Reflecting on the 7 Defining Moments of Washington Redskins' 2013 Season
The season began with questions about how effective Griffin would be following major offseason knee surgery. His performance in Week 1 provided a few depressing answers.
There was cause for brief optimism and even some false hope near the halfway point of the campaign. But a terrible collapse one Thursday night soon dampened spirits for good.
The season would end with the simmering tensions between Griffin and Shanahan finally boiling over. In between all of that, a productive playmaker still had time to set a new franchise record.
Here are the seven moments that defined the 2013 NFL season for Washington.
Week 1: Griffin Returns to the Field, but All Is Far from Well
On September 9, Griffin finally made his long-awaited return from injury. Shanahan had held him out the entire offseason in the hope that a fresh Griffin could hit the ground running once the real action began.
Sadly, the only way he hit the ground in Week 1 was when he was dumped there by the swarming Philadelphia Eagles defense. Griffin was sacked three times and intercepted twice in a generally dire performance.
The Redskins had gambled the season on their franchise quarterback coming back as good as he was in 2012. But it took just the first game to realize that the gamble had backfired.
This moment defined the dynamic that would ultimately cripple the Redskins season. The team was tied to a starting quarterback who was far from healthy.
Week 7: Griffin Looks Like His Old Self, If Only for a Moment
After several indifferent performances, Griffin actually started to look like his old, dynamic self. For a brief moment, it was easy to believe the Redskins could salvage another season behind the brilliance of their young quarterback.
That moment came in Week 7 against the Chicago Bears. Facing a shaky defense, Griffin turned the clock back to recapture his sensational form as a rookie.
For the first time since the 2013 season began, Griffin was competent as a passer and dangerous as a runner. The result was 298 yards and a touchdown through the air, along with 84 yards on the ground.
Those numbers inspired the Redskins to put 45 points on the Bears, en route to winning a thrilling shootout. Although it was only the second win of the season for Washington, it reminded everyone of the team's spectacular 2012 campaign.
With Griffin's dual-threat skills returning, it was easy to believe the Washington offense could get back to being the near unstoppable force it had been the year before.
That optimism would turn to actual hope, albeit false, just two weeks later.
Week 9: Another Points-Fest Breeds Genuine Hope
A 30-24 overtime win over the San Diego Chargers gave fans the briefest hope that Griffin and the Redskins would pull off another miracle.
The victory improved the team's record to 3-6. That was identical to their mark at the same stage of 2012.
In the previous season, the Redskins had produced a seven-game winning streak to take the NFC East crown. After the offense played so well for the second time in three weeks, why couldn't they do it again?
It took just one game to destroy this fantasy and show that something very serious had changed from 2012 to 2013.
Week 10: Collapse in Minnesota
On a Thursday night in Minnesota, the Redskins' 2013 campaign officially unravelled. Washington entered the game ready to close the gap on their division rivals but left it with a divided team ready to split apart.
Things started so well against the Vikings. For just over a half, the Redskins played some of their best offensive football of the Shanahan era.
Griffin threw for three scores and was ably supported by strong running from Alfred Morris. This was the ideal version of what the Shanahan offense is supposed to look like.
But with a 27-14 lead in the third quarter, the Redskins inexplicably collapsed. Suddenly the offense, that had progressed at will, couldn't get a play off.
Morris was stuffed, while Griffin was put under intense pressure every time he attempted to pass. Defensively, the Redskins were undone by backup tight end John Carlson and deputy quarterback Matt Cassel.
The Vikings erased their 13-point deficit to eventually take the game 34-27. At that moment, possibly the most defining one of the entire campaign, the Redskins season was over.
The defeat brought hidden tensions, such as Griffin's contentious relationship with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, to the surface.
Just as important, it showed that the 2013 version of the Redskins didn't have the fight the previous season's team had shown to win seven in a row.
Once the dust had settled following this painful loss, the 2013 campaign became all about power struggles and blame games.
Week 11: Griffin Goes from Hero to Villain
The loss to the Vikings had brought brewing tensions closer to the surface. It took one more defeat to push the team past its breaking point.
It came just one week later against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Redskins lost 24-16, with the game ending on an interception from Griffin.
They did a good job of scheming us up. They kind of knew what was coming before it was coming and that was disheartening. But like I told the guys, regardless of what’s going on out there, we’re the players and we have to make the plays work, and we just weren’t doing that in the first half.
Obviously, we ran the ball well, but in the passing game a lot of times, they were tit for tat. They were there, where they needed to be and a lot of times they were taking the routes that needed to be run and that’s disheartening, but we have to come up with something for that.
Griffin's words prompted a rebuke from veteran wide receiver Santana Moss, who questioned the quarterback for apparently trying to shift the blame.
Chris Lingebach of CBSDC.com was one of many to report Moss' initial rant:
Two, as a leader, you understand that if you’re involved in the situation, whether you’re the receiver, the quarterback, the guys making the tackle, whoever, regardless of the outcome, good or bad, you have to at some point, stand up and say 'me' or 'I.'
Moss would soon try to reframe these comments and distance himself from them. But that couldn't stop this sorry episode from damaging Washington's season.
For the first time, there was an explicit admission that Griffin, the supposed golden boy of the franchise, was part of the problems.
December 11: Griffin Is Shut Down
The abiding image of the 2013 season was Griffin being "shut down" by Shanahan for the final three games. It was the culmination of a long-running power feud between coach and player.
But it was also the most significant act in a season that had been defined by Griffin's health and performances.
Some will feel the move to send 2012's second-overall pick to the bench came too late. Others will believe it was just another gambit from Shanahan, one final backhanded beatdown of a player he couldn't control.
More than anything else, though, this moment was tacit proof that the franchise had given up on both the 2013 season and the Shanahan regime. Now it was all about looking ahead to 2014.
But even though the symbolic ending of the Shanahan era rendered the final three games essentially meaningless, there was still time for one positive moment to end the campaign.
December 22: Pierre Garcon Sets a Franchise Record
Okay, so Pierre Garcon's achievements hardly defined anything for the Redskins. But after such a trying season, it's nice to end with a positive.
Garcon was a rare positive for the team throughout 2013. Even catching passes from two struggling quarterbacks could not prevent him from enjoying the best season of his career.
Garcon made 11 grabs for 144 yards against Dallas. In the process, he surpassed the great Art Monk in the record books.
In an arduous season dominated by player-and-coach strife and too much palace intrigue, Garcon's achievement deserves not to be overlooked.
As Washington begins sifting through the wreckage of its worst season since Norv Turner's first year in charge, players like Garcon can play a crucial role in the rebuilding process.