WFT Wrap Up

Greetings from The Booth!

This past Sunday, NFL fans witnessed a laughingstock more pitiful than the Washington Football Team. That would be the New York Giants, who fell to the WFT in the season finale 22-7. Remember the girls in school that used to hang around with “friends” who weren’t as pretty in order to feel good about themselves? I think we can use that analogy about Sunday’s game. Washington ran the ball for 225 yards against a Giants’ defense that obviously couldn’t wait for the clock to hit zero.

You should beat a team that runs 2 consecutive QB sneaks backed up against it’s own goal line, something Giants head coach (for now) Joe Judge tried to explain this week. I get the explanation, somewhat, but the optics are really bad when you show no confidence in players who are supposed to be NFL-caliber.

And there was Judge providing bulletin-board material for Washington mid-week with a not-so-veiled reference to the WFT as a clown show and to a nationally-televised fight between 2 Washington teammates during a rout by Dallas. We know the organization is a clown show, but it’s not good for someone to say it who is on the outside-looking in. If you remember the movie “Animal House,” it was Boone who said “he can’t say that about our pledges. Only we can say that about our pledges.” Give Washington credit for sticking together as family–albeit a dysfunctional one.

A feel-good win for the Football Team to be sure, but an empty one, as the WFT finishes up at 7-10 (interestingly enough the same record as last year–the difference being that in 2020, 7-9 was good enough to win the NFC East) and out of the playoffs. As we’ve become used to over the last 20-plus seasons under owner Dan Snyder, the 2021 season derailed almost as soon as it started, with players like Chase Young and Ryan Fitzpatrick lost for the year.

After a 2-6 start, the Football Team reeled off 4 straight wins and temporarily grabbed the final NFC Wild Card spot. Then came injuries and COVID, which decimated the team. A four-game skid followed, as the WFT was eliminated with one week to go.

Now, as the team moves forward, there are lots of issues to tackle during the offseason, but 2 big ones. The WFT will unveil a new team name on February 2nd. Make no mistake–the players need to be on board, whatever the new name is. Several of the players gave good reviews to the new uniforms, which will remain burgundy and gold. Deion Sanders once said something to the effect, “look good, feel good. Feel good, play good.” And I think there’s something to that. Hopefully, the organization will be able to cleanse it’s palate with new “unis” and a new name.

Then, there’s the quarterback issue. Washington simply must find it’s franchise quarterback, whether in the draft or through free agency. DeShaun Watson has been mentioned, but he has a lot of excess baggage. In any case, Taylor Heinicke played admirably this season, but will be better suited as a solid backup. Or at least a “bridge” next season, should the WFT go the draft route.

There are some pieces that Jason Wright and Ron Rivera can build a team around. Terry McLaurin is a Pro Bowl caliber receiver, and the aforementioned Young can be a defensive force. RB Antonio Gibson is one of the top backs in the league if he learns to take care of the football.

Groundhog Day is coming, and like Bill Murray from the movie of the same name, Washington has been living the same day (season) over and over again. Like Murray, it’s time they finally get it right.

Enjoy Super Wild Card Weekend, and until the next visit from The Booth…GO HORNETS!


The Name Game

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Greetings From the Booth!

Don’t look now, but area high school football is just over a week away and a week later, a full-fledged Fall season of Shenandoah University begins (knock on wood), as the Hornets entertain Methodist on September 4th. Hopefully the Delta variant of the coronavirus won’t trip us up.

In addition to working once again on SU football broadcasts with my longtime broadcast partner Scott Musa, this season I will also be sharing the Booth with DeShon Foxx. Foxx is the Assistant AD for Student Success, Inclusion, and Equity at Shenandoah, and also played football for the University of Connecticut. Upon his graduation from UConn, DeShon spent a couple of years in the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks and New York Jets. I look forward to his unique perspective as we bring you Hornet football this Fall!

Well, according to multiple sources (NBC Sports Washington and The Washington Post), the Washington Football Team has narrowed it’s list of potential team nicknames to 3. If you follow “Making The Brand” on the team’s website and YouTube channel, you’ll see WFT president Jason Wright tell head coach Ron Rivera and GM Martin Mayhew that 3 possibilities remain. This was confirmed by the above 2 sources and reported by Yahoo Sports.

For those who long for a return to the past, the former team name is not one of the 3 finalists. There are many who want to keep the Washington Football Team name, saying it has a cool “European football” feel to it. For me, one who writes a sports report for on-air and the website each morning, it’s clunky, and I’ve often (mistakenly) juxtaposed the F and the T when using the abbreviation. OK, sometimes not mistakenly…

I do hope the team decides to hold on to some of it’s past by keeping the burgundy and gold colors. I’ve not heard anything that would suggest otherwise. That would make for a seamless transition from past-to present-to future. As a longtime fan, I’m not ready for a radical color scheme change.

