By Derek Gardner
A Season to Remember, in a Year Worth Forgetting
It’s December 30th, 2020 and the Washington Football Team is staring down the barrel of an NFC East Division title with total control of their own destiny. Not many people can claim they saw this coming and it be the truth. In fact, we were supposed to be picking around the top 5, and a lot of people thought we would be in contention for Trevor Lawrence at no. 1 overall. Welp….
This team is aligned with a matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles, a team they’ve already beat this year. A team that is starting a rookie QB, Jalen Hurtz. A team that has already been eliminated from contention. Will they play their starters? Will they look to get everyone out alive? Does it matter? I’ll get back to that in a minute.
To understand exactly how unlikely this scenario is, I think a total picture needs to be painted.
December 29, 2019 – Washington is defeated 47 – 16 by the Dallas Cowboys in the final game of a 3 – 13 season. At this point we have no HC. We have no GM. We have no direction.
December 31, 2019 – Ron Rivera is announced as the next Head Coach of the Washington Redskins. The team is going to take a ‘coach centric’ approach, and all things football will pass through Ron Rivera. He has first say, final say, the buck stops here.
Today marks 1 year from the shift we experienced that has been followed by events that nobody would consider to be an easy road. We’ve had Ron Rivera diagnosed (and deemed free from) cancer. We’ve had a national movement against our team name resulting in it ultimately being retired and rebranded. We’ve seen MULTIPLE allegations of wrong doing against our owner including sexual misconduct, these same allegations resulting in the dismissal of multiple high ranking members of the front office. This subsequently shifting the front office in a whole new direction bringing us the likes of Jason Wright and Julie Donaldson. In early August as the season approaches, we then get rocked with the news that our fan beloved RB has committed an act of domestic violence and has been arrested. He was quickly released. We had our All Pro LT speak out against our franchise, essentially demanding a trade, and our Pro Bowl CB that has greatly underachieved has found himself no longer owning the confidence of the HC that drafted him. Neither guy is still here. We also had our All Pro SS go down with an Achilles injury, benched our 1st round QB (twice) and watched our 2nd string QB destroy his ankle.
We then saw Alex Smith, who in his own right has overcome one of the most devastating injuries experience by a professional athlete, make his back onto the field when very few… ahem, me, ahem.. people ever thought it was even possible. Oh yeah… there’s that pesky little thing call Covid, that has taken rocked our entire planet while forcing our team to work without an offseason, in person meetings, training camp, or preseason, and has greatly reduced the ability for these players to get together. We then watched our 1st round pick QB completely destroy his own career, and he happens to be currently walking the streets.
To say that we have had our fair share of obstacles would not be doing the situation justice. But here we are. Here… we… are. How did we get here? I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up some of the SHINING spots that have emerged to get us here. Chase Young, potential Defensive Rookie of the Year. Antonio Gibson, potential Offensive Rookie of the Year if he doesn’t get turf toe. Kendall Fuller, Ronald Darby, Terry McLaurin, The whole defensive line, Logan Thomas, Alex Smith, Kyle Smith! In no particular order. Does anyone here know who John Matsko is? That’s our O-line coach. That guy deserves as much credit as anyone does. He’s taken a group and stuck them together with bubble gum and duct tape, turning them into a serviceable unit. A unit that is not a liability… not a strength! But not a liability.
Statistically on defense we have one of the better units in football! 4th in total Yards per game. 3rd in Passing and 12th in Rushing. 5th in Points per game. Jack Del Rio… atta boy! 6th in total sacks, 3rd in opposing QBR, 7th in 3rd down %, 14th in Time of Possession! We were DEAD LAST in TOP last season on defense, just sayin. We have an identity. Something we’ve been missing for a long time. We have plenty of room for improvement on Offense, but you can’t fix THIS team in 1 offseason, but if you can get this close to fixing 1 side of the ball? We have a plan!
Back to that little thing of a game we have this upcoming weekend against the Eagles. The Eagles have lost 6 of their last 7 games including just getting blown out by the team we beat down twice this year (haha Cowboys). We are not only looking at a game we ‘need’ to win in order to move on, we’re looking at a game we ‘should’ win. This, THIS is the true test for Rivera and co. In years past, we’ve lost this game. The team has come out flat, and we’ve failed to show up. We’ve watched our season disappear to a team that we have no reason to lose to. We fall victim to the team playing spoiler. Someday they may write a book, do a 30 for 30, or make a movie about the ‘2020 Washington Football Team and hopefully, Sunday is just another chapter of a season to remember, in a year worth forgetting.