WASHINGTON – As the Washington Redskins were pummeled by 35 points on the team’s home field Sunday (amid another round of needless drama), the team clenched this reality: In three weeks, the narrative surrounding the Redskins will officially flip to off-season mode.
There won’t be a catastrophic home playoff loss this year. No, fans will christen the 2014 calendar with talk of coaching changes, defensive overhauls and potential special teams upgrades.
That’s nothing new here. The Redskins can shore up all of the above and still be back in the familiar 5-11 realm. And it’s all because the team’s top off-season priority is the one that can’t be addressed.
Folks, this is the one and only common thread over the last 14 years of ineptitude. Yes, the team was bad in the latter years of the Cooke family regime. However, that could probably be attributed to the NFL version of the Circle of Life — the inevitable cycle of good teams becoming bad, and bad teams becoming good.
Washington was never going to replicate the success of the first Joe Gibbs era with every hire.
Under Dan Snyder, it’s been far beyond the normal struggle to find the next Gibbs. The Redskins have been an annual theater of the absurd. And coaching blunders are only the tip of the iceberg.
This team has been saddled with awful contracts (see Haynesworth, Albert), PR nightmares (remember the story about the little old lady getting sued over her season tickets?) and enough litigation to call to mind the old “sue everybody” line from The Jerky Boys.
Throw in “The Fortune .500″ team of 2000, “The Swinging Gate,” the Donovan McNabb re-signing hours before the infamous Monday Night Massacre, and basically everything about the Spurrier era — and you’ve got one huge vortex of futility.
What’s linked to all of those events? Snyder.
Mike Shanahan is almost certainly gone, only a year removed from winning the NFC East — the Redskins’ first division title in 13 years. He’ll be tossed out just as Marty Schottenheimer was chased out of town, despite winning eight of his last 11 games in his lone season here.
Before him, Norv Turner was canned during the 2000 season for not being better than 7-6 after 13 games.
But will Shanahan’s ouster make a difference? Probably not. I’m on record as saying he’s done just as much good as has head-scratching bad here, and that this thing isn’t as bad as it looks right now if he catches a couple breaks here and there. But we’re past that point.
Now the question becomes, “Who’s crazy and/or desperate enough to coach here?” Snyder’s track record isn’t good: 14 years, seven coaches. That’s an alarming turnover rate at the most important position in an organization. Established guys like Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher and Tony Dungy won’t want to dive into that pool of piranhas, and hiring a college guy like Art Briles (RGIII’s coach at Baylor) would only further the notion that the franchise QB is running the show in Ashburn.
Gruden’s relationship with Redskins General Manager Bruce Allen could prompt him to look the other way, but right now he doesn’t sound like a guy inclined to give up his cushy job at ESPN to be a punching bag for Snyder and/or the D.C. media.
I grew up a Redskins fan, so I’ve had front row seats to this horror show for over 20 years. I’ve long taken a realistic, yet cautiously optimistic, view of this team. For years, we said that Snyder simply fading to the background and getting someone credible to make football decisions would solve all that ails the Burgundy and Gold.
Now, it’s become painfully obvious that Snyder is indeed the root of what’s wrong with the Redskins. He’s created an atmosphere of dysfunction and distrust, and any man who doesn’t see how destructive it can be to coddle his most marketable players (even if this RGIII thing is false, he definitely did so with Clinton Portis) is a danger to himself and his football team.
So Redskins fans have to hope for two things to happen if they ever want to see a fourth Lombardi Trophy: Either Snyder has an epiphany and morphs into Robert Kraft, or he sells the team to someone who knows what he/she is doing. Right now, neither scenario seems likely.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, Redskins Nation. It’s just the hand we’ve been dealt.
Now let’s draw the rest of the cards for Week 14:
Jaguars 27 Texans 20
Get swept by Jacksonville, get fired. It’s as simple as that. Easy decision for Houston to can Gary Kubiak, who has tanked my AFC favorite two years running.
