I've lived through the misery of being a Washington Redskins fan my entire life. I'm 29 — and have put my heart and soul into this team since I was a small child.
Laugh and mock me all you want — but I have the old school "R" tattooed on my left shoulder, and my man cave/writing room in my house is plastered with memorabilia painted in burgundy and gold.
My non-Skins' friends often ask a very simple and rational question.
"Why do you support a team with so much dysfunction, turmoil, drama and unprofessionalism?"
Like most D.C. diehards, I never have a rational answer. Just like my vital organs or obsessive love for sugary treats, the Redskins are just a part of me. No matter how bad it gets or how many times I say I'm abandoning them for another squad, I remain loyal. It's like having a girlfriend that hooks up with all of your best friends and occasionally kicks you in the kahunas, but hey, she looks good and gives you hope that shes going to change.
There have been select glimmers of hope during my 20 or so years as a strong fan (the first nine I was a kid figuring out how the game worked) but as any millennial Skins' fan will tell you, it's been complete disarray with select bright spots along the way.
We've heard the stories from our parents and grandparents where names like John Riggins, Art Monk and Darrell Green made their fans proud. There was the the incredible run from Joe Gibbs — and the elite quarterbacking from Joe Theismann. I've read every book, watched every documentary and have even immersed myself in vintage highlights.
The last Redskins' Super Bowl win happened in 1992. I was 5-years-old and don't remember a damn thing. Since that time, things have steadily gone downhill.
Here are the Top 5 Redskins' Front Office Debacles Of The Last 5 Years (and trust me, it was hard to narrow this list down to anything close to 5).
5. Jim Zorn
In January of 2008, legendary Redskins' head coach Joe Gibbs decided to hang his football coaching career up for good — and while his second stint in Washington wasn't nearly as successful as his first go around — there was still a strong sense of stability and optimism with the G.O.A.T leading the charge.
Roughly a month after Gibbs retired, Skins' owner Daniel Snyder named Jim Zorn new head coach. Who? Zorn had never even been a coordinator in the NFL until he was hired in Washington, and while there were early tastes of success, his complete incompetency reared its ugly head as quick as he became relevant.
Bizarre doesn't even begin to describe Zorn's two-year tenure in D.C. in which he departed with a 12-20 overall record. There were reports from players about Zorn's strong religious beliefs and how he would barely speak to the players who didn't align with his religion — effectively dividing the locker room. There was the ugly 19-14 loss against Detroit in Zorn's third game of the 2009 season — the Lions' first win in 18 games — and a clear indication the Skins' coach had completely lost his team as rumblings for his firing had already surfaced.
And then there was swinging gate. Hands down, the most bewildering and unexplainable play call in the history of football — at any level. I'm not exaggerating. That play really summed up the Zorn tenure in Washington and there's nothing more to say. Just watch and cringe.
4. So Many Quarterbacks, Most Were Awful
For this one, we will break the rule and look a little further than 10 years. It's fair to examine the insane number of quarterbacks that have come through Washington since 2000 (17 years) because it's so damn ridiculous. In that span, there have been 16 starting passers for the Redskins — with names like Tony Banks, Patrick Ramsey, Shane Matthews, Danny Weurffel, Todd Collins, John Beck and Rex Grossman bringing up particularly painful memories.
To put that madness in perspective, the New England Patriots have had just three starting quarterbacks during that same period of time, with the only exceptions to Tom Brady coming in 2000 (Drew Bledsoe) and 2008 (Matt Cassel). (Yes, Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett started games in 2016 for New England, but because of Brady's 4-game suspension).
Robert Griffin III looked like he'd change the narrative after the 2012 campaign but we all know how that turned out and of course now they have Kirk Cousins — the most capable starting QB to come through D.C. in nearly two decades — yet the Skins' brass is doing everything in their power to butcher that one too. We will get to that.
This is a weird one — because the Skins' got torn apart after giving up all kinds of draft picks to select the Baylor QB and Heisman Trophy winner, but after a stellar rookie campaign where Griffin was named NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, the future looked bright in Washington for the first time in a long time.
I'm not bashing the Skins' for giving up a million draft picks to select Griffin — because they were desperate and it made sense at the time. But everything that came after that 2012 season was typical Redskins' ineptitude.
Griffin hurt his knee in December of 2012 and re-injured it in the playoff game against the Seahawks in January of the same year. — and that was the moment everything began to take a dramatic turn. Sports Illustrated did a great job of chronicling Griffin's insane tenure in Washington, but I'll focus on the areas where the Skins' brass butchered things once again.
Jan. 2013 – Redskins' doctor James Andrews claims Griffin never "let him" examine him after the playoff injury. Um, are the players supposed to have any say in those matters? No. That was on the Skins.
May 2013 – After the end of a season defined by injury, Griffin's dad chimes in and states his son needs to be a passer — not a runner.
