In case you hadn’t heard, the Redskins dropped their first game of the season this past Monday at home to the Philadelphia Eagles. Coming off a promising run to the division title and the return of Robert Griffin III, the sobering 0-1 start has sent shockwaves through part of the fan base.
I was curious to look back into recent history in order to figure out how worried we need to be. I picked the previous 30 years (1983-2012), which coincides with the years I’ve followed the team. The Redskins are a very balanced 16-14 in season openers over that time. Given our slow start in 2013, I focused on the 14 seasons that began with opening day losses and was both surprised and encouraged with what I found.
Seven times over the past 30 years, the Redskins have recovered from an 0-1 record to salvage a winning season. That’s math that even I can handle, showing that half the time the Redskins stumble out of the gate, they right the ship over the course of the season. Those seven winning seasons account for almost half of the total winning seasons (15) the team has posted in that same time period. Stated a different way, over the past 30 years, the Redskins are just as likely to have a successful season when they lose their opener (7 times) as they are when they win it (8 times).
Below are the seven successful seasons that started with an opening day loss:
1999 – Dallas at Washington (L – 41-35); Finished 10-6, 1st place in the NFC East and advanced to the Divisional round
1996 – Philadelphia at Washington (L – 17-14); Finished 9-7, 3rd place in the NFC East
1992 – Washington at Dallas (L – 23-10); Finished 9-7, 3rd place in the NFC East and advanced to the Divisional round
1989 – New York at Washington (L – 27-24); Finished 10-6, 3rd place in the NFC East
1985 – Washington at Dallas (L – 44-14); Finished 10-6, 3rd place in the NFC East
1984 – Miami at Washington (L – 35-17); Finished 11-5, 1st place in the NFC East and advanced to the Divisional round
1983 – Dallas at Washington (L – 31-30); Finished 14-2, 1st place in the NFC East and advanced to the Super Bowl
A few things jump out to me when I review the seasons listed above. First of all, the Redskins won double-digit games five times after dropping the opener. Secondly, the team made the post-season more often than not in these seasons (and, some of their near-misses came before the playoff field expanded). Lastly, and possibly most important with a road game against the Packers right around the corner, the Redskins twice rebounded from 0-2 starts (1984 and 1989) to win 10 or more games.
I’m not trying to convince anyone that a slow start is a good thing. History has demonstrated that winning early gives teams the best chance to have good seasons. But, we can learn from the Redskins’ past and there seems to be plenty of evidence to suggest that there is no correlation between winning the first game and having a successful season.
I don’t pretend to know what will happen over the next 15 games, but I still believe that this team will peak a little later in the season as they have a chance to play together. If they can tread water until the bye week, I think they can still finish with a winning record and a shot at the post-season.
What do you guys think? Did losing the opener sink the 2013 season?