Sunday, November 1, 2009

Washington Redskins... Your Decade is Over

This season, whenever I believe a team is eliminated from the playoffs, thus making their season (and decade) over, I will write their obituary.

Today I present to you the Washington Redskins of the 00's.

Because of their success winning Super Bowls in both the 1980's and 90's, it's no shock that the Washington Redskins, their fans, and new owner Daniel Snyder expected no different for the start of a new decade. Especially since the 1999 Redskins went 10-6, en route to a division championship and advancement to the NFC Divisional playoffs. In the 2000 draft, the Redskins used the third overall selection to pick up tackle Chris Samuels out of Alabama. Without a doubt, the Redskins entered 2000 looking to become a force in the NFC.

The 2000 season got off to an interesting start for the Washington Redskins. Head Coach Norv Turner had been the teams commander in chief since the 1994 season, and despite ever developing a Quarterback, Turner had moderate success. Still, Turner was the head coach of the old regime, and with a new owner in Daniel Snyder, Turner was on a very short leash.

Helping Turner's odds was Quarterback Brad Johnson, a smart QB who passed for over 4,000 yards in 1999, earning himself a Pro Bowl selection that made Johnson Redskin QB to do so since Mark Rypien in 1993.

Things looked good for the Redskins after a Monday Night win in week 12 @ St. Louis. The 'Skins were 7-4 with the schedule that favored them to win at least three more times to get back into the NFC playoffs. But after back to back losses to the Eagles and Giants in Washington, Snyder fired Norv Turner. At the time it showed the fan base that losing would not be tolerated in Washington. Fans were relatively supportive.

Losses at Dallas and Pittsburgh followed before the Redskins won their season finale against the Cardinals. A once promising 2000 season turned into an 8-8 season, but a changing of the guard in Washington projected positive things for the rest of the decade.

For the 2001 season the Redskins hired Marty Schottenheimer to take over as head coach. Brad Johnson left Washington as a free agent and signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; the Redskins would trust in veteran Quarterback Jeff George to lead the team back to the playoffs and improve on the 8-8 record the team managed in 2000.

Schottenheimer and the Redskins started the season as poorly as you could start a season. After an 0-2 start, the team benched George in favor of QB Tony Banks. The team coninued to lose and after a week 5 9-7 Monday Night loss to Dallas, the Redskins season seemed over.

Then the unthinkable happened. The Redskins became the first team to win five straight games after losing their first five games. At 5-5, the Redskins were suddenly back in the hunt for the NFC playoffs. A second loss to the cowboys, complemented with a losses to the Eagles and Bears in Washington, forced the Cardinals into another 8-8 record, narrowly missing the playoffs.

Although the 8-8 record wasn't what fans expected, there was a lot of positives for the Redskins and their fans to take into the offseason. For Marty Schottenheimer the offseason lasted a week as he was fired by Snyder in order to make way for Steve Spurrier, a former QB for the University of Florida and the Tampa Bay Bucaneers; as well as a head coach for the USFL's Tampa Bay Bandits and the University of Florida Gators. Spurrier was possibly the most high profile Head Coach in all of college, and Snyder couldn't resist firing Schottenheimer in order to secure Spurrier as his head coach.

Spurrier came to the Redskins looking to bring his Florida offense to the NFL. In the offseason he manuevered the Redskins to acquire former University of Florida QB's Shane Matthews and Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerfell.

Expectations were enourmous for the 2002 Washington Redskins, but after a 3-4 start things began to look bleak. Wuerfell took over the team but could barely get them to a 5-6 record. Instead of rolling with Wuerffel who was 2-2 with a completion perfectenage of 63%, the team transitioned to Patrick Ramsey who they drafted in the first round. Ramsey would lose his first three games a pro before winning his final two. Once again the Redskins would finish with an average record with enormous expecations for 2003.

