The Archive

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

An Appreciation of Steve Young

This post began as an attempt to explain my opinion of the top 6 NFL quarterbacks since the NFL went to a 16 game schedule [1], but I ended up writing 1,001 words on Steve Young before I even got to another QB. So this post is just going to be about Young, and as such, it is much longer than 1,000 words now. I may write a justification for the top 6 in the future. That hypothetical post would also explain why I have a top 6, and not a top 5 or a top 10. But moving on...

Steve Young is by far the best left-handed quarterback of all time, as well as the player to best combine passing and rushing in NFL history, or at least since the 1930's. In his time, he was a unique combination of accuracy and skill in passing, and speed and power in running [2]. Even in the modern heyday for the running quarterback, only Aaron Rodgers has been as good at both passing and running.

Even with all of that going for him, Young is also one of two quarterbacks to disappoint media and fans everywhere by winning "just" one Super Bowl. (You know the other one.)

But Young's qualitative greatness is almost off the charts. A flood of numbers will demonstrate as much. (Click here for what the abbreviations mean.)

Of the 73 players to pass at least 400 times from 1991-98, Young led them all with a 130 ANY/A+ (30% better than average), and that doesn't even measure his rushing value. Who was second? Dan Marino. With a 116. Young also had a 130 Y/A+ in that time period. Chris Chandler was second...at 112. Passer rating index? Young led with a 133; Brett Favre was second at 116. Not only is Young leading everyone in these stats, he's leading them by a mile, and different players are ranking second depending on which efficiency measure you choose. There's no such dilemma with Young. Pick one, he was the best, and it wasn't close. [3]

Here is a scatter plot with Y/A+ on the horizontal axis and ANY/A+ on the vertical:


Yes, Young is represented by that lonely dot in the upper right. That's what I meant by "almost off the charts." Any questions?

And recall how low the attempts threshold is here--400 in eight seasons. At 300, Doug Flutie's 1998 season enters the sample, and it exceeded Marino's 1991-98 ANY/A+ mark, with a 121--still way lower than Young's 1991-98 mark.

In fact, how low do you have to set the bar for attempts before someone actually surpasses Young in any of these three indices? 142. Rob Johnson's Y/A+ then beats Young's...and he still falls short in Rate+ and ANY/A+. To finally approach Young in the other figures, you need to set the minimum attempts to: 44, to reach Mark Vlasic's 1991 season, which touches Young's 1991-98 stretch with a 133 Rate+ and 129 ANY/A+. But to finally conquer Young, to beat him by as much as he beat second place in the more legitimate samples, try 17, when Shane Matthews posted a 167 Rate+ and 169 ANY/A+ in two relief appearances for the 1996 Bears. By this time, Marino has fallen from second with a 116 ANY/A+ to tenth.

How good is a 130 ANY/A+, by the way? Well, five quarterbacks have posted a 130 ANY/A+ in a single season (link here to full numbers):
  • Brett Favre, 1995 (MVP, 1st Team All Pro)
  • Ron Jaworski, 1980 (Pro Bowl)
  • Peyton Manning, 2005 (1st Team All Pro)
  • Donovan McNabb, 2004 (Pro Bowl)
  • Kurt Warner, 2001 (MVP, 1st Team All Pro)
That's three 1st Team All Pro seasons, and the other two seasons were career years for Jaworski and McNabb. And it's a level Young played at for eight years.

Young's dominance also comes through when looking at individual seasons. He often led the league in a large assortment of statistics: completion percentage 5 times, TD% thrice, INT% twice, yards per attempt 5 times, adjusted yards per attempt 6 times, net yards per attempt 5 times, and adjusted net yards per attempt 4 times. Each of those numbers you see that are four or higher mean he led the league in the statistic at least as often as every other QB in the league combined during his 8 year peak.

Additionally, his rating was at least 20% above average every single year, and his ANY/A at least 16% above average. Recall Marino was second from 1991-98 in ANY/A+ with a 116. So Young's worst ANY/A in that time frame was as good as the second best ANY/A in the league across all eight seasons. In other words, by adjusted net yards per attempt, Young's worst season was still as good as the league's next best quarterback was on average.

And you probably don't need me to tell you that, on top of all that, Young was also rushing for 350 yards and 4 touchdowns on 6 yards per carry every year.

The Associated Press also recognized Young for what he was during this time: one of the two best quarterbacks in the league pretty much every season. From 1992-94, he was 1st Team All Pro three times. He was then 2nd Team All Pro in 1995, 1997, and 1998. (Favre was 1st Team from 1995-97, but in 1998, Randall Cunningham took that honor home.) This compares very well to some high-profile contemporaries: Elway made 2nd Team three times his entire career (1987, 1993, 1996), and never first; Aikman never made so much as 2nd Team All Pro [4].

The main argument against Steve Young's silly dominance in this time period is that he had the greatest receiver of all time to throw to. Well, except in 1997, when his #1 target was a second-year receiver by the name of Terrell Owens [5], who caught 60 passes. And Young still led the league in passer rating and ANY/A. By passer rating, it was also his best non-MVP season.

Some also criticize Young for not putting up volume statistics. However, he led the league in touchdown passes four times and yards per game twice, and threw for 4,000 yards twice, something his predecessor never accomplished.

Some criticize Young's durability, as he started 112 of 128 possible games in these eight seasons, effectively missing a full season. Admittedly, this is not a pristine mark, but he still started 16 games three times, 15 games twice, and 10, 11, and 12 games in the other three seasons. He wasn't missing a large chunk of games every year.

Others hold Young's time in Tampa Bay against Young. We'll get to that later, but for now, an observation: people tend to allow great quarterbacks their terrible early seasons on terrible teams, so long it's the same teams that got better as the quarterback did. John Elway gets away with his rookie year with Denver. Terry Bradshaw gets this benefit regarding his ghastly first two seasons in Pittsburgh. And Aikman's bad first two seasons are not held against him, as Dallas gradually started winning again.

