Washington Redskins fired Coach Jay Gruden, center, this week. A new coach is just a start for the team, which for years has insisted that it was close to being a winning team. But the organization wasn’t being honest with itself. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

One of the hardest things in life and in sports is to be honest, truly honest, with yourself.

Too often adults, kids and even sports teams fool themselves into thinking they are better than they are. They believe with just a little luck or some small change they could get straight A’s or even win a championship. Sometimes you have to make bigger changes to get better.

That brings me to the Washington Redskins, who fired their head coach, Jay Gruden, this week.

For years, the Redskins have been telling their fans they are close to being a winning team. Earlier this year, the team president, Bruce Allen, said Washington was just a game or two away from making the playoffs.

The Redskins are not being honest with themselves or their fans.

The truth is the National Football League (NFL) is designed to keep the competition among its 32 teams close. The player draft, team schedules and the way the teams share money help give each team a chance.

Good NFL teams, however, beat the system and dominate several opponents every season.

Since the beginning of the 2014 NFL season, the New England Patriots have defeated a regular-season opponent by 15 or more points 36 (!) times. During the same five-plus seasons, the Redskins have beaten a regular-season opponent by 15 or more points only seven times.

That’s a big difference, and it should give Washington fans a better — and more honest — sense of where the team stands in relation to a championship team. (The Patriots won three Super Bowls during that time.)

Any clear-eyed look at the Redskins reveals big problems. First, the team does not have a proven NFL quarterback. Case Keenum is on his fifth NFL team. Colt McCoy is a career backup. And Dwayne Haskins is an unproven rookie.

The offensive line is a patchwork, and the team has no playmakers at wide receiver or running back. Last season, the NFL had 21 players who gained more than 1,000 yards catching passes. The Redskins did not have a single receiver who gained even 600 yards.

The defense was supposed to be stronger this season, but it is allowing an average of 30 points a game.

The bottom line is the Redskins are a long way — not one or two players but dozens of new or improved players — from being a consistent winner.

The entire Redskins organization, from the owner to the new head coach, will have to face that hard truth and make some big changes for the team to get better.

Perhaps the team can rebuild — baseball’s Houston Astros lost more than 100 games a season from 2011 to 2013, and now they are a powerhouse. But I’m not sure the Redskins will, because they have been fooling themselves for a long time.