Addressing those who are discounting Washington's playoff berth originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Let’s get right to it.
Because of what Doug Pederson pulled — both literally, as it relates to Jalen Hurts, and figuratively, as it relates to his overall actions on Sunday night — there’s a lot of qualifying going on when it comes to Washington’s NFC East title.
Would the Burgundy and Gold have still won it if Hurts remained in the lineup for all four quarters at Lincoln Financial Field? It’s certainly questionable. Regardless, did the Football Team finish their campaign convincingly? Most certainly not.
But before you continue asterisk-ing their playoff run or argue that they were given a place in the NFL’s tournament instead of earning one, consider this.
Actually, consider all of this.
How many franchises had to learn that their new leader had cancer just days before the season began?
How many franchises had to bench their starter after just four games, only to watch as the backup dislocated his ankle, only to turn to a backup backup whose leg was fresh off of 17 surgeries, only to have to go back to the original starter because the backup backup’s leg got hurt again, only to have to cut that guy and eventually give the 17 surgeries QB with a newly-injured leg the nod in the finale?
And how many franchises had to attempt to win on weekends while simultaneously dealing with ownership drama — so much ownership drama — name drama and, oh yeah, COVID-19 drama?
There’s no debating that Ron Rivera’s roster received a gift at Lincoln Financial Field, courtesy of the Eagles and Pederson, that allowed them to set up a postseason date with the Bucs. The fact that Philly removed Hurts and inserted Nate Sudfeld, who’s hardly fit for an exhibition appearance, can’t be ignored.
However, you also can’t ignore the pile of adversity Washington overcame to even reach a position where they could capitalize on that gift.
Sure, this is a group that’s still as flawed as a golfer who tees it up a few times year. Alex Smith’s lack of mobility versus the Eagles was startling and further proved that he can’t be the long-term solution under center, another dynamic receiver must be added to the offense and the defense is a couple of pieces away from truly becoming a force.
That said, this is also a group that’s tough, resilient and rising. Talented as hell in a few spots as well. In addition, they’re now officially ahead of schedule for Rivera’s rebuild.
The way the campaign ended was a joke, yes. Most of what transpired beforehand, though, wasn’t at all. If you’re letting the former cloud the latter, then you’re missing out on a whole lot of progress and even more fun. Don’t make that mistake.