The Washington Redskins fancied themselves if not a contender for the division title, then at least an improved team. But what they ended up with was a season with double-digit losses and a last-place finish. Again. That makes five double-digit-loss seasons in the last six years and six last-place finishes in the past seven.
The Redskins began the season with questions at every key part of the organization, from general manager to coach to quarterback. They finish the season with the same questions because none of those people proved themselves this season. First-year coach Jay Gruden will have a lot to prove in 2015. But their issues start above Gruden and until that’s fixed, every coach here will face obstacles.
MVP: Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. Nobody was more consistent than Kerrigan, who played well early in the season and late. He had a brief lull in the middle, partly because of a bad wrist, but Kerrigan’s rushes were a factor in almost every game. That’s why he finished with a career-best 13.5 sacks and five forced fumbles. Kerrigan had a four-sack game vs. Jacksonville in Week 2 and recorded a sack in five straight games from Week 12 to 16. The impressive part about Kerrigan is how he continues to work at his craft. The result: Better paths to the ball, improved use of his hands and more sacks.
Best moment: Winning at Dallas. And that best-moment feeling for them occurred after rookie cornerback Bashaud Breeland broke up a fourth-down pass in overtime to clinch the win. The players sprinted off the bench and onto the field, celebrating victory when they were heavy underdogs. The locker room was upbeat afterward, and although they reacted with great joy on the field, during interviews they came across as a confident, determined group. It was their most significant victory since beating the Cowboys to clinch the NFC East title in 2012. And it could have been one that jump-started their 2014 season. Instead, the Redskins lost their next six games.
Worst moment: It wasn’t a moment as much as it was a period of time. The Redskins lost at home to Tampa Bay -- a team that has the first pick in the draft after going 2-14 -- by 20 points. It was a low point in a season full of them. But it’s what the loss also exposed that was troubling. While it was already known that the coaching staff had concerns about and had lost confidence in quarterback Robert Griffin III, it became public a day later. Coach Jay Gruden, upset that Griffin didn’t focus on his own game after the loss, offered a scathing rebuke of his game. It wasn’t just that Griffin had played poorly, it was that his fundamentals within the offense were so bad. This led to more stories about the circus in Washington, and Gruden had to clear up some messes as they became public.
2015 outlook: Coming off another double-digit-loss season, it’s hard to be optimistic. The Redskins have a lot of work ahead. The defense must be overhauled, whether they bring in a new coordinator or not. The organization has done a horrible job of putting the defense together. And if they can’t solve the quarterback issue, it could be another long year. There’s little confidence in Griffin's long-term success, but there’s no great alternative either. The problem is, the fatigue over this situation -- the focus on Griffin, whether it’s by his actions or words or stories beyond his control -- will only intensify if the struggles, and losses, continue. Gruden’s first season was not about some young team taking its lumps; it was about a team in need of a rebuild. Next season must be about legitimate improvement, something that did not take place this season. Gruden was not on the hot seat this season, but it’ll get real warm real fast unless things improve.