Hail to the Redskins? Sorry, folks, not this season. Again. Throughout their 70 years as a Washington institution, the Redskins usually have been very good or very bad.
Very good: Five divisional titles and three NFL championships from 1937 to 1945.
Very bad: Zero playoff appearances from 1946 to 1970, mostly because of their lily-white team complexion before 1962.
Very good. Seven straight winning seasons and one Super Bowl trip from 1971 to 1978; four Super Bowls and three Lombardi trophies from 1982 to 1991.
Very bad, mostly anyway, from 1993 to …
My, how time flies when you’re not having fun.
Not even the return of the sainted Joe Gibbs has made a permanent difference in the ongoing descent. Two seasons ago, when the Redskins advanced from 6-10 to 10-6, it appeared not-so-boyish-anymore owner Dan Snyder finally had made the right coaching decision.
But last year’s pathetic plummet to 5-11 was a slap in everybody’s face — especially those true believers who paint their faces and their hearts burgundy and gold each autumn and fill FedEx Field to its capacity of 91,000 eight times a season.
This time around, Gregg Williams’ defense looks solid despite a statistical dropoff in 2006. But the best thing about the offense seems not to be that Jason Campbell is the starting quarterback. It’s that limp-armed Mark Brunell isn’t.
It’s easy to imagine the following dialogue when Brunell was the starter during 2005 and the first half of last season.
Gibbs: “Mark, on the next series, go long.”
Brunell: “How’s that, Coach — did you say, ‘So long?’ “
We could only wish.
Even if Campbell turns out to be a bigger flop than Heath Shuler, he’ll come cheaper than the grossly overpaid Brunell. And of course, Danny boy can use the money he saves to buy more radio stations and theme parks.
When it comes to sheer arrogance, Snyder seems to be a clone of George Preston Marshall, the District laundry owner and impresario who founded the Redskins in 1932 as the Boston Braves. GPM had a couple of good ideas in 1937: first, to move his team from Beantown to Washington and, second, to draft Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Sammy Baugh from TCU.
After that, though, most of George’s ideas were rotten. For years, he refused to employ black athletes because the Redskins had radio and TV networks throughout the South — a brainless bit of bigotry that turned his team from one of the NFL’s best to one of its worst.
Even when the Redskins were winning, Marshall was a loser. For most of his reign, he changed coaches about as often as he changed underwear. And in November 1940, after the Redskins beat the mighty Bears 7-3, George ran his tater trap about how the so-called Monsters of the Midway were overrated.
A couple of weeks later, in the NFL title game at Washington’s old Griffith Stadium, the same digits appeared in a somewhat different configuration.
Bears 73, Redskins 0.
Or as the Redskins still list it most evocatively in their media guide: 73-to-ohhh!
I’m surprised Snyder hasn’t expurgated that score from his team’s history. Then again, he might not even know the NFL existed in 1940.
The Redskins won’t lose a game that badly this season — but they’ll lose a lot of games by more respectable margins.
In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they lose enough games to send Joe Gibbs skedaddling back to NASCAR one year before his contract expires. Then Snyder could toss several million, or billion, bucks at Bill Cowher to become his latest coaching boy toy.
As a Redskins observer of too many decades, I’d like to predict nothing but good things between now and Super Sunday — but that would be like wishing for all the nation’s politicians to develop laryngitis. It ain’t gonna happen, baby.
Hail to the Redskins?
Sorry, folks, not this season.