Redskins vs. Saints: Shell-Shocked

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Nov 19, 2017; New Orleans, LA, USA; Washington Redskins head coach watches from the sidelines in the second quarter against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Disappointed, heartbroken and utter disbelief are the words that best describe the Washington Redskins versus the New Orleans Saints game. I’ve heard blame placed on QB Kirk Cousins, the defense and even chants of ‘Manusky must go.’ All of these sentiments are wrong. This loss and the dissatisfaction Redskins fans are feeling falls directly on Head Coach Jay Gruden. Once again, the moment was too big and/or confusing for Gruden.  I’ll explain.

First, take a look at the Redskins defensive unit. In every game this season, the defense put the Redskins in a position to win. The Redskins have been in a lot of close scoring, nail biters this season because of the defense. As a whole, the defense has played very well – good enough for a victory. There’s been a missed tackle here or a blown coverage there and we just can’t seem to recover. Even still, this Redskins defensive unit has played with a ‘bend, but don’t break’ mentality. The defense has made big momentum-changing plays: fumble recoveries, interceptions, sacks and tackles for a loss, even a touchdown. They’re providing everything you want from your team’s defense. I’ve seen this 2017 Redskins defense really get after teams, stop high-powered offenses and give short field advantages. Given the circumstances, you reasonably can’t ask for more production from the defensive unit. Manusky came here and put his name all over this Redskins defense. He uses aggressive play calling and he challenges his players both verbally and physically – and it is working. The defense bought into Manusky’s philosophy, resulting in better effort, determination and improved performance.  Bottom line, neither Manusky nor his defense are the problem.

Secondly, since the start of the season QB Kirk Cousins has done his job and done it well enough to win. How many dropped passes have this WR corps added to the stat line? I mean perfectly thrown balls that were inexplicably dropped. The offensive line is being held together with duct tape, yet Cousins finds a way to do his job. He threw for 322 yards on 22 of 32 attempts with 3 touchdowns. He used all of his targets: the TE’s, RB’s and WR’s, equally distributing the ball all over the field, keeping the Saints defense honest with their coverages. What more do we want from the guy? To quote Tom Brady’s wife Gisele Bundchen, “He can’t throw the ball and catch it too.” Cousins also makes excellent plays with his legs when necessary. He has shown his value, toughness and a selfless concern for his personal safety in the effort to win. His WR’s haven’t gotten to the level where he’s playing and therein lies the problem. As a QB, time is all you need to successfully do your job. We see Cousins isn’t given enough time. The man literally runs for his life on almost every play. Conclusion: Cousins’ play isn’t the problem.

Let’s discuss what the problem really is. It’s the Redskins shell-shocked head coach. Too many big moments have been missed when the ball is in the offense’s hands. Cousins should be given more autonomy instead of being coddled and stifled by Gruden’s play calling. Scoring opportunities have been lost due to bad clock management. Gruden has shown us ridiculous play call after ridiculous play call. He’s made some baffling decisions at the worst possible moment. Here’s an example: the 3rd and 1 play in the 4th quarter. Tyler Catalina was brought in as an extra lineman on the left beside Trent Williams, which was the strongest side to run on. What was the call? Run to the right, behind Morgan Moses who had just returned after hurting his ankle. Common sense says if you run on your strongest side, the probability of success is greater. Your right side isn’t 100 percent healthy, so penetration by the defense is more likely. This is what the head coach must consider when calling plays. The play caller in this situation has to be held responsible. Gruden sometimes seems to be caught up in the moment and loses his focus. It’s Head Coach Gruden’s fault that the Redskins approach the end of the 2nd and 4th quarters of games unprepared. I like Gruden strictly as a coordinator – not as a head coach. His record is 0 wins and 4 losses on home opening games and he’s 1 win and 3 losses after a bye week. More numbers for you: out of 58 games as Head Coach of the Washington Redskins, Gruden has a losing record with 25 wins, 32 losses, and 1 tie. This is over a 4-year period. During Gruden’s era, we’ve had 4 heartbreaking, disappointing, unbelievable years.

The next problem is Redskins team owner Dan Snyder. Over the course of Snyder’s ownership, we’ve seen the mediums and the lows, but no highs. Even when Marty Schottenheimer led the Redskins to a 10-6 season, he found himself booted from Redskins Park. Mike Shanahan had the team trending upward where we could actually see a change in the team’s attitude and effort. First he was handcuffed to the now infamous $100 million disappointment named Albert Haynesworth. Then Snyder completely handicapped the team’s future with RGIII who wasn’t worth all the trades and/or picks it took to acquire him and he’s not even in the NFL anymore. Some say Snyder is more hands-off now. I say he’s still too hands-on. Case in point: former General Manager Scot McCloughan who was relieved of his duties but the Redskins still followed his 2017 NFL Draft order to a tee (PAY THE MAN!). Fact is, we fans can’t change the front office. Let’s hope that owner Dan Snyder and team President Bruce Allen have seen the error of their ways and make needed changes, because this road isn’t working at all. The only time the owner should be seen or noticed is after a Super Bowl win during the trophy presentation. Let’s do better guys! HAIL to the Redskins! HTTR4LIFE.

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