Redskins can’t survive mess of a day in Minnesota

WASHINGTON — Before the Washington Redskins ever arrived in Minnesota for Sunday’s tussle with the Vikings, the game was already destined to be surrounded by a bizarre set of controversies, due to a planned protest by local Native Americans over the team’s name. But that was just one factor that led to a mess of an afternoon in the land of 10,000 lakes.

The team awoke on Sunday to a manufactured controversy around newly reinstated starting quarterback Robert Griffin III. The lead of the story: Multiple members inside the organization told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that they believe the decision to start Griffin over Colt McCoy was driven by ownership and upper management, rather than head coach Jay Gruden. While multiple sources may have corroborated the same sentiment, the story was reported merely what these individuals believed, not any actual conversations that took place.

Furthermore, ESPN’s Britt McHenry filed a report claiming Griffin had “alienated himself from the locker room,” citing an incident Friday in which teammates were being so loud in the background of a media huddle around Griffin that he had to move outside to finish the media session.

Some — such as ESPN personality and former Washington Post reporter Michael Wilbon — came to McHenry’s defense, citing past PR spin to cover actual problems from the organization. With last week’s “No means no” incident on Monday Night Football fresh in everyone’s mind, it was an easy narrative to buy. But accounts from the other reporters in the locker room that day corroborated both Griffin and Gruden’s postgame remarks — that the report was entirely without merit. Rather — quite ironically — it was part of a larger player protest that has been going on over the past few weeks, ever since the public relations department extended the players’ availability.

Regardless of its accuracy, the report set off discussions on the network about how RG3 could win back the locker room before he ever even stepped on the field. That cast a shadow over the morning, one which got much longer on the team’s way to TCF Bank Stadium.

The police escort leading the two team buses to the game missed the exit off the highway and hit the guardrail, causing a chain reaction accident. The first bus then jammed the brakes to try to avoid the car, with the second bus crashing into the back of the first.

Players and others on the bus tweeted photos of the damage, which was described as “more than just a fender bender.” While none of the players or staff sustained serious injuries, they were, nevertheless, shaken. Running back Silas Redd Jr. also ended up not playing, due to back spasms.

When they finally did arrive, several thousand (estimates ranged between 3,500 and 5,000) protesters were marching outside the stadium. In addition to civil rights groups, the protests were joined by former Vikings All-Pro safety Joey Browner, who is part Native American. It was the largest display of opposition to the team’s name in a visiting city so far this year, as momentum to change the name has picked up around the country.

“I am not a mascot,” declared David Glass, president of the National Coalition Against Racism in Sports and Media. “You are not a mascot!”

Some of the rhetoric was more aggressive.

“I think of my ancestors who had bounties on their heads,” said Alisa Becharchuk, who was at the rally in support of a mascot change. “They were charging $200 to kill a Redskin.”


RG3 (AP)

Beat writers from various D.C. media outlets disputed ESPN’s report on RG3, calling it "grossly misinterpreted" and "wholly incorrect." (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

When at last the game finally began, Griffin took a scary early hit, his leg trapped underneath a defender as he was bent backward, but did not leave the game. While he stumbled a bit, and did not appear to be back at full speed, Griffin acquitted himself fairly well, finishing 18 for 28 for 251 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. The pick proved to be costly, leading directly to seven Minnesota points right before halftime, which helped keep the Vikings in the game.

Griffin also ran the ball seven times for 24 yards, but slid short of a first down on his last run of the final drive, still appearing a bit tentative. Nevertheless, the real difference in the game was the defense, which was as bad against the Vikings as it had been good against the Cowboys in the surprise win just six days earlier.

The Washington defense allowed fewer total yards but 12 more points than they did against Dallas. They allowed the Vikings to go 8 of 15 on third down and did not force a turnover. The Vikings scored touchdowns on two of their final three drives, and RG3 couldn’t lead Washington on a game-winning drive, leaving the club at 3-6 through nine games for the fourth consecutive year.

But Sunday’s mess extended far beyond the field. It served to remind those who may have been blinded with optimism by last week’s uplifting victory in Dallas that it will still take a 2012-like run to get the Redskins to the playoffs. Off the field, though, the club’s credibility with the press and the social pressures surrounding the nickname don’t look like they are improving any time soon.

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