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The 5 O’Clock Club: Dead to the last man

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

NFL: New York Giants at Washington Redskins Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The 5 o’clock club is published Wednesday to Saturday during the season, and aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

Hollywood

There is a movie that I have watched dozens of times because it plays repeatedly on one of the half-dozen or so English-language channels I get on cable here in Thailand; it’s called The Last Samurai. It’s not the greatest movie of all time, but it has its moments.

One of my favorite parts of the movie is a story told by Captain Algren (played by Tom Cuise). He tells the story in two parts, the first part being given prior to a battle that seems hopeless, and the end of the story being given near the end of the battle when all seems lost.

ALGREN I studied war at a place called West Point. They taught us about a battle called Thermopylae. Three hundred brave warriors held off the king of Persia’s army of a million men. For two days they made them pay so dearly that the king lost all appetite for further invasion.

(looks at Katsumoto)

... I have some thoughts about the battle tomorrow.

KATSUMOTO (bemused) Do you really think we can defeat them?

ALGREN I sure as hell want to find out.

KATSUMOTO You believe a man can change his destiny?

ALGREN No ... But I think a man cannot know his destiny. He can only do what he can, until his destiny is revealed.

Captain Algren, Captain James Tiberius Kirk, Captain Jack Sparrow... these guys have never seen a fight they thought they should run away from. They suffer setbacks, sure, but these guys fight the good fight, and I admire that spirit.

Legends

I grew up with the legend of John Paul Jones, standing on the deck of the Bonhomme Richard bellowing to the captain of the Serapis, “I have not yet begun to fight.”

The long and glorious tradition that dates back, at least, to the Greeks at Thermopylae, and then on to the fictional Captain Jack Sparrow and the very real John Paul Jones, to the Prime Minister of England, Winston Churchill, who uttered those famous words, “Never give up, never give in”, to the 23rd century space explorer who beat the Kobayashi Maru — I admire the tradition of fighting on no matter the odds.

I know it’s more of a modern thing to predict failure so one can later point and say, “I told you so” but my makeup is different... my DNA rebels against that.

Virginians cross the Deleware River in the middle of winter on Christmas night in rowboats to attack the Hessians and turn the tide of the war, despite a string of defeats and low morale. George Washington had big brass ones.

As Knute Rockne would remind us, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

Things look grim

The Redskins have faced a run of very bad fortune. One only needs to look at the IR list to get a sense of how bad.

It started, probably, in earnest, back in preseason when the team lost Derrius Guice. Still, the Redskins were able to hold things together and win 6 of their first 9 games, but the first of several gut punches was when Brandon Scherff was lost for the season. That day saw the Redskins offensive line options diminish rapidly and dramatically. The kick in the teeth came when Alex Smith’s leg was snapped in the game against the Texans, and the final kick in the balls was when something similar knocked Colt McCoy out of the Cowboys game, and possibly the rest of the season.

Mark Sanchez was absolutely horrible in his start against the Giants on Sunday.

But in the third quarter, Jay Gruden put Sanchez on the bench and brought Josh Johnson into the game. Johnson, a 32-year-old journeyman quarterback who hadn’t thrown an NFL regular season pass since Barack Obama’s first term in office, seemed an unlikely hero, but it was as if a light switch had been turned on. The previously moribund offense came to life. The Redskins pushed the ball downfield. After being shut out for the entire game, the team punched in two touchdowns and a pair of two-point conversions.

After the game, Jay Gruden didn’t hesitate when asked if Josh Johnson would start this week against the Jaguars in Jacksonville.

The Redskins are about to start their 4th different quarterback of the season.

Let’s have a look at what James Dorsett had to say about Josh Johnson’s performance against the New York Football Giants:

Josh Johnson (Traditional Stats)- Sanchez was benched following the first drive of the second half, and rightfully so. Journeyman Josh Johnson replaced him for the final 29 snaps of the game.

These were Johnson’s first snaps in an NFL game since the 2013 season, and his 29 snaps eclipsed his total from 2012 and 2013 combined (16). This was also the first time he’s attempted a pass in the regular season since 2011. The 6 years and 363 days between his passing attempts are the most by any player since Doug Flutie went 8 years and 277 days between passes. Flutie had a much better excuse though, as he was busy winning three Grey Cups and three CFL MVP awards during his NFL hiatus.

On Sunday, Johnson completed 11 of his 16 passes for 195 yards, 5 first downs, a touchdown and an interception. He was not sacked once.

His 68.8% completion rate, 104.9 passer rating, 70.8 raw QBR and 12.2 YPA ranked 4th, 3rd, 4th and 1st by a Washington signal caller this year. Every one of those figures represented a new career high for Johnson (minimum of 10 attempts).

Josh Johnson (Rushing)- Johnson gained 45 yards, scored a touchdown and picked up 4 first downs, two of which accounted for all of the team’s third-down conversions, on his 7 carries against the Giants. He led the team in rushing yards, first downs and touchdowns, all of which were also career highs.