Although Redskins fans were somewhat confident that Patrick Ramsey would develop into a legitimate professional quarterback, some insult to injury was added with QB Brad Johnson helped the Buccaneers win Super Bowl XXXVII in his second season with the team.

For the first time in the decade the 2003 Redskins entered the season with some continuity. Both Steve Spurrier and Patrick Ramsey were back and the Redskins looked to compete with the Eagles for the NFC East division title.

Helping the Redskins chances for a championship in 2003 were the many offseason acquisitions the team picked up. From the New York Jets alone the team acquired WR Laveranues Coles, Chad Morton, and John Hall. The team also picked up high profile running back Trung Canidate to replace Stephen Davis who left for Carolina.

The 2003 season began promising for the Redskins as the team picked up wins again two division winners from the season before; the Jets and Falcons. At 2-0 the team was looking great in the eyes of critics and power rankings makers alike, but what people failed to take into account was that the two wins came by a combined 5 points, and both teams lost their franchise QB's in the preseason. A week 3 loss to the Giants would bring the team down to earth.

In week 4 the team picked up an impressive win as Spurrier and Ramsey helped orchestrate the final loss the Patriots would have in the 2003 season. At 3-1, most people saw the Spurrier-Ramsey Redskins in the playoffs, but four straight losses would put those ideas to rest. Entering week 12 the team was 4-6 and it seemed obvious that if the team were to lose one more game Spurrier would be gone.

Not only did the Redskins lose their week 12 contest at Miami, but the team also lost Patrick Ramsey for the season. Tim Hasslebeck would take over as QB and bring the Redskins to a 1-4 record in five starts; finishing the Redskins 2003 season at 5-11. In their final three games under Spurrier, the 'Skins were outscored 85-31.

Throughout Washington people wondered whether or not Spurrier would be fired. Daniel Snyder believed in Spurriers plan, so it was unknown whether he would fire Spurrier or give him one more chance. Spurrier opted otherwise, resigning from the head coaching position after the 2003 regular season.

For the 2004 season the Redskins handed their franchise back to Hall of Fame head coach Joe Gibbs. Through the 1980s and 1990's, Gibbs guided the Redskins to three Super Bowl victorys. Gibbs also built a reputation for building tough, smash-mouth football teams that controlled the ball, played tough defense, and minimized mistakes. "No Frills" players like Doug Williams, Mark Rypien, Earnest Byner, Art Monk, Gerald Riggs, and John Riggins made themselves Pro Bowlers in Gibbs's system, while players like Dave Butz and Mark Murphy controlled the 'Skins defense. Teams constructed of personalities like that brough the Gibbs Redskins to 4 Super Bowls in 10 years, winning 3.

Those were the glory years of the Washington Redskins franchise, and in hiring Gibbs, Daniel Snyder looked to bring that feeling back to the Redskins. The 2004 Redskins also made moves to give Gibbs a more "Gibbs-like" team, as opposed to the Florida infested Spurrier team. The Redskins used their #5 overall draft pick to select defensive back Sean Taylor out of Miami; and hit a home run with their third round draft pick when they selected Tight End Chris Cooley. The Redskins also traded their elite defensive back Champ Bailey to Denver for Clinton Portis, a strong running back. The final move the Redskins made to prepare for their 2005 season was to trade for veteran QB Mark Brunell; a move that put the writing on the wall for Patrick Ramsey's career in Washington.

Brunell and Gibbs didn't quite work out how the Redskins had planned. After a 3-6 start, the Redskins benched Brunell in favor of Ramsey. Haunting the Redskins was that 5 of their six losses were decided by one score or less, and the Redskins passing game was easily to blame.

Ramsey and the Redskins would finish stronger than Brunell's version began, but a 6-10 record was all the 2004 Redskins were able to obtain. Gibbs closed the 2004 chapter of Redskins history proclaiming that Patrick Ramsey would be the teams QB for the 2005 season; however, the Redskins would also use a first round pick to draft Quarterback Jason Campbell, a sign that Ramsey and Brunell's leash was getting even shorter.

