Monday, September 29, 2008

Hail to the Redskins!

As many of you know, I am a rabid Redskins fan, having followed the team intensely since I can remember. I still hold my season tickets, selling them to my cousin each year. My wife thinks I'm crazy, but someone should benefit from my 25 years on the waiting list.

You know that you're getting old when media coverage cites games 30 years ago that you can remember watching. One that is fresh in my mind is the Cowboys' 35-34 victory over the Redskins in 1979. I remember the Redskins blowing a late lead, then moving the ball into field goal position, unable to call a time-out as time expired. I still think they got hosed on that last call, but it really shouldn't have come to that. So, the day after a great victory in the Dallas-Washington rivalry, I reflect a little bit on why the NFC East is such a great division, like none other in football.

On Rivalry

While there are many great rivalries in the NFC East, Redskins-Cowboys is the marquee matchup in the NFL. Period. It compares with Yankees-Red Sox, Celtics-Lakers and Michigan-Ohio State. The rivalry will go in cycles, like all do, but the intensity and dislike for each other persists no matter what. Of course, it is at its best when division and NFC championships are at stake, but like any rivalry of this degree, throw out the records when these two teams play each other.

There are two other reasons rivalries are so intense in this division. First, the cities have a high degree of proximity, where fans and ex-pats regularly populate the other cities on game day or otherwise. Washington, DC is probably the best example of this geographic mobility, a melting pot of NFC East fans if you will. During the week, you work side by side with each other. On Sunday, for six games a year, you stand on opposite sidelines. There's a little bit of that here in Minnesota with Packer fans, but Bear and Lion fans are distinctly missing.

Second, the teams regularly compete for the NFL Championship. The Redskins, Giants and Cowboys have 11 Super Bowl Championships between them. Toss in 8 additional appearances between the Redskins, Cowboys, Giants and Eagles and the NFC East has represented the NFC in 45% of the Super Bowls contested. No other division or group of teams comes close to this total. It is a great division to be a part of.

More Musings on the Redskins

Name the team that has won the Super Bowl the year following a Giants Super Bowl victory? If you guessed Redskins, you are correct. Ironically, they beat the same opponent in consecutive years (Broncos and Bills). Is this a foreshadowing of a Washington victory over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIII? Probably not, but it’s a really eerie trend if it holds.

Both Peter King (SI) and Clark Judge (CBS) rank Washington in their Top 5 teams, along with New York, Tennessee, Buffalo and Dallas. While it's a long way from the finish, this recognition should give Washington fans hope that their team is not as bad as they envisioned, even if it is not yet as good as they want it to be.

Another shocking team consistently mentioned in the Top 5 is Buffalo. Does it feel like the early '90's all over again with the Bills 4-0? It's the first time since the K-Gun days with Kelly, Thomas and Reed leading one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL. I remember that we used to call it "disco" offense, but it seems that more teams are leading this type of attack, even though the current incarnation of the Bills are not.

I don't know if Washington could have beaten Dallas 3 weeks ago, but it's encouraging to see them go through the maturation process as a team. I like that they've been producing 4-6 scoring chances each week and not turning the ball over. If Washington is able to keep executing like this, then the next 4 games seem ultimately winnable (@Eagles, Rams, Browns and @Lions). Would anyone have predicted 7-1 after the drubbing in the Meadowlands? I'm not predicting it, but it doesn't seem as daft as it may have been one month ago.

Missing in all of the talk about the Cowboys and Redskins is the Giants. Maybe the Giants defense is that good, having held the Redskins to a sub-par day on offense in the New Jersey swamp. It will be exciting to see how the Cowboys fare at New Jersey on November 2nd.

Coach Zorn is heading the list of "Coach of the Year" candidates 4 weeks into the season. His name topped the list in at least two columns I read this morning. Jeff Fischer of the Tennessee Titans is a close second. Bills coach Dick Jauron probably deserves consideration as well. I think all are deserving, but only if their teams keep delivering.

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