Washington Redskins: The 10 Most Embarrassing Moments in Team History
There is currently a renewed sense of hope within the Washington Redskins camp, but it hasn't been the easiest of journeys. Upon mentioning the title of this piece to a friend, I was greeted with a sarcastic response:
"How about every year for the last 10 years?"
That sort of blanket dismissal of the team has been commonplace around the league, with the dominance of the 1980s now faded into memory. There are numerous reasons why this is the case, but for sanity's sake I've limited it to 10 here.
There is an inherent problem with articles that carry the word "history" in their title, and that is the authors themselves. In order to accurately invoke the title, an author will have to reach prior to their own birth and pull events from there. This slideshow is no exception.
I've included recent embarrassments—as they affected me personally, and continue to do so—but there were also moments where I had to imagine the embarrassment of past Redskins fans and players, then gauge the event's numerical position from there.
The most painful part about that exercise was that it wasn't difficult at all.
10. Consecutive Timeouts Called vs. Buffalo Bills, 2007
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There has been much tribute made to Sean Taylor—and made more eloquently than this—but the fact that the Redskins have still not filled the void he left only goes to show how special a player he was.
This game isn't so much of an embarrassment, but the timing and manner of defeat could not have been worse, which is why it made the list.
Desperately needing consolation in the wake of Taylor's murder, the Redskins were leading at halftime against the Bills, and continued to do so until eight seconds were all that remained of the game.
In an attempt to ice the kicker, coach Joe Gibbs called a timeout as Rian Lindell made the attempt from 51 yards. He then called a second timeout and was hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, granting the Bills a 15-yard gain.
With four seconds on the clock, Lindell made the 36-yard kick with ease and the Redskins lost 17-16.
They would go to Taylor's memorial in Miami the next day with a further sense of defeat hanging over their already heavy heads.
9. Gus Frerotte's Headbutt Celebration, 1997
The NFL has cut down on excessive touchdown celebrations, and there is a small part of me that is relieved. This means that there will be no repeat of a situation where the Redskins starting quarterback injures his neck through nothing but his own stupidity.
Long before Zinedine Zidane, there was Gus Frerotte.
Having beaten out Heath Shuler for the starting job, in 1996 Frerotte earned himself a trip to the Pro Bowl as the Redskins posted their first winning season since 1992. Following this, there was hope for the coming year with Frerotte under center.
Going into the week 13-game against the New York Giants, the Redskins were 6-5 for the season and in the playoff hunt. The game remained scoreless until the end of the first half, when Frerotte ran the ball in from a yard out.
Obviously elated, he spiked the ball and delivered a strong headbutt to a padded wall. Unfortunately for him, the padding concealed concrete and he recoiled in pain, struggling to remove his helmet.
He was taken to hospital at halftime for a CAT scan and was unable to return to the game, with tests revealing the injury to be a sprained neck.
The game ended in a tie, and the Redskins would miss the playoffs by one game.
8. Detroit Lions Snap Their Losing Streak, 2009
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Nobody wants to be the team that loses to the team that can't win, but on September 27, 2009, the Washington Redskins became that team.
Detroit had gone 0-16 during the 2008 season, with the only benefit being that they could select Matthew Stafford with the first pick of the 2009 draft.
The 2009 season started much the same as 2008 for the Lions, with two straight defeats at the hands of New Orleans and Minnesota. The Redskins went into the game at 1-1, trying to improve upon their record of 8-8 in 2008.
By the end of the first half, I was reasonably certain that both the players and myself were asleep and that it was all a hideous dream. The Redskins had rushed for a total of zero yards and the Lions were up by 13.
The third quarter seemed to rouse them slightly and they finally got on the scoreboard, but the defense seemingly drifted off again on every third down, while the offense's next three possessions brought forth an interception and two punts.
Poor coaching decisions both denied the Redskins a field goal and gifted the Lions a touchdown on the way to a 19-14 loss.
The most embarrassing part of it was that it wasn't surprising at all.
7. 52-7 Loss vs. New England Patriots, 2007
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The Patriots were undefeated going into the game, but no one really expected it to be this one-sided.
The Redskins defense was ranked fifth in the league going into this game, but Tom Brady methodically tore them apart, throwing three touchdowns and running for two more.
Jason Campbell, on the other hand, fumbled three times on sacks and threw for fewer than 200 yards.
You can argue that the Patriots ran up the score—running a quarterback sneak on fourth down, having already amassed a 38-point lead—but the Redskins allowed themselves to get into that position and were completely humiliated.
Revenge was ultimately handed out by an unlikely ally, as the New York Giants broke Patriot hearts in the final seconds of Super Bowl XLII.
6. 'The Clint Longley Game' vs. Dallas Cowboys, 1974
Before the game, Washington DT Diron Talbert had a conversation with some reporters. During this conversation he mentioned that he hoped Dallas QB Roger Staubach would run the ball, as he could then knock him out of the game and there would be a quarterback with no NFL experience coming in to replace him.
In words very relevant to these times, Roger Staubach had a bounty on his head. $200, if you believe George Starke.
Since that day, however, I would bet good money that Talbert was very careful with what he wished for.
Staubach took a hit from Redskins linebacker Dave Robinson and was out of the game with 10 minutes remaining in the third quarter. The Cowboys were down 16-3 and no one expected Clint Longley to do anything in his first NFL appearance.
Of course, when people have no expectation at all, it's often very easy to prove them wrong.