Sept. 9 2013 – It's clear Mike Shanahan and the Skins' brass actually listen to Griffin and his father, and Washington opens the season 0-3, using a basic offense where Griffin isn't remotely effective (no threat of running).
Oct. 2013 – Griffin injures his left knee
Nov. 2013 – Griffin is back, but fails to record an offensive touchdown for the first time in his career (both collegiate & pro).
Dec 2013: RG3 is replaced by Kirk Cousins for the remainder of the season to prevent any further injury.
Sure, there were some mishaps during this period, but no really colossal blunders by the Skins to this point. This is really when Washington should have started preparing Cousins for the future — fully understanding Griffin can't stay healthy.
Instead, RG3 is named the starter for 2014 and carted off the field with a ankle injury in Week 2. Keep in mind, Washington owner Daniel Snyder is obsessed with Griffin — and will do literally anything to keep him as the QB. He eventually comes back after a 7-week break due to the injury — and lays an egg once again. Jay Gruden benches RG3 for Colt McCoy in a late November game which is the first time we get the sense that Gruden is ready to part ways — even though it's clear everyone above him in the organization disagrees.
Even to this point, I could still give the Skins a little bit of slack. They wanted to see their guy at least try to return to rookie season form, but it didn't work. Instead of moving forward with Cousins, they bring him back AGAIN as the starter for 2015. Griffin suffers a concussion in the preseason game against the Lions — and for the first time during this whole debacle — Gruden makes the right decision in spite of Snyder, team president Bruce Allen and the rest of the Redskins decision makers.
Cousins is named starter and Griffin falls to No. 3 on the depth chart. RG3 is released by Washington in March of 2017. This whole thing was hardly the biggest mishap from Snyder and company and during that rookie season — it appeared they were finally doing something right. The events that followed only solidified the Redskins' terrible reputation with the rest of the NFL. We should have seen it coming.
2. Deal or No Deal: Kirk Cousins Edition
I go back and forth on this one — but place it high on the list because of its relevancy right now. I might be naive, but still believe Washington actually retains Cousins long-term with a deal after the upcoming 2017 season, and while they will pay out the wazoo, it will give me at least some kind of hope for the future.
Everyone knows the deal by now. Cousins is playing this year on the franchise tag, and Washington couldn't reach a long-term contract extension with the Cousins camp before the NFL deadline in mid July. Most bright NFL minds believe this is the classic case of Washington peeing the bed — just as we've seen so many times before. They could have locked Cousins down at various points along the way for far less money than they are paying him now or will potentially pay him in the future, but for some ungodly reason, weren't sold on his skill set.
Nobody is declaring Cousins as the next Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers. But he's a capable NFL starting quarterback that has flashed a ton of potential and could very well lead this team to consistent trips to the playoffs. But nah, the Skins are good. They can just call Grossman, Ramsey or Wuerffel or one of the other 16 sub-par passers they've had since 2000 if this whole plan doesn't work out. All good in Washington.
Most believe Cousins is gone after this season — and while it would pain me, it certainly wouldn't surprise me. I won't be angry if the Redskins throw the checkbook at him and keep him around, but that's the only way to fix this thing assuming he has another playoff-caliber season in 2017-18.
1. Albert Haynesworth
I'm not sure this one takes a whole bunch of explanation, either. Snyder was notorious for throwing piles of cash at washed-up free agents and in 2009, Washington signed Haynesworth for a ludicrous seven-year deal worth $100 million (could have been $115 million with bonuses).
The overweight and uninterested mammoth lived up to at least a little of his potential in 2009 (his first season in Washington), playing in 12 games recording four sacks. At least he looked like he was trying at times, but most believed he vastly underachieved that season.
He had another whopping 2.5 sacks during the 2010 campaign but that was it. He was lazy and showed a pitiful work ethic. There were failed conditioning tests and blow-ups both on the field and off it. Haynesworth was released after his second-year in D.C., and while I'm not positive, there's a good chance Snyder is still paying him.
So where did Washington go wrong? It's tough, because Haynesworth had a combined 14.5 sacks in his last two seasons before signing with the Skins. The Haynesworth era was the perfect example of Snyder's insanity when it came to chasing big-name free agents, and he got burned in the biggest way.
I'd be really curious to hear from the Skins' fans who read this. I'm not going to lie, there's been so much damn nonsense over the years this was really hard. Here are a few others that probably should have made the list.
– The Steve Spurrier experiment
– So much hope with Scot McCloughan as GM, so let's just fire him. Really though, what's the real story with that?
– Shanahan drama
– We could probably do one of these comprised only of awful free agency signings, from Jeff George to Adam Archuleta
– Let's not forget about Vinny freakin' Cerrato! Good lord, this is exhausting. I'm done.