I haven't felt this way very often at all since before I could drive a car. For the record, I just turned 40, so this statement dates me back to 1991-1992.
At no point over these past 25 years have I ever wavered on my passion for the Redskins. At no point have not been able to find the joy in following the team. Even through the painful games/seasons, I have always found it worth my time.
But one thing I had more or less forgotten is how different it is to watch the Redskins while simultaneously being hopeful AND confident. Sometimes they haven't really allowed for either. Most of the time, I can conjure the hope. Rarely have I been able to say the same about the confidence.
And that is what changed for me on Monday Night. First of all, I don't come from this at the same angle as many of you do. My stance stayed firm all off-season: This is the best roster from a pure talent standpoint the Redskins have had since 1991. I felt that strongly. I still do. This roster is more or less stacked with quality players. Now, that doesn't always equal big success. Lots of things can deter that-- organizational chaos, coaching, injuries, luck, etc... But speaking strictly on talent I entered the season fairly confident that we had the ability to be a good team.
Week one shook the confidence in that, no doubt. We didn't looked terrible, but we certainly looked shaky. But over these past three weeks, the Redskins have begun to appear as I envisioned them over the summer.
The thing about confidence is that you can't fake it. It is either there or it isn't. You can lie about it of course (to others or yourself) but deep down you know the truth.
Since 1992 (when I still had strong faith that that 9-7 team could get back to the Super Bowl) my moments of true confidence have been fleeting.
Towards the end of 2005 was likely my most confident. During that three game run against the other East teams to end the season, I felt great about the team. Felt we could beat anyone. Had strong confidence we would beat Tampa in the wild card game. I knew Seattle was tough, but I felt we were right there with them. Came up short that day, but going in I felt good-- and sort of subconsciously that made it more enjoyable.
2012 would be the other example. But that happens REALLY late for me. It was until we were up 14-0 on Seattle that I started to get a swagger. Prior to that I felt we were just on a hot streak and I was waiting for it to implode. Of course, it DID implode like three minutes later, but that is neither here nor there. Those were the two teams in 25 years I truly and honestly felt CONFIDENT that the Redskins could go to a Super Bowl. Hopeful a few other teams here and there? Sure, but hope is where it ended.
This team feels so incredibly different to me. I don't think they've arrived yet and we are relying on a lot of youth (especially on D) which could equal a few more bumps in road. But through four games, I LOVE watching this team. First of all, the defense is LAYING PEOPLE OUT. We are absolutely destroying people physically out there. Our interior DL has been stellar -- Allen and Ioannadis are a menace. And we are popping people all over the field on all levels. The scheme also appears to be sound. Chiefs are as frustrating to stop as it gets- I credit them for finding little gaps against us to keep drives alive-- and for sure the injuries hurt us Monday-- I definitely think it contributed to a partial wear down. But we have ballers everywhere.
Offensively, we are still very good. And you can just see greatness there as soon as Pryor and Doc settle in and become a bit more reliable and efficient. But we are close.
During that final drive, I felt supremely confident. We already saw a drive like that once in Los Angeles and I felt it was coming again. The timeout by Jay was a mistake, no doubt. That frustrated me when it happened and it still bugs me. Mistake on his part. But the next play was right there. I don't think it was a choke-- it was a near miss. It is certainly a play you need to make if you want to be a Super Bowl caliber team-- but it's OK to miss that play in week 4 and use it as a tool and motivation to get better.
We had em. We went toe to toe with arguably the best team in the league in their house on Monday Night. And it didn't come off as fluky or lucky. If anything, Lady Luck worked against a bit-- the up for grabs ball on the Chiefs second to last drive, and a few of the more iffy penalties come to mind.
Glass is half empty person might say, "yeah, same old story-- Skins close but no cigar, find a way to lose." But the thing is, this ISN'T the same old story. We HAVEN'T shown up in games of that caliber to that level all that often. For three straight weeks now, we have played VERY VERY well overall. That ISN'T something we've been able to say a whole lot.
You can sense it too. They were mad after the game. I think they felt they should have won because they think they are better than the Chiefs. That may or may not be true, but it's nice that it's debatable at least.
I am a huge Gruden fan. Like all fans, I have some minutia issues with him that bother me, but big picture stuff with him-- I think he's a winner. I think he's changed the culture within the organization-- or at least on the sidelines. He needed more talent and a better scheme on defense in order to take another step. He got it. That's clear as day.
I could still be wrong of course and/or injures could derail things. But it appears as if we've dodged any major issues in that regard despite all the hobbled dudes. And yes, if we go out and lay an egg against the Niners and fall to 2-3, then yeah, we undo a whole bunch, if not all, of the good we've shown thus far. But I don't think that's going to happen. I have confidence this team will be ready to play and ready to respond. Read to take on the rest of the season and make a real run at the division and perhaps beyond.
It's really nice to feel this way. I have zero dread of the remainder of the season. Only excitement.