For years, fans of the Washington Redskins have been known as some of the most intelligent and fiercely loyal fans in the NFL.
Long before Steelers fans were known to travel with their team, you'd always see large pockets of burgundy and gold at stadiums the Redskins were visiting.
Also, if you wanted to talk intelligent football one of the first fan bases you'd turn to would be fans of the Skins.
It has occurred to me that neither of these fantastic traits apply to Redskins fans anymore.
Throughout the '80s and '90s, a Redskin ticket was on par with getting the golden ticket out of a Wonka Bar. You knew you were special if you had one.
RFK would be packed with burgundy and gold. Sure, some opposing fans found their way into the stadium but they were few and far between.
Now, however, fans of visiting teams reach staggering numbers of up to 30 percent of the attendance, and when Pittsburgh came to town last, it was almost 50-50.
Ten years ago, something like that was unfathomable, but here we are in 2010 and you can clearly hear cheers and chants for visiting teams.
Now, I'm not here to harp on fans for selling tickets during this recession, but at the very least could you make an effort to sell them to other Redskins fans so we at least have an illusion of home field advantage?
On top of opposing fans showing up to games I've spoken with several fans who have either just switched loyalties to other NFL franchise or who simply say, "I'm just a Caps fan now."
First, to those who've decided to root for another NFL team, you're a turncoat and I'm glad you're gone. It's your right to cheer for whatever team you want, but the whole point of being a fan is to stick with your team through good times and bad.
It's easy to cheer for a winner. Your fandom is tested when the team hits the skids, especially for an extended period of time.
However, that's what makes being a fan even more enjoyable, when you've been down and then finally everything comes together and your faith and patience is rewarded.
Those fans who constantly jump ship to the current winner will never know the joy of that.
And to those of you who just recently realized that the District of Columbia has a hockey team and that they're good and you'll only root for them right now, I have to ask—why?
Also, is there some sort of cap to the teams you're allowed to root for?
I've been a Redskins fan since birth. Then, when I was little, I started rooting for the Red Sox because we had no team in DC and I liked their uniforms (which is good logic for a child), and then because of the Mighty Ducks movies I began paying attention to hockey and cheered for the lowly Capitals.
There you go, three teams that are cheered for by one person. Through tough times and great times I watch every game I can.
I'm not discouraged by early exits in the playoffs, or missing the playoffs all together. The phrase "there's always next year" is the greatest phrase in all of sports. It gives us "loyal" fans hope.
Now, my next gripe against my fellow Redskins fans is that their intelligence—or more accurately, "football intelligence"—is a bit subjective.
I'm honestly basing it on those who call into the local sports radio shows as well as those who are the most vocal on message boards.
They could be the minority of fans, but they sure as heck make it seem like they speak for the fan base.
For example, those of you calling for the firing of head coach Mike Shanahan and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, have you learned nothing from the last decade of revolving door coaching staffs?
Listen, this season didn't turn out the way we had hoped, but if you look at the talent that Shanny and Haslett have had to work with, that's like asking to turn water into wine.
It's not Shanny dropping first down passes, it's not Shanny missing blocks or holding to kill drives. It's not Haslett missing tackles. Several times during the game yesterday, the Skins had Giant runners stopped at the line or behind only to miss the tackle.
No amount of planning makes up for a lack of ability of your players.
The talent on this team might be worth the four wins they got last year. Outside of LaRon Landry and Brian Orakpo, they don't really have any real studs out there.
Then, you have the constant chorus of fans criticizing the team for cutting Devin Thomas, and since his blocked punt and tackle with the Giants yesterday, those fans have gotten louder.
Listen, Thomas was terrible. He was drafted in the second round to be an instant starter and even with Jim Zorn's vanilla playbook he couldn't grasp it enough to get on the field. Then, this offseason, he was more worried about being in music videos than getting better at football.
Also the Carolina Panthers, arguably the worst team in the NFL, cut him. The Giants just recently picked him up at a bargain basement price only because of their devestating injuries to their wide receivers—and even so, he barely sees the field. He pretty much only plays special teams.
Then you have the fans who for whatever reason keep sticking up for Albert Haynesworth. This guy has been a bust and (hopefully) the last stupid player acquired by owner Daniel Snyder.
The only mistake Shanahan has made in this situation was not a taking a fourth rounder when it was offered for him.
Other than that, I think Shanny is doing the right thing. Shanahan can't give into an overpaid diva because that will make other players think that all they need to do to get what they want is to whine and drag their feet.
Big Al isn't playing because Big Al doesn't care about the team, he just cares about his stats. He doesn't like the 3-4 because his primary job is to suck up blockers and let the linebackers make the plays.
Any of us who have played organized sports love to see our name in the paper or know that we made the big play, but at the same time most of us would rather have a bad game personally and win rather than have an all-star performance in a losing effort.
The whole point of playing a team sport is to do what you can for the betterment of the team.
Do you think Joe Thiesmann of the early '80s Skins minded that his primary job was to hand the ball to John Riggins and watch him run?
Heck, now all Joe has to do is look down at that big ring of his and smile. Thiesmann understood that sometimes your stats have to take a backseat to winning.
Big Al doesn't get that, so I say ship him out the first chance you get. Take whatever the highest offer is. If you don't get an offer, cut him.
Let's face it, usually when a team brings in a new coach it's because the team was pretty bad, and the Redskins were horrible last season.
So they brought in new coaches with new systems, and a new quarterback on top of that. Any improvement over the previous season should be met with optimism.
At this point, the coaching staff is simply looking at which players can improve and play in their systems.
You have to give a coaching staff at least two to three seasons to turn things around.
Rome wasn't built in a day and the same thing will be said about the resurrection for the Washington Redskins.
For more reality checks on the Redskins, follow me on Twitter (@jomac006).
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