One thing I’m tired of hearing from sports reporters is how the Washington Redskins will be lucky to have an 8 win season in 2010, citing primarily the fact that Washington only won 4 games last season under Jim Zorn.  Most will agree that an 8 win season is quite readily attainable, simply with the arrival of Mike Shanahan (a 2-time Super Bowl winning coach), but I’ll tell you that even without his arrival, an 8 win season wouldn’t have to be shocking.

I realize that sports reporters get paid to be very knowledgeable on a plethora of topics, and so remembering general facts about one particular league as a whole might be a tall order to expect of a given radio / television / newspaper personality.  In some cases, I don’t necessarily doubt their memory, I think they’re just speaking in a provocative way, or pretending to buy-in to certain lines of thinking to gain support or draw ire of fans.

The fact is that NFL teams rebound from poor seasons far more frequently than the media would like you to believe, and there are signs which should help people to understand that major changes aren’t always dependent on big free agent signings or coaching regime changes.

The first time I remember seeing a record rebound in the NFL which wasn’t half as shocking to me as I was hearing from the media was in 2004 with the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Fans were supposed to be surprised that the Steelers amassed a 15-1 record that year – not because they only lost 1 game, but because they were in the playoffs at all.  Because Pittsburgh only won 6 total games in 2003.  Analysts talked about how surprising it was that Pittsburgh did so well given their record in the previous season, but they failed to report that the Steelers were a 13 win team in 2001 and a 10 win team in 2002.  One down year shouldn’t have been cause for much ado over the Steelers’ 2004 success.

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The NFC South is full of examples, providing one rebounding team per season, it seems.  After winning the Super Bowl in 2002, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a couple of mild seasons and in 2005 they amassed 11 wins and a playoff berth.  2006?  Only 4 wins.  2007 and 2008 they had 9 wins in both of those seasons, and in 2009 they dropped back down to only 3 wins.  Think they’ll remain in the NFC South basement this year with another top 10 draft pick?  I wouldn’t be surprised if they had an 8 win season.  The New Orleans Saints got 9 wins in 2002, 8 wins in 2003 and 2004, then in 2005 they only won 3 games.  What did 2006 hold?  10 wins in the regular season and a first-round victory in the playoffs.  Fans of the Atlanta Falcons likely never know what to expect from their favorite football team.  2002 brought 9 wins, but 2003 was only a 5 win season.  2004?  Back up to 11 wins, reversing their previous year’s record.  After a couple seasons of 50% winning percentages, they dropped back down to gaining only 4 wins in 2007.  But 2008 saw the Falcons win 11 games along with a rookie quarterback, a new head coach who had never been at the helm of an NFL team before and only two Pro Bowl selections.

The Miami Dolphins didn’t have a losing season from 1989 through their 2003 season.  After having a 10 win season, they followed it up with only 4 wins in 2004.  What did 2005 hold?  9 wins.  Was 2003 a fluke?  Sure seemed that way.  2006 was only 6 wins, and in 2007 Miami only won 1 game.  Terrible team or rough patch?  For those who held the former opinion, they were shocked when 2008 came along and the Dolphins won 11 games.  They went from having 1 Pro Bowl selection from their roster to having 3 in 2008.  There was no major upgrade at quarterback, and they replaced Cam Cameron as head coach and brought in Tony Sparano – who had no prior head coaching experience.

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The San Diego Chargers?  8 wins in 2002, the most wins they’d had in 6 seasons, and they followed it up with 4 wins in 2003.  Was 2002 the abbiration? The 12 wins in 2004 would beg to differ, and the fact that they haven’t had a losing season since then.

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Starting in 1999, the Washington Redskins had three straight winning seasons, missing out on a fourth by just one victory in 2002.  After a 5 win season and then a 6 win season, the Redskins got to 10 victories in 2005.  Their win total got cut in half, reaching just 5 wins in 2006, but 2007 saw 9 wins, then 8 wins in 2008.  The much maligned 2009 season saw only 4 wins, but with all the previously cited examples, why should it be out of the realm of probability that they rebound and have at least an 8 win season in 2010?

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