Nine games into the 2012 season, the Redskins appeared dead in the water, sitting at 3-6 and the playoffs a near impossibility.
Entering the bye week, it looked like the team had little to play for, trailing the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants by three games in the division. As the temperatures began to drop in the DMV, Washington appeared destined for another chilly winter without playoff football.
Fast-forward seven game, and the Redskins had surged to their first division crown since 1999 in front of a title-hungry, sellout crowd at FedExField. The rest is history: the team’s first NFC East title and home playoff game in 13 years.
The remarkable run the team endured at the end of the regular-season was one of the greatest in history and will not be forgotten for quite some time. A division title, however, is now in the back of the players minds as they focus on fulfilling next year’s goal of a fourth Super Bowl in team history.
Redskins fans know that continued success isn’t a guarantee. It took 13 years to see the team they love play in a home playoff game. However, history shows that long droughts between division titles can lead to greater success in seasons that follow.
Find out how other teams that endured long division title droughts fared here:
The Green Bay Packers are synonymous with winning, including victories in the first two Super Bowls. Including NFL Championships, the Packers hold the record for the most championships in professional football history.
However, the team experienced a two-decade dry spell of division crowns, beginning in 1973. In 1995, the team claimed it first division title behind one of the all-time greats, quarterback Brett Favre, and advanced to the NFC Championship Game before falling to the Dallas Cowboys.
The following season, the Packers exceeded the prior season’s success, posting a conference-best 13-3 record, a second consecutive NFC Central title, and the team’s first Super Bowl title in 29 years. The next season, the team once again posted a 13-3 record, were the kings of the NFC Central for a third straight year, and made the Super Bowl before losing to the Mike Shanahan-led Denver Broncos.
As the the end of the twentieth century was approaching, no team may have looked forward to a new millennium more than the Philadelphia Eagles. While the team was able to make several playoff appearances in the 1990’s, a division crown continued to elude.
That changed in 2001, when the team surged to the top of the NFC East, winning the NFC East title for the first time since 1988 with an 11-5 record and a trip to the NFC Championship Game.
In 2002, the team built off of the momentum of its first division title by claiming its second-consecutive NFC East crown with a 12-4 record. While the Eagles would go on to lose in the NFC Championship to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they would become a perennial Super Bowl contender after 13 years without a division crown.
The San Diego Chargers were one of the most successful AFL teams in league history (before the 1970 NFL merger), winning the second-most games in league history as well as the 1963 AFL Championship. However, success was fleeting after the merger, as the powerhouse went until 1979 without a division title.
That year, the Chargers posted a 12-4 record before losing to the Houston Oilers in the divisional round of the playoffs.
The following year, the Chargers claimed their second consecutive division crown with an 11-5 record. While the regular-season win total decreased, the team advanced further in the playoffs, all the way to the AFC Championship Game. The team would continue to build a foundation of winning after a 14 year drought between its last AFL division title and first NFL division title, with four consecutive AFC West division titles.
The Buffalo Bills are the only team in NFL history to appear in four-straight Super Bowls when they accomplished the feat from 1990-1993. Before the team found its way into the NFL record books, it went through a division title drought starting in 1981. From 1982-1987, the team failed to post a record above .500. However, the team built a young-nucleus led by Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly that would win the 1988 AFC East title with a 12-4 record. It was the first of four straight division crowns.
So what does this mean for the Redskins?
The team has a assembled a careful concoction of veteran leadership and youthful athleticism, setting up sustainable success for years to come. If NFL history is any indication of what the future holds for the Redskins, look for the team to be mentioned as perennial Super Bowl contenders for years to come.
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