A Lost Year in Washington

The year 2013 is drawing to a close, and looking back on it, Washington D.C. had probably the worst year of any city in North America. New York came close, but D.C. takes the title this year. The failures of Washington don’t end with Congress, either. The Redskins, firmly entrenched in a decades long conflict over the offensiveness of their team name, struggled mightily to do much of anything on the offensive side of the ball. Robert Griffin III was not right this year. It started with their one playoff game last January, when Griffin played on a bad knee that needed offseason surgery. Not only did the Skins lose to the Seattle Seahawks that day, but Griffin lost the ability to play in the preseason and take a step forward after an impressive rookie season. RG3 has regressed, backup QB Kirk Cousins has played his way, into a quarterback controversy, Mike Shanahan has been fired, and the St. Louis Rams now have Washington’s first round pick in the 2014 draft from when the Redskins traded up to get RG3. The Redskins are making Congress look competent.

I think Griffin still has a bright future in this league, but I’m not sure it’s with this team. The same can be said for Kirk Cousins, who could start for half the teams in the NFL right now but had the misfortune of being drafted in the 4th round the same year Washington used the 2nd overall pick to acquire Griffin (one of the many head scratching moves of the Shanahan Era). St. Louis, who still believes in Sam Bradford as their franchise quarterback, is in a great position to load up their team this spring, while Washington is stuck with the player they gambled to acquire. In the meantime, they have a mess, no head coach, no 1st round draft pick, and an aging defense on their hands. Now would be as good a time as any for Daniel Snyder to be more open to changing the team’s very dated name to get some positive PR for the franchise, but that’s not likely to happen.

The Redskins and the federal government were not Washington’s only institutional failures in 2013. The Washington Nationals looked like a new franchise and a winning franchise in 2012. They had finally rid themselves of the stink of the Montreal Expos after seven years in the nation’s capital, complete with a talented young roster headlined by ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg and teenage outfielder Bryce Harper. The Nats were one of the best teams in all of baseball in the 2012 regular season, and looked poised for a deep playoff run. Then they thought too much. Strasburg had missed the 2011 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, but was back to his dominant form in 2012. The Nationals’ front office wanted to limit the number of innings he pitched, however, so they decided to shut him down in September and keep him off the active roster in the playoffs, thinking that 2012 was the start of a run of success and that they would be back again in 2013. The Nationals squandered a good chance and were bounced in the first round, and were unable to repeat their success this year. They missed the playoffs, and as long as they continue to do so, people will be able to point to the decision to shut Strasburg down and think about what might have been. Who knows? The San Francisco Giants might still have won the National League Pennant and the World Series that year, but you can’t win if you don’t play. The 2012 Nats missed a shot by not taking it, and they fell back to earth in 2013.

2014 is a new beginning for everyone, but 2013 can’t end soon enough for Washington. At least they still have John Wall and Alex Ovechkin to be excited about.

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