For me, I would like to see a name that does give fans a link to the past in a way that honors Native American culture. Ever since the subject of the name change reared it’s head several years ago, I’ve though that Warriors would be a great team name. I’m sure someone could tell me what’s wrong with that idea, but in my humble opinion, “Warriors” conjures up images of honor, strength, and pride. Again, I’m not ready for radical change. And I don’t like “generic,” unless it refers to paying less at the store for the same product.

Ultimately, no matter what name is chosen for the DC NFL football franchise, being successful on the field will soothe most fans who don’t like it.

As the late Al Davis famously said, “just win Baby!”

Until the next visit from the Booth, Go (fill in the blank)! GO HORNETS!


A Calming Influence

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Greetings from The Booth!

It just got real this week. The annual “Meet The Fall Coaches” event was held Monday night in the Buzzy Plaza between The Wilkins Center and Shentel Stadium at Shenandoah University. Burgers on the grill, beverages, and mingling with fans, athletes, and coaches…what’s not to like about that? And despite a very hot and humid evening, there was that certain something in the air that hinted of the coming Fall football season.

Speaking of football, have you noticed that there has been very little drama coming out of the Washington Football Team training camp this Summer? With owner Dan Snyder’s wife in charge, it looks like the football people are actually being left to do football things. We saw that for the most part last season, and what happened? The WFT went 7-9, but it was good enough to win the NFC East in Head Coach Ron Rivera’s first season with the team.

Rivera has been the calming influence in the middle of a stormy franchise. As talk of the toxic team culture under Snyder and his minions and the name change swirled around the team, all Rivera did was coach the burgundy and gold to a division title, even as he was battling cancer. Unlike the other rare division titles in the last 20-plus seasons, there is even talk by many pro football “experts” of a repeat in 2021. It seems a solid foundation has been laid.

The other calming influence on the field seems to be the (assumed) starting quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, who brought his talents, veteran leadership, and trademark beard to DC in the offseason. Fitzpatrick has been there and done that, having played for just about every other NFL franchise in his career. The WFT could have done a lot worse. Fitzpatrick is a solid NFL quarterback who has numerous 4th quarter comebacks on his resume.

Word is that Fitzpatrick has slowly learned the Washington offense, and is developing chemistry with the much-improved talent that was added in the offseason. With a projected top-5 defense filled with stars like Chase Young, things certainly look bright. We will find out soon.

Former team executive Bruce Allen once infamously said “we’re winning off the field.” It finally looks like the Football Team can win on the field.

Until the next visit from The Booth…HTTR and GO HORNETS!


A Beginning

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Greetings from The Booth!

Well, almost.

It was “one and done” for The Washington Football Team on Super Wild Card Weekend, as the burgundy and gold lost to the ageless Tom Brady and the Bucs , as expected, 31-23. But the 7-9 WFT didn’t go down without a fight, and earned the respect of Tampa and a lot of the NFL who thought they didn’t earn a seat at the post-season table.

(At this point, I need to veer off-track with a few random thoughts. Why is the much-heralded Washington front four nicknamed “Maroon-4”? I get the reference to the musical group, but maroon isn’t one of the team colors. I’m reminded of former Redskins coach Jim Zorn, who in his opening press conference upon being hired, asked for “3 cheers for the old maroon and black.”

And, did you see the comparison-photos of 43 year-old Brady and 43 year-old George Blanda from back in the day? Blanda looked 70, while Brady looked 25. I’m pretty sure the reason is that in the late 60s, Blanda had no access to dieticians, massage therapists, and yoga pants. But the difference was striking.)

Anyway, on Saturday night, the WFT acquitted itself nicely, thanks to the efforts of instant folk hero Taylor Heinicke, who in his first start as Washington QB, almost single handedly willed his team to victory. The former ODU signal caller even came back out of the locker room late in the game after a shoulder injury, and in a “Willis Reed” moment, got the WFT within a TD at 28-23.

As disappointing as the loss was, it felt like more of a beginning than an end. In the last 20-plus years of the Dan Snyder regime, the playoff appearances have been few and far between, the post-season wins even more rare. And the playoff exits always felt like the end, rather than something to build on the following year. Even “Joe Gibbs 2.0″seemed like like a magic act performed with smoke and mirrors.

Saturday night’s loss felt different. Much has been written about the exciting young defensive line, led by rookie captain Chase Young. But there are some exciting young stars on the offensive side of the ball, and while this year might be the final chapter of the feel-good story of Alex Smith, and the end of Ryan Kerrigan’s time in DC, there is a lot to be hopeful about in 2021.

