SAN FRANCISCO (WUSA/Elfin's Endzone) -- It's six days shy of two decades since the Redskins last played in a Super Bowl. The way that Washington has performed the past three and a half seasons, going 17-39, it might be another two decades until the burgundy and gold gets back to the NFL's promised land.
But there will be at least one former Redskin in Super Bowl XLVI on Feb. 5 in Indianapolis even though Pro Bowl defensive end Andre Carter is on injured reserve for the New England Patriots who play host to the Baltimore Ravens in Sunday's AFC Championship Game. That's because the San Francisco 49ers and the New York Giants, who meet Sunday for the NFC title, both have players, like the 32-year-old Carter, whom Washington coach Mike Shanahan cast off during the past 16 months.
San Francisco's ex-Redskin is Carlos Rogers, who rocketed from unwanted in Washington to Pro Bowl starter for the 49ers. Receiver Devin Thomas, 25, has been much less prominent for New York, but he is its main kickoff return man while also seeing reserve duty on offense and playing on some kick coverage units.
Rogers and Thomas also share a bond because they were the first players chosen by Washington in their drafts. The former was picked ninth overall out of Auburn in 2005 while the latter was the 34th selection (a second-rounder) out of Michigan State in 2008.
Rogers missed four games with injuries as a rookie while only starting five. His most memorable play was a dropped interception with nothing but grass ahead of him in the divisional round playoff defeat at Seattle. Until the 49ers' dramatic victory over New Orleans last weekend during which he broke up a sure Saints touchdown with a deflection in the end zone, Rogers had never advanced that far again in postseason.
But now, after intercepting six passes this season - one shy of the NFL lead and just two shy of his total during his seven years in Washington - Rogers is a second home victory over the Giants in 11 weeks from the Super Bowl. The 30-year-old Georgian will also finally get to revel in a lucrative multi-year free agent contract after the NFL's labor woes forced him into signing one-year deals the past two offseasons. The second of those came after the Redskins didn't try to re-sign Rogers in July, preferring to replace him with free agent Josh Wilson.
Unlike Rogers, who started most of his final five seasons in Washington, Thomas never came close to living up to his draft status. He missed the beginning of his initial preseason with a tender hamstring and wound up catching just 40 passes for 365 yards during his first two seasons before Shanahan cut him before the fifth game of 2010 to make room for rookie free agent running Keiland Williams.
Ironically, Thomas helped beat the Redskins with a blocked punt in Week 13 last season. Thomas was all smiles and no hard feelings afterwards, but Washington co-captain London Fletcher said, "Obviously you don't want a guy who was released to make plays against you."
No, you don't. At least the Redskins can take some small solace in having swept Thomas and the Giants this season (after being swept by them in 2010). But the burgundy and gold lost at home to Rogers and the 49ers and to Carter - who became an after-thought in Washington when Shanahan switched from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 scheme and asked the pass rushing defensive end to play outside linebacker -- and the Patriots.
In any case, it will surely be galling for Shanahan come Super Sunday to watch players he deemed unworthy of being Redskins compete for the ring he has been fruitlessly striving for since he won those consecutive Lombardi Trophies for the Denver Broncos in 1997-98.
WUSA-9's Sports Insider, David Elfin, has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the author of five books on the Redskins including the new "Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History."