The problem with the Washington professional football team

September 24, 2013

As you know, one of my rituals every day is to check on the standings in baseball to see what the Nats’ chances are for making the post-season. For a while there, we had about a 2 percent chance, but the odds briefly jumped to 5 percent and then 7 percent as the Nats surged in August and September. then the odds eroded. Yesterday the odds dropped to 0.1 percent, which, by my reckoning, put making the playoffs a 1000-to-1 proposition.

This morning the odds have dropped to 0.

If you look at that link carefully, you’ll see what it really says: Zero point zero. They add the second zero after the decimal point to make sure you understand that this is flat-out zero, that there’s no wiggle room down there, not even at the quantum level. This is the kind of zero that tormented the ancient Greeks — something beyond measure,  extra-dimensional, a void outside of time and space, a screaming nullity. So I’m starting to feel like it’s hopeless.

Adam Kilgore has the postmortem. Bottom line:  We didn’t make the playoffs because other teams were better.

If that’s not unfair, I don’t know what is.

In any case, we move on, to football, and to the Washington Professional Football Team, which unfortunately has its own set of problems. Here are a few:

1. The offense. The speedy quarterback can’t run. Robert Griffin III has never made it past 3rd gear in three games. The offense is premised on an option play that is supposed to make the defense worry that the speedy quarterback will take off running. The problem is, the man is practically on crutches. Arguably he still ought to be in street clothes. As a writer for the WSJ puts it: “He gives off the distinct vibe of a guy who’s thinking about running. But in the end, he’s just standing in the backfield like a low-rent birthday party magician, trying to fool people with sleight-of-hand.”

2. The defense. Can’t stop anyone. Runners flatten our guys and receivers seem to be a foot taller than anyone in our secondary. In the first three games, the defense has given up 1,464 yards. How bad is that? Well, I want to be as delicate about this as possible, because I know these players and coaches are sensitive, and no doubt are doing their best. But giving up 1,464 yards in the first three games is the worst performance in the history of the National Football League. That’s according to the Elias Sports Bureau. This is a new standard. Of course, the game itself has changed to become absurdly offense-minded, and defenses in general are giving up yardage as though it were a land grab. But every team is playing by the same rules and right now Washington ranks 32nd out of 32 teams in total defense.

3. Special teams. We had a guy make a fair catch inside the 5-yard-line. Our punter ranks 31st out of 32 punters. In 10 kickoff returns we’ve yet to break one longer than 28 yards. Mediocre across the board.

4. The stadium. In 2007, Sports Illustrated ranked FedExField  near the bottom of the league in terms of “Fan Value Experience.”

5. The name of the team. It offends people. You can argue the point until you are blue in the face, but ideally a team would not have a name that some people consider to be an extremely offensive racial epithet.

You could probably add to this list. Some people, for example, have had issues with the owner. [See this great Neil Irwin post on Snyder et al.] The coach is not the cuddliest guy I’ve ever seen. Even the team surgeon has come in for criticism.

But I’m done for now, and turning my attention elsewhere. Hockey season is almost here!

Joel Achenbach writes on science and politics for the Post's national desk and on the "Achenblog."
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Joel Achenbach · September 20, 2013