ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins didn’t need anyone to issue a 'Code Red' to understand the importance of Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers. It’s quite simple: Lose and you’re 2-5 heading into the bye week with your next game at undefeated New England.
If that’s not enough to catch your attention, a snappy phrase won’t do the trick either. So when Redskins coach Jay Gruden called it a ‘Code Red’ game and said they were backed into a corner, it’s something the players already grasped.
But when they hear 'Code Red' ...
“I don’t even know what that means,” nose tackle Terrance Knighton said. “To me, 'Code Red,' if we lose this the season’s over.”
Clearly that’s not the case. But at 2-5 the season would certainly take on a different feel. That much is known, and maybe the players don’t refer to it the same way Gruden does, they all have the same thought: They’d better win.
“We’re all grown men, I don’t think I have to sit here and urge people to want to be better,” left tackle and offensive captain Trent Williams said. “I don’t feel I have to tell anybody anything. It’s pretty evident, the sense of urgency.”
Gruden’s point wasn’t about anyone losing their jobs, and he’s not voicing anything about his own job security -- that’s not his style. Rather, it’s about knowing what they face if they lose, especially after two straight losses. For him, it’s about establishing an identity and how you respond to adversity.
Right now, the Redskins face adversity, whether from losses or player injuries. Players and coaches always say every game matters, which is true. But there are some that carry more weight. Beating a 2-3 Tampa Bay team isn’t going to make them contenders, but it will say something about their resolve.
“When you’re 2-4 and you’re getting pushed into the corner a little bit, I think there comes a point in time where you’ve got to really fight,” Gruden said. “That’s where we are right now. We are getting backed into a corner right now and I hope our guys come out swinging. I know they will. I know I will.”
But not every player wants to hear that they’re backed into a corner.
“I wouldn’t quite use those words,” Knighton said. “But we’re focused on Tampa Bay. We have a tough task with a team trying to find its way just like we are. We haven’t put our best product out there, especially the defensive side of things and stopping the run the past two weeks. That’s the only thing I’m worried about right now. I’m not worried about standings, not worried about what people are talking about or what Coach is talking about. I’m just worried about stopping the run.”
It’s debatable wheter Gruden should have called it a 'Code Red,' but there’s little doubt he wanted to shine a big light on the situation. The Redskins brought in a number of players from good teams, such as Knighton and defensive end Ricky Jean Francois, who played with Denver and Indianapolis, respectively, last season. They’ve been in bigger games than a Week 7 contest against a 2-3 team.
“To him it might be a state of emergency, but we ain’t got no emergency,” Jean Francois said. “The message has been sent out to all the players in this locker room. We already know we took four losses and only got two wins. We know what we’ve got to do before going into the bye week.”