WASHINGTON — An NFL team going worst-to-first in their respective division is nothing new. It happens almost every single year. This year, it happens to be the Redskins — as it was in 2012 — but that’s not a slight to their accomplishment.
Considering where the Redskins were at the conclusion of 2014, wrapping up a franchise-worst two-year stretch of a measly seven wins, they figured to be the least likely of eight last-place teams (save for maybe the Jets) to make such a tremendous leap forward in 2015.
And yet — against all preseason prognostications — they made the leap.
“What the Washington Redskins have done this year is not too short of miraculous,” Tiki Barber said during a CBS Sports Minute on Monday. “Last season ended with four wins, the second-worst record in the NFC, a dysfunctional RGIII quarterback situation and a head coach on the hot seat after his rookie year. Eleven months later, though, they’ve gone from worst-to-first and are headed to the playoffs.”
The ‘best of a bad bunch’ theory is the en vogue knock against them. Surely the Dallas Cowboys, had Tony Romo remained healthy all season, would have won the division handily, they’ll say, while disregarding the failure in the Cowboys’ strategy of not having a competent backup quarterback on their roster.
The Giants blew five fourth-quarter leads. Yeah.
How could the Eagles have predicted DeMarco Murray to hit the wall so abruptly at age 27? No running back has rushed for as many, or more, attempts than Murray’s 392 in 2014 since Larry Johnson’s 416 touches in 2006. Johnson was 27 at the time and never had another 1,000-yard season. Perhaps this was an indication of Dallas’ unwillingness to re-sign Murray.
“Make no mistake, they didn’t do it alone,” Barber continued. “It took a lot of help from an injury plagued and hapless NFC East, but the Redskins are division champs.”
“A big reason for that is Kirk Cousins,” he said. “He’s been an upper tier quarterback for the last two months. Not only has he led the Skins to a 5-2 record in the second half, but he boasts a 100-plus rating in six of those seven games with 16 touchdowns and only two interceptions. Is this Redskins team a team of fate? Not likely. Is Cousins the elusive, long-term answer at quarterback? Possibly. Look, I know these Skins aren’t Super Bowl material yet, but they’re moving in the right direction.”
The Redskins haven’t beaten a team with a winning record all season. Well, they beat the Eagles — who are 6-9 — twice. Beyond that, they played who was in front of them, the results of which rewarded them with a playoff spot during a season in which 56 percent of the league has a sub-.500 record.
There are plenty of ways to negate any team’s success. Five of the New England Patriots’ 12 wins have come against teams with losing records. Would you say they’re undeserving of wearing the AFC East crown? Of course not.
Good teams beat bad teams. Sometimes that’s enough, particularly when more than half the league is below average, to make the playoffs. It’s how the Redskins perform from this point forward which will determine how successful their season was relative to the rest (of the best) of the league.
Set the floor at Top 12 in the NFL and go from there.
“And, amazingly, we haven’t mentioned Robert Griffin’s name in months,” Barber said.