Yuck. Do I need to say more?
Actually, yes I do. Before the season I thought the Washington Redskins would go 7-9 in part because of growing pains at quarterback and in the passing game. Robert Griffin III would take time to mature in the manner Jay Gruden wanted. He needed patience. Kirk Cousins was the backup. He, too, needs time to mature. He has now started six games. That is not an excuse, it is reality. But the question then becomes, what do you have when he does mature? Is he the guy who played the first half of the Philadelphia game? Or the one we saw Thursday night? Or just in-between: someone capable of a big game and a massive clunker in consecutive weeks. Cousins has a lot of positive qualities, and when he is on, there’s a rhythm to the passing game. When he’s not on, there are turnovers. You can’t overreact to a terrible night, but you can’t just assume with experience things will be that much different. Again, we’ll find out a lot more over the next six week or so.
Both are young quarterbacks still growing -- into what, exactly, I’m still not sure. Cousins has taken chances with some throws since he arrived in Washington; in some games that leads to 43-yard gains to Pierre Garcon. In others, that leads to interceptions if the pass is thrown, say, to the wrong shoulder.
I’m not going to pick on Bashaud Breeland. I said before the game that he would endure growing pains. Though the Redskins liked him and thought he might be a future starter, that time wasn’t in Week 4 of his rookie year. He will learn lessons all season. He’s not the problem. He's just not the solution right now.
Anytime you lose by 31 at home, you need to look big picture, because so many negatives contributed. The defense consistently gives up big plays and has for a while. Is it personnel? Scheme? Technique? All of the above? Regardless, it ... keeps ... happening. Lots of blame to go around.
A problem with Washington’s defense is that it has, potentially, the talent to pressure with four rushers. On paper, it should be a strength -- even if you don’t think the outside linebackers, Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo, are elite or worth massive contracts. Both typically flirt with double-digit totals, so they have value and are good. With Jason Hatcher inside, that should be at least a good pass rush. But to rush with four -- without an elite rusher -- it means the back seven must at least cause the quarterback to delay so the rush can get home. The Redskins do not have that ability, and that’s not just a this-year thing. Everything’s on the table, from coaching to how they were built. But the bottom line is, it will be tough for four-men rushes to apply pressure when receivers get open like they were Thursday.
If you want a mega contract, you need to make mega plays. Orakpo has half a sack; they need more. I know there are reasons, but they need someone to make game-changing plays on defense; New York did -- the first sack/fumble occurred in only 2.3 seconds. It’s what the head coach said he wanted to see from Orakpo. Also, when safeties struggle, as Bacarri Rambo and Brandon Meriweather did last season, should you have automatically brought them back -- or not made more of an effort to upgrade? They have botched the safety position for a long time; some of it maybe was the salary cap, but certainly not all.
I don’t know how anyone on the Redskins can say, as Gruden did, that "sometimes a good slap in the face wake-up call is what you need." How on Earth does a team that was 1-2, coming off a 3-13 season, need a wake-up call? Were they really that impressed by what they did in Philadelphia last week? It was a good game. It was still a loss. In this league there are close losses every week by bad teams. I understand one part of it, as running back Alfred Morris said when he used that phrase. It was more about the offense getting a bit full of itself after two really good outings in a row.
Gruden was absolutely right on target with this line: "They came in better prepared. The coaches had them ready to play. We didn’t have our team ready to play. They outplayed us in every phase." Of course he’s 100-percent right. There is no player or coach who should feel good about their performance Thursday, and now Gruden faces a first major test of his coaching tenure -- how they deal with a humiliating loss and then having to play the defending Super Bowl champion. How will they respond?
If the culture truly has changed here, they need to prove it on the field. You know he will be honest with his players. I wonder how honest he’s being with himself right now. There is a lot of season left, and though fans can freak out, coaches and teams can’t. Still, Thursday was eye-opening. Just a bad game or an indication of far greater issues? Twelve more games to go.