As far as duds go, this was a dud with a “thud.” I can’t remember a team that both grabbed control of its playoff destiny in the final month of the season, lost it, then grabbed it AGAIN… and lost it one last time on the final Sunday of the season. And to lose – at home! – to an opponent with supposedly “nothing to play for?”
And if you want to still spin this 8-7-1 season in a positive light by saying at least the team is “heading in the right direction”… then stop. There is no “direction” in the NFL anymore. It’s a year-to-year league, where seasons come individually wrapped like candy.
They choked on this piece of candy. The 2017 season will come wrapped in its own mystery.
Do you think Carolina, Arizona, Denver, and Cincinnati were “heading in the right direction” last off-season? Sure they were, by sports radio and pundit standards. Well. They all missed the playoffs.
Did anybody think the Dallas Cowboys off a 4-12 season, having lost Tony Romo in the pre-season was – at that point – “heading in the right direction?” Of course not. Boom. 13-3, and the #1 seed in the NFC.
To me, the NFL is a “pass/fail” course. If you make the playoffs, you pass. You can say you have had a “successful” season. If you don’t, you fail. Once you are in the playoffs, that’s when the magic can happen.
Since 2007, wildcard teams have won three Superbowls. Three! Giants (2007, 2011) and Packers (2010). Two more teams have played all-three weekends to at least reach the Superbowl or even win it. (Cardinals 2008, Ravens 2012).
So would this Redskins team have caught fire in January? Unlikely, with this tepid defense. But I would have loved to seen what one more week would have looked like. Even in Seattle against the maneating Seahawks, who have been our nemesis. Oh well….
Here’s my accounting of the team’s core assets on both sides of the ball (your list may vary).
Offense: QB Kirk Cousins, LT Trent Williams, RG Brandon Scherff, RT Morgan Moses, TE Jordan Reed, WR Jamison Crowder.
Defense: OLB Ryan Kerrigan, OLB Trent Murphy, OLB Preston Smith, ILB/S Su’a Cravens, CB Josh Norman, CB Bashaud Breeland.
Specials: P Tress Way, K Dustin Hopkins.
Now… let me make some qualifications here.
“Assets” in my book are players who are young enough to have considerable upside, and are good enough to start. That’s it. Or bonafide Pro-Bowl caliber veterans like Josh Norman. Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson are good players, who may well be worth paying more money to. But they aren’t “assets” in my book. They are decisions to be made. Same thing on Chris Baker, Ty Nsekhe, Vernon Davis, Junior Galette and Chris Thompson. Josh Doctson is not yet an asset, because despite his upside, he hasn’t even played.
The rest of the team is mostly a collection of replacement-level players. Which is not meant as an insult, but rather an honest accounting of what we’ve got.
The team needs more psychos and jerks, to be sure. Our best players, are also hopelessly nice. Kirk, Ryan, Jordan… they are all so nice. The coach is nice, and horky-dorky. I like him, but I hate how his persona plays in public from Monday through Saturday. It’s too soft. It lacks an edge. A fire. Especially when needed, like it was this past week. I don’t like how yukkity he gets on his weekly TV and radio appearances. Maybe every other coach in the league does appearances and sounds no different. Maybe not.
The defense needs a massive amount of investment, both through the draft and free agency. It’ll be tempting to say “let’s do what the Giants did this winter, and BUY ourselves a defense!” Well, it’s not that easy. The Giants spent a mint to do it, for one. For another thing, even if you have the money to spend, you have to both a) pick the RIGHT players to buy and then b) WIN the bidding for them, since plenty of other teams will have the same idea.
Draw a red line right up the middle of this defense, where you need better tackles, inside linebackers, and safeties in bulk.
At wideout, I believe Jackson is going back to Philadelphia. Full stop. Not only is Philly going to be horny-as-hell for a genuine home-run threat for Carson Wentz, but Jackson sees the void just waiting for him in that WR group. I also think Philly (as organization and city) wants to right the knee-jerk wrong committed by now twice-fired Chip Kelly who shockingly waived Jackson for no real reason. We could try to keep him, but I think he’s gone.
