Meet the new Washington Redskins. They have names like Rex Grossman and Jammal Brown; Niles Paul and Sav Rocca. But are they the same as the old Redskins?
Boy I hope not.
But after an entire preseason that was refreshingly free of drama and two victories in which the Redskins looked like the better team and still actually managed to win, it’s hard not to make comparisons between the Redskins team that lost 18-16 to the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football and the other Redskins teams of the past decade that have given away so many winnable games.
In their earlier wins over the New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals, the Redskins offense looked confident and competent. Grossman was moving the ball consistently, finding open receivers with regularity and without difficulty. He was making Fred Davis and Santana Moss look like stars. There was never a moment in the second half in which we doubted the Redskins’ ability to score points to secure the win. Likewise, there was no doubt that the defense could make one last stop when necessary.
So what changed in Dallas?
Without any warning, the Redskins somehow reverted instantaneously to their old ways. Questionable play calls? Oh yeah, we got those. Botched snaps? Sure, why not. Wasting opportunities and giving away a winnable game? That’s just Redskins football!
Most Redskins fans went into the 2011 season without significantly high hopes for a successful year. Grossman? Beck? Who cares. Our team always seemed likely to miss the playoffs, and likely to be held back by the quarterback position. And even though Grossman appears so far to be an upgrade over an aging Donovan McNabb (as Minnesota Vikings fans are quickly learning), he’s still Grossman. The Kyle Shanahan offense is said to be specifically designed for a player of Grossman’s tendencies. Unfortunately against the Cowboys, we found out that those tendencies still include a propensity to throw passes into a crowd of opposing defenders in the center of the field, and to fumble away all hope of a late game comeback when everything is on the line.
All this leads us to believe that Grossman isn’t quite the quarterback we’ve been waiting for after all these years. He’s a different-looking Jason Campbell. A younger Mark Brunell.
Now, what was it we were saying about a lack of drama? The quiet locker room suddenly got loud following the Redskins’ loss to the Cowboys, with DeAngelo Hall going off on his defensive coordinator about the decision to rush eight defenders on a third-and-21 play that could have decided the game in Washington’s favor.
Hello drama. Welcome back. We didn’t miss you.
The Redskins are 2-1 and tied for the lead in the NFC East. It’s not a bad spot to be in. With a visit to the St. Louis Rams, that record could quite possibly turn into 3-1 in short order. The Rams have by far the worst statistical rushing defense in the league. Tim Hightower is probably salivating already. Entering the bye week in first place seems like a realistic possibility for Mike Shanahan and the Redskins.
But if this is the same old Redskins team that we’ve gotten used to watching this past decade, penciling in a win before the final snap is never advisable. Before the Monday night loss, fans of the Redskins thought they could look at that game with confidence. Because the new Redskins beat teams that are beatable. But the old Redskins didn’t.
So which Redskins are these?