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The 5 O’Clock Club: Since we seem to be out of quarterbacks, we might as well fire the coaches

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

NFL: Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-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.

Before I begin my article, I want to share some detailed remarks from Jay Gruden’s most recent press conference:

“[Colt McCoy] had successful surgery this morning.

The other injuries; (Jonathan) Cooper obviously had a bicep tendon tear he will require surgery, [So] Jonathan Cooper will be out.

(Tony) Bergstrom has a high ankle sprain. He will be out a couple weeks at least.

Ryan Anderson had a hamstring strain and will probably miss a week.

Fabien (Moreau) had a knee contusion, came back in the game a little bit and then (Quinton) Dunbar, (Matt) Ioannidis, (Trey) Quinn – we’re waiting to see how they are.

But as far as the backup quarterback, yeah we have four games left and to think that we’re going to find another quarterback and put a whole new game plan together again is quite difficult.

Sanchez has a very minor understanding of our offense. He just got here not too long ago, so we’re going to try to work with him and fit in with what he knows and branch off what the Giants do a little bit. But the backup quarterback, whoever it will [be], [we] have to just give him a small group of plays that he can understand and function with.

I think when [Mark Sanchez] first got here, in his first game as a backup against Dallas, he probably had about 10 percent of the playbook, and then, this game here, he probably had about 20 percent, maybe.

We just have to get him a package of plays that he is very comfortable with – that he can handle – and then try to get him to get us in the right play with things that he can understand and do.

[As far as the offensive line is concerned], the big thing is we just have to figure out what to do with Ty. [Nsekhe] filled in at guard and did an OK job.

So, do we put him at guard full-time or do we want to leave him as a backup tackle because Morgan is banged up and Trent is playing with a cast on his hand?

If you put him at guard and something happens, then who is your backup tackle? We have another guy in-house here (Austin Howard), so [the question of] who is your left guard and right guard kind of puts us in a pickle. If Ty takes one of them, we can put Luke (Bowanko) in there at the other one — assuming that Chase (Roullier) is OK. Chase banged up his knee a little bit, so, we just have to figure out the best possible five guys that we can put on the field, and then figure out what they know and what they can handle.

The value of stability

If asked, I would have argued that continued stability among the coaching staff would be my priority.

At least, I would have said that last week, and certainly at mid-season, before Alex Smith broke his leg.

But the argument for stability seems to have evaporated now.

Alex Smith suffered a gruesome leg injury in November. Maybe he’ll come back, maybe he won’t, but with $71m in guarantees, he’s got a lot of motivation to try.

Maybe he’ll see the field in 2019. In fact, with today’s medical and rehabilitative techniques, I suspect it’s more than likely that he will. But we’ve seen how slowly most quarterbacks with serious leg injuries return to form, and — let’s face it — Alex’s form wasn’t all that great in 2018.

Even if Alex makes it back, chances are good that he won’t play the preseason. He might miss training camp. He certainly won’t be on the field at OTAs and mini camps. There will be limited opportunities for him to really move forward in Jay’s offense in a the way that might have been hoped for if he’d have stayed healthy.

Before Monday, I felt pretty much okay with the fact that the ‘Skins could plug Colt McCoy in as a replacement. Colt is a veteran who has been with Jay Gruden for 4 seasons. Chances were pretty good that Colt could act as a fairly capable placeholder until Alex was ready to go.

Of course, that was before Colt broke his leg too.

Now, Jay is talking about — perhaps just dreaming about — a quick-healing situation for Colt where he could be back on the field for the playoffs, so the Redskins are not going to put McCoy on IR before the Giants game.

But let’s be serious for a moment.

It’ll be 2019 in about 5 weeks. The draft is less than 5 months away. The Redskins’ starting quarterback, at the moment, appears to be Mark Sanchez, who was signed by the Redskins on 19 November, a scant two weeks ago.

I thought I’d drink a little

I’m reminded of one of my favorite scenes from the movie A Few Good Men, when Tom Cruise’s character, Lt. Daniel Kaffee, informs his co-counsel that his only real witness had just committed suicide: “Anyway, since we seem to be out of witnesses, I thought I’d drink a little.”

Like the fans in the poem Casey at the Bat , Kaffee’s co-counsel, Lt. Commander Joanne Galloway clings to that “hope which springs eternal in the human breast.”

She tells Kaffee, “I think we can win.”

Kaffee’s response?

“Then maybe you should drink a little.”

When hope doesn’t spring eternal

I’m generally optimistic when it comes to the Redskins. For me, its usually apt to say that hope springs eternal.

But, really. The 2018 campaign is over for the Redskins.

