PHILADELPHIA The Washington Redskins have resurrected their season and made history.
The Redskins beat the Philadelphia Eagles 13-3 yesterday for their fifth straight victory after an 0-5 start that appeared to doom their season and jeopardized the job of first-year coach Marty Schottenheimer.
The Redskins are the first team in National Football League history to win five straight after starting 0-5. And they could become the first to go to the playoffs after an 0-5 start. Despite being an underdog in every game this season, the Redskins stand a game behind the NFC East-leading Eagles.
Of course, that’s not the way Schottenheimer sees it.
“We’re .500,” Schottenheimer said with a shrug. “We’ll move forward from here.”
In that manner, the Redskins coach and director of football operations continues to remain utterly even-keel. Throughout the 0-5 start and 5-0 run, he showed no public signs of dwelling on failure or of celebrating success.
“People get tired of hearing me say this, but I really never look beyond the next game,” Schottenheimer said. “It’s one game at a time, and I know that’s boring, but that’s the way we do it.”
The team appears to have adopted Schottenheimer’s blue-collar image. A gang of veteran free agents with the highest payroll in NFL history last year, the Redskins now are a mix of old and young players, of high-profile stars and no-name overachievers.
“This is not a team with a lot of glitz and glamour,” linebacker Eddie Mason said. “It’s just a hard-working, tough-nosed team.”
The key to the turnaround has been the players’ increased trust in Schottenheimer. Early on, they weren’t comfortable with his style a style that included a difficult training camp and a decided lack of star treatment but over time both sides made concessions. Things started to turn for the better during team meetings a day after the Sept. 30 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, which dropped Washington to 0-3. The Redskins were outscored 112-16 in those three games.
“It’s fun to go to work now. I think that all started when we had that team meeting,” defensive end Bruce Smith said. “There were some mistakes made in the past, and we were able to talk about those mistakes and move forward. That’s what we’ve done. We haven’t looked back. We’ve moved forward, and there seems to be an open line of communication now.”
In the coaches-and-players portion of the Oct. 1 meetings, Schottenheimer acknowledged that he hadn’t communicated well enough, while in the players-only sessions there was a pledge of renewed dedication.
“There’s a better attitude,” offensive tackle Chris Samuels said. “A lot of people were griping they don’t like this, and they don’t like that. But everybody just got on the same page after that meeting, and things have just turned around since then.”
The Redskins lost the next two games after the meetings, although they were competitive in both. First, Washington hung with the defending NFC champion New York Giants on the road the score was 9-9 in the fourth quarter before falling 23-9. Then running back Stephen Davis fumbled away a win in the final moments of a 9-7 loss at Dallas.
Washington didn’t play well through most of its next game, Oct. 21 against the Carolina Panthers, but linebacker LaVar Arrington sparked a rally with a 67-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Tony Banks, who replaced Jeff George as the starter in Week 3, then made big plays in the victory.
The Redskins built momentum with two more home wins Oct. 21 against the Giants and Oct. 28 against the Seattle Seahawks. After their bye week, observers figured Washington had to go at least 1-1 at Denver and Philadelphia to retain its playoff hopes. Instead, the Redskins won both for a stunning turnaround.