Week 1 began a win over the Chicago Bears, but the Redskins lost Ramsey for "significant time." Mark Brunell would step into the QB role and perform beautifully, passing for over 3,000 yards, 23 TD's, and only 10 interceptions. Brunell would also help guide the Redskins to a 10-6 record and bring the Redskins back to the playoffs as a Wild Card team.

Wide Receiver Santana Moss highlighted the improvement of the Redskins offense in 2005, earning himself a spot in that years Pro Bowl. Running back Clinton Portis proved the trade was worth it for the Redskins, complementing 1,700 yards from scrimmage with 11 touchdowns. Defensive Back Sean Taylor also showed strong progression in his second season in the league,. Suddenly, the Washington Redskins were not only back in the playoffs, but had a promising future to look forward to.

The Redskins would go on the road for their first playoff game in 2005 and defeat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It was a defensive struggle, and Sean Taylor's first quarter fumble return for a Touchdown would be the games clincher. The Redskins would win 17-10 and advance to play the Seattle, where the Redskins season would end in a 20-10 loss.

The 2006 Redskins had a lot to look forward to, but it became clear early on that Mark Brunell's Cinderella story was about to turn back into a pumpkin. After a 3-6 start, Gibbs decided to make the permanent move to Jason Campbell. Things were'nt going to be easy for Campbell, with veteran backup Ladell Betts filling in for an injured Clinton Portis. Campbell would perform somewhat impressive in his season, though the redskins would finish 2-5 to end the season 5-11.

Once again, Sean Taylor highlighted the season, with three forced fumbles, and over 100 total tackles on the season, earning himself a spot in the Pro Bowl. At age 23, Taylor had already established himself as one of the best players in the NFL on the defensive side of the ball, and it seemed as though if the Redskins were going to improve in 2007, Taylor was going to be a major part of the solution. Though he was a bit of nuisance off the field in his first three seasons, the 2006 offseason showed signs of a turnaround for Taylor, as he finally showed signs of personal maturation.

The Redskins entered 2007 looking to stick with Jason Campbell. Portis was healthy, and the defense with the additions of London Fletcher and LeRon Landry was looking to ferment into a championship contender. After a week 12 loss however, the Redskins fell to 5-6, and those championship hopes seemed to die. Then, the unthinkable happened.

On November 27, 2007 Sean Taylor was murdered inside of his Miami home. At the time, Taylor was in the middle of his best season, despite an injury, acquiring an NFC leading five interceptions. The Washington Redskins were unsure how to handle losing not only a teammate and leader, but a close friend as well. The Redskins would lose their next game falling to 5-7. Then something strange happened; the Redskins managed to attack the most brutal part of their schedule with 4 consecutive wins, despite losing QB Jason Campbell to injury. Veteran QB Todd Collins took over the team and did a great job, putting up 5 TD's and 0 INT's in 3 games, all wins. As if Taylor's memory was guiding them, the Redskins were back in the playoffs.

On December 18 of that season, Taylor was selected to his second consecutive Pro Bowl. During the game, all of Taylor's fellow Redskins wore Taylor's number 21 to honor him.

The Redskins entered the 2007 playoffs heading to familiar grounds, Seattle, where the teams 2005 run ended. This time however, the Redskins were the more confident team, as well at the hotter team. The Skins fell behind 13-0 to end the first half, but were able to put together quick back-to-back TD drives in the 4th quarter to go up 14-13. Suddenly that same magic that graced the teams December had returned. But when Matt Hasslebeck connected with DJ Hackett for a 20 yard TD, things began to come apart for the Redskins. 14 more points off of interceptions would seal the 2007 Redskins fate. Just like 2005, the season would end in Seattle.

