Washington Redskins: red-faced?

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Previously tipped as Super Bowl contenders, the Redskins are now more notable for the controversy surrounding their team name than they are for their odds of making it to “the ultimate game” after being knocked around on Sunday last by their hated rivals, the Dallas Cowboys, 31-16.

Vaunted 2nd-year quarterback Robert Griffin III is having trouble both with his recuperating knee, as well as his transition to a “pocket” quarterback from uber-mobile scrambling playmaker. It also does not help that the Redskins had to trade multiple draft picks for the privilege of drafting Griffin III: there is simply very little talent to put around the physically-gifted QB. A less mobile Griffin III, whether by the design of head coach Mike Shanahan or the necessity of a repaired knee ligaments, does not strike fear into the hearts of opposing defences, who have responded this season by blitzing Griffin III at a pace of triple last year’s rate. Hence the Redskins’ now dismal 1-4 record nearly one-third of the way into the season, almost guaranteeing they won’t figure in even the playoffs, much less the Super Bowl (to be played in balmy New York in February this year).

And so it was with the Cowboys: their cornerbacks, linebackers, and safeties all had a turn racing at Griffin III as he attempted pass after pass. And while they did not reach him all that often (three sacks, 29 yards lost), Griffin III was running around in the backfield avoiding these rushers and making errant throws, resulting in 20 incompletions and one interception. Griffin III’s impromptu scrambles and escapes resulted in him being the Redskins’ leading rusher for the day – certainly not what Shanahan wants his multi-million dollar and very fragile investment doing on a recently-repaired knee.

Worse still for the Redskins, they remain embroiled in Native American protests concerning their team name. The controversy has reached not only football fans but now also President Obama, who weighed in last week, suggesting that if he owned a team with that name “I’d think about changing it.”

This sentiment was echoed at the half-time of the Redskin’s / Cowboy’s broadcast by influential and award-winning US sports announcer Bob Costas, when he called the name “an insult, a slur, no matter how benign the present-day intent.”

Costas went on to say: “Think for a moment about the term ‘Redskins’ and how it truly differs from [other team nicknames based on Native American images]. Ask yourself what the equivalent would be, if directed at African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, or members of any other ethnic group. When considered that way, ‘Redskins’ can’t possibly honour a heritage, or a noble character trait, nor can it possibly be considered a neutral term.”

If their losses continue to run pile up against wins at a 4:1 rate, their name won’t be the most insulting thing about the Redskins: their record will.

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