Alex Smith is in traction somewhere; Colt McCoy is still wincing in pain from Monday night. Brandon Scherff, Shawn Lauvao and Jonathan Cooper (torn pec) are three guards who are gone for the year. A quick review of Gruden’s remarks on the offensive line, given above, shows that the replacements for the replacements at starting guard are now hurt, so the team is working out new replacements for them.

The IR list is impressive: Arie Kouandjio, Paul Richardson, Rob Kelley, Robert Davis, Troy Apke, Derrius Guice, and Geron Christian were all draft picks or starters for this team. Cassanova McKinzy, Cam Sims and the guards and quarterbacks already mentioned round out an large group of (mostly offensive) players who aren’t taking the field for the Redskins until next year at the soonest.

It’s all over bar the shouting.

To borrow from Daniel Kaffee some more, he tries to explain the facts of life to Joanne Galloway:

Jo... I think you have to prepare yourself for the fact that we’re gonna lose.

We’ll keep doing what we’re doing, and we’ll put on a show, but at the end of the day, all we have is the testimony of two people accused of murder.

Jo, we’re gonna lose. And we’re gonna lose huge.

That describes the situation the Redskins are in now. There are four more games, but the team has no hope of success. They still have to go out and “put on a show”, but it’s largely pointless now. The Redskins won’t make the playoffs — and if you aren’t gonna make the playoffs, then, really, what’s the point?

The Redskins are gonna lose. And they’re gonna lose big.

I’ve “logged out” of 2018 and shifted my sights to 2019 and beyond

I was “all in” on the Redskins as 10-win division champs this year. The strong defense, the running game, the low turnovers, the field position — all of it. I was fully bought in. I put all my chips on 11 Red.

When Alex Smith went down with a compound fracture, I just shifted my belief to Colt McCoy.

But that went ‘snap’ in the second quarter of the Monday Night game against the Eagles.

The Redskins don’t have any chance of making lemonade out of the current crop of lemons that 2018 has produced.




We’re gonna lose, and we’re gonna lose huge.

If I could cancel the last four games of the season, I would. Something will take place on the field, but I doubt it will resemble good NFL football.

So, it’s time to start ‘game planning’ the 2019 season.

The albatross

The problem is, with Alex Smith’s $71m injury guarantee and the severity of his injury, the front office has no flexibility. Alex will be paid to be here through 2020, and there’s no cap relief to be had by cutting him, and no one is going to trade for him.

If I thought it were possible to get around his injury guarantee and cut him in February for a cost of ‘just’ $55m, I would. But it isn’t possible to do that. His $71m in guarantees is now an albatross around the neck of the franchise.

Outside of Colt McCoy, the team has no viable option for putting a good quarterback on the field in Week 1 of the 2019 season, though, if things go as I expect them to go in the remaining 4 games, the Redskins will have a fairly enviable position in the April draft.

Like Daniel Kaffee, the Redskins can keep doing what they’re doing and put on a show. They might trade for a Bridgewater or a Mullens to give everyone a bit of hope, or the illusion of hope, but, at the end of the day, they’re gonna lose... and they’re gonna lose big.

With Alex still around but less than 100%, a struggling, gimpy 2018 offense isn’t going to look any better in 2019, even if Alex is on the field. And, believe me, the guy with the $23m per year guarantee isn’t going to be riding the bench any longer than the doctors say he has to. Jay will have to play Alex Smith as soon as the doctors say he can.

The rest of this season is like a desert wasteland, and any hopes for a resurgent 2019 are like a distant mirage now — insubstantial, ephemeral, and — ultimately — unreal.

Five years

I like Jay Gruden, and five years of Jay Gruden coaching has brought a certain stability and a modicum of success, but the sum total of all the decisions made by the front office and the coaches is this: We have a broken starting quarterback who will get $71m, with a broken backup quarterback, and a guy who has had less than a dozen practices to learn the Gruden offense.

The 2018 dream is over. The 2019 possibilities are bleak. The Redskins won’t be able to field a relevant team again, with hope of winning the NFC East and winning in the playoffs until 2020 at the earliest.

And that’ll be too late for a lot of the Redskins’ key players. Here are the ages of several key Redskins in 2020:

  • Zach Brown 31
  • Mason Foster 31
  • Ryan Kerrigan 32
  • Josh Norman 32
  • Ty Nsekhe 35
  • Jordan Reed 30
  • Chris Thompson 30
  • Trent Williams 32

The Redskins can go out and put on a show, but they can’t win this season, and they won’t win next season.

It’s a black hole.


The Chinese word for “crisis is frequently invoked in Western motivational speaking as being composed of two Chinese characters respectively signifying “danger” and “opportunity”. This idea, while popular with motivational speakers, seems to be incorrect, but, since it is well-known, I’m going to rely on it anyway.

