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Rich Tandler is the author of Gut Check, The Complete History of Coach Joe Gibbs' Washington Redskins. Get details and order at http://GutCheckBook.com
October 28, 2004
The "In's" Root For the Skins
I wanted to get to this before the rest of the media did, but it's too late. Since I didn't talk about it first, I'll have to do it better.
"It" is the streak involving the result of presidential elections and the fortunes of the Washington Redskins. I've received a few emails about it and why not do what the Redskins beat reporters have done and rip out a thousand words or so on the subject.
For those of you who have not yet heard of the phenomenon, here's the deal: In every presidential election since the Redskins moved to Washington in 1937, the result of the team's last home game before the quadrennial vote has been the same as the result of the incumbent party in the White House. In other words, if the Skins win that last home game before the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November in leap years, the party in power in the executive branch has remained in power. If Washington does not protect its house in that game, the incumbent party loses the house on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Again, you're probably read the generalities of all of this in other places. What you don't get elsewhere are the details. That's why I'm here:
11/2/40—Frankie Filchock and Sammy Baugh team up to go 14 for 15 passing to lead the Redskins over the Steelers 37-10. Two days later President Franklin D. Roosevelt easily defeats Wendell Willkie 449 electoral votes to 82.
11/5/44—Washington was outgained by the Cleveland Rams 407 yards to 197 but they scored two TD's in a four-play span in the second quarter to pull out a 14-10 win. FDR's win was not as close as he outgained Thomas Dewey 53% to 45% and out scored him 432-99 in the stat that counts, the Electoral College.
10/31/48—This one was close in the early going, but a 14-14 tie at the end of the first ended in a 59-21 Redskins win. The election was much closer and Dewey didn't defeat Truman much to the chagrin of the Chicago Tribune and others as the incumbent won 303-189.
11/2/52—Washington's attempted fourth quarter rally fell a point short at the Steelers won 24-23. Adali Stevenson didn't show nearly as much game, trailing Dwight Eisenhower all the way in a 442-89 loss.
10/21/56—This was the first time that the Redskins didn't have a home game on the Sunday immediately preceding the general election. Sixteen days before election day Eddie LeBaron led the Redskins past the Browns 20-9. Ike beat Stevenson in the rematch by over 9 million popular votes and an electoral count of 457-73.
10/31/60—The first of 17 consecutive losses of two seasons for coach Mike Nixon's Redskins came at the hands of Cleveland 31-10. The loser for the GOP was another Nixon, Richard, by a much closer margin to John F. Kennedy. 303-219.
10/25/64—Sonny Jurgensen's fourth touchdown pass of the day went to tight end Pres Carpenter with a minute left to play. Lyndon Johnson didn't have to sweat out his win over Barry Goldwater nearly as much with an electoral tally of 486-52.
Jurgensen had one of his worst days as a pro, going 7 for 25 passing but Washington hung close and nearly rallied before losing to the Giants 13-10. Dick Nixon's comeback, on the other hand, was a success as he beat Vice President Hubert Humphrey 301-191 in a contest that was much closer than the final score indicated.
Finally, a significant game to talk about. Larry Brown had one his greatest days as a Redskin as Washington rallied to beat Dallas 24-20. Nixon, who had suggested plays to coach George Allen the previous season, rode to coattails of the Washington win to a 520-17 trashing of George McGovern.
10/31/76—Pete Wysocki, out of Michigan, was blocking as Eddie Brown returned a punt for Washington's only score in a 20-7 loss to Washington. Former Wolverine football player Gerald Ford, who finished up for Nixon after his term expired before the end of regulation, also lost. Jimmy Carter won 297-240.
11/2/80—The Redskins started a five-game losing streak that knocked them out of playoff contention by falling to the Vikings 39-14. The Republicans launched a three-election streak for the White House with the Gipper, Ronald Reagan, routing Carter 489-89.
11/5/84--In a Monday night game that ended as election day was dawning, the defending NFC champion Redskins prevailed over Atlanta 27-14. Reagan had a much easier time with Fritz Mondale, defending his office by a score of 525-13.
11/6/88—Politicians are infamous for using dirty tricks to win elections and Dexter Manley pulled one off to help his Redskins win. The Saints were in position to kick a game-clinching field goal, but their tackle Jim Dombrowski took a swing at Manley and the ensuing 15-yard penalty put the kick out of Morten Anderson's range. It turns out that Manley had spit (he says he "sneezed", but we know better) in Dombrowski's face to provoke the punch and the Skins won 27-24. Some would say that the Willie Horton ads were the political equivalent of Dexter's expectoration as it helped George H. W. Bush rolled up a 426-111 win over Michael Dukakis.
11/1/92—The New York Giants had possession for nearly 40 minutes and ground out a 24-7 win over Washington. The incumbent Super Bowl champs were on their way out as was President Bush the elder. Bill Clinton won as convincingly as the Giants had 370-168.
10/27/96—The Redskins ran their record to 7-1 with a 31-16 win over the Colts. The early returns from the season had them projected as the winner of a playoff spot but they would later collapse and finish out of the money. Clinton also won easily over Bob Dole, 379-159. He would encounter some rough sledding later on, too.
