You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net
Those who are hoping that the Redskins make a playoff run are looking at some pretty long odds. Only three teams have ever started a 2- 5 and made the postseason tournament. Those were the 1990 Saints, the 1995 Lions and the 2002 Jets. Those Saints made it in at 8-8, which is unlikely to happen this year and that Jets team got it with a 9-7 record. Only the 1995 Lions, who went 8-1 in their final nine games, have done what the Redskins need to do in order to be reasonably assured of making the postseason.
That was not a remarkable Lions team. Wayne Fonts was the coach. ‘Nuff said. The quarterback was Scott Mitchell, who was every bit as reviled in Detroit as Mark Brunell is in Washington. Mitchell did toss the ball well enough to allow two receivers, Herman Moore and Brett Perriman, to haul in over 100 catches apiece. And, of course, there was Barry Sanders who had a so-so season by his standards, a mere 1,500 yards.
They were not juggernaut defensively, finishing 27th overall, although there were better against the run (18th) than against the pass (26th).
They came to FedEx Field that year and lost a 36-30 decision to the Gus Frerotte-led Redskins to fall to 2-5. They split their next two games before finishing the season with a seven-game winning streak. The schedule was not particularly in their favor as they played five teams that finished the season with records of .500 or better. They were one of two 10-6 teams that year and they didn't need any tiebreakers to get into the playoffs.
Let's take a quick look at that '02 Jets team since the Redskins would have a chance at the postseason at 9-7. Herm Edwards was the coach and the offense featured Chad Pennington throwing to a couple of guys that we're all familiar with, Laveranues Coles and Santana Moss, and handing off the Lamont Jordan and Curtis Martin. Seven of their final nine games were against teams that finished at .500 or better. Their 9-7 record was identical to those of New England and Miami. New York beat out the Dolphins based on a better division record and their tiebreaker over the Patriots came down to best record in common games. They trashed Peyton Manning and the Colts 41-0 in the first round of the playoffs before losing to the Raiders.
Don't think that you're going to get some rosy homer scenario here that says that the Redskins will duplicate what the '95 Lions and '02 Jets did and pull a playoff appearance out of their collective butts. A lot more teams that started 2-5 kept on that pace and finished with double-digit loss totals, not playoff reservations. I'm standing by the 8-8 finish that I predicted earlier this week. Even that will demand that they play considerably better than they have in the first part of the season.
Still, the fact it has happened means that it could happen again. No matter what you might say or what I might say, Joe Gibbs and the coaching staff and the players have to keep thinking and believing and saying that they're still in it. If they think that playing Mark Brunell gives them their best shot at winning (a debatable proposition, but that's Gibbs' thinking), then they need to play Brunell. They can't turn the remainder of 2006 into a tryout camp for 2007 and beyond.
Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book has an account of every game the Redskins played from when they moved to Washington for the 1937 season through 2001. For details and ordering information go to http://www.RedskinsGames.com