Twenty years ago, I made every excuse for the Redskins. I was one of the die-hard fans that truly believed, somehow, that the Redskins would win the Super Bowl each and every year, and as a twelve-year old, after a bad game-or a string of bad games-I had meticulous arguments for friends who disparaged such a renowned franchise. I must’ve sounded like a loon...but I knew the Redskins were the greatest franchise on planet earth, and I knew it as fact. I felt bad for those other idiots.
Fifteen years ago, I spent my freshman year in college watching Mark Brunell throw (sort of) to Santana Moss in what ended up being a playoff-game winning season in Joe Gibbs’ second year back in the NFL. Still, in the end, as an out-matched Redskins team lost 20-10 in Seattle to a team that dominated without reigning league MVP RB Shaun Alexander, I held onto all of the Redskins’ missed opportunities. I remained steadfast in my belief that the Redskins were constantly unlucky; always the victim of circumstance, and that no other team in the league faced such hardship. Media pundits smashing the organization’s ownership and the opinion of the majority that Dan Snyder would never field a winner was just hot air coming from jealous fans and media looking for an easy story. Obviously.
Ten years ago, as Jim Zorn began his second year as head coach (yeah, that really happened), the Redskins had signed Albert Haynesworth, and it was over; the Redskins would be Super-Bowl champions. After all, that same Shaun Alexander that was on the sidelines in 2005 was now a Redskin, and he truly was in the best shape of his career! Funny enough, I wasn’t the only one, as media pundits and fans alike had the Redskins as a favorite in the NFC. Alas, the Redskins entered their bye at 2-5, losing games they very clearly should’ve won, losing by an average of 6.4 points in their five losses. And yeah...you’re right, they won two games by an average of 2.5 points, but as a true Redskins fan, those were just erroneous ideas...negative musings...far from fact. The Redskins went on to lose four of the next six games...and even so I was still ecstatic to attend late-December game at the historic FedEx Field. My mom had won “Dream Seats” for my dad and I in a silent auction at my sister’s middle school. Monday Night. First Row. 38 yard-line. Hell yeah. And then it happened. Down 24-0 just before the half, Jim Zorn attempted the ‘Swinging Gate’ fake field goal. Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin smartly called a timeout. Then, inexplicably, with the Giants lined up in a base defense, Jim Zorn ran...the same...play...My world was shattered. I remember turning to my dad…“Why would he do that?” The look on his face and the faces of the Redskins fans around us forever changed what I had always known; the Washington Redskins really weren’t a good-or even decent-professional franchise.
Five years ago, though my confident stride had been irreversibly broken, I still held onto my undying belief that eventually the team would get it right. I no longer chanted and/or clapped before each and every Redskins play, but I followed the team day-in and day-out, still twisting each move in the most positive light possible. Deep in the depths of my soul, I knew it was futile, but I had not yet reached the point where I could admit the organization would never field a winner. Why would I? Bruce Allen refused to overspend and had rescued the team from constant cap-hell from embarrassing signings. Robert Griffin III was going into his second year with offensive-guru Jay Gruden (who totally loved RGIII), and everything was going to bounce back after an embarrassing 3-13 record in 2013. That season obviously fell apart, and eventually led me to my next revelation, as Jay Gruden defied the owner and his henchman, naming Kirk Cousins the starter over the Franchise Quarterback RGIII; Jay is hitting back after taking his licks for two seasons...he knows his bosses are a joke too.
One year ago, I attended training camp and was absolutely smitten with this team’s potential, mostly fueled by the organization’s offseason acquisitions: Alex Smith, Trey Quinn, Daron Payne, Paul Richardson, and of course, Derrius Guice. I was finally truly excited for a Redskins’ season again, as the thought of Derrius Gucie being a true difference-maker in the backfield had me all sorts of fired up. Then, again, it happened. Now, why I still hadn’t learned to be ready for such devastating news at any time, I have no idea, but I was sitting on the beach in Ocean City as I received the alert: “Redskins’ Derrius Guice tears ACL, out for season.” My interest in the season was immediately cut in half, and I realized that my fandom was more fragile than ever; I was either losing hope or it had been squelched all together.
Two months ago, I attended training camp again. Only this time, I wasn’t looking forward to the football nearly as much as I was the awesome food/entertainment scene in Richmond (it is seriously a great city). My reporting on the team was mostly negative, and I openly questioned the ‘vaunted defense’ that everyone was talking about, wondering why everyone just assumed the defense was going to be such a dominant force. From what I witnessed in training camp, the defensive backs were a step slow, and the defensive line wasn’t killing the offensive line as I figured they would. I also remarked repeatedly that Cam Sims would not make my team, much to the chagrin of media and fans alike, but it appears that I might have been even further out of the hype-filled, delusional hole that less and less humans find themselves in, in which players are lauded in training camp to the point where they are being fitted for gold jackets after practice. I lost followers, a lot of them, because of my general (rational) negativity. I didn’t care. The tacos were good.
One week ago, I watched the Redskins lose on Monday night in the way apparently very few saw coming. Of course the struggling Bears offense would come alive against this ‘all-time’ defense, and of course the team would be embarrassed on Monday night. However, to be fair to Josh Norman, this defense is ‘all-time’...as it’s headed towards the history books for its abysmal 3rd down defense, giving up a first down over 87% of the time. Maybe not what the $15m/year defensive back had in mind? I was shocked when reports were coming out about the Bears game being a ‘get-right game’ for the team, and, again, I must be in better shape than I thought in my recovery from being a massive, irrational Redskins fan. Why people who write for and/or follow the team still believe that a) good things can happen to this team or b) changes will be made so that good things can happen to this team, I will never understand, but I officially find myself outside of that space.
Two days ago, I watched the Redskins lose in embarrassing fashion to the hated New York Giants and their rookie quarterback Daniel Jones. What was labelled a certain ‘get-right game’ was, of course, not going to be anything close to that on Sunday, and we all watched what is one of the ugliest games I have ever seen as a Redskins...fan? For the defense to be as bad as it was against the run and on third down against a rookie quarterback, and for Jay Gruden to throw his QB of the future to the wolves without any first team reps for over a month is just...well...I was going to type in ‘ugh’...but I realized ‘so expected’ is much more apt in this new reality in which my psyche lives.
One hour ago, I considered not finishing this post, as I read article after article and listened to pundit after pundit absolutely murder the Redskins. I thought, “Should I really pile on in a time like this?” And then I poured a glass of red wine and realized that writing this actually feels good. I’m sure that many people in this area, and some across the world, feel the same way, and that this story might be a fun way to commiserate. For those people, you are welcome. For people who still float in the void of infinite damnation that the Redskins organization still relishes in, I am truly sorry for the pain and confusion you must be feeling right now.
One minute ago, I realized that I often use and misspell the word ‘embarrassing’ at an embarrassing rate. I also decided I should finish by somehow summarizing the past twenty years of my fandom. As an almost 33 year-old human, I have gone from an obsessive, this-team-runs-my-life mindset that now has dissolved into what many are aptly calling ‘hate-watching.’ I will follow this team, I will watch this team, and I will suffer with this team for eternity. I just don’t believe in any of their counterfeit promises or fraudulent luster anymore, and I have freed myself from the hex that fewer and fewer other humans remain bewitched by. I will follow. I will watch. I will hate every moment of it until Bruce Allen is gone.
One second ago, I got sad.