Guest writer and longtime Skins fan Kevin Stroop stops by to give thanks before Sunday’s Redskins-Packers playoff game at FedEx Field.
This has to be one of the most unexpected division titles in Redskins history. As a fan, I am still in shock.
So how does this year feel different than the 2012 division title? Well, simply put, there were no expectations on this team this year. In 2012 there was a hint of optimism coming into the season. There was none of that this year.
We all remember the 2012 season and what that felt like. That second-half run to the playoffs and division title gave us a hint of what we thought was to come. The stadium in that week 17 game vs. Dallas was unlike anything I have ever felt. Euphoria doesn’t even begin to describe it.
We had invested so much in that team and expected so much that it felt like the payoff we deserved. We finally had a Super Bowl-winning coach and a game-changing franchise QB. Good times were ahead of us. Reality proved to be a lot different.
In 2015, we were still recovering from the aftermath of the 2012 season. The fans were apathetic. The team’s goals were simple: find out if they had a quarterback and show some improvement over last year’s four-win campaign.
Winning the division wasn’t even a consideration. For good reason, every single NFL prediction had the Redskins finishing in last place in the division. Vegas had them at 125-1 to win the Super Bowl and 15-1 to win the NFC East. Any sampling of NFL previews looked similar to this, from Bleacher Report:
This era of Washington football is dark and grim … General Manager Scot McCloughan has a long way ahead of him to rebuild this franchise, and [Jay] Gruden, while seemingly inept, appears to have job security heading into his sophomore season as the top dog. No one in Washington is thinking about laying it on the line for 2015. You shouldn’t be, either.
Earning the 2015 division title was a complete surprise. Clinching a division title in the NFL with eight wins is like finding $100 on the ground; you grab it and thank your lucky stars. Yes, the Redskins were fortunate to play in a bad division and they were fortunate to play only three teams with a winning record. But let’s not discount the team as pushovers.
They are 6-2 in their last eight games and also 6-2 at home. Kirk Cousins has put together an impressive string of games. The defense has come together and the Redskins have their key players on both sides of the ball playing well and staying healthy.
It’s not uncommon for a home team to defeat a team with a better record in the playoffs. And for all the talk about how bad the NFC East is, the Redskins were a respectable 5-5 out of the division.
Looking ahead, we do not know what 2016 will bring to this team. I think it is reasonable to assume the core will be back in Burgundy & Gold and we will eagerly anticipate the start of the season. There is no guarantee of a carryover to next season, though.
Occasionally, teams have this kind of year only to fade the next season. Look no further than the NFC East, where each team has won exactly two division titles in the last eight years, and no team has repeated as division champ since Philly in 2004.
In 2016, we may find out that Cousins is not a franchise QB. The team’s running woes may prove fatal. The defense may stink. The first-place schedule may bury them.
However, the NFC East should be there for the taking. Dallas should be better, but the Giants are doing Giants things, and the Eagles are recovering from the dumpster fire that is (was) Chip Kelly, so there is hope.
As for me, I am going to enjoy the ride this time, unburdened by expectations. I will be at the game on Sunday hoping for a win, but more than satisfied with the team if they lose. The enjoyment I’ve gotten from watching them this year has been found money, and I’m spending it without any regrets.