They have a veteran coach in his third season with his second NFL team with precious little to show for the first two years. They have a quarterback who had a breakout performance in his first extended NFL action. And they started the season with nobody expecting anything out of them.
That is a description of the 2012 Redskins with Mike Shanahan coming off of 11 wins in two seasons and Robert Griffin III having a big game against the Saints in his NFL debut.
But that also describes the 1999 St. Louis Rams. Dick Vermeil, who took the Eagles to a Super Bowl appearance in 1980, had returned to coach the Rams in 1997 after a much longer hiatus than the one year that Shanahan took off. After not coaching in the NFL from 1983 through 1996, Vermeil took the reigns of the Rams and immediately left the impression that he should have stayed retired. St. Louis won five and four games in his first two seasons.
But things were different in 1999 when Kurt Warner started the season at quarterback. He came into the opener against the Ravens with just 11 career pass attempts but he passed for 309 yards and three touchdowns as the Rams beat Baltimore. He went on to pass for over 4300 yards and 41 touchdowns that year on the way to the Pro Bowl and first-team All-NFL honors.
I think you see where I’m going here but I’m not going to go very far down that road. The 2012 Redskins have some work to do before they become a 21st-century edition of The Greatest Show on Turf. Those Rams averaged almost 33 points per game, won their first six games, finished the regular season 13-3, and won Super Bowl XXXIV.
The ’99 Rams had a couple of assets on offense that this Redskins team does not appear to have. Alfred Morris might have a nice rookie season but he’s no Marshall Faulk, who was in the prime of his Hall of Fame career. And the Redskins don’t have a receiver who is nearly as accomplished as Isaac Bruce was at that point in his career. Bruce was 27 that year and he already had posted a 119-catch season (1995) where he gained over 1700 yards.
But the ’99 Rams do serve as a reminder that a struggling franchise with an old-school coach can turn things around in a hurry with an injection of improved quarterback play. Again, the Redskins have a long way to go before becoming The Greatest Show II but stranger things have happened.