Chiefs 45 Redskins 10
Kansas City emphatically ended its three-game losing skid and clinched a playoff spot to effectively cement the team’s return from last season’s 2-14 debacle. Trust me: nobody wants to see the Chiefs in the postseason.
Colts 28 Bengals 42
Talk about two teams heading in opposite directions. Cincinnati has won seven of its last nine and appears to be closing in on another division title, while Indy backed into a division title by virtue of being the only team in the AFC South that’s not bound to pick in the top 10 of the upcoming draft. Of course, we said the same thing about Baltimore last year, so…
Falcons 21 Packers 22
Before the season, I think we all would’ve guessed this would be a possible playoff preview. Instead, it was an exhibition game to see who gets a higher pick in the 2014 draft.
Browns 26 Patriots 27
True to form, Cleveland was just about to knock off former Browns coach Bill Belichick’s current team in its own building — when fate intervened. There is truly no greater torment than being a Cleveland sports fan.
Raiders 27 Jets 37
Ed Reed got an interception, Geno Smith didn’t suck and “Ground and Pound” was in full effect. Enjoy it, New York … it’s probably the last time we say that this year.
Lions 20 Eagles 34
It’s often said that pro-football players are grown men paid a king’s ransom to play a kid’s game. We were certainly reminded of this seeing the California guys (DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Ross) playing in the 6 inches of snow in Philadelphia.
Dolphins 34 Steelers 28
Troy Polamalu looked like his old self instead of an old version of himself. But the Steelers lost anyway. See, NFL? You didn’t have to dock Pittsburgh a draft pick, after all. The Football Gods exacted their own vengeance on the for Mike Tomlin’s sideline gaffe on Thanksgiving.
Bills 6 Bucs 27
E.J. Manuel and Mike Glennon combined to throw for six interceptions and neither completed half of their passes. You’d think this game was played in the snow instead of Florida.
Vikings 26 Ravens 29
This was the first time in NFL history we saw six lead changes in the fourth quarter of a game. Couple this fast and furious finish (Baltimore outscored Minnesota 22-20 in the final stanza) with the snowy conditions, and this is an instant classic for the Ravens’ short franchise history.
Titans 28 Broncos 51
Remember when Pierre Garcon said the Redskins offense could be one of the greatest of all-time? Well, he must’ve thought he was still playing with Peyton Manning. Look at what Denver is doing. This looks more like Madden than real NFL football. Not bad for a team with a QB that can’t throw in sub-freezing temperatures.
Rams 10 Cardinals 30
Arizona’s bid for a wild card spot was hampered by the loss of Tyrann Mathieu to a torn ACL. The Honeybadger is a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate and a legit playmaker for the Cardinals secondary. This one hurts.
Giants 14 Chargers 37
In case you’re wondering, Eli Manning is now 0-3 against the San Diego franchise he refused to play for back in 2004 (this one hurts the worst, too — the New Yorker was eliminated from playoff contention Sunday). This stat helps Chargers fans sleep at night, but Manning’s two Super Bowls sort of gives the impression he made the right call.
Seahawks 17 49ers 19
As expected, two of the NFC’s best split the season series with the home team winning each game. The Niners better hope this is the last time they see the ‘Hawks; the rematch will be in Seattle — where San Fran has been shelled by a combined 71-16 in the last two trips to the Emerald City.
Panthers 13 Saints 31
Drew Brees is the 5th QB all-time to throw for 50,000 yards in his career. Amazing how this guy went from a late-bloomer in San Diego to a surefire Hall-of-Famer in New Orleans.
And don’t mourn for the end of Carolina’s eight-game win streak. The team hosts the rematch in two weeks and that defense will at least get them a wild card spot.
Cowboys 28 Bears 45
On the night Chicago finally retired Mike Ditka’s #89 jersey, I was almost sure Josh McCown was going to lead the Bears to 89 points against that putrid Dallas defense. If the Cowboys again fail to win the NFC East, that unit will be the cause.