Nothing generates hope more than our children, two-year-old racehorses and rookie quarterbacks. They promise better days.
Unfortunately, those days aren't this fall for the Washington Redskins. Training camp begins Thursday after an offseason has produced more optimism for 2013 than coming months.
The Redskins are looking at a 6-10 season, give or take a win. Just like 5-11 last year and 6-10 the season before under coach Mike Shanahan. After squandering two years on has-been and never-will-be passers, the Redskins are all-in on rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III.
But Griffin isn't Superman, even if he wears those blue tights under his burgundy jersey.
Fans spent the past three months hyping Griffin to the point of believing lofty predictions themselves. Supporters think Griffin can overcome the absence of a prime running back, a suspect offensive line and two receivers who are new to the offense.
If Washington is to seriously improve, even sniff 8-8, then Griffin must be the NFL rookie of the year. It's a nice thought, but more fantasy football than reality.
Shanahan said rookie quarterbacks need a great defense behind them. Like the Baltimore Ravens' Joe Flacco and the New York Jets' Mark Sanchez once enjoyed, both making the playoffs in their first seasons. At best, Washington's defense will repeat last year's No. 13 ranking. Good enough to contend, but no Super Bowl defense given its shaky secondary.
Rookie quarterbacks need a running back that bails them out on second-and-10 with a six-yard burst. Asking Tim Hightower to return off a torn ACL to gain 1,200 yards this season is a bit much. Combined with Roy Helu and Evan Royster, the Redskins might have total respectable rushing numbers. But there's nothing like having a Larry Brown, John Riggins, Clinton Portis, Terry Allen or Stephen Davis in the backfield. The Redskins don't have one.
Rookie quarterbacks need six men to protect him better than the Secret Service guards the president. Washington isn't sure left tackle Trent Williams and tight end Fred Davis can protect themselves from another positive drug test which would bring a one-year suspension. Both said they've learned a lesson. We'll know in five months if they did.
Meanwhile, Shanahan loves talking about right tackle Jammal Brown taking yoga to improve his ailing hip. It feels like Shanahan's overselling it. Trying to believe it himself. Then there's left guard Kory Lichtensteiger returning off two tore knee ligaments. That's a real challenge.
Overall, Griffin will wear a flak jacket for a reason.
Griffin threw to receivers on his own over the offseason. That's a nice start, but chemistry comes through winning. It's found on the frozen fields of December, not summery days of pitch and catch. Maybe Pierre Garcon, Josh Morgan and Santana Moss will school the rookie through deceiving defenses.
Griffin is the core, but any quarterback fails without the entire team coming together around him. That's Shanahan's job and not a simple one.
In a village, the tribal elder leads, not a youngster. There's a reason for that. And it will be obvious over coming months.