Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Kool-Aid & Gravy

It is a big yearly day for the NFL, as both the first major cuts of the preseason will be made to get rosters trimmed down closer to the regular season limit, and the new version of the Madden game came out. All of this means our usual slow creep, even by the relative standards of this compressed offseason, towards opening day is starting to generate momentum, and by this time next week, we'll all be in a full-on football frenzy, all of us full of hope and optimism for an upward swing in our favorite team's direction, and wishing ill will, tragedy, and failure upon our divisional nemeses.
At the beginning of this preseason, I was encouraged by the fact the Redskins had a solid draft, where they stockpiled seemingly competent bodies at necessary positions, also taking late round flyers on skill position players, and was doubly encouraged when we made no big free agent jersey hawking splashes, and seemed to act sensibly, which is something somewhat alien to me during this dictatorial Snyder regime. But I still was a pessimist, having had my naive heart battered and beaten by the last decade of debacles, knowing that no matter how good it all looked, Mr. Snyder was lurking somewhere behind the scenes. And with him lurking, no matter how many times we are told as Redskins fans that all the little guy wants to do is win, you know his corporate minions - his PR mouthpieces and yes men and right hand retards - lurk as well. And they will need something to do at some point, and whatever it is assigned for them to do, they will do immediately, without thought, and trample upon whatever good has been done. Maybe they'll sue old ladies burdened by medical bills for not paying their season ticket renewal packages. Maybe they'll try to put a local newspaper out of business for talking trash upon Mr. Snyder. Maybe they'll draft a bunch of shitty WRs in the first two rounds of the draft, and none of them will pan out. It's hard to tell, but I knew that something would happen.
Oddly enough, nothing has happened yet. Things have gone well. This team, for only the second time under Dan Snyder, actually looks like a team. (The other time was during Joe Gibbs 2.0, especially after Sean Taylor was murdered. I will not lie, internet people, the day I heard Sean Taylor was shot, I was on vacation with family. And the game after that when the Redskins missed a field goal to beat the Buffalo Bills at the end of regulation, because of a stupid brain fart by Joe Gibbs, I actually was listening in my car on the way home from vacation, my family in a restaurant for dinner, and me alone, and I cried. I cried about the missed field goal, the missed awesomeness of #21, and the missed glory years of B.S. - Before Snyder.) Whatever star power we might still have has been assimilated into a team mentality, which is really refreshing to see. Even at QB, where we basically have nothing in the form of Becks & Rex aka John "the Mormon MacGruber" Beck and Rex "Sex Cannon" Grossman, it has been acceptable. Last preseason game, they alternated two series each, so easily and fluently it almost makes me wonder if Shanahan isn't just going to go like that into the season, alternating QBs during the game, confusing defenses with sheer audacity.
What I am saying here folks is I have drank of the preseason Kool-Aid. It was only three weeks ago when all major sports websites were characterizing the Redskins as a moving train wreck, finally realizing the full ineptitude of Mr. Snyder's leadership, and would be lucky to finish with three wins this season. And nothing has really changed in this team other than how they've played together as a team, for the first time in many years, and that has been notable in their games - beating up on the Steelers and Colts, and hanging tough with the Ravens. Of course, it's all exhibition shim-shammery, and none of this really means shit once the for-real kick-off happens next Thursday night (or on 9/11, against the New York Giants, in an NFL-contrived ceremonial celebration of the seriousness of the 9/11 attacks three days later), but it has made me feel good. I am not cringing at the prospects of a 3-13 season, although I still feel that's entirely possible if things fall apart in the way they tend to fall apart with Mr. Snyder's magic touch on things. But I am excited by this team mentality, and it feels like I am rooting for the Redskins again, not just some asshole from some other team who has come here to pretend we are one step away from winning nine Super Bowls in a row. There is no Deion Sanders/Bruce Smith/Steve Spurrier/Albert Haynesworth/Donovan McNabb/et al on the potential game day roster at this point, and that makes me feel okay with publicly being a Redskins fan again. I do not feel the same shame and embarrassment I have become used to, where you say you were born into this team, much like justifying a genetic deformity on your face. I have drank the Kool-Aid.
I am even okay with John Beck being our QB because, you know, why not? Best case scenario, maybe he's the new Kurt Warner, but for Mormons, and resurrects an obscure career like Football Jesus rising from the crucifixion of failed football experts like Mel Kiper and the like, who wrote this man off for dead because he had not done more in his short time in the NFL. Worst case scenario, he's an inconsistent presence under center and we win and lose games erratically because of his play. Is that so different from Jason Campbell or Patrick Ramsey or the battery of guys who QBed for Spurrier or Jeff George or old Mark Brunell or really anybody who has been our QB for the past 20 years? No, it's not. And all the football talking heads see the same things I'm seeing, and you've heard the quiet consensus football opinion the past week that these Redskins may be better than everybody initially thought. They could compete in the NFC East, and really prove that Shannyhan the Elder is all that pigskin einstein he makes himself out to be.
However - and this is a big however - we as football fans in general, and specifically Redskins fans due to both our own past glories as well as the relentlessly psy-ops-style marketing machine of Mr. Snyder, tend to get delusional as the optimism rises. So let's be clear about one thing right now - this is not a playoff team. Even if they somehow do over-perform and snatch a wild card berth from a more deserving franchise, this is not a playoff team. No one should even be entertaining that idea. But we are in the second year of the Shanahan era, on his self-proclaimed five-year plan, so we should start to see signs of cohesion. Early preseason signs point to just that happening. But that will not translate to on-field success this year, and to think it will is ridiculous and self-depressing psychology. This is the first year in forever where the Redskins are actually rebuilding from the rubble and ashes of Jack Kent Cooke's ownership, which Mr. Snyder dismantled and pissed on almost immediately. Granted, the Skins have not ever said they are rebuilding, and Sexy Rexy was comedically mocked for suggesting the Redskins might win the East this year, but let's be honest... This is a rebuilding year. We are putting the pieces in place for next season, where hopefully another solid draft and another sensible free agency period will further shape a roster, not only at the superstar position, but all the way down to second stringers and through the entire 55-man roster even onto the practice squad. Another year of sensible, long-term team-building will then start to generate some on-field successes and actual hope for Sunday games at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium beyond the first weekend of January.
So what I am saying is anything that happens good this year, when it comes to scoreboard, that should be considered gravy. Whether that means we destroy the Giants on opening day in the NFL's NEVAR FORGET! bowl, but only win three more games all year long, or if it means we actually go 8-8 and look like a real football team, this year should be regarded as gravy. With the way this team has been run and managed the past 15 years, we SHOULD go 3-13. It's what we deserve. You can't ignore very basic football truths like drafting linemen or not wasting precious salary cap resources on huge contracts for guys who don't deliver and not deserve failure every year. Honestly, at this point, we should be the Bengals of the NFC. But for some reason we are not. And from the looks of things, we will hopefully be far from the Bengals of the NFC this year, on the field, and hopefully we'll even kick some asses a few times. Not eke out victories like last year (or really every game we've won the past three years now that I think about it) but actually dominate and kick some asses a few times. But we have to remember that anything we get this year, we probably shouldn't have expected it, and it's all gravy. Sure, it's gravy on top of about fifteen years of pure bullshit, but still, it's nothing but gravy.

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