By Kevin Ross
The entire National Football League is well aware that the Washington Redskins are a soft football team. It’s not a secret; the cat is out of the bag. The Redskins are looked at more as cowards than as warriors. Whether Washingtonians want to believe it or not, that is the identity that their professional football team has built for itself. The only question now is: will the Redskins change that perception?
The NFL regular season can essentially be boiled down into a few important games that determine a team’s trajectory. Looking back at last season, the Redskins’ pivotal game took place in Week 7 as the team decided to start quarterback John Beck at Carolina. The Redskins were 3-2 and well in the mix as they hoped to take their season to the next level. In this season-defining game, John Beck struggled and Washington was defeated 33-20 by Cam Newton and the Panthers. The Redskins then went on to lose 8 of their last 10 games.
And that’s the way a typical NFL season plays out–a pivotal game either sends a team spiraling toward misery or soaring to the playoffs like the Giants always seem to do. Most of the time these pivotal games occur later in the season, but sometimes these games occur in Week 3. This Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals will be one of those season defining games, where we will learn plenty about the Washington Redskins.
Your first instinct might be to wonder how a Week 3 match-up could affect the trajectory of an entire 16-game season. To further explain let’s take a step away from the football field and look back to junior high school.
They say bullying is an epidemic that is destroying many youths around the country. The modern day approach to dealing with a bully involves one simple step: walk away from or ignore the bully. Now the old school approach is a little different, and it says: punch a bully as hard as you can right in his teeth, and then repeat if he comes back for more.
The modern day approach may be politically correct, but in the olden days, bullying was not an epidemic. Therein lies the remedy for the Washington Redskins, who find themselves in an awkward situation after being embarrassed and bullied to a pulp in last week’s lost to the St. Louis Rams.
The loss to St. Louis hurt Washington in the standings, but the effort put on film may end up causing more damage. Last week, the blueprint to beat Washington was written: If you get nasty with the Redskins, play a little dirty, and swing a couple of times below the belt, the Washington Redskins will back down because they’re a soft team. With the NFL being the ultimate copycat league, the Redskins can bet that the Bengals will try to intimidate them just like St. Louis did.
And if you think about it, the recent history of the Washington Redskins is that they back down from fights. There are many examples, but think back to the 2009 season when DeAngelo Hall had to fight the entire Falcons sideline by himself. Later that week, Brian Orakpo appeared on the Lavar Arrington radio show; Lavar got right to the point and asked Orakpo why he didn’t help out DeAngelo Hall.
Orakpo responded by saying that he didn’t want to be fined. And that answer right there, has represented the Washington Redskins ever since. Getting fined (which is a personal matter) supersedes being there for the team. And thus the Redskins are built as a collection of individuals and not a well-oiled machine.
It’s easy to name on one hand the Redskins who are willing to go to battle if something occurs during a game: London Fletcher, Trent Williams, and DeAngelo Hall. That’s it.
This week against the Cincinnati Bengals will tell us all we need to know about the Redskins. Are they the same soft team that appeared in St. Louis, or are they willing to fight back as a team? Because if they don’t learn to punch that bully right in his teeth, then you can bet that each week every single team will try to bully the Redskins into submission.
And that’s why this game will determine the trajectory of the season. Will Washington put the rest of the league on notice that they are here to fight? Or will they continue to get walked on as other teams take victories from them?
It’s time for the Washington Redskins to choose an identity.
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Kevin Ross is a freelance writer covering all things Washington Redskins. His work can be found on Examiner.com.