- I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. I was commenting that this year I felt like I ate less than in normal years, and I am almost certain this is because the Redskins played that day. Did this happen to anyone else? I suppose the opposite could have also been true for many of you. Stress eating is a thing, after all. Onside kicks and two-point conversions push me into a different eating territory...I literally become frozen in my seat, trying to perform quick math on scoring theorems and clock management postulates. Maybe Jay Gruden just invented a new diet!
- Listen, I am not here to defend Jay Gruden’s decision-making on the two-point conversions and onside kick decisions. I understand the issues people have with all of it, but I can honestly say that I wasn’t as apoplectic over it as some people seemed to be. Listen, we live in a world where going for two is about to be more of a thing than ever before. Current stats suggest that going for two nets teams slightly over seven points per touchdown and kicking the extra point nets teams slightly under seven points per touchdown. These are just averages, and more than most numbers/calculations, they are mostly story-telling in nature. By that, I mean that I would not necessarily base my entire decision on them, instead relying on the feel of a game to guide my hand. The last time I checked, two-point conversions are attempted from inside the red zone, and the Redskins are something like 28th in the league when it comes to scoring touchdowns in the red zone. That is an important stat to use as a guide I would think! Jay Gruden’s decisions were aggressive on Thanksgiving, and I appreciated that mentality. On one hand, his offense is humming right now, and with Kirk Cousins under center, Gruden must feel like a gambler at a craps table with a hot roller. It pains me to say so, but the Dallas Cowboys might be the best team in the NFL right now. If you’re going to beat them in their own building, you are going to have to take chances you might not otherwise take. The missed field goals and failure to convert early in the game inside the red zone may have put Gruden slightly on tilt (to keep with the gambling vernacular). Clearly, Gruden felt like he had to be bold in his decision-making down the stretch, and some lower-percentage plays didn’t go our way. You can argue these decisions were the difference in the game, but I would counter by suggesting that had we not iced our own kicker early on, or if Dustin Hopkins hadn’t kicked into a blinding sun, Gruden would have found himself in a far different position that would have led to different decision-making. I know people get freaked out when I suggest that the Redskins could be one of the teams that makes the organizational decision to start going for two more often. That is what I think it will become--an organizational decision. At some point, teams will feel like going for two is the path to more points over a long stretch. I believe that is what the NFL is waiting for, and the teams that make that call will be the ones with the most powerful offenses. That makes the Redskins a prime candidate to adopt the strategy. We are all being naive if we fail to recognize such a strategy as a coach-killing one, which is why I think that the philosophy will ultimately need to be shared by folks in the front office before a coach rolls it out with gusto. Onside kicks are a different beast altogether, and the over-dependence on them by a coach is absolutely going to lead to some difficult questions.
- I know there has been lots of chatter on the future of Jay Gruden as the Redskins head coach, so I figured I would open that can of worms in the comments section below, and on tomorrow night’s taping of The Audible. For my money, he’s our guy. I think that ever since we hired Scot “McLovin” McCloughan, we have all wondered if the new GM was going to want to bring in his own coach. Instead, I think we have seen a pretty solid marriage between the head coach and personnel guru. More than anything else, I simply don’t feel any urgency to completely nuke our sideline and go in a different direction. The Redskins are ranked #2 in yards per game right now, nestled right behind Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. McLovin has been supplying Gruden with players that make his offense go, and the synergy between Cousins and Gruden appears to be gaining significant momentum. You could argue that not enough has been done yet on the defensive side of the ball, and that sideline area could get attention in the offseason, but in this era, I think you prioritize your offense. The Redskins are positioned to score plenty of points now and into the future with this trio (McLovin/Gruden/Cousins) and if I were Dan Snyder, I would keep it together.
- One thing we know about Dan Snyder is that he loves him some back-of-the-trading-card stats. I will give him some credit for learning on the job as an owner over the years, and I do believe McLovin has guided him through some difficult personnel decisions that he might have previously tripped on, but at the end of the day, Dan is Dan. When Dan looks and sees that the Redskins offense is going gangbusters on the NFL, you have to believe he is the giddy fan most of us are when we see the same thing. When you hire an offensive-minded head coach to come and install his scheme, and when that scheme rises to the top of the league, you—as an owner—must feel pretty smart. I just don’t see Dan Snyder looking at what he has in Jay Gruden and deciding that he needs to change it. In short, I expect an extension for Gruden before I expect the Redskins to can him and move on to the next head guy.
- Can we just pause for a second and marvel at the prospect of a Redskins head coach getting extended? I could be wrong, but I feel like the last extension was given to Norv Turner, in May 1997—is that right?!?!?!? Joe Gibbs would have of course been extended if he wanted to stay here, and Mike Shanahan likely had his eyes on one as well if he had been able to get things stabilized in the midst of the RG3 mania. I think we all understand the fleeting nature of head coaching jobs in the NFL—even beyond our own team—but the notion that we have a coach we would be willing to continue marching down the aisle with is simply refreshing. I just put the cart a mile in front of the horse, but thinking about Jay Gruden and his place here in the grand scheme of Redskins coaching makes me far more optimistic than pessimistic. Closing the loop on the decision-making discussion above, I believe that if we give McLovin another offseason to build the roster around Gruden’s abilities, it will result in a more consistent and cohesive weekly philosophy when it comes to things like onside kicks and two-point conversions. Put a different way, I think the nature of the work in progress is driving some of the decision-making and will even out once McLovin is able to add a few more signature pickups.
- If the season ended today (it doesn’t), the Redskins would be the 6th seed in the NFC. That continues to mean that the Redskins control their destiny. I believe our man Bill (in Bangkok) is working on some content to better explain how the tie is going to ultimately determine our future (and plenty of other scenarios), but as you know, my rule is that a tie helps a good team and hurts a bad team. Maybe I shouldn’t have saved such a proclamation for this far down in the Sixpack, but I think the Redskins are a good team. I don’t use the word great, and my eyes are wide open in terms of what’s happening at the top of our division. With an offense like it has, the Redskins are going to have a chance to win every game they show up to play. Right away, we will see that put to the test against the Arizona Cardinals, who sneakily boast the league’s top-ranked total defense. In my heart of hearts, a 9-6-1 record should be good enough for the wild card, especially if that includes wins over Arizona and Carolina. Tampa Bay is all of a sudden too close for comfort, but their schedule down the stretch is no cake walk either. I know you’ll all be joining me in rooting for the Green Bay Packers tonight! (Don’t think we all don’t see that as the 6th seed, we would be cruising for a wild card game where if we won, we would be traveling to Dallas! It ain’t easy beating a team three times in one season!)
The Washington Redskins are in the driver’s seat (still) but are without much margin for error if they want to win one of the NFC wild cards.