- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 4, 2001

Fortunately, Redskins fans are used to this used to getting a glimpse of paradise, only to have it snatched away. A five-game victory run halted by a home loss to the last-place Cowboys? Just the latest labor pain for a team that has been seeking rebirth for can it be? almost a decade now.
There have been all kinds of false alarms since Joe Gibbs went NASCAR on us after the '92 season. I distinctly remember a 7-1 start in '96 followed by a 2-6, out-of-the-playoffs finish. I also seem to recall a 6-2 start last year followed by another 2-6, out-of-the-playoffs finish. Then there was that 6-4 start in '97 … before Gus Frerotte decided to take on a stadium wall.
We've been conditioned around here to expect a turn for the worse, even when things are going swimmingly for the home team. Can you blame us? How many times can a Redskins rooter allow his hopes to be trampled like so many Napa Valley grapes? It's a matter of self-preservation, if not sanity. It's also, when you stop and think about it, the percentage move. Certainly Marty Schottenheimer, a man who would rather punt than buck the odds of trying to boot a 51-yard field goal into the wind, can appreciate that.
Where is all this leading, you ask? To this: Boy, rebuilding sure can take a while in the NFL. And the Redskins are hardly the only team in such circumstances. The Cowboys, six years removed from their last Super Bowl victory, are looking at their third straight non-winning season with no end in sight. The Bears, a postseason participant just once since Mike Ditka departed in '93, are only now getting their cleats back under them. (Though I'm not convinced that a 9-2 record featuring seven wins by a touchdown or less makes them A Major Player again.)
Another recent powerhouse, Buffalo, is in a 1-10 free-fall and might not be heard from again for many years. Indeed, among the titans of the '80s and '90s, only San Francisco has managed to avoid the agony of a lengthy recession. The 49ers were lousy for two seasons 4-12 in '99, 6-10 last year but now they're 9-2 and scoring points in their usual bunches again. This, despite releasing a still-functional Jerry Rice (54 catches, 739, and seven touchdowns for Oakland).
It's an interesting development, to say the least and hardly foreseen. After all, free agency was supposed to help clubs rebuild faster, wasn't it? Yes, it meant that dynasties probably wouldn't last as long (because the best teams would be plundered of talent), but it also promised to shorten everyone's "down" time. Nobody would have to "build through the draft" any more at least, not exclusively.
But that, of course, isn't quite the way it has worked. The Redskins have spent as freely as any club, and what has it gotten them? Bupkus, pretty much. And since the franchise still doesn't have a long-term answer at quarterback, it might be years away from total recovery.
The Cowboys are in similar straits. Quincy Carter, Anthony Wright, Clint Stoerner, Ryan Leaf, Carter again every week a different QB is taking the snaps for them. Undone by the cap and their owner's runaway ego (sound familiar?), they, too, may not be back in the Super Bowl anytime soon.
"It's a process [you go through]," Bruce Smith said of the trials and fibrillations of turning things around. "We've lost one game in our last six, don't forget that. There's a great deal of parity in this league. You're going to lose games. I don't care what the Cowboys' record is, they've still got some talented people on that team. They've got some very speedy guys at wide receiver, Emmitt [Smith] has still got a little left in his tank, and they've got a very big and aggressive offensive line."
Still, it's hard to feel the Redskins are making significant progress after watching them get pushed around by Dallas. Oh, they're better than they were back in September, but what kind of club loses at home to a 2-8 team quarterbacked by a rookie starting his third game? Especially when it has control, more or less, of its postseason destiny? A good club takes care of business in that situation. A less-than-good club gets knocked off the ball all day long, as the Redskins did.
But then, we've seen it all before, almost too many times to count. It's eight years now since the Redskins fell from their lofty perch, and all the owner's resources and all the owner's men haven't been able to put them together again.

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