The Redskins will try to do something on Saturday that they haven’t done since Sept. 18, way back when the St. Louis Cardinals were a long shot to reach baseball’s playoffs, the NBA lockout seemed like it wouldn’t end, Bruce Boudreau was seemingly entrenched as the Capitals’ coach and Herman Cain, not Newt Gingrich, was the Republican candidate from Georgia with a decent chance to wind up in the White House.
That something is win at home. The Redskins have lost five in a row in Landover heading into Saturday’s home finale against the 2-12 Minnesota Vikings. If Washington was 5-2 instead of 2-5 at FedEx, the NFC East title might be looming. Instead, the Redskins are playing out the string for a fourth straight year.
Not coincidentally, Washington hasn’t had a winning home record during any of those four seasons. If Detroit beat San Diego at home on Saturday, the Redskins will stand alone in the NFC in this dubious category.
“We’d like to establish a great home field advantage because we know we have a great fan base,” said linebacker London Fletcher, one of just six players on the active roster who’s enjoyed a winning home record in Washington.
“If you can be great at home, you’ve got a chance (to make the playoffs) every year,” said safety Reed Doughty, another of the sterling six.
Indeed, New England won the AFC East in 2009 despite a 2-6 road mark thanks to an 8-0 home record.
“When you go on the road, it’s more of an us against them (mentality),” added special teams captain Lorenzo Alexander. “You’re trying to shut the crowd up. There might be a little more of an emotional boost.”
In contrast, fullback Mike Sellers and receiver Santana Moss, the only active links to 2005 when the Redskins were 6-2 at home, their best mark since 1999, said they haven’t thought about the recent struggles at home.
Washington’s failures at FedEx have been especially pronounced under coach Mike Shanahan, who’s just 4-11 there after going 83-29 at home during 14 seasons in Denver, but the failures to protect the home turf have been pervasive enough that the Redskins are just 59-59-1 during their 15 seasons in Landover.
In comparison, the Redskins were 75-40 during their last 15 seasons at RFK Stadium, 162-101-2 during their entire 36-year tenure at 22nd and East Capitol Streets N.E. which ended 15 years ago today with a final 37-10 thumping of the hated archrival Dallas Cowboys.
After Bill McPeak (12-23) and Otto Graham (9-11) failed to win at then-D.C. Stadium, Vince Lombardi (4-2-1) began the home winning tradition in 1969. Bill Austin (4-3), George Allen (38-10-1), Jack Pardee (15-9) and Joe Gibbs (68-23) kept it going until it petered out under Richie Petitbon (3-5) and Norv Turner (9-15).
However, only Turner (22-16-1), Gibbs (17-15) and Terry Robiskie (1-0) have triumphed more often than not in Landover. Marty Schottenheimer (4-4) and Steve Spurrier (8-8) were .500 coaches, a mark that Jim Zorn (7-9) missed by losing his home finale to the Cowboys.
No opponent is worried about playing at FedEx despite a seating capacity that has been nearly twice as large as cozy ol’ RFK. Only eight of Washington’s 31 rivals haven’t at least split their last two visits.
Over the last two seasons, Minnesota is 2-12 on the road against the rest of the league. Saturday, the Vikings will try to go 2-0 at Washington during that span.
“It would be nice (to win),” Moss said. “I can’t worry about the other five games we lost at home.”
Nice? Maybe the Redskins simply need to get meaner.
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.