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Playing to Win

Playing to Win

Rich Tandler is the author of Gut Check, The Complete History of Coach Joe Gibbs’ Washington Redskins. Get details and order at <a href="">

The Redskins have five games remaining in the NFL season. There are those who say that the team should use those remaining games to evaluate some younger players and perhaps shut down the season for the likes of Lavar Arrington to let him start rehab on his knee injury a month early. The competitive phase of the season is over, according to this line of thinking, and the few extra losses will improve the team’s draft position.

As well-intentioned as these folks are, there are just too many reasons to keep on fielding the team that gives the Redskins the best chance to win the most games.

  • The playoffs—Certainly, it’s far fetched that the Redskins could make the playoffs, but it’s very likely that an 8-8 team will make it in the NFC. So, until that ninth loss is in the right-hand column in the standings the team is playing for a playoff spot.
  • The playoff picture—This is much more grounded in reality. Of the five remaining games, four of them have potential playoff implications for the Redskins’ opponents. A loss to the Redskins will make the Giants’ road to the postseason extremely difficult. Whatever unlikely scenario the Cowboys have of making the playoffs hinges on beating Washington on December 26. A Minnesota loss to the Skins in the season finale could well force them outdoors for the first round of the playoffs. Similarly, a Redskins win over Philadelphia in two weeks might force the Eagles inside, in the Georgia Dome, for the NFC title game. The concept of integrity demands that the Redskins field their best team and give their best effort for those games.
  • Unintended consequences—As an example, one of the young players that some are suggesting should get a look is rookie tackle Jim Molinaro. Chris Samuels’ contract is getting to a rather sticky cap number (more on that later) and he may need to be replaced. So, the thinking goes, let’s see if Molinaro can get the job done so that we can see if the team would have to go out and get someone to replace Samuels or if his replacement is already on the roster. But such a move is fraught with danger. Suppose that Molinaro isn’t the guy and Patrick Ramsey takes one too many shots to his blind side and is injured and misses mini camps and some training camp while recovering. This isn’t training camp, it’s the regular season.
  • Winning breeds winning—And, on the other side of that coin, losing breeds losing. Sure, finishing at 5-11 last year got the team the fifth overall pick in the draft and Sean Taylor. But if anyone doubts that losing six of the last seven games of 2003 didn’t carry over into this season, regime change and all, you’re kidding yourself. If the Redskins lose, say, four out of these last five, nobody is going to remember how well this kid or that kid might have played. All that will be remembered is the losing and it will take that much longer to get into winning ways.
  • Learning how to win—This is related to the previous topic, but it involves more tangible aspects of the game than emotion. Before enjoying an extended period of success, a team must first figure out how to win. If you have a late lead, how do you hold on to it? If you’re trailing in the fourth quarter, what do you have to do to score to take the lead? The Redskins have too much experience in how not to finish of games this year; you can’t have too many reps in practicing the right way to do it.

Of all of the reasons to continue to make the best effort to win, the last one presented above is the most important. Gibbs’ first team, the 1981 Redskins, was essentially eliminated from playoff contention five games into the season. However, he did not choose to see what he had in the young quarterback Tom Flick and decided to leave veteran Joe Theismann in the lineup. Cornerback Joe Lavender clearly was near the end of the road (in fact he would retire in the offseason), but he still started every week because he gave the team the best chance of winning. Although the offensive line play was very shaky at times, he stuck with that no-name group of guys named Grimm, Jacoby, Bostic, May and Starke even though he had some relatively young but experienced backups.

What happened was that they rallied for some close wins and, in their last two games of the season, they built an early lead, kept the throttle open and routed the Colts and the Rams. They learned how to win, a skill that is not easily acquired mostly because opportunities to acquire it are rare. The Redskins are down to five of them this year. They can’t afford to waste a single one.

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Redskins Fan of the Year bracket: Which Washington supporter deserves the title?


Redskins Fan of the Year bracket: Which Washington supporter deserves the title?

Every week during the 2017 Redskins season, NBC Sports Washington found two Redskins fans in the crowd and paired them in a head-to-head matchup on Twitter to determine the fan of the game.

And now that the season is over, it's time to take each of those winners, throw them into a NCAA Tournament-style bracket and let Twitter pick the Redskins Fan of the Year.

