Team sits at 3-6, wondering what future holds, for third straight year
There was no definitive promise, no rallying cry, not even a misconstrued assessment Thursday night after the Washington Redskins squandered a 13-point second-half lead to lose to the Minnesota Vikings, 34-27.
Coach Mike Shanahan, in a cramped Metrodome hallway after the game, literally stood with his back against the wall. Somewhat defeated himself, sweat beading restlessly on his forehead, Shanahan’s dulcet tone seemed powerless as he pondered how the Redskins should proceed after falling to 3-6 for the third consecutive season.
“Same thing as a year ago, same things we did today: You have to take it game by game,” Shanahan said. “We fell short today, and hopefully, we take care of business next week.”
It was just over a year ago when Shanahan, confronted with another season slipping out of control, stood at a lectern deep within FedEx Field and seemingly changed course on his team’s future. Not an hour before, the Redskins had lost to the Carolina Panthers, who entered that afternoon with only one victory in their first seven games. Going forward, Shanahan said, the coaches would be looking at which players would be on the team in the coming years.
The statement, analyzed and shredded from all angles, seemed to make sense. Shanahan knew that the team, with rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, faced a bright future. With little shot of glory over the next seven weeks and multiple decisions to be made during the offseason, it was time to take a critical eye to the roster and decide who could be of greatest use as a recovering franchise geared up for a playoff run perhaps as soon as the following season.
What happened afterward wasn’t at all expected.
over the helmet, gloves and shoulders. When flags age, they don’t look as if they’ve been covered in blood. No, they fade. All this is supposed to support the Wounded Warrior Project. Supposed to honor veterans. Hyperpatriotic splatters.
Where well-intentioned specialedition Adidas cleats autographed by Robert Griffin III to benefit the Operation Renewed Hope Foundation come with a dog tag and are packaged in a replica of an ammo can.
Where players tuck in camouflage towels the same way they tucked in pink ones last month to remind us about breast cancer.
Where salutes, instead of dance moves of questionable taste, celebrate touchdowns.
Where the NFL boasts an “official military appreciation sponsor.”
The message isn’t subtle: This is much more than a mere game.
“Our cultures are similar in so many ways,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell told a group of West Point cadets last year.
The wall tells another story. Games end. They are a diversion, an escape. The wall swallows you.
Down the way from Kalsu’s name, a white-haired man in baggy black slacks and a windbreaker strains to start a rubbing.
“Let me get that for you, sir,” a volunteer says.
“This is my list,” the man says, holding a palm-sized piece of paper covered with names. “This is all of us.” Tears start. “I get all choked up,” he says. “I don’t know why.”
The man flicks open a knife to sharpen his pencil.
The volunteer pats his back. She tells him the tears are normal. They are good.
Nearby, a wrinkled piece of paper leans against the wall. The wind can’t seem to move the scrap.
“In the end,” the paper says, “there is only the memory of the dead and the sound of old soldiers weeping.”