For the Washington Redskins, their success in the past always hinged on quarterback play and offensive line consistency. And, as an admitted D.C. Homer, there's been nearly nothing positive in those areas for the past decade. As a result, it's been extremely easy to write the Skins off every year.
The last time Washington won their division was in 1999 (Family Guy's inaugural season). Since then, they have been to the playoffs twice.
Once, in 2005, with a then 35-year-old Mark Brunell, seen merely as stopgap quarterback until a younger QB could be drafted. And once more in 2007, the year of Sean Taylor's death, when a 36-year-old Todd Collins took over for injured starter, Jason Campbell, to lead the emotionally-charged Redskins to four straight regular season wins and a playoff berth. Twice, in almost 12 years-- that's it.
But something the D.C., Maryland and Virginia area (better known as the DMV) knows is optimism. That can be attributed to a few things. The first is the seemingly unfaltering fan base (somehow my parents remain fans over these years).
Unflappably loyal, Redskins fan's anguish is reaching Cleveland-like proportions, while the rest of the league laughs at the second reason for DMV hope: Money. The Redskins spend a lot of it, and they get it back, too.
However, it does not hide some embarrassing signings and contracts over the passed decade. To name a few, Adam Archuleta (7 years-$35 million), Deion Sanders (7 years-$56 milionl) and Albert Haynesworth (Forever-$Eleventy billion). Okay, so that last one might not be true, but that contract will arguably go down in history as one of the worst ever in sports.
In the free agency period of 2012, the Redskins were big spenders again, locking up wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Joshua Morgan with big money, and then signing three possible secondary starters. But, the Redskins were able to retain their team captain and MLB London Fletcher, and, oh yeah, they got that one guy from Baylor in the draft with the second overall pick, Robert Griffin III.
DRINKING THE KOOL-AID: BEST CASE SCENARIO
If you "drank the Kool-Aid," it means you bought in to something 100%, although you may not know exactly what you're be getting. That's been the theme for Washington for the passed ten years, and of course, District Kool-aid junkies are calling for the Super Bowl trophy or bust this year. Can't say I disagree with them, the obvious best-case scenario for any team is a Super Bowl. But, with their offensive and defensive makeup, a trip to the playoffs could, in some reality, be attainable.
What needs to happen: Offense - Protection, protection, protection. Did I mention protection? Robert Griffin won a Heisman in college for his freak athleticism, extending plays and scrambling to the open spot of the field to throw a bomb for a touchdown. The NFL is not so kind, and the Redskins offensive line must step up to protect this valuable asset.
With good offensive line play and a leap for third year LT Trent Williams, the running game will open up for second-year standout Roy Helu and returning starter Tim Hightower. Kyle Shanahan's offensive strategy of rolling-out RG3 will allow the QB to find WR Pierre Garcon and Santana Moss for quick slashing routes. Chris Cooley will act as a mentor for embattled TE Fred Davis and each will have All-Pro impacts in the run and pass game.
The Skin's stalls in the red zone will be squashed by the brilliance of RG3, who will put up Cam Newton-type stats on his way to solidifying himself as a blooming NFL star.
What needs to happen: Defense- The Skins front seven will match their productivity of last season, which was highlighted by youngster DE's Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan. London Fletcher will continue to to act as the team's emotional leader, and fire up a Redskin's secondary that now has many new faces. Jim Haslett's third year system, teamed up with former head coach, Raheem Morris, as the secondary coach, will motivate a talented Skin's D that will impress with improved pressure and maturity.
Outlook: 9-7 record, barely getting into the playoffs. It will be Mike Shanahan's best season by far and will validate all the future picks that were traded for the future franchise QB, Robert Griffin III. Veteran leadership will prove to be the X-factor for the Redskins and they will represent the NFC as a wild card team in the playoffs.
SPILLING THE KOOL-AID: WORST CASE SCENARIO
Losing. Losing is always the worst case scenario, and the Redskins are used to doing so, and oftentimes in dramatic fashion. Losing will especially be painful, considering they traded away all those selections for the 2nd overall pick in 2012.
After bargaining their future for a possible franchise QB, a season of mediocrity will deflate any hope in the D.C.-area. There are already some injury concerns in Ashburn
as training camp grinds on, and unfortunately for "Bob," it is on the offensive line.
What can happen
- With an inexperienced and quick-running QB like Robert Griffin, injuries can easily take their toll. And last time I checked, the Redskins backup is still Rex Grossman
That aside, the offensive line seemed to get it together in the second half of last season, but that momentum will be lost after more injury setbacks to Jammal Brown and Chris Chester.
Newcomers, Pierre Garcon and Joshua Morgan, will not turn out to be the deep threats the Skins were looking for and they will not live up to their contracts.
The running game that the Redskin's offense so heavily leans on will be stifled by stout NFC East defenses they and will dismantle Washington in all divisional games. Kyle Shanahan's job will be on the line after not being able to put RG3 in the best situation to succeed, and the Redskins will be looking for a new OC at season's end.
What can happen
- The secondary will prove to be the Achilles Heel for Washington. The safeties, Brandon Meriweather and Tanard Jackson will get burnt consistently. That will bring in backup veteran, Reed Doughty, who will not have much luck either.
The front seven will get overmatched and the defensive line (rated as one of the worst in the league
) will barely get to the opposing quarterbacks. London Fletcher will struggle to bring the new starter, Perry Riley, up to speed, and Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan will struggle with consistency.
record, a regression from last year's win total. If the Redskins cannot at least match the win total from last year, heads will roll next summer in Washington. The coordinators could all be sacked, and Coach Shanahan will barely retain his job. In Washington, the phrase, "there's always next year," has been a crutch, but it seems this season, it's all or nothing for the Redskins faithful.