December 1992. 23 seasons ago. That was the last time the Washington Redskins qualified for the playoffs in consecutive seasons. How long ago was that? Jamison Crowder wasn't born yet and Amanda Woodward was the only cure for erectile dysfunction. Fast forward to 2016 and the Jay Gruden led Redskins are in position to end that streak. Or are they? This is the biggest question for most burgundy and gold fans. Should we be pessimistic or optimistic when it comes to ending this embarrassing streak? Here are four reasons why fans could be pessimistic -- and the singular reason why I believe the streak ends in 2016.
1) Kirk Cousins is Nick Foles 2.0
No one had more of a break out season like Eagles quarterback Nick Foles in 2013. Foles came out of nowhere to post a quarterback rating of 119.2 with the absurd TD/INT ratio of 27/2. Fast forward to 2016 and Foles has been benched for Case Keenum in Los Angeles. If you are pessimistic about the Skins playoff chances, you believe Cousins’ breakout season and 101.6 quarterback rating was an anomaly.
2) Defense has not improved
Even though the Redskins won the NFC East in 2015, their defense struggled and was ranked 28th in the NFL. Fans pessimistic about the Redskins playoff chances will point to the fact the Skins struggling defense has suffered more losses (Hatcher, Knighton, Jackson & Goldson) then additions (Bruton, Reyes & Garvin). In addition, the biggest question mark on the team is the safety position which currently lists DeAngelo Hall and Kyshoen Jarrett as starters. Neither player has started a full season at safety in the league.
3) Very difficult to make playoffs in back to back seasons
While making the playoffs two years in a row seems like it should be easy, it’s surprisingly difficult (unless you have Tom Brady & Peyton Manning as your quarterback). Since 2010-11, no NFC East team has made consecutive playoff appearances. While it’s been 23 years since the Skins last accomplished that feat, it’s been 7 seasons for the Eagles, 9 seasons for the Giants and 10 seasons for Jerry’s crew.
4) Tougher Schedule
Last season the Redskins benefited from a 4th place schedule. They had the luxury of playing the Bears and Rams while Dallas played the Packers and Seattle. Those roles will reverse in 2016 when the NFC East champs will face both participants in the NFC title game, Arizona and Carolina while the cellar dweller Cowboys face two teams that select in the top nine of the draft, the Bucs and Niners.
While these reasons will make even the die-hardiest (I know that isn’t a word but I’m new to this so cut me some slack) fan think twice, I believe the Redskins are poised to not only return to the playoffs, but repeat as NFC East champs. Amazingly, the Skins haven’t repeated as division champs since they won three straight from 1982-1984.
So why am I bullish on their chances?
It’s the division. The NFC East is weak and totally winnable. The Giants and Eagles are both breaking in new head coaches with no (head coaching) experience above high school and the four-win Cowboys hopes are tied to a 36 year old quarterback whose collarbone has been reconstructed by a combination of the Decepticons and Lord Business. For a majority of the last 20+ seasons, even the most optimistic Redskin fan would pencil in no better than a 2-4 record in division but after going 4-2 last season, the Skins have a shot at matching that mark in 2016. Jay Gruden’s bunch should go into every division game confident that they are the better team on the field. As currently constructed the NFC East will not strike fear in any opponent.
When you factor in the weak division and the fact Kirk Cousins will have a full off-season to work as the starter for the first time in his career, plus a second off-season with general manager/talent whisperer Scot McCloughan, I believe fans could be in for another home playoff game in January 2017.
Chuck Sapienza is the Executive Producer of the Naval Academy radio network and the former VP/Programming for ESPN980. He was also a part of the Washington Redskins Radio Network from 2009 to 2015, serving as the networks Executive Producer. He can be reached at ChuckSapienza980@gmail.com.
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