In this, their 80th anniversary season, the Washington Redskins are finally complete. At long last, they have a practice bubble. Doing without a practice bubble until 2012 is like traveling by train after the invention of the jet engine (though those parlor cars could be awfully comfy).
The inescapable logic of an indoor facility was probably best expressed by Bum Phillips, the former Houston Oilers coach, who famously said, “You can’t practice being miserable.”
Actually, the Redskins might be complete in another respect, too. As training camp begins Thursday in Ashburn, they find themselves with two commodities they’ve been lacking: one, a quarterback, and two, hope. Indeed, the hills of Twitter are alive with chirping about Robert Griffin III and the club’s prospects for this season. There might be more excitement about the Redskins this summer than there was in 2004, when Joe Gibbs put down his lug wrench and came back for a second term as coach.
And there should be. After all, Gibbs was a magician with X’s and O’s and a veritable Dr. Phil in his handling of players, but he couldn’t throw the deep out. RG3 can.
A few thoughts on Washington’s favorite team as the balls are being blown up and the Ace bandages neatly arranged in rows:
People will talk about all the pressure Griffin is under — as the Face of the Franchise and starting QB from the get-go — but, to me, it’s overstated. Steve Young following Joe Montana in San Francisco, that’s pressure. (Same with Aaron Rodgers filling Brett Favre’s cleats in Green Bay.) But the quarterbacking around here has been mostly crummy for two decades. RG3, in other words, has very little to live up to. It’s more a case of satisfying a fan base that’s desperate to win again. There’s a lot of pent-up frustration out there.
The thing I wonder about most with Griffin is burnout. He had an incredibly demanding offseason after winning the Heisman Trophy and being the second pick in the draft. And because he’d already graduated from Baylor, he spent more time working out with his new teammates and immersing himself in the playbook than most rookies do. At a certain point — say, December — he might hit a wall. I mean, the kid’s 22 years old. It’s definitely worth keeping an eye on.
(It also might be why the club is limiting his exposure to the media. If the club really wants to do him a favor, though, it should try to limit his exposure to DeMarcus Ware, Jason Pierre-Paul and Jason Babin. Those guys can do him considerably more damage than some sportswriter with a Mac.)
Forget about the Lombardi Trophy. The Redskins’ first order of business should be becoming the best organization in the NFC East. If they can accomplish that, the Super Bowls will take care of themselves.
This is easier said than done, of course. Since Dan Snyder bought the team in 1999, they’ve made three playoff appearances and had seven losing seasons. Compare that to the other clubs in the division:
Eagles — Nine playoff appearances (one loss in the Super Bowl), two losing seasons.
Giants — Seven playoff appearances (two Super Bowl wins), four losing seasons.
Cowboys — Five playoff appearances, five losing seasons.
It isn’t even close. And until the Redskins move up two or three rungs, their lot in life isn’t going to change.
* Well, Mike Shanahan’s roster is certainly younger. Thirtysomethings Jabar Gaffney, Donte Stallworth, O.J. Atogwe, Mike Sellers, Rex Grossman and John Beck are either gone or have been demoted (Grossman), and in their stead we have twentysomethings Pierre Garcon, Josh Morgan, Tanard Jackson and Griffin (among others). In the passing game, in particular, Shanny has made a raft of changes — at quarterback and possibly two wideout spots. How quickly it comes together is anybody’s guess. And that’s assuming Garcon and Morgan, the two splashiest free agent signings, are as good as the Redskins think they are.
In recent years, Redskins fans have almost had to hypnotize themselves into believing the team had a chance to win. Now that RG3 is on the scene, though, no such self-delusion is necessary. Nothing breeds optimism — and generalized craziness — like an electric young quarterback.
It tends to be forgotten that the Golden Years for the franchise weren’t the first Gibbs administration (1981-92), which produced three Lombardi trophies (and four Super Bowl trips). No, the Golden Years were the period from 1936 (the club’s last season in Boston) to ‘45, a decade that saw the Redskins reach the championship game six times (and win two).
The QB for all but the first year of that stretch was a fellow named Sammy Baugh. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. Baugh was a franchise quarterback before the term was even invented, and he helped turn the Redskins into a Washington institution. The team has been waiting 60 years to draft another Sammy, another shooting star it could latch onto and ride to the heavens. Griffin could be The One.
So, yeah, I guess this training camp might be a touch more interesting than last summer’s Grossman-Beck “shootout.” Bring it on.
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