On his show this week, Rich Eisen went all in on the Washington Football Team, jumping on the bandwagon but stopping just short of actually predicting a Super Bowl appearance for them, saying that he believes that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, quarterbacked by Tom Brady, will return to the championship game in February.
He did, however, talk about how devastating the Washington defense would be, predicting that second-year star defensive end Chase Young would win the award for Defensive Player of the Year.
He didn’t stop there. Eisen talked about how dangerous the Washington offensive attack would be, specifically naming quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and receivers Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel, suggesting that he believes the offense will be much more explosive and productive than it was in 2020, when Scott Turner’s group finished the season ranked 29th in the league.
To accomplish what Eisen believes they are capable of, they will need to be able to score at a much higher rate than last year’s 21.1 points per game, but the NFL Network host seemed supremely confident that Ron Rivera’s team would be ready for prime time in 2021.
Rich laughed off the oddmakers’ projection of 22 to 1 against the WFT making it to the Super Bowl and dismissed as “crazy talk” the fact that Washington’s odds are on par with those of the Chicago Bears.
At one point, he pulled out the regular season schedule and a pen, and started predicting wins and losses. He had the team going 4-1 to open the season, with the team’s only early season loss coming to the Buffalo Bills in Buffalo.
By the time he finished his schedule review, Eisen had projected a 5-1 record inside the NFC East division, and a 12-5 record overall. The only division loss he projected for Washington was on the road in Philly in Week 15, though the road game in Dallas a week later seems the more likely place to pick up the team’s only division loss.
Surprisingly, Eisen predicted that the Football Team would revenge their 2020 wildcard playoff loss by beating the Buccaneers at FedEx Field in Week 10. The three losses that he projected in addition to Buffalo and Philly were to to the Chiefs in a Week 6 home game, and road losses to Green Bay in Week 7 and Las Vegas in Week 13.
With predicted back-to-back losses in Weeks 6 & 7, Eisen has the team dropping from 4-1 to 4-3 before going 8-2 to finish out the season, including a 4-1 run through the final 5 weeks in five consecutive NFCE divisional games.
A 12-5 record would be the best result the Football Team has had since their last Super Bowl season in 1991; in fact, since that magical season thirty years ago, Washington has not managed more than 10 wins in a season, and has gone 10-6 only three times. If Ron Rivera’s squad can achieve everything that Rich Eisen predicts this year, it will represent a stunning turnaround in just the second year of his tenure as the head coach in Washington, and would provide a great jumping off point for the franchise to announce its imminent rebranding, with a new team name and logo to be announced in early 2022.
Gassing up the bandwagon
It’s easy for a team’s fans to be overly optimistic two weeks prior to the start of training camp, but when national media figures like Rich Eisen speak out so specifically and so strongly, it is something to take notice of. Still, it may seem unrealistic to fans who have become conditioned to three decades of disappointment for anyone to have high expectations of the team that managed to win the division with a 7-9 record last season.
The fact is, however, that Rich Eisen isn’t the only national media figure to speak out about his belief in the Football Team. There are other prominent people who got on the bandwagon earlier than Rich. Last month, two analysts in particular went on the record with their great expectations for the burgundy & gold in 2021.
Louis Riddick is a former NFL player and executive, and a respected voice in the sports media nationally.
.@LRiddickESPN says it's not even a question that the Washington Football Team should be favorites in the NFC East. pic.twitter.com/1ul0Npar6u— Get Up (@GetUpESPN) June 14, 2021
Riddick went into detail about why he believes Washington is the best in the NFC East.
If you look at it for what it is, from a pure football perspective, Washington needs to be the favorite once again. All they really need is competent quarterback play; they don’t need top 10, top 5 quarterback play. Ryan Fitzpatrick or Taylor Heinicke just needs to give them competent quarterback play.
Why? They’re strong up front on the offensive line; they got two dynamic backs. Antonio Gibson is spectacular, JD McKissic is a great third-down back. They have playmakers on the perimeter. They beefed up a defense on the second level in the first round with drafting Jamin Davis out of Kentucky. To go along, we already know, a bevy of first-rounders on the defensive line. They signed William Jackson at corner, the unrestricted free agent from the Cincinnati Bengals. Look, there’s a lot to like down in Washington about how they’re putting together this football team.