It was Aikman's Cowboys teams, plus the Montana legacy, that led to criticisms of Young's inability to win in the playoffs early in his tenure as San Francisco's starter. Aikman often rates higher than Young in rankings of quarterbacks [6], but this essentially occurs on account of the 2-1 record Aikman's Cowboys had vs. Young's 49ers in the playoffs. It's kind of silly to effectively make a single game out of hundreds the difference in your ranking, but it happens. (It happened in early days of the Manning-Brady debate, too.) But a closer look at each game makes it really difficult to turn Young into the main scapegoat, especially considering that Dallas entered both games with the better defense.

In the 1992-93 game, Alan Grant and Ricky Watters each fumbled for San Francisco, and Dallas recovered both fumbles. Young also had a long touchdown pass to Rice called back for holding early in the game. Those three plays, in which Young himself did one thing very right and no things wrong, resulted in a 17-point swing in what became a 10-point game. Including rushing and sacks, Young produced 334 yards and 2 touchdowns on 46 plays (7.3 yards per play) against the NFL's #1 yardage defense and #5 scoring defense. He did have two interceptions, but the second came with the game out of reach after Aikman's famous pass to Alvin Harper and the ensuing touchdown. But unless Young could have overruled the holding call and demanded his teammates stop fumbling, it's hard to pin this loss on him--maybe he was supposed to gain 450 yards and 4 touchdowns against the league's top-ranked defense [7].

In the 1993-94 game, each team began the game with a touchdown drive. So far, so good, but then the NFL's 16th-ranked scoring defense allowed another long drive to make it 14-7 Dallas, and on the next possession, Young threw his only interception (the game's only turnover), a pass John Taylor got both hands on before it met Thomas Everett's arms. (The video is gone from YouTube, but it was an absolutely make-able catch that had no business becoming a turnover.) Dallas scored yet again, the 49ers punted, and Dallas drove for yet another TD to make it 28-7. One bad drive for Young (the punt) against the league's #2 scoring defense, and it was 28-7. Dallas would end the first half with 273 yards and 19 first downs. The 49ers never recovered. Even after Aikman left with a concussion in the second half, Bernie Kosar completed 5 of 9 passes for 83 yards and a score. It was that kind of game.

It would be pretty easy to write a similar narrative for Aikman's experience in the 1994-95 NFC Championship Game [8], but that only aids the more general point about the playoffs and how media and fans use it to judge quarterbacks. Yes, Young got worse statistically in the postseason, but so do most quarterbacks, including "winners" like Unitas and Brady. Yes, Young won "only" one Super Bowl on a series of great teams--of course, as shown above, they were great teams in large part because they had such a large advantage at quarterback, not to mention he won the one Super Bowl with possibly the best passing performance in that game's history [9].

Regardless, if you use wins and losses and ignore everything else, you are missing--intentionally--context and things the quarterback cannot control. 

Of course, Young's teams were 8-6 in the playoffs (and averaged 34.6 points per game in the wins), including the 1996-97 playoff loss against Green Bay [10] when he threw 5 passes before getting hurt (and Elvis Grbac was hopeless in relief). Even if you only care about playoff wins, Young actually does just fine [11].

Speaking of Grbac, in three seasons with San Francisco (1994-96) he posted a 5.91 ANY/A on 446 pass plays, while Young put up a 7.08 mark on 1314 pass plays in the same time frame. With Kansas City, Grbac's ANY/A fell, but to just 5.67. Young's ANY/A was 20% better than Grbac's, while Grbac's Missouri ANY/A was 4% worse than his California ANY/A. Combined with Young's 1997 season, Grbac's numbers make it hard to claim that the supporting cast in San Francisco was the key reason for Young's success.

In a similar comparison from 1987-90, Young does well against Montana. Montana posted a 6.97 ANY/A on 1819 dropbacks in that time, with Young putting up a 7.34 mark on his 360 dropbacks. And, unsurprisingly, Young was the better rusher. He ran for just three fewer yards (662-659) on more yards per carry (6.2-4.1). With numbers that immediately compared favorably to Montana, it would seem that Young's problem in Tampa Bay was absolutely more his teammates than himself.

Young had a 3.53 ANY/A on 569 dropbacks with Tampa Bay, in 1985 and 1986. The eight-year veteran Steve DeBerg was their other quarterback, and he put up a 4.08 on 494 pass plays over both seasons. Despite Young's somewhat worse passing numbers, the Buccaneers were 3-16 when he started and 1-12 when DeBerg started, which was probably related to the fact that Young could run (658 yards on 5.8 per attempt) and DeBerg could not (30 yards on 11 attempts). Additionally, Young actually showed improvement in his second season, going from a 3.00 ANY/A to 3.73, numbers which track Aikman, who went from a 3.09 as a rookie to 3.88 in year 2. Nor were Young's struggles after arriving from a lesser league unique, as Warren Moon didn't get things going until his fourth NFL season. Young's two years in Tampa Bay should not detract too much from the rest of his career. Again, Young arguably outplayed Montana as soon as he joined the 49ers.

And Steve Young was, of course, a shoo-in Hall of Fame quarterback. Any criticisms of him are nitpicks, given the statistical dominance he displayed in the 1990's. To conclude, that chart I showed you earlier, with a little flourish:


If you weren't aware of just how good Steve Young was, maybe you are now.

