ASHBURN, Va. -- They still believe in what they have, even as their record suggests they might be wrong. At 1-4, the Washington Redskins refuse to believe that they’re this bad.
It’s not just because they won seven straight and won the NFC East last season. It’s because they look around the locker room and see talent that tells them they should be better. The Redskins can’t point to a whole lot that has gone right this season, from a starting quarterback in Robert Griffin III who has struggled at times while coming off knee surgery to a defense that, until recently, had been dreadful.
So they cling to the belief that their talent is better than what their record says.
“When you look at our roster, we can compete with anybody,” Redskins linebacker London Fletcher said.
Others share his viewpoint.
“This team is a world away from when I first got here,” said Redskins nose tackle Barry Cofield, who joined the team in 2011. “Even though the record might not show it. It’s a way more talented team, a better focused team, a team that’s more equipped to win. I honestly think we are better than when we were three games below .500 last year.
“We are better, more talented, we’re on the same page. It will take one win and we’ll be right back in the race.”
The Redskins have uttered that last line for a several weeks now, though they did get that one win on Sept. 29 in Oakland. It did not translate to an inspiring effort after the bye week however. There’s a notion that the Redskins somehow showed promise in their 31-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. But it’s also true that they continued to have breakdowns that plague bad teams.
“We’ve played 1-4 football, that’s the reality of it,” Fletcher said. “We all had high aspirations and we still have high aspirations. Did I think we’d be 1-4? No. It’s disappointing but we still feel we can turn it around. If we didn’t have the talent to do it, that would be one thing but we have the right guys to get it done.”
Since Fletcher arrived in 2007, the Redskins have made the playoffs twice. They’ve also had extended poor play: They were a combined 15-39 from the midway point of the 2008 season through the end of 2011.
“There have been times where I felt like our talent wasn’t as good as some of the teams we were facing,” Fletcher said, “but since coach [Mike] Shanahan has been here he’s done a great job of building our team to where we can compete with anybody in the league.”
Which leads to the obvious question: Then why haven’t they? The Redskins’ special teams are a mess and not just because they have a first-year coordinator in Keith Burns. They lack a solid core group of players in these areas, having lost some key players either in the offseason or final cuts. Their return game is nonexistent. The defense couldn’t stop anyone the first three games and the offense perhaps relied on Griffin even more than it realized in 2012, and haven’t functioned well with him on the mend (mentally and physically).
The Redskins have not made the playoffs in consecutive seasons since 1991-92. They received more hype entering this season, with many more people suggesting they’d be good than the opposite. Cofield was asked if it was too much hype.
“I was asked that question going into the season and I answered that I thought guys were hungry, the way we practiced, the training we had,” he said. “I didn’t see signs of it, otherwise it would have been addressed then. You never know what’s going through guys' heads. But from what I saw the preparation we had and the intensity and focus that we had, I didn’t see it.”
A common message since the opener: last year is over. And as the losing continued players know that they can’t rely on a turnaround just because they had one in 2012. Those who have been around -- especially those who have played for this inconsistent franchise -- know that one season does not promise the next.
“It’s never going to be the same,” said Redskins receiver Santana Moss, who has been with the team since 2005. “Before the season started everybody wanted to come in here and say, ‘Hey, y’all won the Super Bowl already.’ I told you, you can’t jump the gun, man. If I sit here and let you guys pump me up and have my head about as big as this locker room, then I’d be ready to kill myself. But I didn’t go for that. So I hope every other guy didn’t sit here and listen to what everybody said about them and how sweet they was and how great they was because you’re never as good as you think you are. You always have to go out there and grind.”
Moss said the Redskins were prepared for a tougher start, if only because of Griffin’s situation.
“Coming into this season we knew it was going to be something different just because of where we was at with our offense and who we had to run the show wasn’t out there,” Moss said. “We knew it was going to be hard, but we didn’t know it was going to be this hard."