By Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir
The Redskins took the first step back to respectability in 2012 by getting hot at the end of the year and winning their last seven games to take the NFC East title. They have almost all of their starters back and it looks like Robert Griffin III will be behind center when the season starts on Sept. 9. With a year together under their belts there is every reason to believe that they will be better this year.
But how much better? The next real step is to become Super Bowl contenders. Are the Redskins there yet? Or is this team still too much of a work in progress? Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir debate the topic is this week’s edition of Point-Counterpoint.
Rich Tandler: The Redskins aren’t going to be a juggernaut but they don’t have to be to qualify as a Super Bowl contender. The bar for being in the mix to get a ring is not as high as it used to be. The Ravens stumbled into last year’s playoffs with four losses in their last five games. In 2011 the eventual champion Giants went 9-7, lost twice to the lowly Redskins and were outscored on the year. The Redskins have many of the ingredients needed to make a run. They have a head coach who has raised two Lombardi Trophies. They have one of the top quarterbacks in the game. The offensive line is better than the sum of its parts and gets the job done. They have a chance to have a fierce pass rush behind Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan. Yes, there are holes but their strengths could well compensate for them and then some.
Tarik El-Bashir: I’ve got to be honest, Rich, I’m concerned about the Skins’ chances of making the playoffs, much less making a Super Bowl run. While you see enough strong points to push them over the top, I can’t get past the weaknesses and potential pitfalls. I like what I’m hearing about RG3’s recovery. But I need to see him in real, live game action before I totally buy that he’s the same player as before. And if he’s not the same, what does that mean for Alfred Morris? And that schedule. At Green Bay, at Denver, at Minnesota at Atlanta. Not to mention a home game against San Francisco. All of them were double-digit win teams; two had 13. And what about the defense? It should be better with Brandon Meriweather, Brian Orakpo and the rookie DBs. But the games aren’t played on paper. I’d rather wait and see before getting too excited.
Tandler: So your approach is cautious pessimism? I think that this team warrants more optimism than that. You talk about the schedule but the simple fact is that breaking down a schedule in June is futile. A year ago, the second half of the Redskins’ schedule was supposed to be daunting and they ended up running the table. Of course, Griffin being healthy and close to his old self is key. But he managed to win two critical games at the end of the season essentially on one leg so even a diminished RG3 is a threat. He will find a way. And did you notice how Morris performed in those games when the other guys knew Griffin wasn’t much of a running threat? He racked up 91 against the Eagles and a cool 200 vs. the Cowboys. Could things go wrong? Sure, and the Redskins aren’t good enough to overcome a lot of adversity and still contend for the Super Bowl. But if they have a reasonable amount of good fortune, they’ll be right there.
El-Bashir: You’re a history buff, right? How about this? Each of the three previous times the Redskins qualified for the postseason, they took a step backward the following season. After making the playoffs in 1999, they went 8-8. After returning in 2005, they went 5-11. They squeezed into the postseason in 2007, then missed out a year later. Look, I know this is a different team. But that pattern speaks to how hard it is to sustain success in the NFL. Look, my life as a reporter improves immensely when the team I’m covering makes a postseason run. Players are glad to stop and talk. The coaches are in a good mood. More people click on your stories and tune in on TV. But please excuse me if I remain a little skeptical.