Well before Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys ended, critics were hammering the Redskins for repeatedly calling (unsuccessful) fade routes to rookie Josh Doctson or Jordan Reed when they approached the end zone. After the game, Sonny Jurgensen put the criticism directly to Coach Jay Gruden.
“Coach, why do people fall in love with the short fade down at the goal line?” Jurgensen asked Gruden during the Redskins Radio Network postgame show. “We tried it three times!”
“Yeah, we tried it three times, and we’ll try it again three times next week if we have to,” Gruden replied, without smiling. “Just, we have very good matchups there, and if you have a running play called and they’ve got nine or 10 people in the box, it’s tough to get a yard sometimes. So we’ll figure out ways to get a yard running the ball down there, but we will continue to work our matchups one-on-one if need be.” (Watch the video here.)
Jurgensen, needless to say, was not the only one who didn’t like the fade calls.
“I think they were a little too hell-bent on throwing fade routes,” Brian Mitchell said on the radio postgame show. “You know, I understand they say Josh Doctson had two receptions in practice that were remarkable, but I don’t think the pass was right and I don’t think they threw the ball the proper way. If he has the jumping ability over somebody, you throw it back shoulder up high and let him go up and get it. But they kept trying to lead him up to the corner, and it’s like they didn’t want to change currents. I think I heard someone say the coaches are stuck on the game plan. It seemed like that, like we ran it in practice, we’re gonna definitely run it in this game.”
“You have that new weapon, you have that new car, you want to show it off,” Santana Moss said on CSN Mid-Atlantic’s postgame show. “And I feel that they tried to show it off a little too much. If it’s not there, it’s not there. I feel that the balls could have been thrown a little different or a little better for him to have a [chance]. But trying to throw fade routes from five yards in, unless you’re throwing that ball up in the air or behind on one of those stop patterns, it’s not going to work. And I’ve been seeing that year in and year out. We just can’t throw the fade pattern, no matter who’s the guy out there trying to make the catch.”
“This wasn’t the game,” Clinton Portis said on the radio show. “It’s almost like the coaches had a game plan, they had a plan and they was determined to stick to it instead of adjusting. We don’t do well with adjusting to what the defense offers us. You’ve got Jordan Reed, you’ve got DeSean Jackson, you’ve got Pierre Garcon: those are gonna be my first options. You’ve got Matt Jones making great run plays to get into the red zone early in the game and all of the sudden you take him out of the game when you get in scoring position and you put Chris Thompson in. So again, we take our guys out of the game, other teams learn how to use their guys.”
“How about three fade routes to Josh Doctson? Why not four? Why not five?” Chris Cooley asked on ESPN 980 Monday morning. “That was an interesting decision that we had.”
“How about mysterious? Baffling?” Kevin Sheehan responded. “The fade, to me, was nauseating … I mean, let’s think in terms of higher probability plays than two fades.”
“Throw the fade on first down, and now you’re committed to throwing the ball on second and third down,” Cooley went on. “And by the way, [Kirk Cousins] may throw the fade well to Jordan Reed or Pierre Garcon. To a guy he hasn’t thrown it to very much? Bad timing.”
“There is no dumber and more overused play in sports than the lob fade to the end zone,” Michael Wilbon wrote on Twitter. “Most QBs can’t throw it w precision and most WRs being targeted don’t have the size advantage to make it work. And yet team after tram after team keeps calling it and forcing it…unsuccessfully more than not. Redskins get what they get after throwing two MORE of those dumb [bleep] fades that were not close…then a pick.”
Gruden went into more detail during his postgame news conference.
“Well, a lot of times we see a one-on-one matchup,” he said then. “We like to take a chance with a fade or back shoulder fade. Sometimes when the box is loaded, we don’t feel like we have the numbers in our favor, and that’s something we need to work on and just plow it in there from the five, I think in hindsight. … But we did have Jordan Reed, Josh Doctson, Pierre [Garçon] — you know, great one-on-one matchups outside. I like to think I’ll take advantage of that any day all day. We just didn’t win them today.”
Fans were not as convinced.