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The 5 O’Clock Club: Sunday Special - processing my feelings

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

Washington Redskins v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The 5 o’clock club is published several times per week 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.

I don’t normally do a 5 o’clock club post on Sundays since there’s plenty of NFL news to talk about on Sunday mornings, but I felt like I wanted to get some things out in front of Hogs Haven members before the Miami game... before we learn how the Redskins responded to this week’s turmoil.

My experience of being a sports fan in general and a Redskins fan in particular has taught me that being a sports fan isn’t a matter of following a rigid doctrine; it is, instead, a messy mash up of emotion, fanaticism, belief, desire, aspiration, identification, denial, pride, embarrassment, principle, logic and irrationality. In other words, I find that I can have views based in fact, but skewed by belief, or that I can hold two sets of beliefs that are in complete conflict without having to abandon either set.

So it is that I find myself, in the wake of Jay Gruden’s having been sacked, with Bill Callahan as our interim coach, the team at 0-5, a Monday exposure to Bruce Allen having just reminded me of what a slimeball shitheel he is, and with a game against the Dolphins scheduled for this afternoon, feeling awash in a sea of emotions about the Redskins that has strong currents and rip tides that threaten to push me out to sea or pull me under while I strive to swim...somewhere.

I thought I might dump some of those feelings out in this unusual Sunday 5 o’clock club posting — not trying to make sense of it all; not trying to reconcile the conflicting feelings; not trying to give a “call to action” for anything specific; just trying to data dump a bit. You can be my collective Sunday morning therapist if you choose to read the dog’s breakfast of thoughts that is about to follow.

Dan & Bruce

I’ve spent most of the past two weeks writing ugly things about the owner and President both individually and as a unit. I haven’t been alone; rather, my voice has been one of the smallest in a huge chorus of criticism for the leadership of the franchise.

In my writing, however, I’ve come to realize that I, personally, see Bruce as the greater evil. I think Dan is incompetent to run a sports franchise, and I suspect he’s emotionally unwell, but even his greatest critics usually throw in the caveat that Dan really does want to build and sustain a winning franchise; he just doesn’t know how to do it. That leaves open the possibility that he can hire and enable the right person at some point.

Bruce is clearly and simply a failed politician. When I say he’s “failed”, I recognize that he has far surpassed me and many others in his personal accomplishments. He has wealth and status. But he has failed at achieving his primary mission over the past decade. He was supposed to build and sustain a roster and a culture of competitive (at a minimum) and winning (as a regular occurrence) football. He has done neither.

I used to work in the financial services industry, and when I lived in Oz, I was a paid director for a few companies. In both capacities I had what is called a “fiduciary duty” to clients and shareholders. That meant that I had the obligation to look out for their interests above my own.

In my view, Bruce should have a sort of fiduciary duty to the fans — not as a legal obligation, but a practical one. His job as President should be to create a franchise that we can all be proud of from year to year. He has failed at that miserably, and I get the sense that his motivation is much darker than Dan Snyder’s lack of understanding about how to build a team. I get the sense that Bruce Allen simply is always busy protecting himself and his own power base, lying and hustling. While he feels like he’s ‘winning’ personally by looking out for Number One all the time, he continually exposes himself as all liars and hustlers do. The only person still buying Bruce’s shill is his boss, Dan Snyder.

If the thrall can broken, there’s a chance to save this franchise, even if Dan retains ownership.

Jay Gruden

I have a number of reactions to Jay Gruden. The first and strongest reaction is that I like the guy. I feel like I’d love to have Jay as a next-door-neighbor, and I can’t find it in myself to feel good when bad things happen to Jay.

I do not, however, think Jay is a good head coach. I don’t think I need to recount any of his failings. I’ll just say that he was here too long, and the injuries in 2017 and 2018 gave him the cover he needed to get “one more year to prove himself” — more than once.

Oddly, I rationally thought that Jay should’ve been fired at the end of the 2018 season, and I saw the absolute necessity for a change these past two weeks, but I irrationally didn’t want to see Jay fired. I was rooting for him to miraculously turn it around — because I find him likeable. Of course, I keep hoping that Homer Simpson will figure it all out, but he never does either.

