By MARK F. GRAY, Special to the AFRO
For an instant we had a glimpse of what may have been, then boom it was gone.
The hope and enthusiasm that came with the arrival of rookie tailback Derrius Guice through off season training and his genuine candor with fans and the media ended with an innocuous tackle during a meaningless preseason game against the New England Patriots. Washington’s NFL playoff chances took a blindside hit from the football gods once again after he was caught from behind when he broke into the Patriots secondary for the first of what could have been many highlights this season.
Guice was supposed to be the game changer that gave fans in D.C. hope that the Burgundy and Gold had found their dominant running back who would help them grind back to respectability and contention in the NFC East for the next decade. He was going to be the answer to Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott, Jay Atayi from the world champion Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants rookie Saquan Barkley, who are great rushers that take the pressure off the other talented quarterbacks in the division.
But it was too good to be true.
Guice didn’t make it through the first half of his first exhibition game which immediately changed the arch of expectations for 2018’s version of the NFL franchise representing the Nation’s Capital. With his torn ACL gone are their hopes for a worst to first finish in the NFC eastern division. Now fans inside the District are merely hoping that they don’t finish worse than last season’s 7-9 record which was good for third place in the four team division.
That Guice fell to Washington in the second round was a stroke of luck which was uncommon over the last two decades. A game changing first round talent who could’ve restored their chances to become relevant again is never around when the Burgundy and Gold is on the clock in the second round. This year he was and for a moment it looked like football gods had finally smiled upon them.
However, anyone who has lived and died with the franchise over the last 20 years knows when the guardians of the gridiron are flashing their pearly whites it’s never a smile, its joke time on D.C. The jokes continue plaguing the long suffering, heartbroken, Burgundy and Gold apologists who dared to believe that times had changed. The front office had made prudent football decisions that restored sanity to their salary cap philosophy. There’s enough depth at positions all over the field so they could take a chance by drafting a luxury pick at number 59 that was Guice.
With size comparable to John Riggins and the speed of Timmy Smith in Super Bowl XXII, Guice was immediately expected to make an impact as Washington made its push towards a playoff run. However, as soon as it was reported that he was lost for the season the greatest fears were realized. From Seat Pleasant to southeast and from Fort Washington to Fairfax in watering holes and barber shops alike there was a collective, resigned sigh of, “here we go again”.
If not for bad breaks Washington’s NFL franchise doesn’t get any from the football gods. The intangibles that fall into place for championship teams always seem to fall apart for this one. Perhaps there is something to the notion of a Native American curse which has been cast upon the team until they change its “proper” name.
At some point fans hope to be delivered from the pit of misery by a “dilly-dilly” to break the curse.