Bill Callahan, the Washington Redskins “interim” head coach, said he was “disappointed in how we performed,” particularly since they had two weeks to prepare to face the 2-7 New York Jets at Ghost Town Field.
“I expected more from our players,” Callahan said.
Redskins fans didn’t. They haven’t seen their team win a home game since Oct. 21, 2018. They pretty much expected what happened Sunday — a 34-17 loss to the Jets.
That’s why they stayed away from Ghost Town Field, even though the prized young first-round rookie quarterback, Dwayne Haskins, was making his first start before the hometown crowd. After all, he played high school football just a few miles away from this stadium at the Bullis School.
You would think the prospect of seeing the team’s future at quarterback would generate some level of enthusiasm. But at game time tickets were going for pennies on the dollar, and there weren’t many willing to spend those pennies.
When journeyman John Beck made his first home start in place of Rex Grossman in 2011, the official attendance was 78,032. And Beck had lost his first two starts on the road. I know this was the age of the inflated attendance, but the Brian Lafemina era of transparency has come and gone, and we are back to the delusional turnstiles.
The official “paid” attendance Sunday was reported quietly at 56,426 — not announced in the press box as has been the tradition, but instead listed on the game summary, at the bottom of the page.
That was a fairy tale. There were perhaps 30,000 people at Ghost Town Field Sunday, and at least one-third of them were Jets fans.
When Daniel Brown caught New York’s first touchdown pass on their first drive four minutes into the game, there were Jets fans seated next to the field to welcome him as he jumped into the stands to celebrate. When former Redskins receiver Jamison Crowder caught a 29-yard touchdown pass from Sam Darnold early in the fourth quarter, there were Jets fans there in the stands to celebrate with him as he made his leap.
This is not news. It’s a familiar story, the empty seats and the visiting fans at Ghost Town Field. But the cumulative effect of bad football under Dan Snyder’s ownership — a 140-187-1 record — may be causing permanent damage to this franchise. This team is 1-9, with three more home games left to play.
Who is going to come watch this Redskins team play the Detroit Lions on Sunday?
Who is going to build a stadium for a team that draws 30,000 fans a game? Jeff Bezos? Please. His company is called Amazon — not the Salvation Army.
You know what happens to teams with chronic attendance problems that sink so low to draw 30,000 fans for home games? They move.
No one is suggesting the Redskins are heading for London. In fact, this franchise isn’t likely going anywhere — not the District, not Virginia. You can have their tombstone shipped to Landover, Maryland, the home of Ghost Town Field present and future.
Meanwhile, right up the road, Maryland’s other NFL team is enjoying yet another resurgence (two Super Bowls and counting while Snyder’s reign of terror has been going on in Washington), with the league’s biggest star, Lamar Jackson, leading the way.
The Ravens demolished the Houston Texans and Deshaun Watson 41-7 before a packed house of 70,731 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. The contrast has perhaps never been greater, and if you don’t think that is clear to football fans in this region, you’re kidding yourselves.
Stores that sell NFL merchandise not just in suburban Maryland, but in Northern Virginia as well prominently display Ravens gear next to the often-discounted Redskins jerseys.
A new No. 1 rookie quarterback is expected to move the needle, both on the field and at the cash register. Haskins has not registered much in either category. He completed 19 of 35 passes Sunday for 214 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, with most of those offensive numbers compiled when the game was out of reach (he was 9 of 13 for 52 yards in the first half, when New York led 20-3). He was also sacked six times for losses of 43 yards.
At one point, Haskins could be seen in an animated conversation on the sideline with his bench. “Biggest thing with that is trying to figure out the urgency,” he said. “You have to play the game with some passion.”
If there is no sense of urgency on the field for this team, there should at least be one in their business offices.
Despite Haskins’ questions about urgency, Callahan insisted the team hasn’t given up on the season. “I don’t see any quitting in that locker room from our players,” he said.
He should turn around and look in the stands. Redskins fans have been quitting in droves.
Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings and on the Kevin Sheehan podcast Tuesdays and Thursdays.