Happy New Year, everyone!
Closing the book on 2013 means we don't have to think about the monstrosity of a Redskins season that we all just endured.
Well, except for the endless stories about the coaching-search-in-progress. Thankfully, the hiring of Bill O'Brien by the Texans cuts Washington's candidate list down to a much-more-workable 58 guys.
Anyway, before we completely forget about 2013, I thought it might be fun (read: not fun) to revisit and rank the Redskins' losses. Masochistic? Perhaps. But people seem to like lists and rankings, and I seem to like being able to crank out formulaic columns!
And we had so many losses to rank this year! Thirteen of them! To be fair, we also did win three games: A ten-point win at Oakland in which the Raiders' starting quarterback did not play, a shootout victory at home against Chicago in which the Bears' starting quarterback was knocked out of the game, and a win over the Chargers in which San Diego failed to score three times from the one-yard-line, throwing two incomplete passes and running all three plays from shotgun.
(Note that Chargers' offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt is considered a top candidate for the Redskins' head coaching job. Which I think means he's in the top 15.)
The criteria I used for ranking these games was three-fold: One, what were the stakes? Pivotal games that seemed to push the season toward disaster were fundamentally "bigger" than losses after Washington had already been eliminated. Losses to divisional opponents are also "bigger," all else being equal. Two, how well did Washington play? If the Redskins were competitive and didn't blow a lead, that's obviously not as bad as getting dominated from start to finish. Three, what other factors were in play? Was it a nationally televised game? Was it the final home game for a beloved veteran? Did 75% of the crowd leave at halftime?
All of that went into the calculation. So, from, uh, least-bad to worst, here are my selections:
#13 - Falcons 27, Redskins 26 (Week 15): This one actually wasn't terrible. The stakes were low, it was on the road, Kirk Cousins looked good, and Washington almost won. The Redskins elected to go for a game-winning two-point conversion at the end, and it just didn't work out. The defense played well, the offense moved the ball impressively, and special teams had a solid game. The only awful part of this loss was the depressing gift of seven turnovers Washington committed. But, by this point in the season, expectations were so crushed that interceptions and fumbles were usually met with shrugs. Eye-rolls at worst.
#12 - Eagles 33, Redskins 27 (Week 1): Back when we were "all-in," the Redskins' promising season hit an early speedbump against the Eagles. The surprising part was how inept Washington's defense looked at the outset, except for one big play (a 75-yard fumble return by DeAngelo Hall) that produced the Redskins' only points of the first half. Washington fared much better in the latter portion of the game. Although losing to the Eagles is never fun, it was the opener, and RGIII was playing his first football in over seven months. There was no reason to panic just yet.
#11 - Lions 27, Redskins 20 (Week 3): A competitive game that could have gone either way, Washington might have won this one if not for a marginal call on a would-be touchdown pass from Robert Griffin to Aldrick Robinson. That reversal doomed Washington to an 0-3 start. This was bad, but at least the Redskins seemed to be fighting until the end.
#10 - Giants 20, Redskins 6 (Week 17): Playing a sub-par Giants team that lost Eli Manning before halftime, the Redskins and their lame-duck coaching staff looked as though they wished they could have been someplace - anyplace - besides cold, rainy MetLife Stadium. Kirk Cousins seemed to regress during his three starts, as here he passed for a mere 169 yards and no touchdowns on a brutal 19-for-49 day. Washington finished winless in a division it had won the year before. I can't rank this one any higher because, at this point, the simple fact that the season was finally over came as a relief.
#9 - Giants 24, Redskins 17 (Week 13): This was the second of a pair of national broadcasts for Washington after the Redskins had already more or less been eliminated from any realistic playoff contention. Unlike the other one (see below), Washington actually made a game of it against the Giants, a team that had looked even worse than the Redskins early in the year. Washington again had a chance to tie or win a game on its final drive, but ultimately turned the ball over. Something that would be a theme for the 2013 Redskins played a prominent role in this game: After gaining 21 yards on three carries on the first possession of the second half, Alfred Morris inexplicably never touched the ball again for the remainder of the game. A tiny, sort-of-consolation was the fact that the officiating crew mangled a first down / no first down call on the last drive, at least drawing some sympathy from the Sunday Night Football announce team of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth. By Week 13, that was the sort of straw we were forced to cling to as the Redskins' season slowly swirled around the toilet bowl.
#8 - Packers 38, Redskins 20 (Week 2): Unlike the Eagles' loss in Week 1, this seemed like cause for alarm. Washington looked incompetent for much of the game, trailing 24-0 at halftime. It would have been 31-0 but for a Green Bay turnover at the Redskins' goal line that resulted in a touchback. The fourteen(!) missed tackles and inability to move the ball until garbage time was the first real hint that this might be a long season. Still, the then-healthy Packers were expected to be very good. At 0-2, we could still talk ourselves into believing Washington could right the ship before it was too late.
