- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 7, 2005

So it’s time for the once almighty Redskins to open the season?Yawn! For the first time in 34 years, the burgundy-and-gold brigade faces some real sporting competition in its hometown — from the gritty Washington Nationals, of course. The presence of a baseball team, combined with the Redskins’ overall 80-111-1 record since 1993, might be enough to make all but the biggest loyalists stuff their pig snouts in the garbage.

Let’s face it, folks: The Redskins ain’t what they used to be during Gibbs I, when they were winning three Super Bowls and owner Jack Kent Cooke was telling one and all how much he loved his boy Joe.

Tom Wolfe might have had it right about going home again. Following the euphoria surrounding Gibbs’ return in January 2004, last season’s 6-10 record was the biggest downer imaginable.

Was it Casey Stengel, baseball’s legendary Ol’ Perfessor, who said after winning another World Series, “I couldn’t of done it without the players”? Well Joe Gibbs can’t do it without the players, either — returning the Redskins to respectability, that is.

Unless Patrick Ramsey or Jason Campbell turns into a latter-day Sonny Jurgensen, Clinton Portis shows he can break more than one long TD run a season and Santana Moss turns out to be Randy Moss, I don’t see the Redskins scoring enough points to win consistently this season. Gregg Williams can field the NFL’s best defense — which his 2004 edition nearly was — and all it will mean is that the Redskins will lose a mess of low-scoring games.

Like most quarterbacks, Ramsey is the key. In his fourth NFL season, will he emerge finally as the heir to Baugh/Jurgensen/Theismann or to Heath Shuler?

(By the way, I understand Heath Shuler may run for Congress in North Carolina. If elected, do you suppose he’ll overthrow the House?)

During nearly 80 years in Washington, the Redskins have alternated very good stretches (1937-45, 1971-77, 1982-92) with very bad (1949-68, 1993-2004). Considering the current drought is merely 12 years old, we have a way to go before matching the 25 seasons (1946-70) when they appeared in exactly no postseason games).

As long as Dan Snyder is running the show, I figure we have a shot.

Or, putting it another way: AAUUGGHH!

As most Redskins fans know, Squire Cooke ran his football team in the best way possible — by hiring the best people he could find (Gibbs, Bobby Beathard, Charley Casserly), telling them to win or else, and then standing back and letting them do their thing.

Billionaire club owners really should have only two jobs: writing checks and accepting championship trophies. Everything else should be handled by people who know what they’re doing.

George Steinbrenner finally realized a decade or so ago that Joe Torre knew more about baseball than he did. Snyder and Peter Angelos, to name two hard-headed losers, have yet to learn their lessons. But perhaps there’s hope, after all, for Danny Boy. Maybe he’ll succeed in his bid to buy the Six Flags theme park and concentrate on making the water slides longer or something.

Snyder is not the first Redskins owner to sabotage his team and coaches through sheer obstinacy. Consider George Preston Marshall, the laundry owner and showman who founded the team as the Boston Braves in 1932 and enjoyed great success after transferring it to D.C. five years later.

With Hall of Fame passer Sammy Baugh turning defenders into human confetti, the Redskins won five divisional titles and two NFL championships their first nine years in the nation’s capital.

Some “historians” would have you believe nobody cared about the NFL until Johnny Unitas and the Baltimore Colts sudden-deathed the New York Giants in the so-called Greatest Game Ever Played in 1958. But long before that, 30,000 fans packed old Griffith Stadium six or seven times a year to watch the Redskins mangle opponents like the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Bulldogs and (during World War II) a hybrid and horrible outfit memorably named the Phil-Pitt Steagles.

Then the music stopped, even though the team’s band continued to tootle “Hail to the Redskins” at every opportunity. There was an evil omen during the 1945 NFL championship game in frigid weather when Baugh’s pass from his end zone hit the goal post for what was then an automatic safety. Final score: Cleveland Rams 15, Redskins 14.

The Redskins were the South’s only NFL team; when television began running our lives in the late 1940s, making all of Dixie potential fan territory. When the NFL integrated in 1946, Marshall slammed the door shut for fear of offending this constituency. So while black players filled prominent roles on every other team, the Redskins remained lily-white losers. This sorry social episode ended in 1961 when Interior Secretary Stewart Udall told Marshall a segregated team could not use spanking new, federally funded D.C. (later RFK) Stadium.

Even during good times, the Redskins could be incredibly bad. The worst example was their incredible 73-0 loss to the Chicago Bears in the 1940 NFL title game, during which a dim-witted Griffith Stadium’s P.A. announcer intoned, “Season tickets for 1941 will go on sale tomorrow …”

Understandably, he never got to finish the sentence as the boos, and undoubtedly the booze, flowed.

Sixty-five years later, the Redskins won’t lose any games that badly — they’ll just lose. From here, it looks like a 5-11 season that might chase Joe Gibbs back to NASCAR. Too bad.

Like we said: Yawn!

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