If the key to life is managing expectations, the 2020 season could be a serious exercise for Washington Football fans.
Ask any expert - or certainly ask the experts in Las Vegas - and Washington is expected to be bad.
Few, if any, gambling sites expect anything out of Washington besides more dysfunction and losing. The team is expected to lose more than 10 games, and plenty of sites expect to see upheaval at the quarterback position. Most analysts expect the same thing.
On some level it's hard to blame that analysis.
Washington won just three games last season, the team has no name and 40 percent of the organization is available for sale. The NFL is investigating the organization for pervasive sexual harassment and verbal abuse towards women. And, oh yeah, the world is in the middle of a global pandemic.
And while all of that is important for the business and the organization, that might be ignoring the actual on-field picture brewing for the Burgundy and Gold in 2020.
To start, Ron Rivera is in charge.
He's widely respected and twice won the Coach of the Year award during his nine-year stint in Carolina. In an awful sign that seemingly everything goes wrong for Washington, Rivera revealed a cancer diagnosis last month. In fact, he underwent treatment for squamous cell carcinoma last week. But in true Rivera fashion, he returned to practice the next day and seems poised to lead this team on Sunday against Philadelphia.
The road ahead seems full of trouble, but damn if Rivera doesn't seem the perfect person to lead Washington right now.
"This doesn’t feel typical, I can tell you that much," the head coach said last week. "We’ve dealt with it. We’ve coped with it the best we can. We’re making the best of the circumstances and we’re going forward. We’re not going to quit. We’re going to show up every day, we’re going to work hard, we’re going to do the things we’re supposed to and we’re going to go forward."
That's admirable. Seriously.
On the field too, Washington has some real weapons.
Terry McLaurin is a budding star. Chase Young, a Prince Georges County native and the second overall pick, could transform the defense.
Above all that, second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins remains the most important player on the team. And he seems to be in the right place before a huge season begins.
"Success for me is helping this team win more games than last year. Success for me is helping this team have a better overall demeanor on the field," Haskins said last week. "Success for me is finding ways to lead and be a presence. That’s something that I’m just looking forward to doing and being quite successful at it because I know that I can do it and my guys can do it."
Haskins showed great talent as a rookie late in the 2019 season, but he also struggled significantly early in the 2019 season.
If Haskins proves he is the guy this year, then 2020 is a success. Regardless of the record.
If Haskins proves he's the guy, and McLaurin breaks out for 1,200 yards, then the future looks bright. Regardless of the record.
If Haskins proves he's the guy, and McLaurin breaks out, and Young lives up the hype? Look out. Regardless of the record.
Washington is in a rebuild. That's the truth.
Rebuilds take time.
Washington fans need to manage their expectations for 2020. 3-13 stinks. 4-12 is ugly. 5-11 is a bad record.
But is 3, 4 or 5 wins a bad record if a young team loses a bunch of close games, shows a lot of toughness, and seems to build week after week?
The record in 2020 could be ugly, but the future could be bright.