As for Garcon, I pay that mofo. He’s everything you want in a “football player” (gruff McCloughan voice) and more. I don’t care that he’s 30 years old. He’s the next Anquan Boldin or Steve Smith. He’s going to ball out until he’s 35.
Now, to the elephant in the room: Kirk.
First of all, he choked. CHOKED. Badly. Not just with the game-ending throw – late, and over the middle, a cardinal sin – but also with the fact he missed wide-open TD balls to Crowder and Jackson earlier in the game. This is disappointing, but not troubling. And there’s a big difference.
Disappointing because Kirk is better than that, and we needed him in that moment. But I’m not troubled by it, because I do not assume that he will ALWAYS choke in the clutch. Or that he lacks the so-called “big moment” capability.
I think if given a larger sample of “big moments” over his career, Kirk will both gloriously win some, and tragically lose some. See Favre, Manning, Romo, Brady, Luck, Flacco, Wilson, Newton…. and… do I need to go on?
Kirk Cousins is almost the same player as Eli Manning right now, only better in several statistical categories and he’s more mobile. But he has no rings. Or massive contract. I won’t even bother to throw the numbers out here. You can look them up. Last 2 years, Eli vs. Cousins. Go ahead.
But in sportstalk radio logic, to have won a ring is somehow proof that you are in fact a unicorn, and not just an average QB. Ergo: because Eli Manning WAS clutch on two occasions, he is ALWAYS going to be clutch, and that his clutchness is baked into his football DNA.
Kirk Cousins remains trapped by circumstances beyond his control. He was drafted in the 4th round. He had to sit and wait behind RG3 for three seasons. From a perception standpoint, these things are hard to overcome. Had Cousins been a 1st round pick, paying him a franchise-QB-level $100M deal would have been a moot point. The average fan and NFL pundit hangs on where a guy was drafted – no matter how stupidly wrong it was! – for far too long.
Think about this: had Kirk been drafted in the 1st round (late, let’s say) and started right away, struggled and muddled through seasons 1-3, but blossomed these last 2 years into the franchise record smasher that he has become….. WOULD THIS EVEN BE A DEBATE!?
The Redskins low-balling him last winter, and then kicking the can down the road with the franchise tag has only complicated and exacerbated the matter.
Think about this: last season in his 8th year as starter, Matt Ryan threw 16 INT’s and had 8 fumbles!!!! Ryan has thrown for 2x digit INT’s in 7 of his 9 seasons as a pro! And yet… and yet… there has never been a serious discussion in Atlanta of “let’s get out of the Matty Ice business.” None.
Why? He was picked 3rd overall, and he started right away.
When the Dolphins invested in Ryan Tannehill, the Bengals in Andy Dalton, the Chiefs in Alex Smith, and the Ravens in Joe Flacco… none of them did so thinking they have an NFL “unicorn” at QB. They just knew those guys were starters, and that you can win with them. And let’s not forget: you can easily LOSE with NFL “unicorns” too. Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, Philip Rivers, Drew Brees.
Even when investments in QBs for significant money go bad – the Bears with Jay Cutler, the Jets with Mark Sanchez, the Niners with Colin Kaepernick – you sign the checks, cut the cord, and move on. Those teams’ problems went far deeper than just them.
With all of that as background, the “decision” on Kirk Cousins is a no-brainer. Pay him. Love him. Coach him. Give him a decent running game and a defense, I bet Kirk Cousins will make you melt in a puddle of joy.
If you disagree, that’s fine. But I’m done trying to change minds.
So this year is over. What a steaming turd they left on the ground at FedEx Field. It’ll go down as an all-time disappointment in franchise history. And the streak of seasons between back-to-back playoffs appearances now stretches to 26 and counting – the Kings of “One-In-A-Row.”