As the season winds down, Washington Redskins fans have to resign themselves to the fact that, yet again, the Redskins will miss the playoffs.
A season that was originally thought to have a lot of promise has ended in bitter disappointment, and a little more drama than anyone on the team, within the fanbase or in the media thought there would be.
But why dwell on the bad? Though you may not recognize it, or believe it, a lot of good has come out of Washington this season.
Just look at their record—the worst-case scenario for the Redskins mean they will still have two more wins than they did last season, and the best-case scenario puts them at 7-9 with a chance to spoil the New York Giants' season.
Much will be written in the next couple months about how this was a season lost. The offseason calls to see everyone get fired and blah-blah-blah will be swift.
But I'm not about negativity. The season has been a tough one, but the best way I can think of to end the season isn't by dwelling on the losses, the blowouts, the close calls, the missed calls, et cetera.
It's by rewarding the players that played their butts off and hustled and made the season a joy to watch, even in the midst of despair.
With that in mind, let's hand out some awards to those Redskins players that we can all be thankful we have for next season and have some much-needed positivity for the end of the season.
You had to know Brandon Banks was something special in preseason.
While watching the Redskins' preseason outing versus the Bills, my friend remarked that it seemed as though Banks only had one speed—fast.
I don't think either of us had any idea how fast.
Brandon Banks should have at least four touchdowns and be in the Pro Bowl this season. Teams have already begun to kick away from him. He's tough as nails—he had knee surgery one week and came back to play football the next week like it was nothing, and he still managed to break off big runs.
Banks has made clutch catches and put the offense in good field position all season. He's been slowed a bit with a nagging knee injury, but Banks at 80 percent is still faster than 99 percent of the guys in the National Football League.
Banks wants a touchdown every time he touches the ball, and for a guy who's only 5'7", he's tough as nails. After years of seeing Antwaan Randle El wave for a fair catch on every single punt, it's exciting knowing that every time Banks catches the ball, there's a chance he could take it back to the house.
Now, if special teams coordinator Danny Smith can get his guys to stop giving people illegal blocks in the back, Banks could become the next Devin Hester.
Like Brandon Banks, Anthony Armstrong made his impression on the coaches during preseason, though he made his impression on Santana Moss much earlier, who couldn't believe that Armstrong hadn't been on the field the season prior, when he was on the practice squad.
Coming out of tiny West Texas A&M, it's not entirely a surprise than Armstrong went undrafted after graduation. He took his talents to the Intense Football League (is that an offshoot of the XFL or something?) and the Arena Football League before heading to Miami's practice squad and finally landing in Washington last season.
Head coach Mike Shanahan said he was impressed with Armstrong the second he put on the tape. By the end of the preseason, 2008 draft pick Devin Thomas was still on the field, playing for a job.
Armstrong was sitting on the sidelines, having already made the team.
This season alone, Armstrong became the only receiver not named Santana Moss to have over 700 receiving yards in a season since 2007. He's a huge downfield threat, and his emergence meant that teams couldn't simply double Moss and tight end Chris Cooley.
He's a solid, tough wide receiver and has come up with several clutch catches during the course of the season.
Armstrong will be a great receiver for years to come. He's not a diva, doesn't draw attention to himself and goes out and plays hard for every down.
He also does a better Dougie than Washington Wizards rookie John Wall, which counts as a plus in my mind.
Talk to your average fan that knows nothing about Washington Redskins football, and they'd likely mention has insane the 'Skins were for opening the season with a backfield that included Clinton Portis and Larry Johnson, and that "Fast" Willie Parker had even been in the conversation.
No one is talking about Ryan Torain, who has emerged as a solid starting running back in the NFL.
Torain has been a bright spot in the running game and has seemed to improve as the season goes on. His health seems to be an issue, but in every game Torain has started, he has been productive.
A tough, physical, upright running back, Torain is tough to bring down, and while his pass blocking isn't great, he's improving week by week into the stud running back the Redskins have been looking for.
Torain is a Mike Shanahan-picked running back, and if there's one thing Mike knows, it's running backs (he's the one who originally drafted Clinton Portis, after all).
Torain (if, say it with me now, he can stay healthy) can be a big part of the Redskins running game for years to come, and don't be surprised if the guy who rushed for 742 yards in only 10 games has a breakout year in 2011.
Brian Orakpo may have finished his sophomore season with fewer sacks than he had last season (8.5 in 2010 as an outside linebacker, as opposed to 11 sacks in 2009 as a defensive end), but that's only because he's been held like an newborn child for most of the season.
From the first game of the season (in which Orakpo was so badly mugged he singlehandedly stopped a Cowboys win) to the Tampa Bay Bucs game (in which Orakpo was so badly mugged he should've singlehandedly stopped a Bucs win), teams just couldn't seem to stop the newly converted linebacker. So they did the only thing they could.
They held him.
All. Season. Long.
This was not a simple case of an armchair head coach complaining that every hold should've been called. Orakpo should have 15 sacks this season, and I don't feel like I'm going out on a limb when I say that. Fans everywhere screamed at their TV sets on a weekly basis as he was held, choked out, damn near body-slammed and otherwise wronged by offensive tackles, and mostly without calls.
