Unfortunately for Washington and its fans, the team’s season ended on Saturday when they fell short to the Buccaneers, 31-23. Despite an electrifying performance by Taylor Heinicke, Washington couldn’t match blows with the Brady-led Bucs who eclipsed 500 yards against the 2nd ranked Washington defense. Although it ended with a disappointment, the 2020 season was as an absolute success for the organization.
It may be hard to remember, but Washington finished the 2019 season at 3-13—the team was awful. With Jay Gruden’s departure, an unstable quarterback position, and a lack of talent on both sides of the ball, there was little optimism surrounding the team. Almost all pre-season power rankings predicted Washington as last in the NFC East—with some even ranking them last in the NFL
When the season began, the conversation was whether the team could exceed its win total from the previous year while dealing with a new coaching staff and little offseason due to COVID restrictions. By the end of the season, the team won more than double the amount of the year prior. Seven wins won’t turn heads, but the four game improvement is a massive step forward that should be celebrated.
The most exciting part of the 2020 season was watching young players outperform expectations and take on leadership roles. Chase Young quickly proved himself to be an instant difference-maker. In addition to several sacks, TFLs, forced fumbles, recovered fumbles, and a touchdown, Chase Young’s non-stop motor is what earned him his pro-bowl spot. Even when it wasn’t reflected on the stat sheet, Young gave 110% every play— chasing backs (and Joe Burrow) across the field, deflecting passes, making goal line stands, and most importantly: earning captainship with his mature and motivational demeanor.
Rookie stars weren’t limited to the 2nd overall pick however: Safety Kamren Curl came out of nowhere to have a spectacular season. Those who claim that Carolina safety Jeremy Chinn deserves Defensive Rookie of the Year likely don’t even know that Kam Curl, the seventh round pick, had the highest PFF rating of any rookie safety this year; a score bolstered by a thrilling seventy-five yard pick-six against the 49ers.
The list goes on: young players such as Antonio Gibson, Terry McLaurin, Montez Sweat, and low-cost signings like Logan Thomas and J.D. McKissic all proved themselves to be major assets for the team moving forward.
There was a new kind of excitement this season that started to crescendo when the team took down the Bengals in week 11. Player improvements, post-game press conferences, on-field chemistry, and the way that the players raved about Rivera and the new coaching staff all indicated that a shift was happening in the organization. Even in the teams losses, it was evident how resilient and hard-working the team was as they rarely went down without a major fight in the second half.
After a disastrous 2019 season, it was clear that Rivera’s arrival and Bruce Allen’s departure set the stage for a culture change; and it feels like the team is buying in. Even though the team finished with a losing record, it still outperformed all expectations—and the seeds that were planted this year by the new coaching staff and its group of young players are sure to bear fruit in the years to come.