His 45 yards on the ground were the most by a Redskins’ QB since the start of the 2015 season. Robert Griffin is the only Washington signal caller who has gained more rushing yards in a single contest in the last ten years.

Redskins QB Roulette- Johnson will be the the fourth quarterback to start for the Redskins in 2018, which will mark the first time in franchise history that the team has started more than three different QBs in a single season. All four of the team’s quarterbacks this year-are 32 or older.

I’m unique

Back in 2012, I saw Josh Johnson play in a preseason game, and I instantly thought that the Redskins should sign him as RG3’s backup. He seemed to be the perfect guy to come off the bench for Griffin.

Griffin is 6’2”, 213 pounds and very mobile.

Johnson is 6’3”, 219 pounds and very mobile.

I still remember the sort of ‘shock and awe’ that Robert Griffin was able to drop on the New Orleans Saints in the Redskins season opener with rookie QB Griffin making his first NFL start. The offense was a fast-paced, mobile attack that used the threat of Griffin as a runner. The Shanahans devised an offense that cut the field in half, limited Griffin’s reads, and created stress on the defense by making them defend the Alfred Morrise run, the Griffin rollout and the pass on every single play.

I saw hints of that offense with Josh Johnson in the 4th quarter last Sunday.

Jay knows Josh; he coached him in 2013 when Johnson was with the Bengals, and it was apparent this past week that Johnson isn’t particularly rusty.

With another week to prepare, I wonder if Jay and Josh can put together a mobile, fast-paced offensive attack reminiscent of Kyle & Robert’s 2012 season. I’m not thinking that it’s a very sophisticated attack — just enough to make the Redskins competitive against the Jacksonville Jaguars, pretty much the only team in the NFL that has played worse football than the Redksins over the past several weeks.

The Wildcard Watch

Last year, starting in Week 9, I wrote a weekly article on the 5 o’clock club called the Wildcard Watch in which I took a look week-by-week at the teams that were in the wildcard hunt in the NFC.

I had planned to do the same thing this year starting in Week 12. I actually had the article all set up and ready to go, but in the wake of Alex’s injury, I decided not to publish it.

This late in the season, the wildcard hunt is mathematically open for a lot of teams, but the practicalities make it a fairly small group. In the NFC, we’re talking about 5 teams that are fighting for one spot.

Seattle has not actually locked up the first wildcard mathematically, but they have the 49ers and Cardinals left, so let’s say they probably win 10 games and secure the #5 seed.

That leaves the following teams chasing the 6th seed:

  • Vikings 6-6-1 host Miami this week
  • Panthers 6-7 host the Saints
  • Eagles 6-7 visit the Rams
  • Redskins 6-7 travel to Jacksonville
  • Packers 5-7-1 visit Chicago

That’s 5 teams that are struggling. Every team except the Packers is on a losing streak, with the Panthers having dropped 5 in a row and the Vikings firing their offensive coordinator after being shut out for 58 minutes by the Seahawks.

Amazingly, among these five teams, the Redskins probably have the best chance of getting a win in Week 15. The Eagles may be starting Nick Foles against the Rams, as Carson Wentz is reported to be suffering back spasms this week. As crazy as it sounds, if the Vikings fall to Miami, who just beat the Patriots, and the Redskins prevail against the Jaguars (who have lost 8 of their last 9 games, and may have Cody Kessler under center), then the Redskins could replace the Vikings as the current 6th seed.

Then the Redskins just have to play the final two games, one week at a time.

The 300

And then they appear. Thousands upon thousands of them. The Imperial Army marching relentlessly forward in strict formation. The Rising Sun displayed.

Katsumoto gazes at the awe-inspiring sight. His 500 samurai face a staggering 5,000 soldiers.

KATSUMOTO Tell me ... what happened to those three hundred warriors at Thermopylae?

ALGREN (a grim smile) Dead to the last man.

Don’t mistake my attitude as being blind optimism or simple stupidity. I understand the situation; I simply don’t admire capitulation.

Hail to the Redskins!
Hail Victory!
Braves on the Warpath!
Fight for old D.C.!
Run or pass and score—We want a lot more!
Beat ‘em, Swamp ‘em,
Touchdown! -- Let the points soar!
Fight on, fight on ‘Til you have won
Sons of Wash-ing-ton.

Poll

How do you feel about this week’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars?

This poll is closed

  • 69%
    I’ll be cheering for the Redskins to win, just like I always do
    (309 votes)
  • 18%
    I’d prefer they lose. Winning creates false hope, and Snyder needs to get the message that changes are needed, starting with #FireBruceAllen
    (80 votes)
  • 12%
    This season is over anyway, we might as well get the best draft position we can.
    (54 votes)
443 votes total Vote Now