Reporting David Elfin
Andrew Luck is not only Peyton Manning’s heir apparent as the quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts, he’s in line to succeed the 36-year-old newly-minted Denver Bronco as the NFL’s golden boy. That makes Robert Griffin III “the other guy” despite his Heisman Trophy. At least that’s how the schedule-makers have seen to it for the two prized quarterbacks’ rookie campaigns. schedulemakers
Luck, who is all but sure to be chosen first overall by Indianapolis next Thursday, will play three of his first four games at home and won’t face a 2011 playoff qualifier until after his Week 4 bye. Only three of the Colts’ final six games are against their division opponents and three of those six are on the road.
However, Griffin, who will go second overall to Washington if he’s not picked by Indianapolis, plays three of his first four games on the road and two of his first four against 2011 playoff teams. What’s more, the Redskins don’t get their bye until Week 10, after which they have to deal with powerful Baltimore and five of their six NFC East contests during the final seven weeks. Whew! Since Washington last won at home last Sept. 18 – before losing its final six games in the House That Jack Built – this year’s opener there on Sept. 23 against Cincinnati guarantees that it will be more than a year between post-game smiles in Landover.
Maybe the schedule is further punishment for Redskins owner Dan Snyder, general manager Bruce Allen and coach Mike Shanahan for their alleged salary cap cheating in 2010, a “crime” that has already cost Washington $18 million off this year’s cap with the same penalty being assessed in 2013, barring a successful appeal or lawsuit.
After all, the Redskins play their first two games on the road for the first time in 11 years and don’t meet a traditional rival – facing the Bengals, Atlanta, Minnesota and Carolina — until Week 11. A fan base that’s so tired of poor performances at high prices might not have much enthusiasm left by that point if the Redskins are en route to a fourth straight double-digit losing season and a fifth straight last-place finish in the NFC East.
Even with Snyder having trimmed more than 12,000 seats from the stadium over the past two offseasons, the prospect of more Eagles, Giants, Ravens and Cowboys fans than Redskins rooters on hand for the final four home games must be driving him mad.
Washington plays on the road just once from Oct. 29 through Dec. 15 and that happens on Thanksgiving at Dallas, a game in which the burgundy and gold are zero-for-six. Welcome home to Texas, RGIII!
As a side note, it didn’t hurt Joe Gibbs’ case for the Hall of Fame that the Redskins only played on Turkey Day in Dallas once during his 16 seasons as Washington’s coach. This year’s visit will be their sixth such appearance in the event’s other 30 seasons.
That game at the Cowboys comes just four days after the home date with Philadelphia. And yet, those are Washington’s only games during a four-week stretch that runs from Nov. 5-Dec. 2!
And don’t think that the folks on Park Avenue don’t have a sense of humor. Since New Orleans doesn’t play any of Gregg Williams’ other previous employers this season, why not have the Redskins open there in the Saints’ first post-BountyGate game and then send Washington to St. Louis, whose defense was going to be coordinated by Williams until he was suspended for the year? Of course, the Rams are also the franchise whom the Redskins gave their next three first-rounders and this year’s second-rounder for the right to move up four spots to take Griffin next Thursday.
Snyder and Co. contributed their own odd bit of scheduling during preseason with the afternoon August game in Landover, a 4 PM kickoff on Aug. 25 for the first Griffin vs. Luck showdown. That game comes after Washington opens preseason with two road contests for the first time for no good reason since 1996 (the NFL had the Redskins kick off in Japan in 2002 and they played all of their preseason games and first two regular season games on the road in 1997 while the stadium was under construction).
All of this makes this year’s schedule the weirdest I’ve seen in my two decades covering the Redskins. Enjoy!
David Elfin began covering sports when he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is Washington’s representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and the author of seven books, most recently, “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last two Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since last March.