Matt Terl and Larry Weisman noticed something very odd during the Redskins game versus the Minnesota Vikings.
Terl remarked several times in his first half recaps on the Official Washington Redskins Blog that the crowd was noticably quiet. Larry Weisman took it a step forward, when he described it; "It's like everyone's waiting for the roof to fall in".
The roof did eventually fall in, as the Redskins lost the game on a stupid illegal block in the back.
After the game, however, several players also noticed that something seemed off about the crowd at FedEx. London Fletcher echoed Matt Terl's statements pretty much to the letter when he said "It was a weird type of feeling to the stadium. It wasn't loud, exactly...I think they were waiting to get loud, but it never really got like that."
Carlos Rodgers (he of stone hands and only one interception) noticed that along the sidelines, there were some fans that were jeering and cursing at him.
"We still need your support," Rogers said. "We already down or we're already losing, but then to hear from our fans, you know, that's-it's not helpful. I mean, we try to block it out but it's still, it's not helpful from our fans."
Rodgers was quick to clarify that he loves Redskins fans, but I too have noticed that the atmosphere at FedEx--and the atmosphere of Redskins Nation in general--seems a bit...odd. Weird. A bit more doom saying than our record would indicate.
The Redskins came into Sunday afternoon with a 5-5 record. It was not the end of the world, and they were coming off a hard fought victory against the Tennessee Titans. The team started off hot, and the crowd seemed similarily enthused.
And then the Vikings came back and scored. And slowly but surely, the stadium got quiet. It sat back and waited for something catastrophic to happen, and it did. What could've been a game-winning punt return for a touchdown was negated by a bonehead penalty. And everyone said the same thing that all Redskins fans say after a loss.
"Same ol' Redskins."
It's said that teams take on the personality of their coaches. That a coaches philosophy bleeds onto their players, and they essentially become extensions of that philosophy.
Take Wade Phillips. For all intents and purposes, Wade Phillips was a pretty good head coach. He got the Cowboys a couple really good seasons. He built a solid defense.
But perhaps his mentality and style of coaching bled off onto his team. His laid back style of coaching bled onto his team, who became laid back and somewhat lazy. He frequently looked baffled and confused on the sidelines, and his team began to playing baffling and confusing football. When the team got down, Wade Phillips often looked hapless and resigned to lose. And well...there's a reason the Cowboys record is the way it is.
Likewise, I think the Redskins have begun to take on the personality of their coach. They are a somewhat less talkative, quotable bunch of guys; every once in a while someone will say something that will make it front and center on SportsCenter and NFL Total Access, but a lot of what you hear the Redskins players say, you could easily imagine coming out of Coach Shanahan's mouth. There is a new sense of accountability and pride, and while you can tell the team is frustrated by it's lack of consistency, you can tell the Jim Zorn-esque era of chaos and suckiness has gone and left the team.
But the statements by Terl and Weisman, along with some of the players comments, bring about an interesting question - players take on the identity of their coaches...but do they take on the identity of their fans as well?
All things considered, things aren't that bad. You'll hear a lot of people moan and groan about being out of the playoffs, but really, as I've said, there's no point of getting to the playoffs if you'll be vastly outclassed by any team you meet.
But it seems as though fans are at their breaking point with the team.
The Redskin are 5-6. The worst case scenario still means that they will end up with one more win than they did last season, which is a net gain.
However, the "playoffs/Super Bowl or bust" mentality is still pervasive in the DMV. It seems as though no matter what the Redskins do, even if they do relatively well, they don't do well enough.
Now, I understand why one may not be overly excited at the prospect of being at FedEx Field. The tickets are expensive. Then, when you get there, the parking is expensive. Then, one you get in the stadium, the food and the merchandise are expensive. Attending a Washington Redskins game is an expensive affair, and one may not be inclined to cheer after you have to take out a second mortage on your house just to attend a football game with your family, and the product on the field isn't the best.
However, like I said, the Redskins haven't done horribly. They're 5-6 and still, technically, if by some miracle they ran the table, they could be in the playoffs. Their home games haven't been inspiring, but they've only had one fluke blow out. Blowouts happen to good teams all the time. Ask the Colts.
So why is it that, even when things seem to be going well for the Redskins, even relatively so, fans are so down on the team?
Maybe the fans of the Redskins have finally met their breaking point. Maybe a decade and change of being losers and a laughing stock of the National Football League have finally strained this teams fanbase to the extreme.
Of course, that still begs the question, why do they still buy tickets and bother to show up? When the Jags or the Lions do well, their fields don't usually fill up.
There are fans that brag that they sell tickets to opposing teams fans...but that kind of defeats the purpose, right? Turning a game into an away game not only hurts the team...you still had to pay for tickets in the first place. That money is already in Dan Snyder's pocket. So not only are you openly stacking the deck against the team you claim allegiance to, you're also not sticking it to Dan Snyder, because you already paid him.
This is a fanbase that openly antagonizes every other fan base in the NFC East. They'll condemn Eagles or Giants fans for their rowdiness and booing the on-field product, they'll blame Cowboys fans for not being energetic or not being knowledgable enough.
But the one thing you can't say about those teams is this; they're not apathetic. That's what's happened to the burgundy and gold--while a new coach is trying to install a new culture, the fans watching from the outside don't care anymore. Either win, or don't even bother.
Give us the playoffs and the Super Bowl or give us death.
Fans have a reason to be frustrated and upset. But have they become so cynical that they are unwilling to give anything half a chance to succeed? Have we reached such a point that, unless this team achieves ultimate success, any small successes they have are worthless.
Perhaps when the players play at home, they have begun to take on that mentality. That "even when we win, we lose" culture. Pull out a victory, but unless it's a 45-21 blow out, fans will complain more about what didn't happen than what did. Run the ball well, get criticized for the dropped passes. Pass the ball well, complain about the lack of a running game. Stuff the run, get nagged at about not stopping the pass well enough. Defend the pass, get nagged at about how the run wasn't stopped enough.
The fans at FedEx and the fans at home watch games and wait for the roof to fall in, and the players on the field have begun to feel that way too. It's an away game environment on your home field. And not in the same way it is at an Eagles or Giants game, where if you don't perform well they'll boo, and that's supposed to inspire the team to better.
No. It's an environment of silence, of waiting and dreading that everything will come crashing down...and then getting mad when it finally does.
Positive thoughts may not always breed positive results, but negatives thoughts rarely breed positive results. The players can't go into games thinking they're going to lose, but their own fans already do. Even I'm guilty of that.
That rubs off negatively on players. Yes, I know in recent years, the Redskins have seemed hopeless, and like they'll never improve. We deal with a lot of crap from other fanbases over our owner and our players. It is not always fun to be a Redskins fan.
Hopeless optimism helps and achieves nothing. But some optimism has to exist in this fanbase. Sometimes, you have to learn to eat crap and like the taste of it. Despite it all, the Redskins are rebuilding at all levels of this football team.
So why not cheer them on until they fail, instead of sitting around waiting for them to fail so we can jump down the teams throat?
One thing is clear; fans are starting to reach their wits end with the team. And more importantly, the team is starting to recognize it.
No one likes playing a game on their home field that feels like an away game.
It's going to be a long five game stretch for the Redskins at this rate.