Elfin's End Zone: Home Field Disadvantage

9:55 AM, Dec 23, 2011   |    comments
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(ELFIN'S END ZONE) -- Remember those Under Armour commercials in which then-Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen bellowed, "We must protect this house!"
Unfortunately for Washington fans, if FedEx Field was a house, it would just about lead the NFL in break-ins.

The Redskins head into the home finale against Minnesota with five straight losses in Landover. With a defeat - the hapless Vikings are just 2-12 against everyone else on the road the last two years but they won here last November -- they'll move into a tie with the worst team in franchise history (1-12-1 in 1961) for the second-most consecutive failures after Norv Turner's winless first year at home (0-8 in 1994).

What make their inability to win at FedEx since Sept. 18 even more frustrating is that this is nothing new for the Redskins, who are now 4-11 at home under Mike Shanahan. However, it's not all about the coach who was a marvelous 83-29 at home during his 14 seasons in Denver.

Is FedEx, as wacky rumors suggest, built on a Native American burial ground and thus cursed until the team changes its name? That's far-fetched, but if Detroit beats visiting San Diego tomorrow, Washington will be the only NFC team which won't have enjoyed a winning record at home during any of the last four seasons.

All told, the Redskins are just 59-59-1 during their 15 seasons in Landover in contrast to their 75-40 record during the final 15 of their 36 seasons at RFK Stadium, a tenure that ended 15 years ago yesterday with a swansong smackdown of the despised Dallas Cowboys. Overall, Washington was 162-101-2 at RFK (formerly DC Stadium) despite a 12-23 mark during its first five seasons there.

Of course, none of the current Redskins played at RFK, but there are six on the active roster who were part of a winning campaign at FedEx and they know all too well how much their struggles there have hurt.

"If you can be great at home, you've got a chance (to make the playoffs) every year," said sixth-year safety Reed Doughty.
Indeed, it's no accident that the only seasons since 2003 in which the Redskins have been winners at home (6-2 in 2005 and 5-3 in 2007) are also the only seasons in which they've made the playoffs during that span.

And yet, Washington has been better on the road (7-8) than at home under Shanahan.

"When you go on the road, it's more of an us against them (mentality)," reasoned special teams captain Lorenzo Alexander, a fifth-year Redskin. "You're trying to shut the crowd up. There might be a little bit more of an emotional boost."

Really, 'Zo? More of an emotional boost than playing in front of some of the NFL's largest crowds for just about any home game?

"We'd like to establish a great home field advantage because we know we have a great fan base," said co-captain London Fletcher, who's also in his fifth Redskins season.

But when all but eight of your 31 rivals have done no worse than split their last two visits to your house, you don't have a home field advantage at all. In fact, the Redskins have a home field disadvantage.

Talk about not protecting your house.

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."

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