Washington Redskins wide receiver Donte Stallworth (19) is unable to make the catch as Philadelphia Eagles safety Nate Allen (29) defends in the fourth quarter at FedEx Field. Philadelphia won 20-13. Credit: James Lang-US PRESSWIRE
ASHBURN, Va. (Elfin's Endzone/WUSA) -- During the last week, I have written about the Redskins' failures to win at home and in December. However, there's still another leg of Washington's trifecta of recent incompetence: its performance against its archrivals which will be on view again in Sunday's season finale at Philadelphia.
PHOTOS: WASHINGTON REDSKINS SEASON IN REVIEW
The Redskins, who dominated the NFC East back in the day under the late George Allen and fellow Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs (1.0 version), have been the division doormat ever since. Win or lose against the Eagles, the burgundy and gold (5-10) will become the first team to finish in the NFC East cellar four years running during its 42-year history.
Washington was 38-17-1 against Dallas, the New York Giants, Philadelphia and St. Louis (now Arizona) under Allen from 1971-77 and 59-36 under Gibbs from 1981-92 (the 1982 game at Dallas was wiped out by the players' strike).
But since then -- while going .500 under interim coach Terry Robiskie (1-1) in 2000 and successor Marty Schottenheimer (4-4) -- the Redskins have bumbled in the NFC East under Richie Petitbon (1-7), Norv Turner (20-33-1), Steve Spurrier (2-10 after the Cardinals moved to the NFC West), Gibbs 2.0 (10-14), Jim Zorn (3-9) and now Mike Shanahan (4-7).
All told in the decade since the usually hapless Cardinals left the division, Washington is a woeful 19-40 in the NFC East. In other words, the Cowboys, Giants and Eagles know that the odds are 2-1 in their favor that they'll emerge victorious when they face the Redskins. That will be the case if Philadelphia completes a sweep on Sunday.
"I think ending the season on a high note is important for us moving forward," said inside linebacker London Fletcher, one of Washington's defensive co-captains. "It's a division game against an extremely talented Philadelphia Eagles football team. It's in their place. It's (on) New Year's Day. Going into an offseason with a win would do a lot for our psyche, being able to finish .500 in our division."
However, special teams captain Lorenzo Alexander, another veteran of Washington's last playoff team in 2007, isn't so sure that finishing 6-10 compared to 5-11 in 2011 would make that much of a difference in 2012.
"It's always good to win, (but) I don't know if it's gonna start anything (for 2012) because there's such a layoff between each season," he said.
While Washington did manage to go 3-3 in the division in 2007 and 2008, it hasn't had a winning record against Dallas, New York and Philadelphia since closing 2005 by beating them consecutively to finish 5-1 against their NFC East rivals. Not coincidentally, that's the only season during this millennium in which the Redskins won a playoff game. They finished over .500 in the division just twice otherwise during the past two decades: in 1997 and in 1999, the only other year with postseason success.
In contrast, 1981 was the only year from 1971-92 that the Redskins didn't at least finish at .500 in divisional play. And of course those 22 seasons were when Washington dominated its rivals instead of being dominated as has been the case ever since.
"You definitely have to win in your division to get to the playoffs, but I think it all stems from the same issue: (a lack of) consistency," Alexander said.
Actually the Redskins have been all too consistent in the division during the last decade while averaging a 2-4 NFC East mark.
"And that equals not being in the playoffs, as simple as that," Alexander said.
WUSA-9's Redskins Insider, David Elfin, has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the author of five books on the Redskins including the new "Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History."