Friday, January 4, 2008

Endgame: Washington Redskins



The NFL Playoffs are at hand. As such, Alex and Zac will be revisiting all twelve playoff teams, the characters that have made it to the final chapter in this season's story, and digging deeper to find out just who they've become having arrived at this point. Today, Zac takes a look at the Washington Redskins.

“I've never tried to block out the memories of the past, even though some are painful. I don't understand people who hide from their past. Everything you live through helps to make you the person you are now.”
- Sophia Loren

If the Redskins were a song:

Puff Daddy – “I’ll Be Missing You”





To debate the impetus of the chemistry this team has shown over the last month would be stupid.

If the Redskins were a political figure:

Rudy Giuliani

Love him or hate him, the man helped hold a city together through one of the greatest American tragedies of all time.

If the Redskins were a vacation locale:

Graceland

It’s a place dedicated to death, but in an odd sense that death is cause for celebration of the life that came before it, bringing people together through the loss.

Who are the Washington Redskins?

I liked the possibility of the Redskins being the Visigoth army of this NFL season, rebelling against the long revered mores of football pundits. Long ridiculed for failing to plan for the future, the organization had somehow seemed to stumble on a way to succeed without chemistry early on in the season, turning a surprisingly efficient offense and a who’s who of defensive talent into an angry winning machine. This, like most pipe dreams, slipped away around midseason, and the team began to look like most teams without any unifying factor do: Disjointed, inconsistent, and unable to close out key games.

Then the unthinkable happened, and Sean Taylor was no longer with them.

I’m not going to tritely rationalize the Redskins incredible run at the end of the season as being solely the result of the death of one of their best players and most well known (and, internally, well liked) team members. This team had the talent to put this kind of streak together all along. What should be noted, however, is the way in which this team responded to their grief in the wake of Taylor’s loss. Having been an disjointed but highly capable squad before the tragedy, losing Taylor brought this team together in a way that I can’t begin to understand. What had once been the equivalent of a unit of mercenaries was now a group of well known talents who, although through no action of their own, had a common thread: Loss. The knowledge that only those in the Redskins locker room, would ever fully understand what losing Taylor’s presence meant to the team brought the team together in the last several weeks. Whether or not they had ever seen eye to eye before, each man in uniform could now look down the bench and see someone who understood what he was going through.

Maybe that common understanding, that little thread that ties together a team that had no such commonality before, is responsible for the way this team has looked over the last month. Maybe it’s the reason that Santana Moss is extending himself, figuratively and literally (the alligator arms are gone) more than he has all season long. Maybe it’s the reason that Clinton Portis seems to have found that extra gear he’d been missing. Collectively, this team looks like it’s playing for each other, rather than having every man fight for themselves, a tactic which worked early in the season but eventually failed.

As such, what once looked like an easy target in the playoffs is now too hot to safely bet against. Do I think that a team helmed by Todd Collins that has lost a perennial Pro Bowl player ought to go far in the playoffs? No, but I didn’t think they’d be here in the first place. This team is a top ten defensive squad though, and if their high yardage offense can find a way to put points on the board, I don’t see why we can’t give them the same chance that we’d give any other team on any given week.

That’s the beauty of the NFL playoffs: One game decides everything. Win just once, and it doesn’t matter whether you went 16-0 or 9-7, you live to play another week. Given the way this team has looked over the last month, and considering the fact that this team will have something tying them together that no one else can even understand, much less imitate, I don’t know any team in this field that they can’t feasibly beat. That makes them unpredictable, and that makes them very dangerous in a system where you can’t afford to be caught off guard for one game. In letting the Redskins claw their way into the playoffs, the league has given a puncher’s chance to a team throwing haymakers like it’s got nothing left to lose, because Lord knows they’ve lost so much already.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"This team had the talent to put this kind of streak together all along."

So true, and so so frustrating.