DC Sports History Since 1992 – Rough Draft of 2005 Chapter

After releasing an Amazon e-book (NFL’s Most Valuable Quarterbacks, 1951-2016) in August 2017 (update & paperback coming March 2018!), I got to working on another project: expanding my post about DC sports since 1992 into a book-length project. I made some significant progress, getting to 2011 by going in chronological order. But my devotion soon faded, and it’s been in stasis for a while.

Part of the problem is I became unsure of my approach. So, I’ve decided to post a sample of what is still a rough draft. Most chapters will read similarly, so I would very much appreciate feedback on whether my approach here is functional.

One thing that won’t be clear from this sample is that the chapters get longer and more detailed the further we get towards the present. So 1995 is a shorter chapter and 2015 will be a longer chapter. I’d like to know what you think about this as well.

All that said, here is 2005 in Washington, DC sports (with a bit of 2006 for context):


 

2005

The Redskins don’t actually play their final game of the [2004] season on January 2, a 21-18 win over the Minnesota Vikings.

When the city last won a championship, Johnny Carson was still hosting The Tonight Show. On January 23, Carson passes away at the age of 79.

This time of year is less interesting than usual, since hockey is still not being played. And it won’t be, the entire 2004-05 season lost to the lockout.

The Wizards are making up for it, though. It’s their first year with Arenas, Jamison, and Larry Hughes together, making up perhaps their strongest core trio since the mid- to late-90’s. And it’s going well.

Arenas averages 25.5 points per game, Hughes 22.0, and Jamison 19.6 per game.

Unfortunately, Kwame Brown has regressed to 7.0 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.

The success of the trio matters more at this point than a former first overall pick’s struggles. Arenas and Jamison will both make the All-Star Game, which gives the team its first season with multiple All-Stars since 1986-87, when Moses and Jeff Malone (no relation) both made it.

As a team, the Wizards raced out to a 12-6 start, but were only 15-13 when 2004 turned into 2005.

January began with a seven-game winning streak. February ended with the team dropping five of its last six. Still, the team maintained a 31-24 mark as March started.

Early that month, the Redskins traded Coles back to the Jets for WR Santana Moss in a challenge trade.

Inconsistency continued for the Wizards. Four straight wins from March 27 to April 1 got the team to 41-30, which was followed by five straight losses.

That, however, was followed by four straight wins. Despite dropping their final two games of the year, the Wizards end the season 45-37 on April 20. Somehow, it is their best record since 1979, when the Washington Bullets went 54-28.

The result is the team’s first playoff berth since 1996.

In the meantime, baseball’s return to Washington began in earnest. On April 4, the Nationals lost to the Philadelphia Phillies, 8-4, in the first Major League Baseball game for the city since September 30, 1971. On April 6, the Nationals beat the Phillies, 7-3, for their first victory. And on April 14, the Nationals played their first home game. RFK Stadium is a bad fit for baseball, but it’s what’s available. The Nats defeat the Arizona Diamondbacks, 5-3.

Three days after the NBA season ends, it’s time for the NFL draft. QB Alex Smith goes first overall. QB Aaron Rodgers falls all the way to 24th. The 25th pick belongs to the Broncos, but the Redskins trade up for it, and take QB Jason Campbell of Auburn.

The playoffs begin for the Wizards the next day. They visit the Bulls to begin the series. The Bulls don’t have Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen anymore, of course, so the opposition isn’t quite as strong as last time. Nevertheless, Chicago wins the first two games by scores of 103-94 and 113-103.

The tide begins to turn in Game 3. Gilbert Arenas scores 32 points and the Wizards win, 117-99. It is the first time the Wizards have won a playoff game since they were the Bullets, all the way back in 1988.

The Wizards even the series at two games each with a 106-99 Game 4 victory, and the series goes back to Chicago.

The Wizards jump out to a 63-49 halftime lead, and are still ahead 86-73 to begin the fourth quarter. But the Bulls come back, and the Wizards take the ball in a 110-110 game for one final possession of regulation.

Arenas drives to the left and pulls up from 14 feet. His shot easily clears the outstretched arms of Kirk Hinrich and Tyson Chandler, and finds nothing but net as the buzzer sounds.

With the dramatic 112-110 victory, the Wizards are one win away from winning the series.

Game 6 is another close one. The game is tied at 91-91 with 34.9 seconds left with Chicago in possession. But Chris Duhon’s inbound pass hits Hinrich in the back. Wizards F Jared Jeffries grabs the ball and dunks it two-handed for the lead with 31.9 seconds remaining.

The Wizards hang on to win, 94-91. It is the first time they have won a full playoff series since 1982.

Up next for the Wizards, however, are the Miami Heat, led by Shaquille O’Neal and Dwyane Wade. Washington loses Game 1, 105-86, setting the tone. A 99-95 Miami win in Game 4 completes a sweep.

The MLB Rule 4 draft for first-year players is in June. The Nationals have the fourth selection, and they take an infielder from the University of Virginia named Ryan Zimmerman.

The Nationals are having a surprising year on the field. On draft day, they win, 2-1, moving to 32-26. Their next five games are also all wins, making for a 10-game winning streak to move to 37-26.

