- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 27, 2008

It’s tough to figure what the right move is for the Redskins when they play a meaningless final game of the season Sunday in San Francisco against the 49ers.

Is it really that important to go 9-7 instead of 8-8 when it doesn’t change your plane ticket’s destination after the game? You’re going home, no matter what.

Logically, a lesser record gives a team a better draft position and could lead to an easier schedule.

But mentally, it may be important for the Redskins to close out the season on a two-game winning streak rather than pack their bags early and treat it as a glorified preseason game.

This week, Redskins coach Jim Zorn echoed Herm Edwards’ sentiment that you play to win the game. He will be looking to finish 9-7 and won’t be doing any auditions for next year.

“I’m not going to experiment,” Zorn said. “We can experiment during the preseason.”

The 49ers are three-point favorites, a nod to home-field advantage. San Francisco won’t be playing for anything either, other than the proverbial sense of pride and this notion that ending on a winning note can carry over to the first game of the next season.

But historically, the Redskins are good at winning season finales. And if the result of this game has little meaning, why not introduce some meaningless statistics to give this game the perspective it deserves?

Over the course of the Redskins’ history, they are 43-31-2 in season finales. That’s not bad, considering the stretch run of losing seasons this team had in various periods. They are pretty good finishers.

Now, 22 of those final regular-season wins were followed up with a trip to the playoffs. Many were not necessarily must-wins to reach the postseason, but those finales were not distractions to players’ get-out-of-town plans.

Even when the season finale meant the season was over, the Redskins have compiled a winning record in those games, going 27-25-2.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out which coach was the best finisher - Joe Gibbs, of course, in both of his coaching stints. The first time round, Gibbs’ teams were 9-3 in the final game of the year. In his most recent tenure, his teams won three of the four final regular-season games they played.

This may surprise you, but do you know who the second-best finishing coach is in Redskins history? Norv Turner.

He may have been a losing coach during his seven seasons here with a 49-59 mark, but Turner could coach his players up for the final game of the season, when his teams went 5-1. He didn’t get a chance to coach the season finale in his final year; he was fired with three games to go in 2000. But Terry Robiskie stood in for Turner to win that one - his lone victory coaching the Redskins.

George Allen was 4-3 in season-enders. Joe Kuharich won four of his five regular-season finales during the 1950s. Ray Flaherty, who led the Redskins to two titles with Sammy Baugh at quarterback, was 5-2 to end regular seasons.

The great Vince Lombardi, in his lone season coaching the Redskins in 1969, lost his final game 20-10 to Dallas. Marty Schottenheimer won his final game in 2001, beating Arizona 20-17 before getting fired.

We don’t know yet what kind of finisher Zorn is as a head coach since this will be his first chance. But as a quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, Zorn could get the troops fired up enough to win - not an easy task for some of those Seahawks teams. Zorn started the season finale from 1976 through 1981, winning four of those six games.

Do these records mean anything? Are the Redskins a strong season-ending team? If so, what good does that do them?

Here’s what a win Sunday for Washington will mean - a 44-31-2 record in season finales. They can close a show, even a bad one.

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