- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins have gone on four excellent runs to turn their season around and close with a flourish since 2001. Will they make it a fifth? Based on their recent play it's tough to predict such a run. But history also shows that these runs aren't always predictable.
Here are the four seasons in which Washington has finished on a hot stretch, taking a season from bad to excellent:
How they started: The Redskins lost their first five games under coach Marty Schottenheimer -- and looked terrible in doing so. It also happened to follow a horrible preseason. The Redskins were outscored 143-33 in those games.
Low point: Players were unhappy with Schottenheimer and his methods early in the season, with several voicing their complaints (even mild-mannered second-year offensive tackle Chris Samuels was displeased). But the two who were most upset? Corner Darrell Green and Bruce Smith.
Thoughts of a turnaround: None. The Redskins had played poorly since the preseason and they had cast-off Tony Banks at quarterback and no legitimate playmakers on offense. But what did start to change was the impression of Schottenheimer. Players started to respect his methods. They started to become a tough, physical team. A LaVar Arrington interception versus Carolina in a 17-14 win turned it around.
How it ended: The Redskins won five straight to reach .500 en route to an 8-8 record. Schottenheimer was well-liked by most players in the locker room, though Smith and Green, by most accounts, did not buy in. Owner Dan Snyder did not buy in, a fact that upset numerous players, as he fired Schottenheimer. It was a mistake.
How they started: The Redskins actually played well at the start of the season, winning their first three games and they were 4-2 after six games. But they lost four of their next five to sit 5-6 after 11 games.
Low point: The Redskins lost three straight games, including the last two at home. One of those was as bad as the Minnesota game last week as they lost 16-13 to a three-win Oakland team that lost every game the rest of the season. They followed that with an overtime loss at home to San Diego.
Thoughts of a turnaround: Solid, despite the skid. Players were genuinely confused about what had happened. They knew Gibbs’ first year would be a struggle, but I remember talking to players, tackle Jon Jansen in particular, about what was happening. Their belief was that they were at least a nine-win team, that they had worked too hard and believed too much in what they were doing. I didn’t think they would win every game the rest of the season, but a strong finish? Doable.
How it ended: The Redskins won their last five regular season games to finish 10-6 and reach the playoffs. No opponent scored more than 20 points and the Redskins topped 30 in each of the last three games.
How they started: The Redskins won five of their first eight games coming off a 6-10 season. Things looked good.
Low point: Sean Taylor’s death. The Redskins then lost a crushing game to Buffalo, 17-16, and flew to Miami for his funeral. It was their fourth straight defeat as they fell to 5-7.
Thoughts of a turnaround: None. It was asking too much for them to turn it around given the circumstances. They were a drained team. But, as in 2005, there were a lot of true professionals that provided reason to believe they could win again.
How it ended: Todd Collins entered and played well at quarterback for an injured Jason Campbell and the offense started to click. The team overall played inspired football and the Redskins won four in a row to reach the playoffs. They lost in the first round and Joe Gibbs retired.
How they started: Washington lost three straight, including at home to Carolina, 21-13, to fall to 3-6.
Low point: Losing at home to previously one-win Carolina after two straight defeats to the New York Giants and Pittsburgh. Against the Giants, the Redskins played a solid game and lost on a last-minute touchdown pass. But Robert Griffin III's heroics provided hope that they were never out of a game. They lost at Pittsburgh in part because of nearly a dozen dropped passes and the Steelers’ defense had been dominating all year. Neither were terrible losses. But at home to the Panthers? That was bad.
Thoughts of a turnaround: After the bye week, the players returned refreshed and energized and expressed a belief that they could play better and finish strong, with fullback Darrel Young saying they would do “something special.” Too many players believed in what they were doing to write them off; it was similar to the 2005 feeling I had. So I anticipated improved play? But a seven-game streak? No way.
How it ended: With seven straight wins and a home playoff loss to Seattle, and the injury to Griffin. But with a belief that they had turned a corner.