#7 - Eagles 24, Redskins 16 (Week 11): In a rematch reminiscent of the first game, Washington fell behind Philadelphia by a big margin (24-0 in this case), rallied, then fell short in a comeback attempt. Griffin threw a pick that killed the Redskins' chances on what looked like an effort to throw the ball away. Washington had driven to the Eagles' 18, but the interception with less than a minute to go sealed the Redskins' fate.
#6 - Broncos 45, Redskins 21 (Week 8): This one was the proverbial roller-coaster ride. Well, except that, unlike the end of an actual roller coaster, the track just stopped, and the cart went flying off into a canyon with passengers screaming as they tumbled to their grisly deaths. Facing arguably the best team in the league, and again with a chance to get back into the thick of things in the NFC East with a win, Washington led 21-7 in the third quarter after a DeAngelo Hall interception return for a score. The Redskins still led by a touchdown heading to the fourth, before a shocking collapse that exceeded even jaded fans' worst fears. Denver hung 31 on Washington in the final quarter, scoring the last 38 points of the game in all. That turned a tight game into a 45-21 laugher, and sent the Redskins to a 2-5 record.
#5 - 49ers 27, Redskins 6 (Week 12): In front of a national audience on Monday Night Football, the Redskins got humiliated by a hot 49ers team that battered Griffin and held Washington to less than 200 yards of total offense. This was an ugly embarrassment in a season with several of them. The 49ers were obviously better than the division-rival Giants, but at least the Redskins were in a position to compete. Against San Francisco, Washington looked totally overmatched. Again.
#4 - Cowboys 24, Redskins 23 (Week 16): Like the Atlanta loss, this was another very close defeat that came long after the Washington had been scratched off the list of potential playoff participants. Two things made this one worse: First, it came against Dallas. Enough said. Secondly, whereas the Falcons game was one in which the Redskins trailed 14-0 and had to overcome seven turnovers just to have a chance to win, this game was one Washington should have won. The Redskins led 23-14 with less than ten minutes to go. The Cowboys ultimately scored on a fourth-down Romo-to-Murray touchdown with 2:31 to go to take a one-point edge. As with several other games this year, Washington's final drive ended in frustration, as the Redskins couldn't get the ball into field goal range before turning it over on downs. The cherry on top was that London Fletcher had announced his retirement during the week, partially as a way to motivate players and drum up fan support for the team's final home game of the year (and his final home game ever). It didn't matter. The last chance to have any redemption for this season slipped through the Redskins' fingers.
#3 Cowboys 31, Redskins 16 (Week 6): After a win over Oakland and a bye week, the Redskins traveled to the site of one of their better victories in 2012. Amazingly, Washington had an opportunity to move into first place with a win over their arch-rivals. It wasn't to be. Horrible special teams (Keith Burns should have been fired after this game) and inconsistent offense cost the Redskins a game in which they out-gained Dallas 433-213. It was still only a 24-16 margin in the fourth quarter before a costly turnover by Griffin at his own three-yard-line helped the Cowboys put the game away.
#2 - Chiefs 45, Redskins 10 (Week 14): This was as cringe-inducing as it got all season. It made the 49ers and Packers games look like nail-biters. The only reason this isn't the worst loss of the year is that Washington had already morphed into the Walking Deadskins by the time this game was played. It had all the worst elements of other bad losses in 2013: Non-competitive play, incredibly bad special teams (called "the worst I've ever seen" by CBS' Solomon Wilcotts), poor tackling, and shaky offensive play that accumulated just over 250 yards. Adding insult to injury, a wide shot of FedEx Field in the third quarter showed a crowd that must have numbered in the four figures. Even the fans were giving up now. So, too, did the Redskins after the game, announcing that Robert Griffin III wouldn't suit up again until 2014.
#1 - Vikings 34, Redskins 27 (Week 10): With a rare opportunity to win for a second time in five days, Washington had a 10-point lead at halftime and got the ball to start the second half. The Redskins drove it down and kicked a field goal to extend their lead over the weak Vikings 27-14 well into the third quarter, posting a win probability north of 95 percent. It wasn't to be, as Minnesota suddenly found new life, outscoring Washington 20-0 the rest of the way. Despite the fact that the Vikings (now-fired) coaching staff called two timeouts during Washington's final possession (when the Redskins had none left), Griffin and company still couldn't quite find a way to get a game-tying score, turning it over on downs at the Vikings' four-yard-line. All of this came after Washington knocked Minnesota quarterback Christian Ponder out of the game, leaving it up to Matt Cassel to lead the comeback. Not only was this a horrible loss on its own terms, but it also crushed any remaining momentum Washington had after a close win over San Diego. The Redskins would not win again in 2013.
So, there you have it, Redskins fans. And now, finally, I can put last season to bed. Not a moment too soon.
Who's ready for the Briles (or Grimm or Cowher or Bevell or McDermott or Smith or Sumlin or Jackson or Roman or Gruden or Shaw or Kelly or the other Gruden) Era?!?
Here's to better things in 2014.
Hail to the Redskins.