-----

[1] Montana first, then Manning, Brady, Marino, Favre, and Young. After that I see a large gap and face difficulty trying to rank Aikman, Elway, Kelly, Moon, etc.
[2] And a knack for spinning the ball in a weird way to confuse Jerry Rice.
[3] For more on Young's crazy efficiency, Brad Oremland's #8 ranking at www.footballperspective.com/guest-post-brad-oremlands-best-qbs-in-history-6-10
[4] Sporting News named him to their 1st Team in 1993, and UPI to their NFC (not NFL) 2nd Team in 1994 and 1995.
[5] T.O. became great, but it's hard to say a second-year third-round pick out of the Southern Conference who caught 35 passes as a rookie was already great. And besides, Young's #2 option in '97 was the immortal J.J. Stokes.
[6] It's usually pretty close, but here follow two examples. First, after the 1997 season, NFL Films ranked Aikman 10th and Young 11th on their list of 50 Greatest Quarterbacks. (Done so long ago that Ron Jaworski made the list.) Also, in 2010, NFL Network ranked Aikman 80th and Young 81st on their list of all time greatest players at any position. Of course, Football Perspective didn't have this issue.
[7] Or just not throw the first interception, you might say. So now we're turning one play in one game, out of thousands of plays and hundreds of games, into the difference in our ranking?
[8] Although Young's best play in that game, the TD pass to Rice to make it 31-14 at halftime, was a more difficult throw than Aikman's clincher to Harper two years prior, and did not rely on yards after the catch.
[9] Actually, that's another thing people complain about--that his opponent in the Super Bowl wasn't good enough. Supposedly, any quarterback could have produced 359 yards and 6 touchdowns against the 1994 Chargers.
[10] I often found that a debate about Young and Brett Favre would, at least before Favre ended up with a billion career starts, also come back to their head-to-head playoff record. But, as with Aikman, one game made the difference here. Green Bay went 3-1, but you can hardly count the game where Young and Favre combined for 87 passing yards.
[11] And you have to wonder, if Roger Craig does not fumble in the 1990-91 NFC Championship Game, does Young lead the 49ers to a win over the Bills in the Super Bowl? It's a total hypothetical, but it would be interesting to see how Young's legacy is impacted in the alternate universe where it happened.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Evolution of the Pro Football Single-Season Incomplete Pass Record

Arnie Herber, 1932 (64)
In 1932, the first year of NFL passing statistics, Arnie Herber of the Green Bay Packers completed 37 of his 101 passes, both leading the league. The resulting 64 incomplete passes also led the league, beginning the journey of this dubious record.

Harry Newman, 1933 (83)
The next season, Harry Newman of the New York Giants also led the league in completions and attempts by wide enough margins that the incomplete pass lead was his as well.

Arnie Herber, 1936 (96)
Herber came the first of three quarterbacks to set this record twice.

Parker Hall, 1939 (102)
Parker Hall of the Cleveland Rams actually completed 51% of his 208 throws in 1939, pretty good for back then. Yet the 102 passes on which he didn't connect set a new record.

Davey O'Brien, 1940 (153)
Davey O'Brien of the Philadelphia Eagles shattered the record the next season by throwing 25 times per game and completing 45% of his throws. Once again, the same player led the NFL in completions, incompletions, and attempts.

Bud Schwenk, 1942 (169)
Playing for the Chicago Cardinals, Bud Schwenk became the first player to set the incomplete pass record while not leading the league in completions. He was 126 of 295, but Cecil Isbell of the Packers was 146 of 268 and Sammy Baugh of the Washington Redskins 132 of 225.

Glenn Dobbs, 1948 (184)
AAFC marks are official. Dobbs was 185 of 369 playing for the Los Angeles Dons.

George Blanda, 1953 (193)
Perhaps not surprisingly, we will meet George Blanda again. Playing for the Chicago Bears in 1953, he led the NFL in both attempts and completions with 362 and 169 respectively, and the resulting 193 incomplete passes were a new record.

Tobin Rote, 1954 (202)
The new mark did not stand long as Tobin Rote of the Detroit Lions became the first player in NFL history to not complete 200 passes in a season, going 180 of 382 (both led league).

Frank Tripucka, 1960 (230)
In a total non-shocker, the AFL produced and reproduced this record multiple times. They wasted no time to do so. In the league's first year of play, Frank Tripucka of the Denver Broncos led the AFL by completing 248 of his 478 throws..and, of course, by not completing 230 passes.

Al Dorow, 1961 (241)
Al Dorow of the Dallas Texans kicked it up a notch. Tripucka's 51.9% completion rate was actually pretty good. Dorow, by comparison, was 197 of 438 (45.0%). Both marks led the league, as well as, of course, the incompletion mark.

Babe Parilli, 1964 (245)
Parilli, playing for the Boston Patriots, became the first player to set this "record" without leading the league in either completed or incomplete passes. Those both belonged to Blanda, now of the Houston Oilers, with 262 and 505. By comparison, Parilli was 228 of 473. The 245 incomplete passes from Parilli edged out the 243 from Blanda.

George Blanda, 1965 (256)
Of course, Blanda couldn't leave well enough alone. For the third straight year, he led the league(s) in completions and attempts. But after the decent 262-505 the year before, this time he was 186 of 442, just 42.1%. And we finally had a record that would last.

Doug Williams, 1980 (267)
Playing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Doug Williams completed only 48.8% of his 521 passes, resulting in 267 incomplete throws, breaking Blanda's now 15-year old mark.

Tommy Kramer, 1981 (271)
However, having emerged from the passing doldrums of the 1970s, but not having reached the prime of the West Coast revolution, this was a good time for those who enjoy passes clanking to the ground. Kramer threw 593 times for the Minnesota Vikings, completing 322. By now, pro football was beyond the point where this record could be obtained just by throwing a lot more than anybody else. Neither Kramer nor Williams led the NFL in either completions or attempts, but they nonetheless set these incomplete pass marks.

John Elway, 1985 (278)
The third-year Denver Broncos quarterback threw 605 times, more often than even Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins with 551 attempts, but Marino completed 348 passes and Elway just 327. Thus Elway set the incomplete pass mark anew. He would keep it for a while, but not as long as Blanda maintained the mark after 1965.

Drew Bledsoe, 1994 (291)
Bledsoe threw an unheard of 691 times as second-year quarterback for the New England Patriots. In a call back to the old days, he set the incomplete pass mark by throwing more than anyone else, and his 400 completions were...almost unheard of. (Warren Moon had completed more than 400 a couple times.) But the 400 did lead the league in 1994. However, it wasn't enough to keep Bledsoe from the new record. Not that he minded, because...

