’s a Redskin. I’ve always thought he was criminally underrated, and I think he’ll thrive in Gruden’s offense. I’m hoping for a successful running game, and I’m hoping that the Redskins will have a lot more leads in the 4th quarter of games this year, so I don’t necessarily expect (or want) Alex Smith to throw for over 4,000 yards. The team hasn’t been all that successful at winning by doing exactly that over the past three years. In fact, I believe it will likely be a measure of success if Smith throws well under 4,000 yards. What will matter is that the win-total piles up.

I’m a huge fan of the mix of youth and talent that the team has — especially on defense. Jon Allen — STUD. Matt Ioannidis —- STUD. Daron Payne — STUD. Tim Settle — future stud. Nicholson, Moreau, JHC, Preston Smith, and now Brantley — potential studs. I know how bad the defense was in 2017, but this is a different look up front. By the end of 2018, I expect journalists and analysts to be marveling at the one-year turnaround and asking how they could have collectively missed seeing it coming.

I once wrote an article called “The Gold Standard”. I won’t link it, because it backfired on me. My intent was to say that the last Joe Gibbs team to win a superbowl was the best Redskin team ever, and possibly the best NFL team of all time. I compared the 2017 squad with that team by position groups. The idea was, firstly, to have a little fun. It wasn’t an article I expected anyone to take very seriously. But more importantly the premise was not to suggest that last year’s squad was as good as that team — which is how a lot of people interpreted the article — but to measure the team against the ‘gold standard’... to ask, “how far away is this team from where it needs to be?”

Here’s what I said in that article:

Now, I’m not suggesting that the 2017 Redskins are as good as the ‘91 version was, and I’m definitely not trying to say that they are better, but they might be a little closer to that standard of play than anyone might have expected prior to this week.

So, why am I prattling on about that article? Because I want to once again harken back to a great Redskin team — the one from 1982 — that won a superbowl. Once again, this is not to say that I think the ‘18 Redskins are as good as the ‘82 Redskins were, but I think that there may be some parallels between how this team will play, and how that one did.

The ‘82 Redskins played stifling defense; in fact, they led the league in points-allowed, at just over 14 ppg. The defensive line featured the monster with the scarred helmet, Dave Butz, along with Darryl Grant and Dexter Manley. They were fearsome on the pass rush from the edge, and a brick wall in the interior.

Offensively, the Redskins were led by Joe Theismann, a good-not-great quarterback who had spent time in the CFL, and had spent time returning punts just to insure his spot on the roster in years past. Alex Smith is a quarterback who is experienced, takes care of the football, and is athletic enough to run the ball himself or extend plays to allow receivers to get open. Like Theismann, his career to date has seemed disappointing when compared to expectations coming out of college.

The ‘82 Redskins featured not just my favorite running back, but my favorite Redskin of all time, the Deisel, #44, John Riggins, who ended up setting rushing records for the Redskins at ages 34 and 35. The Redskins version of a 3rd down back in ‘82 was Joe Washington, who was a ‘swiss army knife’ of a player, and who remains the only player to have ever thrown a touchdown, caught a touchdown and returned a kickoff for a touchdown in a single game. I can only hope that the combination of a 33-year-old Adrian Peterson and returning-from-injury Chris Thompson is as successful. The two veteran running backs certainly have the track record to inspire optimism.

The ‘82 Redskins, were, of course, built around the Hogs, the namesakes for this website. Jacoby, Grimm, Bostic, May, Starke. The current Redskins offensive line aspire to greatness and have in past years adopted the “Hogs 2.0 moniker” to illustrate that desire to excel.

1982 is unique for one thing above all others in my mind: the fact that the NFL Most Valuable Player that season was Mark Mosely, the Redskins place kicker. The Redskins played tough defense in ‘82, and Mosely’s leg was instrumental to the Redskins’ success. They beat the Eagles 13-9; they won 12-7 over the Cardinals (who were in the NFC East at that time); and, of course, they had five field goals to beat the Giants 15-14.

I have the feeling that the 2018 Redskins are going to be a team that is led by the defense once again. A lot of fans don’t really think of strong defense and average offense as “Redskin football” but a “who let the dogs out” defense was certainly what defined the team that won Super Bowl XVII, and my feeling as a Redskins fanatic is that this is the year that Washington returns as a defensive powerhouse. The team has a lot of young players who haven’t proven themselves yet, but that’s what preseason optimism and being fanatical (filled with excessive and single-minded zeal) is all about.