Jay as a head coach was a bit like Josh Doctson as a wide receiver. He’s shown skills in the past, but probably lacks the temperament to accomplish the job at the NFL level. The very latest that Jay should have lost his job was at the end of the 2018 season, and the shitshow that we are in the middle of right now is largely due to the team’s lack of decisiveness with regard to Jay at the end of the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

Dwayne Haskins

I’ve got no idea how good or bad Dwayne Haskins will be as a player in the NFL. He is a Redskin now, so I hope for the best. I didn’t want the Redskins to draft him (or any quarterback) this year because I specifically didn’t want to see the team where they are right now, with a fired coach, a rookie QB, and an in-between waste of a season.

The franchise should have synced the drafting of a new quarterback with the hiring of a new coach, with the coach being hired before the player was drafted. Ideally, the team would have made a three-level change following the Alex Smith injury: Replace Bruce Allen, let the new guy hire a new coach, let the two of them agree on and acquire a new franchise quarterback.

That’s all shot to shit now. The best we can do now is to hire a coach that will be “all in” on the development of Dwayne Haskins, though I note that when Jay was hired, he was supposed to be “all in” on the development of Robert Griffin. This has the feeling of an old vinyl record that is continually skipping back to play the same groove in the vinyl again and again.

Mostly I just feel sorry for Haskins, and hope things work out for him.

Jordan Reed

Man, I loved watching Jordan Reed play!

The move to IR probably signals the end of his NFL career. It’s sad that his talent couldn’t find more opportunity for being showcased, but I think most Redskins fans will be relieved to see him get out of the game while he still (hopefully) has a normal life left to live.

As a football strategist, it’s hard to feel that Bill Callahan loses much with this move. It’s been a long time since Reed has seen the field. For the past 5 games he has been taking up a valuable roster spot.

The move to IR allows the team to put another player on the 53-player squad allowing for development of someone. With Vernon Davis still in concussion protocol, this is a good week for the Redskins, against a Dolphins defense that is ranked dead last against the run and giving up over 175 rushing yards per game, to line up blocking tight ends (or extra linemen) and ride Adrian Peterson all day long.

With luck, Vernon Davis will be back next week to take on the 49ers, who traded him away in his tenth season.

I’m sure every Redskins fans wishes Jordan Reed good health and a happy life. He’s banked a lot of money, but paid for it with a lot of damage. It’s probably past time to retire and enjoy a less physically demanding life with all those millions.

Bill Callahan

I’ve seen comments and tweets from people who are welcoming Bill Callahan’s comments and immediate changes as being a good start and a breath of fresh air, especially in contrast to Jay Gruden. I won’t say they’re wrong, but I haven’t reacted as well to what I’ve seen.

My reaction to Bill Callahan is more visceral than rational.

Prior to Monday, I don’t recall ever having seen Bill Callahan speak on camera. When I did see him this week for the first time, it was about 2 hours after I had watched Bruce Allen’s “damned good culture” press conference. The first thing that struck me was that, standing behind the microphone, Bill Callahan looked and sounded just like Bruce Allen.

Right away, that was a problem for me.

The reports that he was recruited to the Redskins by Bruce, supported by Bruce, in regular conflict with Jay, and promoted by Bruce after Jay was fired have all made me suspicious of Bill as being part of the problem instead of the solution.

I’ve watched every press conference he’s had so far, and my distaste for him has grown deeper. I panicked a bit when I watched him say this:

What I learned from Rex, was it wasn’t really about what you average per carry, it was really about rush attempts and pass completions. So, that’s one of the league statistics that we all look at is rush attempts and a lot of times, your rush attempts and completions if you have more than an opponent, really you’re in good shape to win the football game. It’s a very high percentage-- I think it’s over 80 percent.

Bill Callahan seems to be saying that, in a cause and effect relationship, if you run the ball more often, your chances of winning improve.

I think he and Rex Ryan have tried to do a bit of amateur analytics here and come away with the wrong end of the stick. The relationship between running attempts and wins is mostly driven by game script. The team that has a big lead runs the ball to run out the clock; the team that is far behind passes more to save the clock and get chunk yardage. There is correlation, but not causality — at least not the causality that Callahan described in his press conference.

I was also unimpressed with Bill’s contradictory answers at a more recent press conference:

On if he suggested the recent practice changes to former Head Coach Jay Gruden:

“No, no, not necessarily.”

On if he made suggestions to Gruden about practice in the past:

“Oh yeah, I have. And I definitely have helped him.”

These were back-to-back questions in the press conference. Bill Callahan is either not listening or he’s lying. Either way, it’s a troubling trait for a head coach.