The Redskins face a crisis for the rest of the year, and that Alex Smith contract means that there are no quick fixes.

It’s time to move to the “beyond” part of “looking to 2019 and beyond”.

It’s time to see the opportunity that this creates for the organization.

The Redskins need to refresh the roster, increase cap space, and replace the coaching and front office leadership. This sudden current crisis gives the team the opportunity it needs to do that.

The time has come, the Walrus said...

The classic poem, The Walrus and the Carpenter is a fascinating story in which the reader gets to see both sides of a situation. For the Walrus and the Carpenter, the situation is eating a delicious dinner. For the oysters, who are about to be eaten, the situation is a bit more grim.

Well, it’s a grim time for to be a Redskins fan, but this time of crisis brings opportunity.

Suddenly, the organization has a window of opportunity — a ‘pink pass’ of sorts. No fan really expects much this year, and expectations can easily be tempered next year as well.

The front office can say they gave it a shot. They pushed all the chips in and bet on RG3 in 2012, and lost. They strung out the game with Kirk Cousins for a while, but couldn’t turn that into a winning hand. They tried to draw to an inside straight with 11 Red, but now they’ve busted.

The fact is, the front office and coaches got us to where we are, and now Dan can use it as an opportunity to hit ‘reset’. Alex may not be going anywhere any time soon, but other people could be.

For Jay Gruden, certainly; most of the assistant coaches, probably; and Bruch Allen, hopefully, the time has come (as the Walrus might have said).

It’s time for the Redskins to do what 7 or 8 teams do nearly every year, and what the Packers and Browns have done already this year — it’s time (or almost time) for Dan to clean house.

Fire Jay Gruden. And hopefully, fire Bruce as well.

I’m not suggesting that Gruden be fired because of the losing record the Redskins will finish with in 2018, though that’s as good a reason as any to point to. He’s handled (another) rash of injuries fairly well, and for 9 games this season, the Redskins showed promise.

But the Redskins are in an Alex Smith purgatory from which they can’t escape. Next season is already done. Jay is gonna have to go sooner or later. Better for everyone if it’s sooner.

Rip the bandage off.

Get all the pain over with in one ugly horrible season.

The advantages

Ideally, Dan would give Bruce his walking papers at the end of the season, at the same time he terminates Jay. Bruce, at least, deserves to be gone.

A General Manager could be hired (or promoted from within).

That GM is gonna want to hire his own coach.

That coach is gonna want to find his own quarterback.

By taking action now, the Redskins would marry the low-expectation ‘honeymoon’ year of the new coach with the low-expectation 2019 season that the franchise has in front of it.

Rip the bandage off.

Get all the pain over with in one ugly horrible season.

Set everyone’s sights on 2020.

Heck, we can call it 2020 vision.

2020 Vision

  • Give up on 2019 right away.
  • Find a GM - hire the new head coach and staff.
  • Spend the 2019 off season doing what Seattle (and to some degree, Kansas City) did last off season — trade aging veteran players with value for younger, cheaper players or draft picks.
  • Use the draft capital in the 2019 draft to get a select number of high-value players at positions of need; I’m talking about a few key players that can help the Redskins win games for 6 to 10 years. Trade the rest of the 2019 draft picks for 2020 draft picks.
  • Spend 2019 teaching the core remaining players the new offensive and defensive schemes.
  • In the 2020 draft, go all in for a franchise quarterback — the new Pat Mahomes — who can sit and learn for several games, or an entire season, behind Alex Smith, and then take over when he’s ready.
  • Cut Alex at the end of the 2020 season and move forward with a strong, playoff-ready team that can own the division for the decade of the 2020s.

The Redskins play the final game of the 2018 season on Sunday, December 30th. The following day — the Monday after the season ends — is New Year’s Eve.

It seems a good day to begin 2020 Vision.

That’s the day that the next era of Redskins football should begin.


What should happen to Jay Gruden?

This poll is closed

  • 23%
    Give him the Mike McCarthy treatment; he should be fired Sunday night if the Redskins lose to the Giants.
    (187 votes)
  • 51%
    He should be fired on 31 December, the day after the regular season ends.
    (416 votes)
  • 25%
    He should return in 2019 as the head coach of the Redskins.
    (203 votes)
806 votes total Vote Now


What should happen to Bruce Allen?

This poll is closed

  • 66%
    He should be fired today
    (501 votes)
  • 23%
    He should be fired on 31 December
    (179 votes)
  • 9%
    He should be fired on Christmas, because, somehow, that seems worse than being fired on New Year’s Eve
    (74 votes)
754 votes total Vote Now