I could not believe it when I could hear Saints fans loudly chanting in unison, “DEFENSE…DEFENSE…DEFENSE…” when the quarterback (QB) Taylor Heinicke was calling out the plays, standing in the shotgun formation on Sunday.
It brought back memories of when I went to interview with the Redskins back in 2019 the weekend of the 49ers’ game. I interviewed with former Team President Bruce Allen for a position in coaching or scouting. Mr. Daniel Snyder gave me the royal treatment. I even got to walk out to midfield with the All-Time “Team of the 80’s,” and be honored as part of that team.
Rain drops were falling from the sky, as I walked out of the tunnel. I was surrounded by legends Ricky Sanders, Gary Clark, Charlie Brown and Timmy Smith. I looked up coming out of the tunnel and saw all these 49ers’ fans hanging over the sides of the railings.
After the National Anthem, I was shown up to that luxury box seating by a member of stadium security, and I was seated behind the famed Redskins marching band. The rain steadily began picking up and Washington’s offense was on the field. That is when it began to happen. In unison, 49ers’ fans began chanting, “DEFENSE…DEFENSE…DEFENSE…” I could not believe my ears! Here I was in the home stadium of the team I had loved since I was eight years old. The chant of “DEFENSE,” was so loud Washington’s QB (Case Keenum) could barely hear the snap count. Keenum had to resort to using hand signals to communicate with his own receivers in his home stadium!
Now times have changed and even the team’s name has changed, but the home crowd environment has not changed at all – – and that is embarrassing.
As a lifelong, 40-year fan of the team, it is really embarrassing.
I grew up as a rabid fan of the Washington Redskins while living in Minnesota in the 80’s and early 90’s. Some of my earliest memories were of the stands rocking so hard at R.F.K. Stadium, nobody could even hear themselves think. Even the play clock camera was shaking.
I also remember the famed “Seat-Cushion” game when thousands of yellow cushions rained on the field like confetti when the team was en route to Super Bowl XXVI.
It was pure pandemonium at Washington’s home games back in the day.
The team then moved to what became Fed-Ex Field and the team lost its way, and they lost their identity long before the name change.
When I started watching the Saints’ game today, the first thing I noticed was all the empty seats. The team was only one-game out of first place at the start of the day.
Heinicke did his best Brett Favre impersonation, but the game got out of reach, and in the closing seconds I began to hear something deeply disturbing.
“WHO DAT…WHO DAT…WHO DAT gonna beat those Saints…” I heard it over and over again loudly on my television and in unison. If that does not bother you and you call yourself a Washington Football Team fan or a Washington Redskins fan, you are not a fan of this team.
It was painful to watch and even more painful to listen to. The chanting of the Saints’ fans in our stadium actually bothered me more than losing the game, because it is a reflection of a fan base that has more in-fighting within the ranks than unity.
Two years ago, On October 19, 2019 (the date is tattooed on my right hand along with the Redskins logo). I sat there during the waning seconds of the game, frozen and stunned as 49ers’ players were sliding all over our field celebrating. I just sat there motionless watching it all and thinking, “Never again, this will never happen again if I can help it.”
Mr. Snyder, first thank you for bringing me out to Washington a couple years ago. It is a memory of a lifetime I will always cherish. I know how to fill the place up and to make it like R.F.K. Stadium again. Please agree to meet with me and I will give you my plan. I can reconnect the team’s fan base back to the team if you give me the chance. I do not care about the title or the money. All I care about is winning.
Daniel Kelly is a former NFL scout with the New York Jets. He was hired on the regime which featured Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli, Mike Tannenbaum, and Dick Haley. He currently writes for Sports Illustrated Detroit Lions and he is a contributing evaluator for Draft Diamonds. For more information about him visit his website at whateverittakesbook.com. He can be followed on Twitter @danielkellybook and his Facebook page is WHATEVER IT TAKES NFL TALK.