Yes, you can see it on a television. But you have to look close. You have to listen hard.
You have to watch the players in the huddle. The players in the sidelines. Watch how they walk to their spots. Look for the focus. The drive to compete. The desire to win. Look for the impulsive fist pumps on the sideline when something good happens. Listen for the words of encouragement, the promises of redemption, when a rep doesn’t go as planned.
Don’t stop watching when the play is over. See who walks together. Who talks together. Who brings their helmet to another. Face masks inches apart, clouds of cold breath intermingling. See who cares about the other’s success. And when watching the Redskins, you’ll find that this team is a band of brothers. Truly together to the end, no matter the result.
It was this unity that kept the Redskins competitive on Sunday against the Seahawks, despite an unprecedented amount of injuries across the board. Delving into the lair of one of America’s most feared teams, in a stadium widely known as the loudest in history, the Redskins didn’t flinch. They stuck together, as a team. And when the Seahawks gave them opportunities, whether it be interceptions, or missed field goals, the Redskins made sure those opportunities weren’t for naught. And in the end, after a strong collective effort, the burgundy and gold reigned supreme.
Games like this aren’t always going to end in wins. The Redskins know this as well as anybody. They’ve received a handful of painful reminders, whether it be the last-moment loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in October, or their frustrating home defeat at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys. Even if a team does its best, and gives its best, it isn’t always enough. The outcome isn’t always in your hands. The other team has just as much say as you do.
It isn’t always the outcome that sets teams apart. It’s how they react. How they train to be better. How the leaders talk to the younger players to tell them that they can do better next week. It’s the tangible choice, to do nothing, or to do something to improve. Something to win when the opportunity comes around for an inevitable second time.
A team’s culture goes a long way toward winning games. And the Redskins have a winning culture. Players like D.J. Swearinger, Josh Norman, Vernon Davis, and Kirk Cousins do well to reinforce that, but it’s not just the team’s high-profile players. Everyone is in on the energy. The coaches, the trainers, the rookies. Everyone. Their goal is to win. By any means. And they’re going to do it as a team. There’s a collective faith in one another that can’t be taught. It simply sparks, and grows. The Redskins believe in one another. And their belief is spreading.
I know. It sounds corny. But belief, you see, is impulsive. A person doesn’t choose to believe in something on a moment’s notice. They aren’t convinced by the mere act of being told something. Cultivating belief in others takes time. It takes perseverance, and grit, as well as an undying, unwavering belief in yourself. Any player can say they believe in the other, for purposes of good faith. Like a Ravens’ receiver saying he believes in Joe Flacco. It’s a nice gesture. But is it the truth?
The Redskins players and coaches have true belief in one another. And while they aren’t on top of the world at 4-4, their culture has been a key component in their survival thus far. Without it, they could very well be 2-6, on the way to another trough on the roller coaster ride of the last ten years. Jay Gruden has this team in good spirits. Greg Manusky has them hungry for more. And the team leaders tell the players when it’s time to eat.
This team doesn’t get too high. When they make a play for the ages, they don’t bask in the glory. Their sights remain fixed on the goal at hand, and they don’t stop until they’ve reached it. And when they lose, they don’t give up. They keep trying, knowing full well that their efforts will pay off in the end. This squad epitomizes the importance of culture in the NFL today. A player can possess all the talent in the world, but if they aren’t invested in the common good of the group, of the collective good to win as a team, then they will get nowhere. The Redskins’ recent progress shows us something. It shows that they don’t have that problem.
In the hardest stretch of the season, it’s the culture of a team that dictates whether it swims or sinks in the treacherous waters. And so far, the Redskins have managed to stay afloat. In the next eight games, the culture will look to pervade even more. If the first half of the season has taught us anything, it’s that the Redskins will fight together, all the way to the end. It’s what good teams do. It’s what cultured teams do.