Redskins Vs. Cowboys: For Redskins Veterans, Winning An NFC East Title Was 'A Long Time Coming'

USA TODAY Sports

For the Redskins veterans who have been around to experience past losing seasons, Sunday's victory over the Cowboys was especially sweet.

LANDOVER, MD - When the game was won, the NFC East title secured, and the delirious FedEx Field crowd of 82,845 sang "Hail to the Redskins" in full exaltation, Santana Moss was only thinking about one thing while standing along the Washington sideline.

"Dance," he said with a laugh. "I just [wanted] to dance. I don't know how to...I just was happy, man. "

Perhaps there is no better prism with which to view the Redskins' first division championship since 1999 than through the eyes of a player such as Moss. The veteran wideout has seen and lived through many of the things that had made the Redskins a struggling franchise for much of the last decade. He's seen ineffective offenses. He's seen countless in-season and offseason drama. He's seen multiple coaching changes. And most all, he's seen plenty of losing seasons.

But after a 28-18 victory Sunday night over the arch-rival Dallas Cowboys, he and other Redskins veterans were presented with a new reality: Being division champions.

"Just to be here as long as I have," Moss said, "and to be fighting as long as I've been fighting, it feels good to just finally get over that hump."

He wasn't alone with that sentiment. The victorious postgame locker room saw other Redskins veterans who were willing to take a step back and reflect on their journey from being a perennial last place team to suddenly being atop the NFC East.

"It's been a long time coming," said linebacker London Fletcher, who has been with the team since 2007. "To give us a division title, which hasn't happened here [in a long time]....it makes it that much sweeter."

"I've been here through 4-12 seasons and the bad times and almost being the joke of the NFL," added defensive lineman Kedric Golston. "I was thinking before this game about some of the great players that I've played with and how I'm [lucky] to enjoy this as much as I am. With the Cornelius Griffin's and Randy Thomas' and those guys that did a lot for this organization and didn't get a chance to experience this... I'm looking to have them be a part of this and thinking about all that this organization has been through the last ten years. It's good to be here."

What the organization used to be over the last decade was a veteran-laden team built mostly on high priced free agents, the majority of which were on the wrong side of 30.

But now, these Redskins -- the new Redskins -- are a blend of youth and experience, old-school and new-school, grit and glamour. For every big name player such as quarterback Robert Griffin III, who has rapidly become one of the faces of the NFL, there are an equal number of players like Alfred Morris, who most fans never heard of during training camp.

Name recognition or not, Mike Shanahan's stable of young players came together at the right time, and in doing so, learned how to win in the division most experts consider the toughest in all of football.

"I was nine years old in 1999," said Griffin. "I stand before you at 22 and the Redskins are the NFC East Champions. To me, it's just incredible. I was talking to Alfred after the game [about how] this has been the first time the Redskins have been the [NFC East] champion since 1999 and we came in here and did it in one year."

And while the long term pieces of the Redskins puzzle hope Sunday's victory was the start of a new era of division success, the few holdovers from the Joe Gibbs and Jim Zorn-led teams still wanted to make sure the new kids knew just how special their accomplishment was Sunday night.

As the clock was winding down and the Redskins were preparing to put on their "NFC East Champions" hats, Moss approached his quarterback on the victorious sideline for a heart-to-heart meeting.

"[Moss] echoed what most of the veterans have said," Griffin said of his sideline conversation with Moss. "That I haven't been here for the long haul yet, neither has Alfred, or a bunch of the rookies, but those veterans appreciate what we have been able to do this year, and what we have been able to do since the bye week. They have been through some harsh times and some bad times. He thanked me, and I never want to take credit for anything, but he said I brought the team there. He appreciated that and that we were going to keep it rolling."

The next step for this Redskins team begins next Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks, where the majority of the roster will be exposed to the pressures of playoff football for the very first time. And as they do, it'll be the players who're the remnants of the old guard -- of the way things used to be for this organization -- that won't take for granted what it took to get them there.

"You put so much into this," said Moss. "To accomplish nothing, sometimes you got to sit and think and wonder [if you ever will succeed]. To finally have the run that we have, we'll enjoy it. But I realize that we're closer than we've ever been."

For more Redskins coverage, follow Daniel on Twitter at @dshif .Also, be sure to check out SB Nation's Redskins blog, Hogs Haven, as well as SB Nation's NFL hub

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