Through the first half of the season, the Nats are 50-31 on the back of an amazing 26 wins in their last 32 games.

The success isn’t exactly sustainable. By the All-Star Break, they are 52-36. Starting pitcher Livan Hernandez and closer Chad Cordero are the club’s first two All-Stars in Washington.

Despite the Wizards’ successful season, Kwame Brown completely regressed. The Wizards give up on him on August 2, trading him to the Los Angeles Lakers. The deal brings Caron Butler to Washington. Larry Hughes has already moved on in free agency to Cleveland, making Arenas-Jamison-Butler the new core trio.

The day of the Brown trade, the Nationals’ record is down to 56-50.

By the time the NFL season starts, the Nationals are 73-71.

Patrick Ramsey is the starting quarterback for the Redskins for Week 1, but this state of affairs does not last. Mark Brunell replaces Ramsey in the game against the Bears, which is actually a 9-7 victory on the back of three John Hall field goals.

Week 2 is a Monday Night Football matchup against Dallas. The Cowboys are inducting Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin into their ring of fame.

The Redskins continue their ineptitude on offense. The Cowboys lead 3-0 at halftime for their induction ceremony. QB Drew Bledsoe throws a 70-yard touchdown to Terry Glenn in the third quarter for a 10-0 Dallas lead, which they extend to 13-0 with 5:58 left in the game.

After a first down to their own 38, the Redskins face a 3rd and 27 after Brunell loses 17 on a sack.

He recovers to scramble for 25 yards, setting up a 20-yard catch-and-run completion to James Thrash on fourth down.

A false start and three incomplete passes later, it is 4th and 15 from the Dallas 39.

Brunell goes back from the shotgun and launches a pass from midfield, going for Moss on a deep post in the end zone. Moss makes a sliding catch, and Al Michaels notes that the Redskins finally have a touchdown in 2005.

The Cowboys get a first down but only take a minute off the clock before punting the ball back. It’s a touchback, and Portis makes a 10-yard reception to start the drive.

On first down from his own 30, Brunell is in the shotgun again. He steps up and launches another deep one for Moss on the fly. Moss again beats double coverage for the 70-yard touchdown, and the extra point gives the Redskins a 14-13 lead with 2:35 to go.

Dallas begins its comeback effort and faces third and four with 1:57 to go.

Bledsoe finds WR Patrick Crayton, but Sean Taylor is there to blow the play up as the ball goes flying backwards, incomplete. On fourth and four, Dallas gains only three. The Redskins have to punt, leaving 36 seconds, but Dallas is unable to get past midfield and the Redskins are a surprising 2-0.

The bye week is already upon us.

On October 2, the Redskins move to 3-0 with a 20-17 overtime win over the Seattle Seahawks, but the Nationals drop their final game, ending the year at just 81-81. The .500 record is nevertheless better than expected when the year began, if disappointing now after the blazing-hot first half.

On Sunday Night Football on November 6, the Redskins beat the Eagles, 17-10, to move to 5-3 on the year. A road game in Tampa Bay is next.

The Redskins take a 35-28 lead with 8:19 left on an 8-yard Clinton Portis run, but the Buccaneers score a touchdown with 58 seconds left to make it 35-34.

The Redskins block the extra point, but are ruled offsides. The Buccaneers decide to give the ball to Alstott, who pounds it in from a yard out for a 36-35 Washington defeat.

The Redskins also drop their next two games, 16-13 to Norv Turner’s Raiders and 23-17 to Marty Schottenheimer’s Chargers, falling to 5-6 on the season.

But wins of 24-9 over the Rams and 17-13 over the Cardinals bring the Redskins to 7-6, setting up a rematch against Dallas.

The home game vs. the Cowboys is almost as satisfying as the road game, albeit in completely different fashion: Mark Brunell throws four first-half TD passes for a 28-0 halftime lead, and the Redskins win, 35-7.

The Giants are next. In their first matchup, the Redskins were humiliated 36-0.

Three different players throw a TD pass for Washington in the second game. Brunell throws a 59-yard touchdown to Moss to make it 14-10 Redskins after the first quarter. Clinton Portis throws a 17-yard TD to TE Chris Cooley in the second quarter for a 21-10 lead. And after Brunell is knocked from the game, Patrick Ramsey finds Moss for a 72-yard touchdown. The Redskins go on to win, 35-20.

At 9-6, the Redskins would need a road win against the Eagles to guarantee their first playoff berth since 1999. The game is on January 2.

2006

Two Mike McMahon TD passes to Reggie Brown give the Eagles a 17-7 second quarter lead. The Redskins make it 17-10 at halftime, and still trail 20-17 as the fourth quarter begins.

LB Lemar Marshall intercepts McMahon with 12:37 to go. On just one play, the Redskins take the lead with Clinton Portis’ 22-yard touchdown run, making it 24-20.

It’s still 24-20 when a Washington punt gives Philadelphia the ball on their own 25 with 3:11 to go. Koy Detmer has replaced McMahon at quarterback.

On third-and-five, Detmer goes to pass and is sacked by DE Phillip Daniels. Sean Taylor recovers the fumble and returns it 39 yards for the clinching touchdown.

The 31-20 win sets up a rematch with the Buccaneers for the Wild Card game.

 

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