Three years ago the Redskins opened up with an ugly win over the Bears and then played horribly in Dallas for 55 minutes before lightning in the form of Brunell to Moss struck twice and the Redskins pulled out an improbable win. After a ridiculously early bye week they beat Seattle in overtime before dropping one in Kansas City.
Last year an awful Dolphins team took the Redskins to overtime before the Redskins won. In Philly the next week, it took a late goal-line stand to preserve a win that it seemed the Redskins should have locked up much earlier. Their first loss came the next week when they blew a lead and then failed to finish a comeback against the Giants. After another early bye, they waxed the Lions at home.
We all know what happened during the middle half of those two seasons under Joe Gibbs. Two wins and six losses, pushing the team to the brink of playoff elimination. Some losses were agonizingly close (36-35 to the Bucs in '05, 17-16 to the Bills last year) and some were blowouts (36-0 in the Meadowlands, 52-7 in Foxboro).
Both of those seasons the Redskins managed to put together playoff runs that are the stuff that legends are made of. But you'd rather be spending December fighting for home field advantage and not for survival.
Is there any reason to believe that this year will be different?
The big difference is, of course, that Jim Zorn is coaching the team rather than Gibbs. It would be folly to suggest that Zorn is the superior coach. But he may—may—be a better coach for this team right now. It's possible that his style is more suited to the modern game than was Gibbs' style.
But we don't know yet. Gibbs coached 248 regular-season games and another 24 games in the playoffs. Zorn has coached four.
Certainly, it looks like the Redskins have the opportunity to avoid the swoon this year, at least in the second quarter of the season. After a tough road trip to Philadelphia, they face three teams with a combined record of 1-10. If they take care of business against Cleveland, Detroit, and St. Louis they will be no worse than 6-2.
The Redskins haven't made a habit of taking care of business against bad teams, however. Look at the '05 loss to the Raiders or last year's heartbreaker against the Bills for evidence of that. Even the wins over the dregs of the league often have been shaky (ref. OT wins vs. Dolphins and Jets last year). If the Redskins can go 3-0 against the bottom feeders this year and do so in dominating fashion, we will have some concrete evidence that something exceptional may be in the air.
The true test will come in November when Dallas, Pittsburgh, and the Giants come to town and the Skins pay a visit to Seattle. But that's getting a little ahead of things.
The same media folks that buried the Redskins after the opener are making them one of the teams to beat after the win in Dallas. They were jumping to conclusions in early September and they're in a rush to judgment again in early October.
The advice here is enjoy what's happening now but take a deep breath, relax, and wait another month to see if we have something truly special here or if it's a rerun from seasons past.
Rich Tandler blogs about the Skins at RealRedskins.com and he is the author of the upcoming book The Redskins Chronicle. You can reach Rich by email at firstname.lastname@example.org