Drew Bledsoe, 1995 (313)
Bledsoe's 1995 season remains the only time an NFL quarterback has thrown 300 incomplete passes. He was 323 of 636 in his third season. Despite missing a game, he led the league in attempts, throwing 30 more than anyone else, and was seventh in completions, behind: Warren Moon, Brett Favre, Scott Mitchell, Jim Everett, Jeff George, and Jeff Blake.

Given the explosion in passing since even 1995 (which was a crazy year itself), perhaps it's surprising nobody has come remotely close to this mark. Yet even while pass attempts rise, pass accuracy has shot up perhaps even more quickly. The current second-highest mark for incomplete passes in a season is Matt Stafford's 292 in 2012. That is just one more than Bledsoe's 1994 season. Andrew Luck threw 288 incomplete passes in 2012. The two next highest marks are those of Kramer and Elway.

Stafford in 2012 completed 59.8% of his passes. Luck in 2012 completed 54.1% of his. Even in 1994, Bledsoe completed 57.9% of his throws. To throw 636 times and complete barely half is a feat that will be hard to duplicate. It will probably take a situation like Bledsoe's or Luck's: a young QB who is asked to throw the ball a ton but can't yet complete them at a steady rate. But even then that will be difficult.

Perhaps one day a second- or third-year QB will throw the ball 700 times and complete only 53% of them. But Bledsoe's mark has now stood for 19 years, itself a record. It certainly won't fall this year: through Week 8 of the 2014 season, Nick Foles leads the league with 122 incomplete passes. Geno Smith, who is clearly struggling and just got benched, has the NFL's worst completion percentage this year at 56.2%.

Records, even dubious ones, are made to be broken, but we might wait a while for this one.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

A History of Washington, DC Sports since Super Bowl XXVI

This post will be about what its title says. It covers all 4 Washington, DC teams from the Big 4 North American sports leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL).

A handful of non-sports related items will be thrown in for context. This is intentionally done mostly early on, so you can impress or aggravate people, depending who you talk to, with statements like: “Last time a DC team won a championship, Windows 3.1 hadn't been released yet!”

Feel free to leave comments with suggested additions.

1992

January 26, 1992
The Washington Redskins defeat the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVI, 37-24. Mark Rypien is the game’s Most Valuable Player.

February 1, 1992
U.S. President George H. W. Bush and Russian President Boris Yeltsin formally declare the Cold War to be over.

February 7, 1992
The European Union is founded.

April 6, 1992
Windows 3.1 is released.

April 18, 1992
The Washington Bullets season ends at 25-57 after a 111-104 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.

May 1, 1992
The Washington Capitals lose Game 7 of the first round to the Pittsburgh Penguins by a score of 3-1, completing their squandering of a 3-1 series lead.

May 22, 1992
Johnny Carson's final episode of The Tonight Show airs.

August 24, 1992
Hurricane Andrew makes landfall in Florida.

October 16, 1992
Byrce Aron Max Harper is born in Las Vegas, Nevada, to Sheri and Ron Harper.

1993

January 9, 1993
The Redskins fall to the San Francisco 49ers, 20-13, in the divisional round of the playoffs.

January 20, 1993
Bill Clinton is inaugurated President of the United States.

March 1993
Washington Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs retires.

April 25, 1993
The Bullets finish 22-60 with a 106-94 loss to the Boston Celtics.

April 28, 1993
The Capitals fall 4 games to 2 to the New York Islanders.

December 31, 1993
The Redskins wasted season under head coach Richie Petitbon ends at 4-12 after a 14-9 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. It will be Petitbon’s only season as the head coach.

1994

January 25, 1994
After a 3-1 loss to the Boston Bruins drops the Capitals to 20-23-4, Jim Schoenfeld replaces Terry Murray as head coach.

April 24, 1994
The Bullets win the last game of the season, 117-99 over the Charlotte Hornets, but end up 24-58.

The Redskins draft Tennessee quarterback Heath Shuler with the third pick in the NFL Draft. They take Tulsa quarterback Gus Frerotte in the seventh round.

April 27, 1994
The Capitals defeat the Penguins, 6-3, to take Game 6 of the first round series and advance.

May 9, 1994
The Capitals complete their 5-game series loss to the Islanders with a 4-3 defeat.

August 12, 1994
The Major League Baseball players strike. The Montreal Expos are leading the National League East division with a 74-40 record, but the season never resumes as the playoffs and World Series are cancelled for the first time since 1904.

December 24, 1994
A miserable 3-13 Redskins season ends with a 24-21 win over the Los Angeles Rams.

1995

March 21, 1995
A 13-game Bullets losing streak begins with a 111-106 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.

April 23, 1995
Another terrible Bullets season concludes with a win. This time a 106-90 victory over the 76ers produces a final record of 21-61.

May 18, 1995
The Capitals complete another collapse from a 3-1 series lead with a 3-0 Game 7 defeat at the hands of the Penguins. #1

December 17, 1995
Shuler starts his last game for the Redskins, in which he completes 10 of 13 passes but is injured in a 35-23 win over the St. Louis Rams.

December 24, 1995
A 20-17 win vs. the Carolina Panthers ends the Redskins season at 6-10.

1996

April 21, 1996
Despite ending the campaign on a 4-game losing streak with a 103-93 loss at the hands of the Chicago Bulls, the Bullets end the year at an improved 39-43.

April 28, 1996
This time a 2-0 lead over the Penguins becomes a 4-2 series loss with a 3-2 Game 6 defeat. #2

October 27, 1996
The Redskins improve to 7-1 with a 31-16 win against the Indianapols Colts at RFK Stadium.

December 15, 1996
The Redskins fall to 8-7 with a 27-26 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

December 22, 1996
Eliminated from the playoffs and facing the backups of the Dallas Cowboys (who have clinched their playoff positioning), the Redskins win their last game at RFK, 37-10.

