The Washington Football Team Division Title Had a Hidden Cost That Still Pays | Professional: All sports
The Washington football team know what success doesn’t look like in 2021. It doesn’t look like 1-2 with a lucky win over the New York Giants without a win and a resounding loss to the Buffalo Bills that lit up the distance between Washington and a true Super Bowl contender. The first three weeks of 2021 neither built on last season’s promise nor provided many definitive signs for a prosperous future. Terry McLaurin as confirmed No. 1 wide receiver? To verify. The defensive line as the basis of an NFC power? Come back later.
What does success look like in 2021 for the franchise? What is this season supposed to be? After three weeks, still so early in the season, it’s much more difficult to define.
Washington appeared to enter the season with low, but cautious, team-building expectations. He would develop young players and bring in new ones while building a talent base and remaining patient in his search for a long-term quarterback. He possessed the luck of a bad division, enough raw talent and an interim quarterback to compete for a repeat NFC East title even if he remained on a rebuilding course. Once he found a passer, he would be ready to win. Most teams work the other way around – the quarterback first, then the supporting cast – but at least Washington had a plan.
In his first season, Ron Rivera produced clear signs of progress. Washington has become a more professional football operation than it had been under Jay Gruden. His defense, led by Chase Young and a top-four first-round pick, became a force the rest of the league envied.
Establishing a basic skill level and doing one thing exceptionally well, however, are not steps a franchise should aspire to repeat. This year should have been the next step, not a step back. After three weeks, Washington are a rebuilding team with no young quarterback watching their greatest asset – a fierce young defense – either worsen or expose themselves.
Rivera has been an NFL player, assistant, or head coach for almost all of the past four decades, and that period has provided an intrinsic insight into how a football team develops. This summer, it didn’t take some expertise in reading between the lines to deduce what Rivera thought about the Washington football team’s position. In so many words, he told anyone who wanted to listen to him – fans, the media, his players – that the division’s title shouldn’t obscure the rebuilding of Washington, that a record of 7-9 points to a long way to go. browse, not a launch pad.
“If you’re successful and it’s premature and it creates that air around you, it’s not fair: you get your butt kicked,” Rivera said this summer. “If for some reason we go out and say, ‘Well, we’ve come, man; we have this, ”so we’re not going to improve. We’re not going to go back and learn the basics. We’re not going to figure out what it takes to get back to where we need to be.
Rivera seems to always send the same message. He consistently preached the need for “maturity” among his players, including after Sunday’s 43-21 loss to Buffalo.
“Yes, we have a lot of talent. I understand, ”Rivera said Monday. “I know a lot of people have expectations because of this talent. As that talent is worked and molded into a unit, into a team, we’re going to go through some of these games. We will go through this. “
Washington’s surprise division title brought joy last year, but has come at a psychic cost this season. The franchise remains in a rebuild, which a fun and entertaining playoff game in January has clouded. He won seven games last year against a poor schedule and a preponderance of backup quarterbacks. That he had won the division was an unusual bonus, not an indication that he had taken a leap forward. It was hard for fans and players not to remember the accumulated wins and tight fourth quarterback against Tom Brady in the playoffs and think big.
No one should be thinking big now. Washington allowed 92 points in three games, the fourth worst in the league, while giving up 5.9 yards per game, which ranks in the final third. McLaurin is always fantastic; Antonio Gibson is a durable and modern running back; and wide Curtis Samuel returns to the training ground this week – and Washington still has Pro Football Focus’s 24th-ranked offense.
“Everything has to be better,” Rivera said Monday. “It really is. As a football team, we don’t play to our capacity. This is the thing that is difficult for all of us. We think we are better than what we have shown.
The uncomfortable questions for Washington: What happens when this team plays to its potential? What should fans even be looking for?
Maybe Washington can come together and fight for division again. Even if the Super Bowl challenge remains out of reach, it would be a ride for hungry fans and an ideal experience for a young team. This would be a sign that last year’s progress is sustainable. Currently, the Dallas Cowboys – who have their quarterback in Dak Prescott – have parted ways with Washington.
If Taylor Heinicke emerges as a franchise quarterback, it would count as success beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Washington shouldn’t feel the need to restrict his imagination to what Heinicke might become, but he also has no reason to view the possibility as anything but distant. It’s good that they have a lottery ticket in their pocket, but they shouldn’t quit their jobs.
That leaves the prospect of another under-.500 season and no long-term quarterback. A deservedly impatient and declining fanbase doesn’t need another running season in place. This year’s goal wasn’t necessarily to win a division title, but to build on a seven-game winning season. Washington still has 14 games to complete this mission. Right now, it’s hard to see what that might look like exactly.