Three days after the first round playoff loss, Gibbs retired from the Redskins for the second time, and after a controversial coach hiring process, former Seahawks Quarterback Jim Zorn was hired as the team's Head Coach. The hiring was considered controversial because initially Zorn was brought in as the team's new offensive coordinator. It wasn't until mid February, and an inability to get a "real" coach that Snyder announced Zorn as his head coach, forcing Zorn to leap from QB coach in Seattle to head coach in Washington.

Zorn entered 2008 with the task of not only developing franchise QB Jason Campbell, but also playing the roles of both head coach and offensive coordinator. Through week 8 however, Zorn not only looked like he was up to the task, he looked as if he'd exceed it. A 6-2 Redskins would lose to the Steelers in week 9 and enter their bye week 6-3.

At that point in the 2008 season, it was a question of "if" the Redskins would be in the playoffs, it was whether or not the team would overcome the Giants for the division crown. Zorn had developed Campbell into a "midseason MVP" according to many, and a home game gainst Dallas awaited the Redskins after their bye.

The Redskins would lose that home game, but had a "big" win the next week against a pesky Seattle team in Seattle. The Redskins would host the Giants the following week in a game that had huge playoff implications.

The Redskins would be unable to hold it together though; they'd go on to get killed the next two weeks against the Giants and at the Ravens. A home game in January was out of the question, but with a schedule that feature contests with a 2 teams with no playoff hopes, things looked good for the Redskins to win 10 and make it to the playoffs.

That wouldn't happen though, the Redskins would lose @ Cincinnati and San Francisco, but win the sandwich game against an Eagles team that ended up making the playoffs. The Redskins 2008 collapse would be as embarrassing as it was monumental. Still the team sent four players, Cooley, Portis, fullback Mike Sellers, and left tackle Chris Samuels to the Pro Bowl. With a talented roster, the Redskins looked to make it back to the playoffs in 2009.

But 2009 never stood a chance. Lead by the same core of Zorn, Campbell, Portis, and Moss, the 2009 Washington Redskins have failed to ever come close to looking impressive. Through the teams first seven games they've yet to score over 17 points, and have given four separate teams their first wins of 2009. After a week 6 loss, the team rid Zorn of his play calling duties, a move that has guaranteed the coaches demise after the season. QB Jason Campbell has look as though his decision making skills have digressed, while backup Todd Collins is now 38, and standout college QB Colt Brennan ended up on the IR in training camp.

The Redskins of 00's made dozens of high profile moves. They signed huge free agents like Albert Haynesworth in 2009. They've brought in high profile names like Mark Brunell, Jason Taylor, London Fletcher, Clinton Portis, Santana Moss, Antwaan Randle El, Laveranues Coles, DeAngelo Hall, Andre Carter; even high profile kickers like John Hall and Hunter Smith. Still, for all the money spent the only thing the Redskins of the 00's proved was that all Daniel Snyder's money could buy is mediocrity and an unhappy fan base.

Looking forward the Redskins will probably retool for the new decade. It's probable the team will give up on QB Jason Campbell. Santana Moss and Clinton Portis are growing old in their Pro Bowl careers. The Redskins will need to develop new superstars at the skill positions if they look to make progress in the new decade.

More so, it's time for Daniel Snyder to finally come down to earth. If Snyder wants to see his product develop into a winner, he should take a page out of "Successful Sports Owner Handbook" and hire a savvy GM who will make the right moves to develop the Washington Redskins into a Super Bowl team.

Until then, chances are this team will stay in the basement of the NFC East.

MVP of the Decade: Chris Samuels

Notable Players: Sean Taylor, Rocky McIntosh, Mark Brunell, Clinton Portis, Jason Campbell, Santana Moss, Mike Sellers, Chris Cooley, Chris Samuels, Carlos Rogers, Ethan Albright, Ladell Betts, Marcus Washington, LaVar Arrington, Patrick Ramsey, Rod Gardner, Todd Collins, Champ Bailey, Stephen Davis

Throwback Jersey That Will Be Cool in 15 Years: 2007 Sean Taylor

No comments:

Post a Comment