1997

April 13, 1997
The Capitals defeat the Buffalo Sabres 8-3, but at 33-40-9 miss the playoffs.

April 20, 1997
With an 85-81 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Bullets end the year on a 16-5 spree under midseason coaching hire Bernie Bickerstaff, to finish 44-38 and make their first postseason since 1988.

April 30, 1997
A 96-95 loss to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls ends the Bullets’ postseason with a 3-game sweep.

May 15, 1997
The Washington Bullets officially become the Washington Wizards.

November 23, 1997
QB Gus Frerotte injures himself celebrating a second quarter touchdown against the New York Giants by head-butting a wall. The game will end in a 7-7 tie after backup Jeff Hostetler throws 3 interceptions.

December 21, 1997
A 35-32 win against the Philadelphia Eagles will give the Redskins their second straight winning season at 8-7-1, but still no playoff berth.

1998

April 18, 1998
A 4-game winning streak to end the season concludes with a 112-95 over the Celtics, but the Washington Wizards end their first season with the moniker out of the playoffs at 42-40.

May 5, 1998
The Capitals topple the Bruins in round 1, winning Game 6 in overtime, 3-2, to advance.

May 15, 1998
The Capitals win another playoff series, this time in 5 games vs. the Ottawa Senators. A Washington-based Big 4 team has yet to win multiple playoff series or games in one postseason since.

June 4, 1998
The Capitals advance to their first-ever Stanley Cup Finals. A 3-2 win, the Capitals’ third overtime win of the series, gives them a 4-2 series win vs. the Buffalo Sabres in the Eastern Conference Finals.

June 16, 1998
The Detroit Red Wings are crowned Stanley Cup champions for the second straight year, completing a 4-0 sweep of the Capitals with a 4-1 win. It is the only game of the series decided by more than one goal.

October 18, 1998
The Redskins fall to 0-7 with a 41-7 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

December 27, 1998
A 23-7 loss to the Cowboys ends the Redskins’ season at 6-10.

1999

April 18, 1999
With a 3-0 loss to the Sabres, the Capitals finish an ignominous 31-45-6 in the follow-up to their 1997-98 campaign.

May 5, 1999
The Wizards’ lockout-shortened season ends at 18-32 with a 100-92 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

May 25, 1999
Daniel Snyder buys the Redskins for a then-record $800 million.

December 26, 1999
A 26-20 overtime win against the 49ers clinches the Redskins’ first NFC East title since 1991.

2000

January 8, 2000
The Redskins win their first playoff game since 1992, a 27-13 victory over the Frerotte-led Detroit Lions.

January 15, 2000
Trailing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the divisional round, 14-13, the Redskins line up for a 50-yard Brett Conway field goal attempt with 1:17 remaining. They botch the snap and lose the game.

January 29, 2000
First-year head coach Gar Heard coaches his last game for the 14-30 Wizards.

April 9, 2000
The Capitals end the year with 102 points at 44-24-12.

April 19, 2000
And the Wizards’ season ends at 29-53 with a 110-105 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

April 21, 2000
And the Capitals’ season ends quickly with a 2-1 loss in Game 5 to...the Pittsburgh Penguins. Again. #3

December 3, 2000
The Redskins lose to the Giants, 7-6, falling to a 7-6 record.

December 4, 2000
Redskins head coach Norv Turner is fired, the only NFL coach after 1970 to be fired during a season with a winning record.

December 10, 2000
Cowboys 32, Redskins 13 – Redskins 7-7, 0-1 under interim coach Terry Robiskie

December 16, 2000
Steelers 24, Redskins 3 – Redskins 7-8 and eliminated from playoff contention

December 24, 2000
The Redskins defeat the Cardinals, 20-3, to end the year at 8-8.

2001

January 20, 2001
George W. Bush is inaugurated President of the United States.

April 18, 2001
The Wizards end the year 19-63 with a 98-92 loss to the Toronto Raptors.

April 23, 2001
The Penguins knock the Capitals out of the playoffs again, winning Game 6 in overtime, 4-3. #4

June 27, 2001
The Wizards select Kwame Brown, forward, Glynn Academy (Brunswick, GA) with the first overall pick in the NBA Draft.

September 11, 2001

September 25, 2001
Michael Jordan announces second un-retirement, to play for the Wizards.

October 15, 2001
The Redskins lose to the Cowboys, 9-7 on Monday Night Football, falling to 0-5 while being outscored 144-32.

October 30, 2001
Michael Jordan scores 19 points on 7-21 FG in his first game for the Wizards, a 93-91 loss to the New York Knicks.

December 29, 2001
Jordan scores 51 on 21-38 FG in a 107-90 win vs. the Charlotte Hornets.

2002

January 6, 2002
The Redskins beat the Cardinals, 20-10, pulling off their 8th win in 11 games to reach an 8-8 season.

January 13, 2002
Marty Schottenheimer is fired as head coach of the Redskins. Steve Spurrier is hired the same day, to a record contract.

April 13, 2002
The Capitals lose the season finale to the New Jersey Devils, 4-3 in overtime. They miss the playoffs.

April 16, 2002
The Wizards beat the Knicks but are out of the playoffs at 37-45. Jordan ends the year averaging 22.9 points per game.

June 27, 2002
Then-prospects Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips, and Grady Sizemore are among the players Monteal Expos GM Omar Minaya trades to the Cleveland Indians for Bartolo Colon. The Expos will end up missing the playoffs anyway.

September 8, 2002
The Redskins put up 442 yards of offense in Spurrier’s first game, a 31-23 win over the Cardinals.

September 16, 2002
The Redskins put up 179 yards of offense in Spurrier’s second game, a 37-7 Monday night loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

December 15, 2002
Another loss to the Eagles drops the Redskins to 5-9. They will win their last two games.

2003

April 16, 2003
Jordan scores 15 points in 28 minutes in the final game of his career, a 107-87 loss that ends the Wizards’ season at 37-45 for the second straight year.