The good and the bad of Orakpo is that he's a great player who doesn't talk a lot of trash and won't complain to refs about getting held.
Rak, allow me to speak for the rest of Redskins Nation when I say...please complain. If "holds against" was a statistical category, you'd be in the Pro Bowl over Clay Matthews right now.
D-Hall, D-Hall, D-Hall...
One week, you're picking off Jay Cutler four times and tying an NFL record for the most interceptions by one player in a single game.
The next, you're jumping routes and busting coverages, allowing someone to waltz into the end zone.
One week you're stripping a ball out of someone's hands and high-stepping on your way to the end zone—the next you're driving us all up a wall because you jumped for the ball instead of just staying in coverage.
We love you, D-Hall. We hate you, D-Hall.
But we're still happy you're making plays and jumping routes for us rather than someone else.
Donovan McNabb's gone next season. The next guy on the depth chart is Rex Grossman. After that it's John Beck.
London Fletcher is one of the classiest members of the Washington Redskins football team. He's a consummate professional and a real locker room leader, and on a winning football team, he'd be a legit contender for Hall of Fame status.
Unfortunately, Fletcher will never get the recognition he deserves.
Why else would London Fletcher once again be ignored for the Pro Bowl?
On the season, Fletcher has 136 combined tackles (87 of which are on his own), 2.5 sacks, 12 passes defensed, an interception and three forced and recovered fumbles.
Fletcher continues to go unsung on a Redskins team that likely wouldn't be as successful as they have been without him...which is really scary when you think about it.
Don't worry, Fletch—us 'Skins fans know and love what you've done for the football team.
Like I said before—Coach Shanahan knows running backs. Still, most people wondered why he had made the opening roster and Ryan Torain hadn't.
Surely enough, Keiland Williams has quietly put together a solid season. He isn't a front line starter in most cases, but he performed admirably when it seemed as though everyone in the backfield went down with an injury all at once.
For his season, he's rushed for 261 yards and three touchdowns, with a four-yard per carry average on the season. He also caught 39 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns.
Williams may not be a starter, and there will always be people that call for his removal—it's just part of being a Redskins player—but he's more than a serviceable backup and does deserve a little shout-out.
For all the talk of the Redskins having the oldest team in the league (which was already something of a misnomer), the 'Skins got young in a hurry, and the young guys have made the most of their playing time.
Whether it had something to do with injuries or players being released, all over the field there was youth that got involved. From the offense with wide receivers and tight ends and running backs, to defensive ends and corners and corners playing as safeties on the defensive side of the ball, youth popped up all over the place.
The best thing about young players is that they're just grateful for the opportunity to play. They don't get down, they don't get easily frustrated and they don't think a bunch. They just go out and play.
The team's record may not show it, but the team played with a lot of heart and passion, and a lot of that had to do with the young guys playing who didn't know any better.
That's what having a little youth on your team can do.
Seriously, these uniforms look super snazzy.
In fact, they only look slightly more snazzy than this uniform.
It was sad and damn insulting to the players that had been working their butts off all season when Marshall Faulk and Warren Sapp of the NFL Network came onto their television program and suggested that the Redskins and head coach Mike Shanahan were willingly tanking the season in an attempt to improve their draft position.
The Redskins may not have won the game versus Dallas, but it wasn't for lack of trying, and it was Rex Grossman—the bane of the football universe if you were to listen to any commentary over the last few weeks—that led the Redskins back and helped them score the most points they had all season.
Rex threw four touchdown passes (and two interceptions) in the team's effort. No one on the field looked like he was giving up. No one on the field looked like he was turning his back on the coach or like the coach had "lost the locker room." They went out and they played football for four quarters, despite injuries, despite the drama and despite the trash talk.
They still fought, whereas under the same circumstances last season, they would've rolled over and died.
I know there are no moral victories, but this was as close to one as the Redskins could get.
Yes, I know they had inopportune drops and fumbles, and this is enough for Redskins Nation to demand they be traded or not get re-signed.
But in a world of ever-changing coaches, schemes, quarterbacks and talent around them, Santana Moss and Chris Cooley continue to be the cornerstones of the Washington Redskins.
Moss finished the season by surpassing the 8,000 career receiving yards mark, setting a career high in receptions with 93 and tallying up 1,115 yards (his second highest in his time in the burgundy and gold) and was THE wide receiver for the Washington Redskins regardless of who was playing quarterback.
Moss is one of the most underrated wide receivers in the NFL (by nature of being on the 'Skins) and has expressed his desire to be a Redskin for life. I, for one, wouldn't mind seeing that happen.
Here's to hoping Moss is here next season.
The season may not have met everyone's lofty expectations, from players to coaches to fans, but there is plenty of good to go with the bad. You just have to be willing to look for it. A lot of young players. A lot of fight and spark and passion that has not been in the Redskins organization in a very, very long time.
The Redskins will only get better from here, or at least I hope so. With a solid free agency and draft class, you have to hope and pray that the Redskins will improve next season.
I'm leaving the season on a positive note and a smile on my face. Real fans stick with the team when times are hard. Times are hard...but hopefully, the only way to go is up.
HAIL TO THE REDSKINS!
And hail to the 2010 Washington Redskins.