There are bad losses and superbad losses and worst-loss-of-all-time losses. So where exactly does the Redskins’ 19-14 defeat in Detroit fit in?
The Lions, after all, had dropped 19 in a row – and were led by a rookie quarterback playing in his third NFL game. Getting beaten by a team like that is pretty bad, right?
Well, yeah, but … If Detroit winds up winning, say, four games, will the loss look much worse for the Redskins than the one in Cincinnati last December? (The Bengals, remember, were 1-11-1 at the time – and wound up finishing 4-11-1.)
Besides, if we’re talking about the Worst Redskins Loss Ever, how can it not be the stinker against the Cowboys in 1989 – at RFK Stadium, no less? That, for my money, was more indefensible than the Debacle in Detroit.
For one thing, it was Dallas’ lone victory that season. For another, the Cowboys were in the midst of a 2-26 stretch in which their only wins were over the Redskins. (The other, believe it or not, was in Washington, too.)
On top of that, the Redskins had won the Super Bowl just two years before – and would win it again two years later. But when the clock ran out, the scoreboard read: Dallas 13, Washington 3. The horror.
Here’s another beauty that’s been lost to the ages: Giants 13, Redskins 10 in 1966.
What makes this defeat particularly detestable is that (1) the Redskins were the only club the Giants (1-12-1) beat that season; and (2) six weeks later, the Redskins rang up 72 points on them – the second-highest total in NFL history.
How do you lose to a team with a defense that atrocious, a defense that also gave up 55 points to the Rams, 52 to the Cowboys and an average of 35.8 a game overall (the most in the last 60-odd years)?
The short answer: By letting Earl Morrall throw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Thomas with about four minutes left.
The ’89 Redskins, of course, were coached by Joe Gibbs, and the ’66 Redskins were quarterbacked by Sonny Jurgensen. So I ask you: Is it really that big a deal that Jim Zorn and Jason Campbell, neither of whom seems headed to Canton, were derailed by the lowly Lions?
Heck, in 1945, a year the Redskins went to the championship game, the Cardinals came to Griffith Stadium having dropped 31 of their last 32 (including 29 straight at one point, counting the season they merged with the Steelers). But on that Given Sunday, Sammy Baugh and Co. made the mistake of relaxing after building a three-touchdown lead and needed a last-minute field goal to escape with a 24-21 victory. Call it the Worst Near-Loss of All Time for the Redskins.
Interestingly, the Cards won the NFL title two years later. And that awful Cowboys club the Redskins lost to in ’89 was only three years away from the Super Bowl (and a 52-17 bludgeoning of the Bills). There’s no telling what the future holds for the Lions, but as we’ve seen, really bad teams can become really good really fast.
P.S. You might be wondering why I didn’t mention the infamous 1940 championship game, the 73-0 embarrassment against the Bears. It’s simple, really. The ‘40 Bears (Sid Luckman, George McAfee, Bulldog Turner et al.) were arguably the greatest collection of talent the NFL has ever seen. Had World War II not come along, they might have won seven consecutive titles. (They won four as it was.) A truly horrible loss requires a truly horrible opponent.