Reporting David Elfin
It’s funny how recent Redskins summers have broken down so opposite into even and odd years.
In 2004 (the return of sainted coach Joe Gibbs), 2006 (the arrival of $30 million newcomers Adam Archuleta, Andre Carter, Antwaan Randle El and Brandon Lloyd), 2008 (the start for quirky coach Jim Zorn) and 2010 (the anticipation about the marriage of proven winners Mike Shanahan and Donovan McNabb), there was plenty of excitement in Ashburn.
However, in the odd-numbered years, 2005, 2007 and 2009, there was much less buzz although the key arrivals of those offseasons, Santana Moss, London Fletcher and Brian Orakpo, respectively, proved to be more productive and longer-lasting than the more-hyped newcomers of the even-numbered seasons.
So far 2011 is following the boring script for an odd-numbered year. Is anyone that pumped up for the coming out parties of such rookies as Ryan Kerrigan and Jarvis Jenkins or the Washington debuts of such veterans as Stephen Bowen or Chris Chester tonight against the defending AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers?
The lack of pizzazz will especially be true if quarterback John Beck, a favorite of Shanahan and his offensive coordinator/No. 1 son Kyle, doesn’t play because of a groin “tweaked” last Saturday. Rex Grossman under center is no one’s idea of excitement.
And with McNabb and Albert “Mr. Malcontent” Haynesworth traded, Clinton “What’s He Going To Say This Time?” Portis cut and Carlos “Loose Cannon” Rogers having signed with San Francisco, the controversy meter in the locker room is pretty close to zero. If Pro Bowl cornerback DeAngelo Hall behaves, the likelihood of any Redskin spouting off are about as high as Washington’s chances of winning the NFC East.
However, hopes always springs eternal for the burgundy and gold faithful even after an 18-30 record the past three years, matching the Redskins’ worst such span since 1993-95.
Maybe local product Tim Hightower is the next great Washington running back. Maybe rookie Leonard Hankerson is the big receiver for whom the Redskins have been looking for a decade. Maybe Maryland grad Josh Wilson will be an upgrade on “Hands Of Stone” Rogers opposite the slick Hall. Maybe Virginia Tech’s Shayne Graham will end the revolving door at kicker.
We start learning the answers to these mysteries tonight, just 30 days before the games that count for real begin with the opener against the division rival New York Giants, against whom the Redskins are 1-9 since 2005.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the author of the new book: “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.