The best point Riddick made is about Washington needing competent quarterback play. Too often in recent seasons, Washington hasn’t even had average quarterback play. Fitzpatrick can give them above-average play, and when he is hot, excellent quarterback play.
The other national analyst who was outspoken about Washington last month was Dan Orlovsky. Orlovsky spent 12 seasons in the NFL as mostly a backup quarterback. Shortly after his retirement, Orlovsky joined ESPN as an analyst. Now he can be seen regularly on NFL Live and is one of the network’s top analysts.
In a recent edition of NFL Live, Orlovsky explained that he especially likes WFT’s potential on offense in 2021.
I think, first of all, this offense is going to be predicated on a ton of speed. This might be the fastest offense in the NFL. We’re talking Terry McLaurin on the outside; then they got Curtis Samuel in free agency. McLaurin is becoming one of the best receivers in the NFL, not just one of the best young ones. Fitzy (Ryan Fitzpatrick) is gonna have a ton of weapons to throw to; Dyami Brown out of North Carolina is a huge addition. And Antonio Gibson at tailback. Those are four guys that have absolute gas on offense.
Orlovsky wasn’t finished dishing out praise on Washington.
Again, I’ll say it; this could be the fastest offense in the NFL. Now Fitzy has those roller-coaster rides, right? Because he plays with no fear of failure. He’s just going to play that YOLO, chuck-and-duck style of football. But he plays his best when he’s got a defense that can bail him out a little bit. And that’s what he’s got in Washington; a dominant defense. I think Washington has a chance to be an outstanding football team, certainly winning that division and making noise in the playoffs.
Related article: Rivera and Mayhew have got the parts needed to build a vertical offense
Aside from his comments about the speed of the offense, the most important point Orlovsky made was about Fitzpatrick playing without fear of failure. It’s true, and, No. 14 has never had a defense like this before. In the past, when he made a mistake, he tended to compound it in an effort to get back into a game. If he makes a mistake now, he has a defense that can limit the damage when he turns the ball over. This should allow Fitz to play with confidence.
Drinking the Kool Aid
Clearly, it’s the season of high hopes and rose-colored glasses for every NFL fan. Still, this season has a different feel from most of the ones in the collective recent memories of Washington fans. The Washington defense was ranked 5th overall last season, and it has the opportunity to improve in 2021 with the additions of William Jackson, Bobby McCain, Jamin Davis, Benjamin St-Juste and others. Offensively, the offensive line and wide receiver groups are deeper than a year ago, and the team has added elite speed with free agent Curtis Samuel and 3rd round draft pick Dyami Brown. The addition of John Bates at tight end adds some much-needed depth at the tight end position as well. The key to it all, however, will be the play of 16-year veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who will be aiming to reach the playoffs for the first time in his career.
Related: The 2021 quarterback position is a Rorschach test for WFT fans
Basically, what you believe about the 2021 season probably comes down to what you believe about Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Fitzmagic or Fitztragic?
The team boasts a potentially elite defense and has all the weapons required for an above average offensive attack. If your view is that Ryan Fitzpatrick is incapable of winning, none of that will matter. But if you see Fitzpatrick as a guy who is playing the best football of his long career and simply in need of the kind of team that Washington offers, then you can climb aboard the bandwagon with Dan Orlovsky, Louis Riddick and Rich Eisen.
Throwback for the OGs
28 January, 1992: “The Bandwagon has pulled more than its share this season. You can’t send it over a cliff,” Grimm insisted. “I don’t want to be one of the guys who has to go down there next year and lug the damn thing up the hill.” Then, Grimm looked up with a broad, satisfied smile. “Even if nobody drives it, once a month you should wash it, grease it and groom it. Store it in a warm garage, and savor every moment, till the rest of time.”
It’s three decades since the bandwagon has really been out of the garage, but Washington fans are always ready to take it for another ride, and it’s got plenty of room for everyone.
Are you buying and drinking the 12-5 Kool Aid that Rich Eisen is selling?
This poll is closed
Yessir! Give me a ticket for the bandwagon!
Ha! No way. I’ll believe it when I see it! bandwagon...pfft.