1. It was the beginning of the second quarter. The Washington Redskins had just punted to the Buccaneers after one of six sacks that Robert Griffin III seemingly scrambled himself into--it was almost as if he was keeping some plays alive long enough to give the Tampa Bay defenders time to sack him. But then...the catch was muffed! Darrel Young recovered the ball and it was first and ten at the Tampa 17-yard line! This had promise! Not so fast...an illegal block above the waist by Tom Compton moved us back to the 25-yard line--it was still first down, but now we had 18 yards to go. I wish I could say I was supremely confident that the Redskins were going to find a way to score. Even after the following play resulted in a 15-yard facemask penalty on the defense that made it first and goal from six yards out, there wasn't a ton of belief in the stands. Sure enough, without a down being played, we were pushed back five yards thanks to an illegal formation penalty on Tom Compton. Think of it this way: the drive started on the 17-yard line. Compton rang up 15 yards on two penalties that negated two halfway decent plays and culminated in a first down from the 11-yard line. If you gave Compton a trombone, he could give Petey a run for his money at band camp. One thing was certain at this point: the people in my section were openly wondering how we were going to knock ourselves out of field goal range. Two sacks for a nineteen yard loss almost answered that question for us, but we were still--technically--in field goal range. As Kai Forbath's 47-yard attempt missed the target, I sat in my chair, wondering if we were really this bad. What kind of team goes from first and goal at the six to a missed 47-yard field goal attempt? In terms of things that are impressive, I put this right up there with Ron Burgundy's dog Baxter eating a whole wheel of cheese and then pooping in the refrigerator.
2. You might read what I am writing and think I have taken the fast train to Negativetown. Nope. It has been a very slow, very deliberate commute to the place where we all find ourselves these days. How many years in a row can a team go 3-6 before a universal and unforgiving pessimism sets in? I don't know the answer to that because I have not hit that wall just quite yet, but that is only because I am one of the most unapologetic optimists out there. I can tell you that where there was unbridled optimism in past years, unbridled pessimism is making serious inroads. We might not all be there yet, but you have to ask yourself: how many times can you witness your team get pummeled by a squad that nobody--including Vegas--gave a chance to before kickoff? Regardless of all the "any given Sunday" and "that's why they play the game" cliches, pretty much everyone had Washington at least squeaking by the Buccaneers, if not blowing them out. The Redskins came in pretty healthy. We had a bye week to prepare...for a ONE-WIN team...for Josh freakin' McCown. We were at home, with plenty to play for, if you believed all the talk over the last couple of weeks. What transpired at FedEx yesterday was an embarrassment, and we should know--we've become experts in spotting an embarrassment at this point.
3. The bottom line is that what we all saw yesterday on the field was an unequivocal indictment of a football organization. The coaches are going to have to work overtime to prepare the film sessions this week, because pretty much everyone made mistakes that led to the disastrous performance. Maybe I would save Alfred Morris and DeSean Jackson from the storm. It at least looked to me like Morris played hard, and DeSean Jackson would have had two touchdown catches if he hadn't been overthrown both times. The offensive line--before and after Trent Williams' injury--was suspect. I don't know why Pierre Garcon was only targeted twice, but a couple of times I noticed him right next to another receiver down the field. Something is wrong with that picture. On defense, I heard Jay Gruden saying we failed to blitz the "A" gap on numerous plays where McCown ended up finding Mike Evans on deep throws. Given the success they had on these throws, it occurs to me this was a major error...that we repeated. It seemed we were prepared to make the Bucs beat us through the air with Mike Evans. Thank goodness we were at least prepared.
4. Let's keep the good news coming: there is pretty much NOBODY on this team right now that you would look at and say, "At least we have this piece in place." Don't get me wrong, we have good players. We have good, young players. A team would and should be excited about having the kind of talent Washington has at certain positions, but at this point, the Redskins are as likely to waste that talent as they are to cash in on it. My point is not that we can't build on certain blocks we have in place--my point is that anything even remotely related to blocks or blocking is bound to end badly for us. The unabashed optimist in me can look ahead to 2015 and see this thing going a different way, but a more realistic view suggests that this movie is playing on repeat. After all, how good can the core of a perpetually 3-6 team actually be?
5. Some actual good news--Jay Gruden is safe (according to this guy). Once again, no matter how bad we are, we can't afford to jettison a coach after his first year. He is no Steve Spurrier. I still believe Gruden is capable of putting together an offense. I don't hear a lot of people calling for Gruden's head, and I think that is the right approach. In my opinion, he should not escape the criticism that goes with being 3-7 and getting schwacked by a 1-8 team at home, but listening to his postgame press conference, he sounded as surprised as we did. He reminded me of Ralph Macchio's friend Stan in My Cousin Vinny, after the public defender wrapped up a stuttering, incoherent opening argument. "What about everything we talked about?!?!?!" Gruden insisted they had good practices leading up to this game. He insisted he was as shocked as the rest of us, and I am inclined to believe him, although we are hardly shocked anymore. Give him a year or two...he'll get there.
6. The fact of the matter is the Redskins are in the first year of yet another journey towards "righting the ship." Bruce Allen was given more room to operate, a new head coach was brought in and a new era of "Redskins football" was thrust upon us. We have become more expert at selling the idea of "fresh" than the Mentos people. One has to wonder if a year like this would cause Dan Snyder to question Bruce Allen's abilities as general manager (you know, this year plus all the others), but I sincerely doubt that Allen will get rung up at the end of this season. Snyder is bound to give him at least one more calendar year to use a first round pick and spend Orakpo's salary cap space on something else...anything else. That leaves us with at least another year of turd-polishing, unless Bruce Allen can somehow figure out the right mix of players and coaches that can combine to act like a professional football team and organization. Until then, let us all revel at how a group of elite athletes turns first and goal from six yards out into a missed 47-yard field goal. It is really something to see.