During the summer of 2021, there were reasonably high expectations for the Washington Football Team. Racist moniker? Gone. Ownership drama? Erased with a loan to allow owner Daniel Snyder to buy out worrisome investors and consolidate his hold on the team.
The WFT’s new look includes Jason Wright, a new president who was widely liked throughout the league and viewed by management as a bridge between the owners and a beleaguered fan base.
Fans rooted for a team that won the NFC East Division crown in 2020 and gave eventual Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers all they could handle in a wild card playoff game. Year one under new head coach Ron Rivera and a defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio brought a change in culture and a strong defensive line. The results were a defense ranked number two in the league with a Defensive Rookie of the Year in Chase Young. And there were whispers that Young was headed for a big year in 2021.
That was then.
At the halfway mark, the team has lost more than they’ve won, standing far behind the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East standings.
Now, Washington’s defense is near the bottom of the league in many statistical categories including getting teams off the field on third down.
The quarterback signed to be the bridge to the future went down with a hip injury in the first half of the first game. Free agent receiver Curtis Samuel, brought in to help take the pressure off of Terry Mclaurin, has been on the bench almost the entire season due to a soft tissue injury (hamstring). On defense, Cornerback William Jackson III, another high priced free agent, has struggled in coverage.
Other injuries also plagued Washington overall. Their best offensive lineman Brandon Scherff, and rookie standout Sam Cosmi have spent lots of time on the injured list. Tight end Logan Thomas, who dazzled in 2020, has spent much of the 2021 season nursing injuries.
Outside the field of play, another dismal narrative unfolded. Washington is dead last in home field attendance at around 50,000 fans going through the turnstiles in Landover. FedEx Field, capacity 82,000, this year sees its seats 60 percent occupied, many of them holding fans of opposing teams.
At the same time an investigation of the emails of the team ended up taking down Raiders Coach Jon Gruden due to inflammatory remarks stalking the franchise. Congress is pressuring the National Football League to release all of the 650,000 emails that were reviewed as a part of an investigation into a toxic workplace in Asburn, Va. and Landover, Md.
The team’s front office also fumbled the jersey retirement of the late Sean Taylor, only revealing their plans for a ceremony mere a few days before it taking place. The halftime festivities were lackluster at best.
Overall the teams’ performance gets a C- until this point. This is still a rebuild and a lot of the key players that were in the plan have been absent because of injury. The defense which was ballyhooed as being generationally good, and then beleaguered throughout the season for being disappointing has started to come together to play better towards the bye week. The team still needs a franchise quarterback, but the plucky Taylor Heinicke has provided some fun and bright spots here and there. Despite Dan Snyder being on an ordered quarantine, ownership and management get a D- for record low poor attendance, and for botching a jersey retirement ceremony and still being embroiled in the email investigation.
At a 2-6 record playoff hopes are all but dashed for 2021, but there’s an opportunity for this team to grow, and get better and set the foundation for a better 2022, that hopefully includes a franchise quarterback that the team is still in search of.