I actually think that the things Bill is talking about in his press conferences to date are good ideas.

A return to fundamentals is good.
A focus on reducing penalties is good.
A focus on greater leadership is good.
Efforts to improve conditioning are good.
The desire to establish a clear “identity” for the team is good.

But I don’t trust the man right now, in a similar way to the way I don’t trust Bruce Allen.

If he can pull off a 2018 Gregg Williams coaching the Browns type of performance and take the 0-5 team to a respectable record of, say, 8-8, then he will probably have earned the right to be considered for the permanent head coaching position, but my personal desire, sitting here before the Miami game, is to see more of a fresh start for the team in 2020.

My guess is that if the team can put up 6 to 8 wins to close out the season, then Callahan will be retained as HC and O’Connell will be retained as OC (assuming the team still controls his contract). The primary argument for this will be to maintain consistency — primarily for the sake of Dwayne Haskins, in whom the team has a significant draft investment.

The problem with consistency is that it means that Bruce Allen remains in place, perpetuating the twenty years of dysfunction into a third decade.

Speaking of that Miami game

I know all the reasons why genuine Redskins fans would want the team to lose this week and for the rest of the season. It would put pressure on Bruce Allen, which nearly everyone would be in favor of. It would put a lot of pressure on the current coaching staff, and likely lead to more sweeping change, which I would mostly be in favor of. It would lead to better draft position, which is valuable.

But I have a deeply instilled sense of what sports mean, and at the heart of my love for sports is genuine competition. Players, coaches, teams and organizations should strive to win every time. As a fan, I value the effort of a less skilled athlete who competes even when he is outmatched, and that applies to teams as well.

Competing and winning are habits. Giving up and losing are habits too. Sports should be a vehicle for learning perseverance.

The 1981 Redskins were 0-5 and 1-6. They finished 8-8. One could see that as a wasted opportunity to gain draft position, but I remember it as the beginning of the Joe Gibbs era of football — an era defined by finding a way to win.

The 2001 Redskins were 0-5 before reeling off 5 straight wins and finishing 8-8. That team could have been the beginning of the Marty Schottenheimer era if Dan hadn’t felt the need to win a pissing contest with Marty.

Fighting back against adversity is often the beginning of greatness, and, in my mind, is much more valuable than picking 5 or 10 spots earlier in the draft. Not having a second round pick simply makes this more true.

The Redskins have a chance to break the losing cycle today with a win in Miami. Hell, they’re even favored to win the game!

People say that there are two more “winnable” games on the schedule (Jets & Giants), so the ceiling is 3-13.

I think that assumes that the Redskins continue to play the way they played in the first five games. Actually, I figure that if they continue to play that way, they will probably lose 15 or 16 games this season.

But, what if Bill Callahan’s efforts pay off? What if the team gets a win today in Florida and it gets the monkey off their back?

What if the Redskins, now with a win and some confidence, start to reward Callahan by reducing the penalties, running the ball effectively, and playing 60 minutes of good defense?

What if they could squeeze out more wins than losses in the final 10 games?

I’ll root for that.

I’ll root for that even though I know it means that it improves Bruce Allen’s chances of surviving the current crisis. I’ll root for that even though I realize it could lead to Callahan taking on the HC role as a permanent gig in January. I’ll root for that even though it will cost the Redskins draft position in April.

I’ll root for that because that’s how 50+ years of playing and watching sports has wired me. I’ll root for that because I believe in competing and striving and never quitting.

I said at the top of this post that sports fandom involves irrationality and contradiction — at least it does for me.

I will not be cheering the Dolphins on to victory today. I will be in my customary spot on the sofa, hoping that the Redskins play the way they did in the first half of the opening day game. I hope they slaughter the Dolphins 56-6 and spend the next 6 days fired up to play a home game against the 49ers.

If the Redskins somehow lose to the Dolphins today, I’ll feel a sense of disappointment and embarrassment, but I’ll be back on my sofa next week cheering for a Washington victory.

I hope and expect to see the Redskins players doing their best to secure a victory when they walk on the field.

I can live with losing; I abhor lack of effort.

It’s all part of my irrational wiring.

Go Skins.




What do you really want today?

This poll is closed

  • 51%
    A Redskins victory, just because
    (80 votes)
  • 48%
    A Redskins loss to drive home the need for change (and maintain draft position for 2020)
    (76 votes)
156 votes total Vote Now