Hopelessly devoted supporters of the NFL’s D.C. franchise discuss the dysfunctional drama that’s become the status quo, whether their team is overly criticized by outsiders and if any hope remains under Dan Snyder
The MMQB held a roundtable discussion on ReplyAll.me with six Washington fans Sunday through Tuesday. The conversation was passionate and lively. Here are the highlights.
The MMQB: After last week’s loss to the Giants, Kirk Cousins now has as many career interceptions (23) as Robert Griffin III in fewer than half as many attempts. Should there be another quarterback change in Washington?
Rachel Thiebault: Being a devoted fan in the past two decades requires a kind of unrealistic, masochistic optimism, and I don’t think I’m ready to throw in the towel just yet. I love RG3, but what I’d love even more is to see some consistency for once. Maybe I didn’t agree with coach Jay Gruden’s decision, but I’d rather see him stick to his guns with his system and game plan than flip-flop all year long. I don’t see how that would be better.
Sarah Spooner: Any game where we ask Cousins to throw 49 times and we completely abandon the run, we are going to lose. That is not who this team is. If this team sticks with the run, plays aggressive defense and cuts down on the penalties, we can win. Well ... we can be, like, 8-8. There is no QB controversy. Let’s not even start that. This is Kirk’s team.
Harald Hohenecker: I am totally with Sarah. If Kirk has to throw 49 times, we will lose. Our team is not built for this and Kirk is not the type of QB you want to have to throw that often. Can he be the future franchise QB? I don’t think so, but Peyton Manning also threw more than 20 interceptions in his first 16 games.
People watch Washington like they watch the Real Housewives, eagerly waiting for the next dysfunctional drama.
Mike Manno: Cousins is not the long-term answer. He needs to start at least three more games. If he still plays like last game, I would give RG3 a chance. I realize Griffin will likely never succeed with us, but he has too much talent not to try one last time. There’s no controversy yet, but a few more games like that and let’s try someone else. And if that doesn’t work, “Take the Year Off for Goff.” [Cal QB Jared Goff is a potential top prospect in the 2016 draft.]
Harald: Do we have a bad team? I’m not sure yet. Of course, the loss was ugly and painful, but did we expect to be Super Bowl contenders this year? No way, and the first two games have been at least promising and show what Scot McCloughan is trying to achieve.
Jason Kleinman: Harald, this is a classic Washington-fan attitude. After Week 1, I was ready to give up hope, but I gave the Dolphins the benefit of the doubt. (C’mon, they were supposed to be good, right?) The defense looked good, and Cousins only threw two picks, which isn’t bad for him. And then suddenly we looked like a solid team against the Rams, Romo and Dez went down, the Eagles looked awful, and the Giants were 0-2. I looked down the schedule and was convinced that we could go 9-7 to win the division. Then Thursday night happened. ... We're a tortured fan base. Right after the game a friend and fellow Washington fan texted me, “Honestly, I know the game was sort of a blowout. But I feel like we could have won. If Randle doesn’t catch that fluke TD… and Jones doesn’t fumble out of the end zone, then we win.” Again, classic attitude. And I love it.
The MMQB: In a span of 32 months, RG3 went from rookie of the year to being demoted. How do you make sense of that?
Rachel: The type of offense the Shanahans created for RG3 was really exciting to watch, but hardly sustainable to base a quarterback’s career. I often wonder whether if he hadn’t been so immediately sensational he might have had a longer career in Washington. What if he had been eased into a more traditional offense that wasn’t solely read=option and used his talents more opportunistically?
Sarah: The offense the Shanahans created for Griffin was a brilliant, brief fireworks show. It was not sustainable; defenses were going to figure out the read option very quickly and adjust to stop it. But Griffin was so fun to watch that magical season. But remember that Morris also had an incredible season that year. The read option is only as good as your running back, too. Griffin is not a pocket passer. That is not who he is; the guy can't progress through his reads to save his life. He runs scared, he can't slide; he plays like a guy who knows the next hit could end his career. He treats the pocket like it's Zuccotti Park.
Jason: There's no doubt RG3 is broken. I think Mike Shanahan broke him. I think Kyle Shanahan broke him. I think the media broke him. I think he never helped himself. He comes off as a Subway-loving arrogant guy who loves himself, and although maybe that’s not entirely fair, he never helped himself (even I had to unfollow him on Twitter). I don’t claim to understand what happens in the locker room or front office, but I’m sure there’s a valid reason why his teammates turned on him and why Jay Gruden never had any interest in starting him.
Talking about the team name feels like having to constantly apologize for that old, embarrassing uncle who says really terrible things in public. Dear God, change it.
Rachel: He was a 21-year-old kid who, before he even took his first NFL snap, had endorsements and a team owner, media and fans telling him he was the savior of a franchise. With that kind of validation, you can see how he might have been slow to want to adapt to a new system, and how teammates and coaches might come to resent him. It all just seemed to unravel so quickly, it’s hard to imagine any successful scenario for him in Washington.
Sarah: There is no going back to Griffin. He is done in D.C. To go back to him is to go back to a volatile and futile one-man show. Kirk may not be a long-term answer, but at least he’s not a short-term firestorm. I wish Griffin the best in his next endeavor, wherever it is. I hope humility finds him along the way.
Jason: His next endeavor? I’m pretty convinced he’ll lead the Eagles to an NFC championship game next year. If anyone can fix him, maybe it’s the offensive mastermind coaching the 1-2 Philadelphia Eagles.
The MMQB: How do you feel about the team name?
