Back when I was 8 years old in 1982, I was drawn to the Redskins like a magnet to a refrigerator.
It was magical…
That is the only way I can describe it.
As a young boy, I was captivated by what I was watching on my parents old television in the corner of their living room…
Those team colors…the logo…the crowd at R.F.K. Stadium…the Hogs…John Riggins…Joe Gibbs…
I grew up in Minnesota and I even got a chance to go to our last Super Bowl (XXVI) when I was 18. Little did I know for my high school graduation present, when I was sitting in that stadium seat, that I was sitting on the doorstep of 30 years of pure frustration.
Little did I realize at the time that over the next 30 years, the team I loved more than anything would slowly be losing their identity.
No, it did not start when they took away our team name or our team fight song during the pandemic. It did not even start when the Redskins left R.F.K.
It started the day general manager (GM) Bobby Beathard resigned from the Redskins on May 5, 1989.
Beathard was the conductor of the magic.
I have felt so disheartened from the time I woke up today. I feel humiliated.
That loss to Dallas last night was the most painful loss I have experienced in 40 years, since becoming a fan. It topped the Super loss to the Raiders, when I threw up and missed three days of school.
It was not because it was Dallas or even because of the score. It was the first time I have realized there was nothing left of what I loved. Even the heart of this team, quarterback Taylor Heinicke, looked lost. My wife Samantha is a Cowboys fan. We were sitting there on the couch while eating a couple pieces of pizza. I felt completely embarrassed listening to the raspy sound of Cris Collinsworth’s voice subtly basking in our demise.
I felt so much in that moment when Dallas blocked that punt. I got up and walked away. My phone kept buzzing and buzzing with text messages. I didn’t respond. I just felt this throbbing feeling of noticeable pain within me. I did not even respond to my 13-year old son Nathan who texted, “You guys are getting destroyed.”
I remember back in the early 2000’s being disgusted with what I was watching. I remember saying, “The only thing that makes the Redskins the Redskins anymore is the logo on the helmets.” I used to tell people back then that this team was like a seashell on the shore, they still looked the same, but there was no life in them.
The Redskins were my first love.
Growing up, my bedroom was a Redskins’ shrine. It was wall to wall – Redskins. As a kid, I remember kneeling in front of my Redskins poster of quarterback Jay Schroeder during the games I could not see and praying the Redskins would win. I would get these really good or bad feelings and I would know if the team had won or lost without even seeing or hearing the score. My nickname at school was “Dan the Redskins man.” I had (and still have) every Redskins’ victory on VHS tape from the mid 80’s to early 90’s. I would watch those great victories all off-season instead of doing my homework. My passion for the Redskins is what fueled me wanting to be in the NFL in the first place.
I showed up to my internship with Tony Dungy at the Vikings’ headquarters in 1995 wearing my Joe Gibbs’ Redskins’ coaching jacket. I can’t tell you how many times Mike Tannenbaum sat me down at the Jets and told me I needed to ‘stop being a fan of the Washington Redskins’, back when I was a scout in New York.
I came close to working with the Redskins seven different times, but none closer than when I interviewed with (now former) Team President, Bruce Allen in 2019. I would have had a position in coaching or scouting had he not been fired four months later.
I even have the Redskins’ logo tattooed on my right hand. I got it after the name change with “10•19•19” next to the logo commemorating the day of my interview.
Coaches, quarterbacks and kickers have come and gone. Nobody has lasted and nothing has stuck, because the chemistry Bobby Beathard built is gone and nothing the team has done to reconstruct it since has worked.
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, Sports Illustrated New York Jets 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.
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