April 20, 2003
The Capitals lose in triple-overtime, 2-1 to the Tampa Bay Lightning, completing a 4-2 series loss after having taken a 2-0 lead.

May 7, 2003
Wizards owner Abe Pollin fires Michael Jordan as President of Basketball Operations.

August 8, 2003
Gilbert Arenas signs with the Wizards as a restricted free agent.

December 27, 2003
The Eagles beat the Redskins, 31-7, ending the second season under Spurrier at 5-11.

December 30, 2003
Spurrier resigns from the Redskins with 3 years remaining on his contract.

December 31, 2003
Joe Gibbs comes out of retirement to coach the Redskins.

2004

April 4, 2004
The Capitals lose the last game of the season to the Penguins, 4-3. At least this time it only means they end the year 23-46-10.

April 14, 2004
The Wizards lose to the New Orleans Hornets, 94-78, ending the year 25-57.

April 24, 2004
The Redskins draft Sean Taylor, safety, University of Miami with the fifth pick in the NFL Draft.

June 26, 2004
With the first pick of the NHL Draft, the Capitals select Alexander Ovechkin.

September 12, 2004
Clinton Portis’ 64-yard run triggers a 16-10 win over the Buccaneers in Gibbs’ second head coaching debut.

September 16, 2004
The NHL lockout begins and will ultimately wipe out the entire 2004-05 season.

September 29, 2004
The Montreal Expos lose their final game at Stade Olympique, 9-1 to the Florida Marlins. That same day, Major League Baseball announces that the Expos will move to Washington, DC.

December 3, 2004
The Major League Baseball owners approve the relocation of the Expos to Washington, 28-1. Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos casts the lone dissenting vote.

2005

January 2, 2005
The Redskins beat the Vikings, 21-18, but only end the year at 6-10.

January 23, 2005
Johnny Carson dies.

April 4, 2005
The Washington Nationals lose 8-4 to the Philadelphia Phillies in the first MLB game for a Washington team since September 30, 1971.

April 6, 2005
The Nationals beat the Phillies 7-3 in the first MLB victory for a Washington team since September 28, 1971.

April 14, 2005
The Nationals beat the Arizona Diamondbacks, 5-3, in the first MLB game in Washington since September 30, 1971.

April 30, 2005
Trailing 2-0 in the first round of the playoffs, the Wizards beat the Chicago Bulls 117-99 behind 32 points from Gilbert Arenas. It is the franchise’s first playoff win since 1988.

May 4, 2005
Gilbert Arenas drains a 14-foot jump shot over Tyson Chandler as time expires for a 112-110 Wizards win over the Bulls in Game 5 of the first round of the NBA playoffs.

May 6, 2005
A 94-91 win and the Wizards advance in the playoffs for the first time since 1982. With 34.9 seconds to go and the game tied at 91, Bulls guard Chris Duhon inbounds the ball off of teammate Kirk Hinrich’s back. Jared Jeffries steals it and lays it in for the lead with 31.9 seconds left.

May 14, 2005
The Wizards are swept by the Miami Heat after a 99-95 loss.

June 7, 2005
The Nationals select Ryan Zimmerman, infielder, Unversity of Virginia with the fourth pick in the 2005 MLB Rule 4 Draft.

July 3, 2005
The Nationals improve to 50-31 at the midway point of the season with a 5-4 win over the Chicago Cubs.

August 2, 2005
The Wizards trade Kwame Brown to the Los Angeles Lakers.

September 19, 2005
Mark Brunell hits Santana Moss for fourth quarter touchdowns of 39 and 70 yards as the Redskins complete a miraculous 14-13 victory over the Dallas Cowboys at Texas Stadium.

October 2, 2005
A 9-3 loss to the Phillies concludes the Nationals’ second half fade to an 81-81 record.

November 13, 2005
After blocking an extra point but being ruled offsides, the Redskins lose to the Buccaneers 36-35 after Mike Alstott reaches the end zone on Tampa Bay’s two point conversion attempt.

December 18, 2005
The Redskins annihilate the Cowboys, 35-7, behind 4 first-half Mark Brunell TD passes.

2005

January 1, 2006
Sean Taylor’s 39 yard fumble return caps a 31-20 win over the Eagles and a 5-game Redskins winning streak that gets them to the playoffs at 10-6.

January 7, 2006
The Redskins avenge the Buccaneers with a win in the Wild Card game, 17-10, despite 43 passing yards from Brunell. Taylor returns a fumble 51 yard for a touchdown in the game.

January 14, 2006
The Seattle Seahawks end the Redskins season, 20-10.

April 18, 2006
The Capitals end their season 29-41-12 and out of the playoffs.

May 5, 2006
The Wizards fall 114-113 in overtime to the Cleveland Cavaliers, falling in six games in the first round after a 42-40 season.

October 1, 2006
The Nationals lose to the New York Mets, 6-2, ending the season at 71-91.

December 30, 2006
A 34-28 loss to the New York Giants ends the Redskins’ season at 5-11.

2007

April 7, 2007
The Capitals lose to the Sabres, 2-0, ending the year 28-40-14.

April 23, 2007
Boris Yeltsin dies.

April 30, 2007
The Wizards are swept by the Cavaliers in the first round, losing Game 4 97-90.

September 30, 2007
The Nationals end the year at 73-89 after a 6-1 loss to the Phillies.

November 26, 2007
While recovering from a knee injury, Sean Taylor is shot in the femoral artery during a burglary of his home.

November 27, 2007
Sean Taylor dies at 24 years old.

December 2, 2007
The Redskins defend the first play of the game vs. the Buffalo Bills with ten players. Leading 16-14 with 8 seconds to play, an illegal timeout by Joe Gibbs turns a 51-yard field goal attempt into a 36-yard try and the Bills win, 17-16.

December 30, 2007
A 27-6 win over the Dallas Cowboys gives the Redskins a four-game winning streak, a 9-7 record, and a wild card playoff berth.