Starting on January 8 over on the @NBCSRedskins Twitter account, one matchup a day will be posted at 11 a.m., and fans will have 24 hours to vote for their favorite supporter by retweeting or liking depending on their preference. Week 1's winner will face off with Week 17's, Week 2's will play Week 16's, etc.

The winners will advance, and eventually, one member of the Burgundy and Gold faithful will stand above all the rest, earning the coveted title of Redskins Fan of the Year. 

Check out the results below, which'll be updated every day. To see the tweet that corresponded with each matchup, click the link after the date, but remember, retweets and likes submitted after the 24-hour period won't be counted.

January 8: Round one, matchup one

This was a close one that came down to the last-minute, but at the 24-hour mark, Week 17's winner garnered justtttttttt enough retweets to move on.

January 9: Round one, matchup two

In this tournament, a giant Redskins chain is apparently worth more than a giant football hat.

January 10: Round one, matchup three

In the tournament's third showdown, we have our first winner from the Likes side:

January 11: Round one, matchup four

Was there anyway she wasn't gonna win, especially with the little Hogettes nose?

January 12: Round one, matchup five

Our fifth matchup's winner earned the most retweets of anyone up to this point:

January 15: Round one, matchup six

These three 'Skins fans had to witness Washington's Thursday night flop in Dallas, so it's only fair that they get to advance to the second round:

January 16: Round one, matchup seven

There's still time to vote on this one:

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Who will be the Redskins' core offensive players three years from now?

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Who will be the Redskins' core offensive players three years from now?

Just before training camp, I took a stab at figuring out who on the Redskins roster would still be with the team and contributing in the year 2020. Now that the season is over, let’s revisit that look, move it up to 2021, and see how much the picture has changed. The offense is up today, the defense later this week.

The terms used here are mostly self-explanatory. If you want details you can look at this post from a couple of years ago.   

Offense (age as of Week 1 2021)

Potential blue-chip players: Brandon Scherff (29), Morgan Moses (30)
Changes from last prediction: Moses added, removed Trent Williams (33), Jordan Reed (31)

Scherff and Moses both are two young players who should get better with more experience. The right side of the line will be in good hands assuming the Redskins will be able to re-sign Scherff, who will be a free agent following the 2019 season.


Williams will be 33 in 2021. He can play at a very high level at that age but I think he will be just below the perennial Pro Bowl status he enjoys now. Although I think that the Redskins can still get some good play out of Reed in the next couple of years, it’s hard to imagine him staying productive into his 30’s. He is under contract through 2021 but it’s hard to see him playing in Washington past 2020.

Solid starters: Jamison Crowder (28), Josh Doctson (27), Chris Thompson (30), Williams
Changes: Doctson, Thompson, Williams added, Kirk Cousins (33), Terrelle Pryor (32), Moses removed.

I’m probably higher on Doctson than most. I don’t see him attaining All-Pro status or catching 100 passes in a season but his physical talent is so good that he will be a solid, productive receiver for the next several years. The Redskins will need to find a third receiver but they will have two good ones in Crowder and Doctson.

Third-down back isn’t technically a starting position but Thompson should still be contributing as much to the offense as many starters.


I think that Cousins will be a solid starter somewhere in 2021 but it is not looking like it will be in Washington. Pryor obviously did not work out and he is very likely to be playing elsewhere next year.

Potential starters: Spencer Long (30), Rob Kelley (28), Samaje Perine (25), Chase Roullier (28)
Changes: Added Roullier, moved Doctson up

Long could be a fixture on the O-line in 2021 or he could be signed by a different team in March. I don’t think that Kelley or Perine will be workhorse backs but either or both could be a part of a tandem. Roullier could move up to the “solid starters” category if he can repeat what he did in a small sample size (7 starts) in 2017.

There are other players who could end up on these lists a year from now. But we haven’t seen enough of 2017 draft picks TE Jeremy Sprinkle or WR Robert Davis to offer an intelligent assessment of where their careers are headed. It’s the same with undrafted linemen Tyler Catalina and Kyle Kalis. They might not make the team in 2018 or they could be competing for starting jobs in 2019.

There also are reserves like Ryan Grant (30) and Ty Nsekhe (35) who still could be on the roster but who would only be spot starters.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.