Jason: This is the second most controversial question in Washington right now, next to Hillary or Biden.
Mike: I go back and forth on the name, but when I didn’t want my daughter to go to school wearing a Washington shirt I knew it was time to change. Maybe something like Washington Americans (as in Native Americans) and keep some of the imagery. Or Algonquins to change to a local tribe. Or even to Braves.
Sarah: Talking about the team name feels like having to constantly apologize for that old, embarrassing uncle who says really terrible things in public. Dear God, change it. I liked the Washington Redtails. It’s a native raptor bird in the area, and also gives credit to the Tuskegee Airmen. The fight song is the thing that would be hardest to lose.
Rachel: Just change the team name already. One less embarrassing controversy to deal with. But make it something that can be reworked into the fight song.
Mike: Easy enough to update the fight song. We already rewrote the lyrics “scalp 'em” and “swamp ’em,” along with a few others.
Jason: In the Pope’s address to Congress last week, he spoke about immigration and warned, “Building a nation calls us to recognize that we must constantly relate to others, rejecting a mindset of hostility in order to adopt one of reciprocal subsidarity, in a constant effort to do our best.” I’m certainly not a pious man, but is keeping the name really doing our best, Mr. Snyder?
The MMQB: Do you think your team is overly criticized by fans outside of Washington? Are the issues unfairly magnified?
Zack: No. The team is obviously not very good, and if you’re anything more than a casual observer of the NFL you can tune in to watch a game and conclude if the team is actually terrible or just a victim of circumstance. We’re the former. However, it’s not about the players—teams are good and bad from the top down. Owners who manage like Dan Snyder, Shad Khan or Crypt Keeper-era Al Davis will never have good teams because they are either more concerned with making money or because they dropped one too many LSD tablets with their morning coffee.
Sarah: People watch Washington like they watch the Real Housewives, eagerly waiting for the next dysfunctional drama. And the media, by and large, plays it up. We are just too much of a Greek tragedy to pass up. The evil, greedy, black-hat owner, the hapless and well-meaning coach, the new fresh face that will fail. It's all too much of a story.
Rachel: Are we unduly criticized? I would say yes, but that probably has more to do with the fact that I (and, to Jason’s point, most others) are unrealistically optimistic about a team that offers up plenty to be critical about. For commentators, pundits and other fans, we are an easy target, but I dig for the positive each week in order to put on my Sean Taylor jersey again.
The MMQB: Is there any hope for this team if Dan Snyder is running it?
Rachel: I don’t see what choice we have but to hope there is. He’s young, and unless a couple billion dollars happens to come my way, we have to assume he’s the owner for the foreseeable future.
Mike: Dan is really stuck in the past. Hiring Bruce Allen because of his memories of George Allen. Bruce is not a personnel guy and never should have been in charge. I think he clung to RG3 because he reminds him of Joe Theismann. There is hope, but Danny Boy has never shown that he can stay out of things for an EXTENDED period of time. But if Jerry Jones did it, maybe Dan can. We just may have to wait until Dan is Jerry’s age though.
Sarah: If he’s suddenly hit with a brick, loses his memory and undergoes a whole personality change, then maybe there’s hope.
The MMQB: Two seasons ago we had a Washington fan write that he handed in his season tickets because the experience was so unpleasant. What do you think of the game-day experience at FedEx Field?
Zack: As a season-ticket holder, FedEx is a terrible experience. We’re in 2015 and I feel like I’m stepping into the late-’80s when I enter the stadium. If you've ever really looked around, it sort of looks like the infrastructure to a prison that they abandoned and said, “We could build a stadium here.”
Sarah: FedEx Field is a concrete suburban sprawl: bland, impossible to get in and out of (by car or by metro), vacuous, overpriced, far from anything else and not worth the effort. And they’ve removed something like 20,000 seats from it over the years due to lack of demand—but don’t worry, we still “sell out” our games. I moved to western North Carolina 10 years ago and haven’t been to a home game since. I’ve been to a few of the Washington-Carolina games in Charlotte, and the experience there has made the FedEx Field dysfunction all the more glaring.
Rachel: My extended family and I meet up from all over the country at one away game each year. We’ve been to at least a dozen stadiums—Seattle, Green Bay, Denver, Chicago, etc.—but I have yet to go to FedEx. This year we’re actually going to FedEx, and I have to say I’m not that excited. To Sarah’s point, it pains me to see whole sections of seats blocked off with ad covers in an effort to “sell out.” D.C. fans are some of the most loyal and enthusiastic in the NFL, but judging by the stadium you’d think we’re a market like Jacksonville or San Diego, in constant danger of the broadcast being blacked out due to poor attendance.
Sarah: I have fond memories of RFK: the undulation of the stands, the cacophony of fans that rattled bones and rattled the will of opponents. It was true home-field advantage, and it was in D.C.
The MMQB: Enough misery. What’s your favorite memory as a fan?
Sarah: When Joe Gibbs returned to coach, I drove to my dad’s house and we put on our jerseys, watched the news announce it on every channel, then dusted off the VHS of the 1992 season and re-watched the whole thing. My stepmother rolled her eyes. It was perfect hope.
Mike: Watching the last home game at RFK (a victory over the Cowboys in 1996) with my friends and bringing home turf as well as the bottom-half of a seat!
Zack: The moment I realized that I must be a good, loyal person because nobody would put themselves through watching this team self-destruct over and over again without jumping on the Patriots bandwagon at some point. Or maybe I’m a masochist.
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