2008

January 5, 2008
After trailing 13-0, the Redskins take a 14-13 lead over the Seattle Seahawks but allow two interception returns for touchdowns in the fourth quarter of a 35-14 playoff loss.

January 8, 2008
Joe Gibbs retires as head coach of the Redskins.

March 30, 2008
Nationals Park opens with Ryan Zimmerman’s walk-off home run to beat the Atlanta Braves, 3-2.

April 5, 2008
The Capitals end the season with a 7-game winning streak to reach a 43-31-8 record.

April 22, 2008
The Capitals lose in Game 7 of the first round, 4-3 in overtime, to the Pittsburgh Penguins. #5

May 2, 2008
The Wizards fall again to the Cavalers in the first round, this time in six games after a 105-88 loss, after a 43-39 campaign.

September 28, 2008
The Nationals secure the worst record in Major League Baseball at 59-102, falling 8-3 to the Phillies.

October 26, 2008
The Redskins improve to 6-2 with a 25-17 win over the Detriot Lions.

December 28, 2008
The Redskins fall to 8-8 and out of the playoffs with a 27-24 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

2009

January 20, 2009
Barack Obama is inaugurated President of the United States.

February 7, 2009
Albert Haynesworth signs a 7 year, $100 million contract with the Redskins.

March 1, 2009
Jim Bowden resigns from the Nationals, and Mike Rizzo is named interim GM 3 days later.

April 15, 2009
The bottom has fallen out from under the Wizards, who end the season at 19-63 with a 115-107 loss to the Boston Celtics.

April 17, 2009
Ryan Zimmerman and Adam Dunn don “Natinals” uniforms for the first three innings of a 3-2 loss to the Florida Marlins.

April 28, 2009
The Capitals complete a comeback from a 3-1 first round series deficit to the New York Rangers with a 2-1 victory in Game 7.

May 13, 2009
The Capitals drop Game 7 to the Penguins, 6-2. #6

June 9, 2009
The Washington Nationals select Stephen Strasburg, pitcher, San Diego State University with the first pick in the 2009 MLB Rule 4 Draft.

August 20, 2009
Rizzo becomes fulltime GM of the Nationals.

September 27, 2009
The Nationals fall to 51 games below .500, 52-103.

October 4, 2009
The Nationals end the season on a 7-game winning streak but nonetheless end up with MLB’s worst record at 59-103.

December 21, 2009
The Redskins lose to the Giants, 45-12, on Monday Night Football. The second quarter ends with punter Hunter Smith getting intercepted on a fake field goal attempt, a play on which the Giants end up nearly scoring.

2010

January 3, 2010
The Redskins’ 4-12 campaign concludes with a 23-20 loss to the San Diego Chargers.

January 5, 2010
Mike Shanahan hired as head coach of the Redskins.

January 27, 2010
Wizards players Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton are suspended from the NBA for the season for their run-ins with NBA rules and Washington, DC gun laws.

April 4, 2010
The Redskins trade for Donovan McNabb.

April 11, 2010
The Capitals’ season ends at 54-15-13, for a league leading 121 points and the Presidents Trophy.

April 14, 2010
The Wizards’ season ends at 26-56.

April 21, 2010
Capitals 6, Montreal Canadiens 3 – Capitals lead series, 3-1

April 28, 2010
Canadiens 2, Capitals 1 – Capitals lose in first round of the playoffs again, 4 games to 3

June 7, 2010
The Washington Nationals select Bryce Harper, outfielder, College of Southern Nevada, with the first pick in the 2010 MLB Rule 4 Draft.

June 8, 2010
Stephen Strasburg strikes out 14 Pittsburgh Pirates in 7 innings in his MLB debut, a 4-2 victory.

June 24, 2010
The Washington Wizards select John Wall, guard, University of Kentucky with the first pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.

October 3, 2010
The Nationals end their season with a 14-inning, 2-1 win over the New York Mets, ending at 69-93.

November 15, 2010
The Redskins trail 35-0 to the Eagles after one play of the second quarter on their way to a 59-28 defeat on Monday Night Football. During one Eagles touchdown, Albert Haynesworth lays on the ground, uninjured, after a block.

December 5, 2010
The Nationals sign Jayson Werth to a 7 year, $126 million contract.

December 12, 2010
Donovan McNabb starts his 13th and final game for the Redskins, a 17-16 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He is replaced by Rex Grossman.

2011

January 2, 2011
The Redskins lose to the Giants, 17-14, ending Shanahan’s first season at 6-10.

April 13, 2011
The Wizards lose 100-93 to the Cavaliers, ending a 23-59 campaign.

April 23, 2011
The Capitals complete a 4-1 series win in the first round over the New York Rangers.

May 4, 2011
The Capitals are swept 4-0 by the Lightning in the second round.

June 6, 2011
The Nationals take Anthony Rendon, infielder, Rice University with the sixth pick of the rule 4 draft.

July 28, 2011
The Redskins trade Haynesworth to the New England Patriots for a fifth round draft pick.

September 28, 2011
The Nationals end the season at 80-81 after a 3-1 win over the Florida Marlins.

2012

January 1, 2012
The Redskins end Shanahan’s second season at 5-11 after a 34-10 loss to the Eagles.

April 25, 2012
The Capitals topple the Bruins in seven games in the first round of the playoffs with a 2-1 overtime victory.

April 26, 2012
The Washington Redskins select Robert Griffin III, quarterback, Baylor University with the second pick of the 2012 NFL Draft.

The Wizards end the lockout-shortened season at 20-46 after a 104-70 win over the Miami Heat.

April 28, 2012
The Redskins draft QB Kirk Cousins of Michigan State in the fourth round and RB Alfred Morris of Florida Atlantic in the sixth round.

May 12, 2012
The Capitals fall to the Rangers in seven games in the second round of the playoffs with a 2-1 regulation defeat.

September 9, 2012
Robert Griffin III throws for 320 yards and 2 touchdowns in his debut, a 40-32 win vs. the New Orleans Saints.