So I’m expecting a lot of ball control (queue up #26, “All Day”).

I’m expecting a team that will protect the ball (welcome to the Redskins with your 5-interceptions in 2017, Alex Smith) and win the turnover battle (the ‘82 Redskins were +18).

I’m expecting a lot of sacks and pressure, not just from the edge rushers (Kerrigan, Smith) but also from the interior. This part of the Redskin game has been getting stronger in recent years, and I expect the trend to continue.

In a division that features Saquon Barkley and Zeke Elliott, plus Jay Ajayi running behind an outstanding Eagles offensive line, I expect the Redskins defense to catapult from the bottom of the league to the top in terms of run-stopping ability. The lessons learned inside the division against some of the best running attacks in the league will pay off when the ‘Skins face other teams outside the division.

When you play suffocating defense, conservative low-turnover offense, and ball control in the 4th quarter, your place kicker becomes very important, as happened in 1982.

The Redskins went to the Super Bowl on the strength of Mosely’s leg; the ‘18 Redskins will likely be relying on the strength and accuracy of Dustin Hopkins’ leg to get the win several times this year. I think he’s ready to come through and help rack up the Ws.

I’m looking for my Washington Redskins to be some of the worst fantasy players in the NFL in 2018. I expect a runningback-by-committee that will prevent any single guy from being a fantasy star, but will help the Redskins control the clock and win games.

I expect several players, from backs to tight ends to wide receivers, to be catching balls — too many different fingers in the pie for anyone to amass 1,000 yards receiving.

I expect Alex Smith to play a lot of ‘small ball’ and allow Tress Way to help win the field position battle, the defense to stop the opponents and get the ball back, and the team to score just enough to win tough games week in and week out.

I expect the Redskins to win ugly, but I expect them to win. I expect them to win a lot.

This is the new era of Redskins football — the era of stout defense and efficient offense. This is the era of division titles and playoff wins. This is the era of unbridled excitement for me as a Redskins fan, and lots of happy Mondays.

It’s all about the joy of being a fan

Today’s conversation kickstarter is all about the joy of being a fan just two days before my team’s season kicks off. There may never be a better chance to be excited about the team we all cheer for, so — today, and for the next 53 hours or so — I encourage you to not worry about the players who haven’t proved it yet, or are a little older than you’d like them to be, or who are almost certain to be lost to injury early in the season.

Today, anything is possible.

The 2018 season belongs to us.

It’s time to go back to the future of Redskin glory.

Relax and enjoy the beauty that is our team as they stand on the cusp of a season ripe with promise.

Focus for the moment on the pure essence of being a fan: a person who has very extreme beliefs that may lead them to behave in unreasonable ways.

Forget about being reasonable; forget about supporting your arguments with facts; forget about the frustration of the Snyder years; let go of your distrust of Jay Gruden, your distaste for the loss of Kirk or the trade for Alex, your disappointment at the loss of Derrius Guice or the dismay that the Redskins drafted Josh Doctson in the first round and never traded Jordan Reed to another team when they had the chance.

This is our Redskin team, 2018 version.

This is who we cheer for.

Every season begins with great promise.

Enjoy it.

Baltimore Ravens v Washington Redskins Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

I only notice a few minutes ago that Jay Gruden was in the crowd during the game:

Poll

Of the players listed below, which one will be most instrumental in the win against the Cardinals on opening day?

This poll is closed

  • 36%
    Alex Smith
    (148 votes)
  • 24%
    Adrian Peterson
    (99 votes)
  • 4%
    Chris Thompson
    (19 votes)
  • 9%
    Jordan Reed
    (37 votes)
  • 1%
    Trent Williams
    (7 votes)
  • 0%
    Greg Stroman
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    Trey Quinn
    (2 votes)
  • 6%
    Daron Payne
    (28 votes)
  • 5%
    Jon Allen
    (24 votes)
  • 0%
    Matt Iaonnidis
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    Josh Norman
    (3 votes)
  • 2%
    Ryan Kerrigan
    (9 votes)
  • 0%
    Montae Nicholson
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    Josh Harvey-Clemons
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    Tress Way
    (3 votes)
  • 3%
    Dustin Hopkins
    (14 votes)
402 votes total Vote Now