Friday, July 26, 2013

Washington Post Sports Watch: Jason Reid Believes the Hype

Last week I wrote a post about the tendency of Post writers and columnists to frequently overhype the local teams, demonstrating a "premature excitement" or optimism about the teams before they've accomplished much of anything. I cited a Jason Reid column * declaring that the Wizards would make the playoffs next year, a Tom Boswell piece last fall comparing the Nationals to the 90s Braves and Jeter-era Yankees, and an recent blog post on the Insider blog questioning why anyone might pick against the Redskins in the NFC East. Unfortunately, it seems like Jason Reid took that post as a personal challenge. Reid's new column on the Redskins is as good an example of that overhype and excessive optimism as anything in that first post.

Headlined "Washington Redskins Primed for Sustained Excellence Entering Training Camp" on the Web, Reid's column says the Redskins will not only win the NFC East this year and make it to the NFC Championship Game, but also go 12-4 and return to being a "perennial winner" like they were in the first Joe Gibbs era. Now I'll admit there is certainly good reason to be more optimistic about the Redskins this year than in most recent preseasons. And I am fine with a columnist who is willing to take a strong stand and then defend his position. The problem is that while Reid explains why he thinks the Redskins will be so good (it basically boils down to "they have a good offense"), he leaves out a crucial element that should be in any good column arguing for a strong position--he never seriously counters, and only barely acknowledges, any of the arguments that cast doubt on his position.

Reid's column says the Redskins' numerous offensive weapons--from RGIII to Alfred Morris to Pierre Garcon, along with Trent Williams on the offensive line--are poised to continue dominating on the offensive ball as they did last year, when the Redskins had the top rushing game in the league and the third highest passer rating. That's fine, and he may be right. But after noting RGIII's quick recovery from his knee injury, there's no mention of whether RGIII will be truly healthy at the start of the season, and, probably more importantly, whether the tweaks that apparently will be made in the offense to lessen the injury risk to Griffin will have an impact on the effectiveness of the offense. He also doesn't mention that with teams now having a full year to study Griffin and the increasing popularity of the zone-read offense, it's likely many teams will have new ideas on how to defend it. And what about the Redskins' difficult schedule this year, which includes trips to Atlanta, Green Bay and Denver? That could make a 12-4 record a challenging proposition, but there's no mention of that--or their NFC East opponents, or any other team in the league for that matter. It's almost as if the Redskins exist independently of the rest of the NFL in Reid's column, and what other teams do doesn't matter because the Redskins' offense is so overpowering. That, of course, means he also never addresses the nature of the NFL--that teams finish in first place one year and go 6-10 the next year (and vice versa) routinely, and no one really seems to know why.

I will give credit to Reid for at least noting that one of the players he identifies as a key to the Redskins' season, Pierre Garcon, missed a bunch of games due to injury last year and that there are still questions about his health as we enter this season. But considering Garcon is, at the moment, the only true threat the team has at wide receiver, Reid offers no insight or explanation into what the team might do if injuries plague Garcon once again. (Much of the team's winning streak at the end of the year came only after Garcon returned to the lineup.) And as for the biggest question mark facing the Redskins--the defense--Reid spends one paragraph on that, basically saying that Brian Orakpo's return from injury will make the defense better (OK) and that the team's defense was lackluster last year and they still won 10 games because of their offense, so there's no reason they can't win two more this year (really--that's pretty much his argument.)

Jason Reid may be right--the Redskins could win 12 games. But simply asserting that, with no consideration of the challenges that the Redskins might face in getting there, isn't very convincing. It just comes off as hyping the local team, and after watching a much-hyped Nationals season fall apart, and a much-hyped hockey team continually collapse in the playoffs, do we really need more of that from the Post?

*In response to my earlier article on premature excitement for the local teams, Jason Reid tweeted me that he thought I had "misrepresented" his Wizards column by describing it as "the Wizards will make the playoffs just because they drafted Otto Porter." After reading his column again, I think he does have a point--"just because they drafted Otto Porter" may be overstating his position. So I've changed the original blog post to read "Jason Reid declared that the Wizards would make the playoffs next season now that they've drafted Otto Porter."


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