Coaches, players and fans who put their heart and soul into this franchise can undoubtedly recall where they were when the news first broke.
There were the initial feelings of utter shock and disbelief, the dream-like state entered upon hearing such a tragedy, and finally the unparalleled pain and disgust once the dreadful news inevitably sunk in.
While that day will live in infamy for the franchise and their fans alike, the focus on this anniversary should be on the 24 years he lived before November 27, 2007. Celebrating the life of a figure so beloved in the greater Washington D. C. area should be at the forefront of everyone’s hearts and minds.
Remember the person, recall with awe, the extraordinary talent most of us can only dream of possessing, and appreciate just how much of an impact someone who was only on this earth 24 years could have.
That 2007 team went on to honor him off the field but on it as well. Sitting at 5-7 after a heartbreaking loss to the Buffalo Bills on December 2, the team rallied emotionally in a way only a Joe Gibbs coached team could. With each remaining game serving as an elimination game, they ran off four wins in a row in order to clinch a wild-card berth with a 9-7 record.
Five years later, while Redskins fans honor the memory of a talent that was worthy of a demigod, they can take solace in something else. The 2012 Redskins have the potential to play in the first relevant and competitive month of December since that 2007 team.
The immediate season following the tragedy offered hope. The Jim Zorn era roared out of the gate with a 6-2 start and had fans clamoring for the franchise’s first Super Bowl since the 1991-92 season, but if the Redskins fan base is familiar with one thing, it’s the act of prematurely anointing success.
They were destroyed by Pittsburgh on national television in early November with FedEx Field swamped with an estimated 30 thousand terrible towels. They subsequently lost home games to divisional rivals, Dallas and New York, and by the time December rolled around, while still mathematically in the hunt, were utterly deflated.
Plummeting to 8-8, the following seasons offered no redemption for a beleaguered fan base in desperate need of anything positive. Zorn’s second year produced a heinous 4-12 record. Enter Mike Shanahan.
Everyone knows how the first two years under Shanny went, whether it was the bad records, the loathsome presence of Albert Haynesworth and the perpetual drama that accompanied him, or the historically bad Donovan McNabb experiment. Whatever it was, from 2008 until 2011, the Washington Redskins were the NFL’s Mr. Irrelevant by the time December rolled around.
But today, on this appropriately rainy and dreary day in the District, fans are experiencing an unfamiliar feeling. They have hope.
This season appeared to be another lost cause entering the bye week, but after winning two in a row and pushing their record to 5-6, the Redskins are right in the thick of things as they gear up to take on the NFC East-leading New York Giants a week from today on Monday Night Football.
Captained by a quarterback with extraordinarily unique physical abilities unlike anything this town has seen since No. 21 roamed the defensive backfield, the Redskins are in the December conversation for the first time since 2007.
Nearly the entire 2012 Redskins roster wasn’t on the team when tragedy struck five years ago, but unlike the forgettable seasons that followed, they’ve overcome setbacks and injected life into a fan base that is in dire need, especially on days like today.
The District of Columbia is a place where the Redskins aren’t just the primary focus. They’re genuinely loved. If players give their hearts to this franchise, fans don’t elevate them as stars, they revere them as family.
Sean Taylor was one of those players. Five years after his passing, the impact of how he lived his life as a man and as a Washington Redskin continues to be felt. With each passing year, the team and its fans honor Taylor’s memory. Sean Taylor the man, the father, the fierce competitor.
This may not be a team of destiny. Few would say that it is. But if this year’s players put forth a herculean effort in the coming weeks, it will honor Sean Taylor the competitor.
That very effort has ignited a fire in this city not seen since 2007. For the first December in five years, this team has given this city hope.
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