Baseball players talk about those hot August days as, “the dog days of summer.” The season is into its fifth month, and although every game matters, it’s too early for the adrenalin rush of the chase for the playoffs in September.
In the sportsradio world, our dog days are in July. It’s really the one month of the year that the NFL rests. Occasionally there are arrests to talk about – and this year two clowns blowing off fingers on the 4th of July, but until training camps open, it’s sometimes tough to put together a show in a football-crazed sports world.
So to get in some football yak before training camp opens. In the spirit of throwback Thursday, let’s take a look at a Redskin season from the past. And if it’s not Thursday when you’re reading this, just pretend it is.
Let’s go back to the 2005 season, which may give you reason for hope about the upcoming one.
Joe Gibbs was in his second year of his second go round as head coach. Even though the Redskins had won three of their last five the previous season, they still finished with only six wins and there was reason to believe the Hall of Fame coach lost his magic during his 11 years away from the sidelines.
He had stubbornly refused to use the shotgun and his run-based offense seemed better suited for the 1980’s rather than the 21st century. They didn’t score 21 points in a game until December and that was after Gibbs had finally benched quarterback Mark Brunell in November and turned to Patrick Ramsey.
As promised, there was no quarterback competition in training camp. The job belonged to Ramsey. And it belonged to him for…a little more than a quarter.
In the opener against the Bears, Ramsey was sacked in the second quarter by Lance Briggs and fumbled. That was it for Mr. Ramsey. In came Brunell on the next series. And while he failed to get the Skins into the end zone, three field goals were enough to beat the bumbling Bears 9-7. A day later, Gibbs announced that Brunell was back in as the starter. Said Gibbs, “Sometimes you don’t chart the circumstances or what happens. It just happens.”
Week two produced the midnight Monday night miracle in Dallas. Trailing 13-0 with under four minutes to play, that quarterback change made a week earlier was looking like a bad decision. Brunell had now played nearly seven quarters of football without producing a touchdown.
It came down to 4th and 15 from the Dallas 39-yard line. Brunell finally delivered. He threw a touchdown pass to Santana Moss and now it was 13-7. After an exchange of possessions, it was Brunell to Moss again – this time for 70 yards! Final: Redskins 14 – Cowboys 13. Amazing!
From 2-0, the Redskins got to 4-2 with road losses in Denver and Kansas City, sandwiched around an overtime win over Seattle and finally – and offensive explosion. They beat San Francisco 52-17 with 457 yards of offense. The pizza promotion that promised a free topping for every touchdown, which doubled in a win, had to tell customers, “We’ll try, but you can’t cook a pizza with 14 toppings.”
The fun lasted only week. In New York, Gibbs suffered the first shutout of his career, falling 36-0 to the Giants. Tiki Barber had 202 yards – in the first half. It was a complete butt kicking.
They rebounded with a home win over Philadelphia to get to 5-3, but in a season filled with drama, more would await them in Tampa. A wild game came down to the final minute with Chris Simms throwing a 30-yard touchdown pass to Edell Shepherd to make it 35-34. The expected extra point would send the game into overtime. But Washington’s Walt Harris blocked the kick. The Redskins celebration, however, was short lived. Harris was ruled to be offsides and the ball was placed on the one -yard line. Bucs coach Jon Gruden elected to go for it and Mike Alstott, despite Gibbs insisting his elbow hit the ground before the goal line, scored the two-point conversion for a 36-35 Tampa Bay win.
It was bad and it got worse. The fired coach two step followed at FedEx Field. First Norv Turner brought his Raiders in for a 16-13 upset win and then Marty Schottenheimer came in with the Chargers and won in overtime 23-17 on a 41-yard score from LaDanian Tomlinson.
At 5-6, it appeared it may have been time to declare Gibbs 2.0 a bust. What was forgotten though, was how good Gibbs teams were in December. And as the calendar flipped to the last month of the year, the Redskins got rolling.
They won back-to-back road games in St. Louis and Arizona with the Cardinal victory aided by a 91-yard kickoff return for a score from Antonio Brown, who’d been cut after fumbling in the opener, but had been brought back. A week later, Chris Cooley had his best day as a pro with three touchdown catches in a 35-7 laugher over the Cowboys. And on Christmas Eve, they took care of the Giants 35-20 with Ramsey coming off the bench to replace an injured Brunell and throwing a 72-yard touchdown bomb to Moss to ice it. And finally on New Years day, they finished off the Eagles 31-20 to clinch a Wild Card spot at 10-6. The team that couldn’t score 21 points in a game the year before, had averaged over 33 points a game in consecutive wins over the Cowboys, Giants and Eagles.
The first playoff game in Tampa wasn’t pretty. The Redskins managed only 120 yards of offense, but a 51-yard fumble return for a score from Sean Taylor was the difference in a 17-10 win. The season ended with a 20-10 loss in Seattle, but to have made it to the second round of the playoffs after a 5-6 start, left a good feeling overall.
A year after Gibbs 2.0 looked headed for Bustville, the future looked bright. He’d delivered three Super Bowl championships before, why couldn’t he do it again?
There would be no fairy tale this time around. In 2006, the Redskins gave Gibbs his worst season ever at 5-11 and he finally benched Brunell for good. The 2007 season, like 2005, featured another big December run. And this time it was with even more drama, including the murder of Sean Taylor and the knee injury suffered by starting quarterback Jason Campbell. They made the playoffs, but lost in Seattle and saw Gibbs walk away for good a couple of days later.
What can we learn from that 2005 season that may be of help as we head into 2015? Probably not a damn thing. But in these dog days of sportsradio, a throwback is always fun even if it’s not on a Thursda