My relationship with the Washington Redskins is a tricky one.
Like I’ve said before, I’m a lifelong fan. But that doesn’t mean it’s always been rainbows and lollipops.
Sure, the team won three Super Bowls before I was even old enough to drive, but that only set me up for the decades of heartache and despair that have followed.
You see your hometown team win that many games in breathtaking fashion and you’re bound to let your guard down.
It’s not like being a Cleveland Browns fan. They’ve sucked as two different franchises since day one, so if they were my team I’d simply be resigned to the mediocrity.
But watching Joe Gibbs and the Hogs and the Fun Bunch and Riggo and everyone else dominate convinced me at an impressionable age that my beloved Redskins would always reign supreme.
Then Gibbs retired. And Jack Kent Cooke passed away. And all hell broke loose.
After qualifying for the playoffs in eight of 11 seasons from 1982-1992, the Redskins have advanced to the postseason just three times in the last 17 seasons.
Sadly, none of those three playoff runs had any real chance of ending with [insert name of Redskins player here] looking into a camera all euphoric like and saying, "I’m going to Disney World!"
It was just enough to make me remember how awesome those glory days truly were.
These days, if I’m being honest, I feel like that chick from that Pearl Jam song who can’t find a better man. Everyone else knows I’m in an abusive relationship, and when I’m all alone and have had a drink (or two) I might even admit it to myself, but I know I’m not ever going anywhere.
For better or worse, the Redskins are my team. But here’s the thing, when it comes to professional sports, there are a few characteristics I really feel strongly that my favorite teams should possess.
Patience. Stability. Dedication. Forward thinking. Long-term vision.
None of it is groundbreaking, but that doesn’t mean they’re automatics. Especially when it comes to the Redskins.
Patience means not panicking and overpaying for ill-fitted Jason Taylor when Phillip Daniels goes down on the first day of training camp. It means not giving up multiple draft picks for T.J. Duckett because Clinton Portis is on the shelf. It even means resisting the urge to gas up the jet on the first day of free agency for the shiniest toy on the market.
(Seriously, read that last sentence again. The Redskins over the last decade have officially become one of those "Black Friday" shoppers we all hate. Only they arrive at the Wal-Mart in a jet and think they can jump to the front of the line because they’re willing to pay 10 times the amount anyone else will for an iPad or Tickle Me Elmo. I’d say more, but it’s hard to type through the tears.)
Of course, stability comes from having continuity at key positions. If you’re bringing in a new head coach or defensive coordinator every other year, then it’s tough to establish any real sense of stability.
Dedication is what Steve Spurrier was allergic to. Ditto for Albert Haynesworth.
Forward thinking and long-term vision involves valuing the draft and stockpiling picks so that when a key player goes down (like, for example, Chris Samuels and/or Randy Thomas last year on the offensive line), there’s already someone in-house (not named Stephon Heyer or Chad Rinehart) capable of stepping in and filling the void.
Again, when it comes to running a sports franchise, these are a few of my favorite things.
Take, for example, the Washington Capitals.
A few years back, they made the conscious decision to blow up the roster because management felt they were good enough to qualify for the playoffs, but never really had a chance to win anything.
Fans were unhappy because it meant that name players such as Peter Bondra and Olaf Kolzig were shown the door, but owner Ted Leonsis and general manager George McPhee preached patience and promised it’d all be worth it once the team was "built the right way."
A few years later, the Caps are considered one of the premiere teams in hockey. That’s what smart drafting, solid scouting and a little luck landed them.
The roster is now littered with talent and depth, so much so that the Hershey Bears, the Caps’ minor league affiliate, has won back-to-back championships. They’re built to compete annually, rather than hoping to back into the playoffs with a .500 record.
That’s the stark difference between the mindset of the Capitals and the Redskins. One team is only concerned about winning now, while the other would like to win now, but is also mindful of the road ahead.
But here’s the thing – even though the Redskins continue to do business in a manner I thoroughly object to, I always find a way to talk myself into it.
I love draft picks. Always have. They represent hope because you never know when a sixth-round pick can turn into Tom Brady or a seventh-rounder can become Donald Driver, T.J. Houshmanzadeh or Marques Colston.
The Redskins, on the other hand, seem to believe the draft is a waste of time. Rookies need coaching. They need babysitters. They might not pan out. Why even bother preparing for the draft if that pick is just going to translate to Anthony Montgomery, Jordan Palmer or Taylor Jacobs? They’d much rather trade away a pick for a proven commodity.
Critics argue that typically those veteran players’ best days are behind them and the player the Redskins get are a shell of their former selves by the time they don the burgundy and gold.
The team’s response: "Yeah, but you’ve heard of them and you can buy their jersey from our team store for $79.99!"
And even though I should know better, I still find myself believing that Donovan McNabb will step in and immediately return this franchise to the glory days I dream of. I say moronic things like, "They stole Jammal Brown from the Saints for what? I’d have thrown in an extra second rounder just so I could sleep with myself at night."
It’s as if I lose all common sense and rationality when it comes to the Redskins.
Albert Einstein (or as Joe Theismann called him, Norman Einstein) famously said, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."
And while you might think that quote is intended for the Redskins, it’s actually meant for fans like me.
I’ve seen the blueprint of how successful franchises are built and I know the Redskins are bad for my health and sanity because they refuse to go that route. And yet, at the end of the day, I still believe in my heart that they’re one move away from returning to greatness.
Even through all of the flaws, I still see what first drew me to them.
"Can't find a better man."