The Washington Redskins looked like a real professional football team in their 23-17 win over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday afternoon, catching many of us by surprise. The team that showed up in Seattle was somehow different from the Redskins team that had lost its previous six games. They were clearly motivated, and I don't think the motivation was due only to the pushing and shoving that preceded the opening coin toss.
They were motivated because they were playing for their jobs. And because these players, unlike many of their fans, still want to win as many games as possible. They played on Sunday like they had something to prove, and perhaps they were right. Perhaps they proved it.
We're not going to get ahead of ourselves though. Beating a four-win team is certainly not a predictor of any future results, especially not when the Redskins have upcoming games against the New York Jets, New England Patriots, and New York Giants. Those are three potential playoff teams. And the Redskins are not a playoff team. At least not this year.
What we saw from the Redskins on Sunday though was a hint that that may be changing soon. These Washington Redskins might be a playoff team before you know it.
Mike Shanahan's record as head coach of the Redskins might be far closer to disappointing than impressive, but the team has shown significant improvements at times, in several different areas. The defense has gone from being ranked 31st overall a year ago to 11th now. They're giving up only 20.2 points per game, and as the team completes its shift from a 4-3 to a 3-4, they're only going to get better. The Redskins have successfully introduced Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen
Jenkins may not have played a single down this season due to his preseason injury, but his selection in the 2011 NFL Draft is already seen as nearly a success. Getting Jenkins back in training camp next season will be like having an extra second round pick.
But Jenkins isn't the only rookie who will be a big part of Shanahan's plans going forward. Ryan Kerrigan leads the team with four forced fumbles, and is tied with Brian Orakpo for the team lead in sacks with six. Oh yeah, and of course an interception for a touchdown. Kerrigan is going to be a star. And so too maybe is Roy Helu, who has looked to be by far Washington's best running back of the three that have earned starts at one point this season. Helu will be the unquestioned starter for the near future, a position that he's rightfully earned.
By this time next year, the Redskins will be in playoff contention. Led by Helu and whoever Shanahan decides to draft to fill the quarterback position in 2012, the offense will continue improving in addition to the defense. By this time next year, they could be closer to the league's elite than the league's worst.
By this time next year, that six-game losing streak will seem like a distant memory; something we can all look back at and laugh.
And the division just might be swinging in the Redskins' favor. By this time next year, the Philadelphia Eagles and their head coach Judd Harbaugh (Jim and Jeff's lesser-known cousin) will be the ones scouting out potential first round quarterbacks in the following year's draft as their $100 Million experiment known as Michael Vick continues to look like a failure.
Football has no guarantees, obviously. Plenty could go wrong for the Redskins in the next 12 months. But it's important to note that we could be staring at the light and the end of the tunnel for this team. If the improvements continue, we could be seeing the very very earliest early stages of a 2012 playoff run.
For more on the Redskins, please visit Hogs Haven, SB Nation's Redskins blog. For more on the Seahawks, please visit SB Nation Seattle and Field Gulls, SB Nation's Seahawks blog. For coverage of Sunday's Redskins/Seahawks matchup, please visit this StoryStream.