My earliest memory of the Redskins is not a good one. I was 9 years old and trying to go to sleep. The radio in the next room crackled with a news bulletin. That's how we used to get our news. The Redskins, we were informed, had fired coach Bill McPeak.
This was 1965 when the team decided McPeak's career mark of 21-46-3 didn't merit another season. It made me cry, because I thought that meant there wouldn't be any more Redskins.
"No," my dad explained, "it just means they finally figured out they still aren't any good."
There's been a lot of that with the Redskins, whose history can be summed up simply: A lot of mediocrity with one pretty good stretch and one really good stretch. Those two stretches were a long time ago. A generation has grown up without being able to remember when the Skins were one of the NFL's dominant teams nearly every year.
Are the Redskins moving in that direction again? Are they developing the staying power to be a Super Bowl contender every year for a decent stretch?
Could be, and anyone who thinks this town is Redskins-crazy now ought to see what it's like when the Skins are consistently good. Nuts doesn't begin to describe it.
Let's start by defining staying power as maintaining a status as a legitimate championship contender. Lots of teams get to good. Few get to very good.
The Skins were good in the 1970s when George Allen was in charge. He had an impressive 67-30-1 record. He made the playoffs five times and the Super Bowl once (losing to Miami). But that Super Bowl season was the only one when he won a playoff game. His overall playoff mark was 2-5.
We bow down to the greatness of Joe Gibbs, in his first stint as coach, for leading the Skins to their only real stretch of sustained staying power. His overall mark from 1981-92 was 124-60, not as high a winning percentage as Allen. But check out that playoff mark — Gibbs was 16-5. Washington made four Super Bowls under Gibbs and won three of them. His teams made it to the playoffs eight times and went only one-and-done once. Every year, Washington was mentioned as a Super Bowl contender.
Since Gibbs retired, the team has made the playoffs only four times, and two of those came when he made a four-year return to the sidelines. Washington has won exactly two playoff games since the Gibbs I era ended.
Today, the New England Patriots are the Gibbs-like scion of staying power. Yes, the Baltimore Ravens have the longest active playoff streak at five seasons. But New England has been consistently excellent for more than a decade. The only time New England hasn't made the playoffs since 2003 came in the 2008 season when it won 11 games. The Patriots have been to five Super Bowls since 2001. They've won three.
What other teams belong on the list? The Ravens do, and maybe the Packers because they have the game's best quarterback (for now) in Aaron Rodgers. The 49ers may be moving in that direction, along with the Seahawks.
It's premature to say so definitively but not premature to think, yeah, maybe.
They went one-and-done in their first playoff appearance under Mike Shanahan, losing at home to Seattle in a game where the biggest memory was franchise savior Robert Griffin III crumpled on the ground with a severe knee injury late in the fourth quarter. RG3 has now had the ACL in that right knee redone twice, the first time when he was quarterbacking at Baylor. The status of that knee is always going to be the little storm cloud hanging over this team. The Redskins are being overly cautious, which is a good thing, trying to do all they can to keep him from hurting it again. Another injury might take an eraser to any hopes of staying power.
Assuming the health of RG3, there's a lot to like about the Skins. They've put some very good weapons around the offense and they protect him with a still-developing offensive line that is better than people seem to think (when healthy, but you can say that about everything in football). The defense has some concerns in the secondary, but the front should be quite good.
The annual cry used to be that making the playoffs would be great. That can safely be changed to a mindset that not making the playoffs would be a disappointment.
But the Super Bowl? This season? Let's not get carried away. That would be great, but not making it shouldn't be considered a disappointment. Not this year anyway. Maybe soon. The Redskins seem to be moving in the right direction. Staying power, missing since the 1980s, may well be about to return.
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