In a tumultuous year for the organization on many fronts, head coach Ron Rivera navigated his team through the rough waters of 2020 to a division title and playoff appearance, despite his own personal challenges. For that, he should at least be considered for Coach Of The Year honors.

We all know too well that ownership could mess things up without even trying, but Saturday night felt like the start of something big.

Until the next visit, so long from The Booth. GO WFT, GO HORNETS!


Super Wild Card Weekend

In this week’s Sports Dogs Podcast, I’m joined by Honorary Dog Scott Bradley as we break down some of the games on NFL Super Wild Card Weekend, specifically the Washington Football Team’s matchup against Tom Brady and the Bucs. We’ll also talk about the feel-good stories of Ron Rivera and Alex Smith, as well as our predictions for Saturday night.

Sports Dogs Podcast
Sports Dogs Podcast
Super Wild Card Weekend

Hail To The WFT!

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Greetings from The Booth!

Welcome to 2021, hopefully a year that brings an end to the pandemic, and a return to all things “normal,” like concerts, fairs, movies, and fans at sporting events. Before we move on to this week’s topic, many thanks to all of you who told us how much you enjoyed our “This Week In Shenandoah University Football” segments over the past several months. It was great to re-live some great memories from the last 20 years in “The Booth.”

For the first time since 2015, the Washington Football Team is headed to the NFL playoffs following Sunday’s 20-14 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. At 7-9, the WFT is only the third team with a losing record to make the postseason in a non-strike year. After a 2-7 start, Washington finished 5-2 to get into the playoffs as the NFC East champions. Much has been written about the feel-good stories of both Coach Ron Rivera, who battled cancer during the season, and QB Alex Smith, who should easily win the NFL Comeback Player Of The Year award.

Those two things, combined with the name change of the team, the negative publicity surrounding Dan Snyder and the culture within the organization, and the continuing drama of Dwayne Haskins, made for a season that was “so 2020,” as the saying now goes. It was only fitting that the WFT won the division almost by default.

Which brings me to this past Sunday night. In a game that the Eagles basically handed to Washington, the burgundy-and-gold on several occasions tried to give it back, before finally securing the victory. Philly coach Doug Pederson made several questionable decisions, including giving up what would have been a tying chip-shot field goal late in the game, instead going for the TD on fourth-and-goal (which failed). The most questionable move (just ask Giants fans) was replacing future franchise quarterback Jalen Hurts with backup Nate Sudfeld in the fourth quarter, which also backfired.

Many have accused Pederson of “tanking” the game to improve the team’s position in the draft, and one could make that case based on “the eye test.” This was not a good look for the NFL, which flexed the game to prime time, only to see two teams playing hot potato. Surely there will be more discussion about the “integrity of the game” in the weeks to come.

To the Giants (and their livid fan base), who needed an Eagles win to secure the division title, you should have taken care of business with a few more wins during the season. When you rely on help from other teams in a playoff scenario, you seldom get it. Washington fans have been there. If a 7-9 record isn’t playoff worthy to some, 6-10 shouldn’t even get a sniff of the postseason.

Someone had to win the “NFC Least,” and this year it’s the Washington Football Team, who now have to prepare for the GOAT Tom Brady, and the Bucs. The WFT is going to be looked down upon, much like the poor kid from the wrong side of the tracks who somehow crashes the country club soiree. In the words of Judge Smails, played by the great Ted Knight in the movie Caddyshack, “some people just do not belong.”

But don’t forget, this is the 2020 season, and Washington is playing with house money.

Until next time from The Booth, HTTWFT! and GO HORNETS!


Sports: Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Smith Wins Heisman, Manning Leads HOF Finalists, Rivera May Rotate QB’s

Alabama’s Devonta Smith outdistanced Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence to win the Heisman Trophy last night in a virtual ceremony. Smith is the first wide receiver to win the coveted award since 1991. The other finalists were Smith’s teammate Mac Jones, and Florida QB Kyle Trask.

Peyton Manning leads the list of finalists for this year’s Pro Football Hall Of Fame class. Other finalists include defensive back Charles Woodson, wide receiver Calvin Johnson, and defensive end Jared Allen. As many as five of the finalists will be chosen later this month for enshrinement.

Ahead of Saturday’s playoff game with Tampa Bay, Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera said yesterday he is considering rotating quarterbacks Alex Smith and Taylor Heinicke in Wild Card contest. Smith led Washington to Sunday night’s win over the Eagles, and was 5-1 as a starter this year, but is still favoring a calf injury suffered several weeks ago. The game is scheduled for 8:15 at Fed-Ex Field.

And, in college hoop tonight, number-22 Virginia hosts Wake Forest tonight at 9, while number-19 Virginia Tech travels to Louisville for a 6:30 tip-off.