September 20, 2012
The Nationals improve to 91-58 with a 4-1 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers, guaranteeing the first playoff berth for a Washington MLB team since 1933.

October 1, 2012
Despite falling 2-0 to the Phillies, the Nationals’ 96-64 mark secures the 2012 NL East title as the Atlanta Braves lose. The Nationals will win the final two games of the season to end up with the best record in baseball at 98-64.

October 7, 2012
The Nationals beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 3-2, in the first playoff game for a Washington, DC MLB team since October 7, 1933, and the first playoff win since October 5, 1933.

October 10, 2012
Washington, DC hosts its first Major League Baseball postseason game since October 7, 1933.

October 11, 2012
With the Nationals trailing the Cardinals two games to one, Jayson Werth ends a 13-pitch at-bat in the bottom of the ninth inning with a walk-off home run for a 2-1 win, tying the series at two games apiece.

October 12, 2012
The Nationals take a 6-0 lead vs. the Cardinals in the third inning of Game 5 via a 2-run home run by Michael Morse at 9:38 p.m.

By 11:33 p.m., the score is 6-5.

October 13, 2012
At 12:14 a.m., a Daniel Descalso single ties the game at 7-7. At 12:17 a.m., a Pete Kozma single gives the Cardinals a 9-7 lead. The score becomes final at 12:28 a.m., ending the most successful baseball season for a Washington team in 79 years.

October 14, 2012
Robert Griffin clinches a 38-26 win over the Minnesota Vikings with a 76-yard touchdown run with 2:43 remaining in the fourth quarter.

November 4, 2012
A three-game losing streak drops the Redskins to 3-6 before their bye week.

December 30, 2012
The Redskins beat the Cowboys, 28-18, to improve to 10-6 and win the NFC East. Morris rushes for 200 yards and 3 touchdowns in the game.

2013

January 6, 2013
Robert Griffin III tears his ACL and MCL in a 24-14 Redskins wild card loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the Redskins’ third straight playoff defeat at Seattle’s hands.

April 17, 2013
The Wizards drop their sixth straight game, 95-92 to the Bulls, to end their season at 29-53.

May 13, 2013
The Capitals are shut out by the Rangers 5-0, ending their first round in seven games.

September 9, 2013
Griffin returns from his knee injury as the Redskins lose to the Eagles, 33-27, on Monday Night Football.

September 29, 2013
The Nationals end a disappointing 86-76 campaign with a 3-2 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, missing the playoffs.

December 8, 2013
Griffin’s season ends in a 45-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs that drops the Redskins to 3-10.

December 29, 2013
The Redskins go 0-3 under Kirk Cousins after a 20-6 loss to the Giants, ending the year at 3-13.

2014

April 13, 2014
The Capitals end a disappointing 38-30-14 campaign with a 1-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, missing the playoffs.

April 16, 2014
The Wizards end their first playoff-bound season since 2008 with a 118-102 over the Boston Celtics, finishing 44-38.

April 29, 2014
The Wizards finish off the Bulls in 5 games with a 75-69 win.

May 15, 2014
The Wizards lose in 6 to the Indiana Pacers, 93-80, missing out on an Eastern Conference Finals berth vs. the Miami Heat.

September 14, 2014
Robert Griffin dislocates his ankle in the first quarter of a 41-10 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

September 16, 2014
The Nationals beat the Braves, 3-0, improving to 87-63 and clinching the NL East title.

September 25, 2014
Kirk Cousins throws 4 second-half interceptions in a 45-14 loss to the New York Giants.

September 28, 2014
Jordan Zimmermann throws a no-hitter vs. the Miami Marlins in a 1-0 win in the last game of the season. Stephen Souza Jr. makes a diving catch with his back to home plate for the final out of the game. The Nationals end the year 96-66, the best record in the National League.

October 7, 2014
The Nationals lose to the San Francisco Giants 3 games to 1 in the National League Division Series, Washington’s 90th straight season without a World Series championship, and guaranteeing its 22nd straight calendar year without a Big 4 championship of any kind.

December 28, 2014
The Redskins finish 4-12 after a 44-17 loss to the Cowboys, for a 7-25 mark since winning the division in 2012.

2015

April 26, 2015
The Wizards crush the Toronto Raptors, 125-94, to sweep their first round playoff series in 4 games and advance in the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1979.

April 27, 2015
The Capitals defeat the New York Islanders, 2-1, to take the first round series in seven games.

May 3, 2015
The Wizards defeat the Atlanta Hawks 104-98 in Game 1 of their second round playoff series.

May 5, 2015
John Wall is a late scratch for Game 2 and the Wizards lose, 106-90.

May 6, 2015
The Capitals defeat the New York Rangers, 2-1, to take a 3-1 lead in their second round series.

May 7, 2015
The Wizards announce John Wall has five fractures in his left hand and wrist.

May 9, 2015
Bryce Harper hits a 2-run walk-off home run to lift the Nationals over the Atlanta Braves, 8-6. It is his 6th home run in 3 games. At 16-15, the Nationals are above .500 for the first time all season despite high expectations entering the campaign.

That night, Paul Pierce makes a 21-foot bank shot from the left elbow to lift the Wizards to a 103-101 win over the Hawks, despite Wall missing his second straight game with his injury. The Wizards take a 2-1 series lead.

May 13, 2015
In Game 5 vs. Atlanta, John Wall returns for the Wizards. Pierce makes a three-pointer with 8.3 seconds left to give the Wizards an 81-80 lead with 8.3 seconds to play, but they lose 82-81 on an Al Horford second-chance layup with 1.9 seconds remaining, falling behind 3 games to 2.

Fourteen minutes later, the Capitals lose to the Rangers 2-1 in overtime, losing their second round series in seven games.

May 15, 2015
Paul Pierce's game-tying three-pointer at the buzzer is waved off and the Wizards lose Game 6 and the series to the Hawks, 94-91.