- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 9, 2001

Say this for the Redskins: They're making history. It's just not the kind of history Dan Snyder envisioned when he forked over $800 million for the franchise two years ago.
A quick check of various reference books suggests the Redskins are off to the worst four-game start the NFL has ever seen. Worse than the first four games of the expansion Tampa Bay Bucs in '76. Worse than the first four games of the expansion Cleveland Browns in '99. Worse than the first four games of any expansion team you'd care to mention, including the how quickly we forget 0-11-1 Dallas Cowboys in 1960.
In losses to the Chargers, Packers, Chiefs and Giants, the Redskins have been outscored by 110 points, 135-25. No modern NFL team, as near as I can determine, has ever been outscored by that much in its first four games. Not even the '61 Oakland Raiders, who got clobbered 55-0 and 44-0 in Weeks 1 and 2. The Raiders, coached by Marty Feldman no, not that Marty Feldman actually won their fourth game that season (33-19 over the nearly-as-hapless Denver Broncos).
I tried to find a club that had had a worse first month than the Redskins, I really did. In the '40s, I came across the '43 Brooklyn Dodgers, who were shut out yes, shut out in their first four games. Alas, they were outscored by only 91 points during that stretch. In the '70s, I came across the '74 Colts, who were so horrendous that their coach, Howard Schnellenberger, was fired in the middle of the third game. Unfortunately, they were outscored by a mere 96 through four games.
I also checked out all the winless and nearly winless teams in NFL annals the '42 Lions (outscored in their first four by 79 points), the '52 Dallas Texans (69), the '67 Falcons (99), the '71 Bills (89), the '80 Saints (36), the '96 Jets (55). None of them, however, stumbled out of the blocks quite as badly as the current Redskins.
"What's so frustrating," Dan Wilkinson said yesterday, "is that [a lot of us have] been together for a while now. It's like training for the Olympics for four years and then finishing in last place. Heck, you could have not trained at all and finished in last place."
The club that comes closest to matching the Redskins' accomplishments, interestingly enough, is the 1950 Baltimore Colts the original Colts. (Today's Colts, Colts II, were born in '53). Talk about a hopeless case. The Rams ran up 70 points on them twice that year once in the preseason and, just to show it wasn't a fluke, a second time in the regular season.
The '50 Colts were owned by a fellow named Abe Watner, whose football I.Q. or lack thereof rivaled Dan Snyder's. One of the linemen on the team, a future governor of Massachusetts, summed up Abe pretty well. "Mr. Watner," Ed King said, "ventured into football not realizing that players eat a lot of food."
Among other business interests, Watner ran a cemetery. (Friends would accuse him jokingly, of course of digging up his own players.) He was quite a character, a veritable quote machine. After the exhibition debacle against the Rams, he told this story (as related by John Steadman in "The Baltimore Colts Story"):
"I wanted the Colts to win so much that I called upon my Maker and asked him to intercede. That night I went to bed and had a dream. It came to me just as clearly Colts 21, Rams 0. I thought this was one dream that would surely come true. I felt so sure about it that I sent a telegram back to Baltimore to a friend. By gosh, the Colts were going to win, I told him. But then when the game was over, I looked up at the scoreboard and saw the result. It was Rams 70, Colts 21. The Good Lord had slipped me a seven."
In their first four games, the '50 Colts were outscored by 107 points, just a field goal shy of the deficit built up by this year's Redskins. And it's not as if the Baltimore roster was devoid of talent; in fact, the team had two quarterbacks Y.A. Tittle and Adrian Burk who would later throw seven touchdown passes in a game (something that has been done only five times in league history).
Things didn't end well for Watner's Wonders. By the final week, the Colts had only 25 men in uniform, the league minimum, and their coach, Clem Crowe, never did get paid for the month of December (or so he claimed). A 51-14 loss to the New York Yanks before a sparse crowd of 5,003 left the Colts with a 1-11 record, after which the team folded and the players were dispersed.
The NFL is too stable, too prosperous for that to happen nowadays to the Redskins or anyone else. More's the pity.

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