Longley led an improbable comeback, throwing for 203 yards and two touchdowns, with the final one being a 50-yard missile to Drew Pearson with 35 seconds remaining in the game.
Any loss to the Cowboys hurts, but a 24-23 loss to a first-time NFL quarterback, over two quarters on national television on Thanksgiving Day?
5. 'Black Sunday': Super Bowl XVIII vs. Los Angeles Raiders, 1984
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Going into Super Bowl XVIII, there were no questions about who was the best team in the NFL.
Coming off a 14-2 season—with the two losses each by a single point—the Redskins were the defending Super Bowl champions with an NFL MVP quarterback and the league's leading run defense.
What transpired in the game did not reflect the facts described above. The Los Angeles Raiders overwhelmed the Redskins from the outset, scoring a touchdown within the first five minutes and ending the first half with an 18-point lead.
The Raiders' dominance only increased over the duration of the game, and the final score of 38-9 was the most lopsided in Super Bowl history, remaining that way until Super Bowl XXIV in 1990, when the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Denver Broncos 55-10 in New Orleans.
The defeat came during a period of sustained dominance for the Redskins, but that doesn't mean it hurts any less.
4. Swinging Gate Play vs. New York Giants, 2009
Having failed to put any points on the board, Jim Zorn resorted to drastic measures as the game neared the end of the first half and called the "Swinging Gate" play—with the offensive line moving to the left side of the field and lining up there. Hunter Smith—the punter—lined up under center.
Obviously the key to the success of this play is the element of surprise. However, when Zorn called it the Giants duly called a timeout so they could adjust themselves to what the Redskins were doing.
With the Giants now wise to the situation, the most sensible thing that Zorn could have done would have been to call the play off and go with something more conventional.
But no—instead he followed through with what may have been a brilliant Costanza-esque attempt to get himself out of Washington as quickly as possible.
The players retook the field and the Redskins attempted to execute the exact same play. Unsurprisingly, with no protection afforded to him, Hunter Smith was promptly crashed by the Giants defense and threw an interception.
The players were booed off the field at half time, and even the commentators were embarrassed.
3. The Entirety of the 1961 Season
The Washington Redskins entered 1961 as the league's last segregated team, which is an embarrassment in itself.
Owner George Preston Marshall had to be strong-armed into integration, with the team only allowed to play in DC Stadium under the condition that the Redskins would become an integrated team in 1962.
In the 1961 draft, the Redskins selected their sixth quarterback in 10 years—sounds familiar, doesn't it?—choosing Norm Snead over Fran Tarkenton in a move that would prove to be indicative of the coming season.
Under first-year coach Bill McPeak, the team averaged just 12 points a game on their way to a franchise-worst 1-12-1 record, which still stands. Snead threw for twice as many turnovers as touchdowns—22 to 11—and the team didn't win a game until the final week of the season.
From 1959 to 1961, the Redskins won a total of five games, with the '61 season cementing their place as the worst team in the league. I'm just grateful that I wasn't alive to see it.
2. Daniel Snyder
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The whole slideshow could have been filled with examples of Dan Snyder's idiocy—his subjection of the fans and team to constant ridicule in an age where the Internet gives everyone a platform, along with the scars he has left on the face of the franchise with his real-life fantasy football—but I still couldn't put him at No. 1 on this list. I just couldn't.
In an attempt to keep the word count down, I've reduced this slide to a fraction of his calamitous deeds, in a handy checklist of shame.
He overpaid for players (Albert Haynesworth, Deion Sanders, Adam Archuleta, Jeremiah Trotter, Jeff George, etc).
He jacked up the season ticket prices, then sued the fans who couldn't afford them.
He went through seven head coaches in 13 seasons.
He banned all signs from FedEx Field in 2009.
He totally disregarded the value of draft picks.
He fired Marty Schottenheimer after he went 8-3 as head coach.
He looks to have finally learned his lesson and allowed Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen to run the team, however—which means that the whole of the Redskins fanbase can now sleep a little easier.
1. NFL Championship Game vs. Chicago Bears, 1940
Leaving behind the fact that the 73-0 scoreline is still the heaviest defeat in NFL history, If you bear in mind that the Redskins' starting quarterback was Sammy Baugh, then this surely amounts to the most incredible game in the history of professional football.
Obviously, it probably helped if you were a Bears fan, but it's incredible nonetheless.
The Redskins threw eight interceptions that day, with three of them returned for touchdowns; the Redskins ran for a total of three yards in the game; the Bears scored 11 touchdowns—all of these things combined to contribute to the most embarrassing game ever witnessed.
Despite the fact that neither myself nor my father were born when the game was played, I still can't bring myself to watch any of the video that exists—that's how much it hurts.
Michael Westbrook vs. Stephen Davis
Westbrook said that Davis told him to shut up during training, and that he was talking "some gay ****". Whatever happened, what is certain is that Westbrook lost it, punching Davis repeatedly in the face while he lay on the ground.
Westbrook was fined $50,000 for the incident—appropriately enough, he later left the NFL to pursue martial arts.
Botched snap vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1999 Playoffs
The Redskins squandered a 13-point lead in the third quarter, but looked to have been given a lifeline when kicker Brett Conway took the field to attempt a 52-yard field goal with 1 minute 13 left on the board.
Unfortunately, Dan Turk bounced the snap to Brad Johnson, who was then tackled as he attempted to make something of the play. The Bucs would win 14-13 and the Redskins went home embarrassed. Again.