10/30/00—The Tennessee Titans built up an early lead and held off the Redskins for a 27-21 win. Tennessean Al Gore rallied from behind and took George W. Bush into overtime before losing by one fewer than the Redskins did, 271-266.
Of course, it's all ridiculous. There is no possible cause and effect here, just a crazy coincidence. There will be a lunar eclipse tonight and the Boston Red Sox may win their first World Series since 1918. Should it happen, there will be exactly the same linkage between those events as there is between gridiron results and hanging chads—none.
Still, it's a coincidence that defies the odds and it's something to talk about. No doubt, Skins fans who lean to the right will be rooting extra hard for a Redskins win. While very few wearers of the burgundy and gold who are Democrats will actually be rooting for the Packers on Sunday, they might find some consolation here should the Skins lose.
October 27, 2004
The bye week officially ends Wednesday as the players go back to work in preparation for Sunday's game. Here's the last little feature piece before getting back to the deadly serious Skins talk you've come to know and love here.
Jumping the Shark
Upon reading that ESPN had let draft guru Mel Kiper go, I commented on a message board that ESPN had just jumped the shark. The expression, meaning that a TV show has seen its best days and was clearly on its way downhill, comes from a Website named, of course,
The early Baugh-era Redskins teams-- This team, led by Sammy Baugh along with other greats like Wayne Millner, Andy Farkas, and Willie Wilkin, won two championships and played for three others from the time they moved to Washington in 1937 through 1945. They jumped the shark in the 1945 NFL championship game. In the early going, Baugh went back to pass in his own end zone and his toss hit the upright. Under the rules at the time, that resulted in a safety. The Redskins lost 15-14 and didn't sniff the postseason again for 25 years.
The George Allen Redskins--After a string of successful trades that had just gotten the Redskins to the Super Bowl, Allen got a little full of himself and jumped the shark in trading for Duane Thomas. He gave up multiple high draft picks for a head case who had never been a team's first-line running back for a full season. It was a bad deal at the time, a disastrous one in retrospect. They quickly declined from Super Bowl runner-up to a team that occasionally got a wild card spot and, when successful in that, was one and done in the playoffs.
Jack Pardee's Redskins--It's easy to name the game, the 1979 season finale in Texas Stadium with the division title on the line. The specific shark-jumping moment came with 5:21 left. Washington had taken a 34-21 lead on John Riggins' a minute earlier and the Redskin defense forced a quick three and out on Dallas' subsequent possession. On third and two at the Dallas 42, the call was a safe handoff to Clarence Harmon. Either they get the first down and kill most of the clock or they punt Dallas deep into its own territory. Or Harmon fumbles and Dallas recovers, which is exactly what happened. Two Cowboy scores put the dagger in the heart of the Redskins and the shark has been jumped. A 6-10 season the next year cost Pardee his job.
The early 80's Redskins--Again, they jumped the shark at a specific moment in a specific game. At the end of the third quarter of the 1983 NFC championship game, the Redskins led the 49ers 21-0. In seven periods of postseason play that year they had outscored the opposition 72-7. The team started looking forward to the parade celebrating its second straight Super Bowl win. However, Joe Montana tied the game with three fourth-quarter touchdown passes. Washington pulled it out with a late Mark Moseley field goal, but the shark had already been jumped. They were uncompetitive in the Super Bowl loss to the Raiders.
The '87 Champions--The defending champs were 2-1 and going into a game against the Cardinals, a team they owned. In the week before the game, Doug Williams had to have his appendix removed, pressing Mark Rypien into action before he was ready. The teams battled back and for the entire game. The Cardinals held a two point lead with a minute left and Washington jumped the shark when Rypien fumbled away the Redskins' last chance. They hovered around .500 all year, finished with a losing record. That would be their first of two consecutive years out of the playoffs.
The early 90's Redskins--It would be easy to say that this team jumped when Joe Gibbs retired and that's hard to argue. However, in the 1993 season opener it appeared that Richie Petitbon might be able to maintain the Gibbs magic when his Redskins socked the defending champion Cowboys in the season opener. It didn't take long, however, to jump the shark as the Cardinals broke a 14-game losing streak to the Redskins with a win at RFK the very next week. That was the start of a six-game slide and a plunge into over a decade of mediocrity.
The 1996 Redskins--A seven-game winning streak had come crashing to a halt with a blowout loss to Buffalo but the Redskins were still 7-2 and in control of the division. The jumping waited another week. They blew a 21-point fourth-quarter lead to—are you sensing a recurring pattern here—the Cardinals and lost 34-31 in overtime to positively fly over the shark. That was the second of six losses in seven games and Washington finished out of the playoffs.
The 1999-2000 Redskins--After barely losing a playoff game on the road in 1999, Dan Snyder wasted no time in jumping the shark. In the offseason he signed Jeff George and Deoin Sanders. End of upswing, start of downfall.
Steve Spurrier--The Redskins were 4-4 at the midway point and going into Jacksonville for a game against one of the league's worse run defenses. Spurrier saw that the weather would be nice so he abandoned his run-oriented game plan and called 51 pass plays to just 16 runs. "I was dumb enough to think we could throw it up and down the field," said Spurrier. And we were dumb enough to think that you could coach in the NFL.
Click here for previous entries in Tandler's Redskins Blog
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