- The Washington Times
Monday, December 27, 2021

Sunday night’s loss may not have been the worst in Washington Football Team history. But it’s up there.

“They embarrassed us,” fumed Brian Mitchell, the former Washington great-turned-NFL commentator who still bleeds Burgundy and Gold.

Mitchell’s anger was part of an outpouring of disgust, disappointment and despair online and on the airwaves among Washington fans after a demoralizing 56-14 beatdown at the hands of the hated Dallas Cowboys.

The aftermath felt like more than just another loss. There was a tinge of hopelessness in the reactions of many, especially those who had bought into the hope that coach Ron Rivera represented a consequential change in the team’s direction, a long-overdue step toward respectability for a franchise that has careened from mistake to embarrassment to scandal and over again for more than two decades under owner Dan Snyder

During and after the game, the Cowboys — an 11-4 team that is competing for the top seed in the NFC and looks to be a true Super Bowl contender — weren’t the focal point of most viewers’ attention. Instead, it was “Redskins” and “Dan Snyder” that were trending on Twitter — with most tweets mocking the team and its embattled owner.

Washington changed its name from Redskins to Football Team because it was offensive to Native Americans. It’s time to change the name again because it’s offensive to football teams,” wrote one fan on Twitter.

“Not only did Dan Snyder completely destroy a franchise taking it from the highest stadium attendance to the worst, but he‘s tainted the records of 3 coaches who reached the Super Bowl: Rivera, Shanahan & Gibbs,” tweeted another fan.

The disappointment of Sunday’s loss started before the game even began, when some broadcasters noted that the team had brought with them to Dallas their new customized, heated benches — which for some fans have become a symbol of what they see as the franchise’s consistently misplaced priorities.

“Benchgate” started this month when Dallas brought its own heated benches to Landover for its road game against Washington — a 27-20 Cowboys victory that started the Burgundy and Gold’s three-game losing skid.

“Boy if Washington gets smoked tonight them benches will automatically be a hot topic lol,” wrote one fan on Twitter before the game.

Then, the game started, and the snowball started rolling downhill and never slowed. At one point, it seemed as if announcers Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth were struggling to come up with topics to fill the dead air around what had become a decidedly non-competitive game.

That is, until defensive linemen Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne got into a scuffle on the sidelines, with Payne getting in Allen’s face and poking him and Allen throwing a punch. 

“At least Washington brought their own benches for Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne to fight on,” NBC Sports’ Chase Hughes tweeted. 

On one hand, as the two former college teammates at Alabama explained after the game, “brothers fight.” On the other hand, the team was getting blown out on national television to its rival in a must-win game, and the sideline distraction was rock bottom for the 2021 Washington Football Team.

“Dallas was out there kicking our asses consistently, and we sat there and we took it, but we’re fighting our teammates,” Mr. Mitchell said during his two-minute meltdown after the game. “ … The enemy is the Blue and Silver, and we did no fighting against them.”

“That’s embarrassing for a football team,” Mr. Collinsworth said in one of his many denouncements of the fight during the broadcast. “That’s embarrassing for an organization to have something like that happen on your own bench.”

The 42 points Dallas scored in the first half — including four Dak Prescott touchdown passes, an Ezekiel Elliott rushing score and a defensive touchdown — was seven away from the NFL regular-season record (49 by the Packers against the winless Buccaneers in 1983).

But it wasn’t the most Washington has allowed in a half, with the only game worse also being in primetime. In 2010, the Michael Vick-led Philadelphia Eagles put up 45 in the first half against the Burgundy and Gold in a game that was later dubbed the “Monday Night Massacre.”

Washington lost that game 59-28, and the 59 points allowed was the second-highest in franchise history behind a game that remains the organization’s largest regular-season defeat — a 62-3 loss to Cleveland in 1954. Washington also lost to the Bears 73-0 in the 1940 championship game. 

The 42-point loss to the Cowboys on Sunday was the sixth-worst regular-season defeat in Washington history. But since the AFL-NFL merger in 1966, only one Washington loss has been more lopsided — a 52-7 beating administered by New England in 2007. Tom Brady threw for three touchdowns and ran for two in that game, giving the Patriots their eighth win of what would turn out to be an undefeated regular season.

The defeat was the worst a Rivera-led team has taken in his 171 career regular season games between Carolina and Washington. It also clinched Washington’s fifth straight losing season, the 14th losing season of the 23-year Snyder era and the eighth losing season of Rivera’s 11-year coaching career.

“A culture change coach with a history of losing … just give him 3-5 more years,” wrote local radio host Brendan Darr sarcastically on Twitter.

The fan base has become accustomed to losing in the last two decades. But Sunday’s loss — from the false hopes of a playoff berth being ripped away to the fight on the bench to the fact that it was on national television for 13 million people to see — seemed to strike another chord.

“Never believe. Never have faith,” radio host Eric Bickel tweeted.

“It’s pointless.”

Correction: A previous version of this story did not include the team’s 73-0 loss to the Bears in the 1940 championship game. 

• Jacob Calvin Meyer can be reached at jmeyer@washingtontimes.com.

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