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Greetings From The Booth!
If you’re a Washington Commanders fan, don’t go ordering your tickets to The Big Game just yet. (We’ll leave that to the Dallas Cowboy faithful, who do that every September. If the NFL had it’s Super Bowl at the start of the season like NASCAR, the Cowboys would have more banners than their massive new stadium could hold.) But there is reason today to think things are moving in that direction. For the first time since 2011, the burgundy and gold have started a season 2-0, following their heart-pounding 35-33 win against Denver on Sunday.
As one player put it, “this feels different.” And it does. The Denver game could have ended like the countless games we’ve seen in the last 23 years: with a last second loss or a blown lead or a comeback that falls just short. We’ve seen that movie over and over, and the ending never changes.
Only, Sunday it did. Calls that would have gone against Washington in the Snyder era went in their favor. The football bounced their way , and the Commanders even got a fortuitous no-call on the 2-point conversion attempt by Denver that would have sent the game into overtime. That play followed a 50-yard “Hail-Mary” touchdown pass by Bronco quarterback Russell Wilson on the game’s final play. I’m sure a lot of you were grumbling something like, “here we go again, same-ol same-ol” (I took out the expletives) as I did when that happened.
And, how many of you turned your TV to reruns of “Naked and Afraid” when the score was 21-3 Denver, and the Broncos threatening for more after a long punt return? Amazingly, the game turned on that drive with a Denver turnover, and the Commanders were able to weather the storm and get to within 7 at the half. A fired-up Washington defense shut down Wilson and the Broncos while Sam Howell and the Washington offense built a 35-24 lead late in the 4th quarter.
Old habits die hard, though. When Denver got to within 8 and the Commanders left Wilson with 56 seconds to work with, the familiar feelings of the Snyder era came flooding back. But, Washington found a way, and in the process scored it’s biggest road comeback since 1990. You remember that year, right? That season, the then-Redskins would make the playoffs at 10-6, laying the foundation for their Super Bowl year in 1991.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Two games does not a season make. But, the winds of change are blowing, and at 2-0, the Commanders are finding ways to win, as opposed to finding ways to lose. It, indeed, “feels different.”
Until the next visit from The Booth…HAIL!
Greetings From The Booth!
Let the new era of Washington Football begin (whatever you choose to call the team)! This past Friday, the Josh Harris ownership of the Washington football franchise began with a 17-15 preseason victory against the Cleveland Browns. The score doesn’t matter, really. The numbers on the scoreboard don’t tell the true tale of the optimism that now surrounds the organization following the 23-year train wreck of Dan Snyder.
No, I’m talking about the “vibe” emanating from Ashburn and beyond. It’s as if a 2-decade storm has moved out of the area and the sun is shining bright. Of course, there is optimism with every NFL team this time of year, because everyone is undefeated. But this is different. An apathetic fan base is re-energized and ready to return to a stadium that in recent years has been occupied by fans of the opposing team. An organization who usually only wins “off the field” seems ready now to win on it.
The difference between the previous and current owner is like night and day. Although both Snyder and Harris grew up as fans of the burgundy and gold in the glory days, Snyder was not a “man of the people.” Harris, meanwhile, endeared himself immediately to the fan base by buying over 1000 of them a beer at a recent DC radio station event at The Bullpen on Half Street near Nationals Park. Harris was seen sitting in the rain among the fans Friday night in Cleveland, as opposed to being enclosed in an owner’s box out of the elements.
These aforementioned things from Harris seem genuine, while everything Snyder did seemed contrived and thrown together. Who could forget the botched Sean Taylor tribute, with an inaccurately-detailed uniform hung on a wire mannequin? How about the last-minute hiring of head coach Jim Zorn, who referred to the team’s colors as “the old Maroon and Black?” Or the many “homecoming” events that attempted to tie the team’s glory days with the present?
Now, in earnest, many past greats are returning to the team. One of them is Darrell Green, who helped the then-Redskins to numerous Super Bowls, and played 20 years with the team. Green is someone you never saw anywhere near the organization under the Snyder regime. And the list goes on, including Joe Gibbs, who brought the organization 3 Lombardi trophies, and in “Gibbs 2.0,” took Washington to 2 playoff appearances under Snyder.
Speaking of the team name, the list of signatures is now over 70,000 to change it back to “Redskins.” I don’t think that will happen, but the name “Commanders” will soon be gone, as Harris tries to tie the present with the past. It’s interesting that Harris has rarely used the name “Commanders” in his public appearances, and preseason play-by-play man Chick Hernandez almost exclusively referred to the team as “the burgundy and gold” in Friday’s game. (Friday night, I played the “burgundy and gold” drinking game, and was three sheets by the second quarter).
On the field, the pieces seem to be in place. Training camp has been spirited, if not chippy, and new OC (and possibly future HC) Eric Bieniemy is whipping a new offense in shape to compliment what should be a top-five defense. New QB1 Sam Howell looked decisive on Friday, and has some exciting weapons around him. Howell will certainly experience growing pains, but his body language shows he’s ready to be “the man.”
No one knows what the 2023 season will bring, but the clouds seem to have parted in the DMV, and now it’s time to bask in the long-awaited sunshine.
Until the next visit from The Booth, HTT?
In this edition of the SDPC, The R-Dog (Randy Woodward) and The Duke (Ryan Rutherford) cover a wide variety of topics as the “Dog Days” set in: Pepper Martin’s retirement, a VBL success story, brews for everyone from the new Washington football ownership, and thoughts about the state of soccer in the USA as the Women’s FIFA World Cup gets underway. Stay cool!
NFL Owners unanimously voted to approve the sale of the Washington Commanders to Josh Harris for $6.05 billion, the most money ever spent on a North American sports franchise. After the vote, the NFL also announced they will fine former owner Dan Snyder $60 million after the results of the Mary Jo White investigation discovered he sexually harassed an employee and withheld revenue from the other teams. Valley League updates as well as Nationals and Orioles.