The Redskins’ latest misstep — a blowout loss in Los Angeles that officially ended any playoff chances — delivered plenty of ugly numbers.
Washington allowed more than 480 yards while gaining fewer than 210 for the first time since 1978. Washington gave up at least 30 points for the seventh time this season, something the Redskins had previously done only in a season three times in franchise history. Washington suffered back-to-back losses by at least 17 points for just the third time in a decade. (It also happened in the nightmare campaigns of 2009 and 2014). And Washington clinched a nonwinning record for the 17th time in 25 seasons.
Whether you want to attribute all this to talent or injuries or coaching or effort or voodoo curses is up to you. But for the second game in a row, at least some viewers noticed something more seriously amiss than just a lack of talent.
“I was wondering, will this team go out and play like it meant something to ’em,” NBC Sports Washington analyst Brian Mitchell said after the game. “And as I look at this thing, I think that it didn’t mean something to a lot of people on this football team. … I have the mind-set now — and I hope every player and every coach on that team sees this — if you don’t give a damn, why should I? And I think a lot of fans are starting to feel that way.
“To me, either the message is getting lost or not being given, or the players just don’t listen to the message anymore,” Mitchell said. “Because I can’t see two weeks of performances like this and [think] players really care about the message, or they’re hearing a message. I can’t see that.
“Because from the beginning of this game, they were moving lethargic,” he went on. “They didn’t seem to have any type of effort, want-to-go, no sense of urgency. And that bothers me. Listen, I just made a comment that I could wake up in the morning at 5 o’clock and I’m ready to fight somebody or fight back if I have to. But these guys are getting the hell beat out of ’em, getting embarrassed. And nobody seems to want to come out fighting. That’s a problem to me.”
Coach Jay Gruden took responsibility for all of this after the game, which is fine. And Mitchell’s fellow analyst, Trevor Matich, took a slightly different slant, arguing that grown men shouldn’t need pep talks or messages from other grown men to get motivated.
“They need to be competitive, and not need somebody else to instill that competitive desire, and that’s what frustrated me about this one,” Matich said. “I saw too many missed assignments. I saw too many guys quit before a play ended because it was getting close to ending instead of fighting through the whistle, and I saw a team that didn’t look like it really mattered today.”
Both men, though, are suggesting that the problem is something larger than injuries and talent. And if they’re correct that the effort was sub-par … well, that isn’t good, anyhow. Which led the entire postgame panel to offer up an homage to the Westfield High Bulldogs, who on Sunday beat Oscar Smith for a third straight Virginia state title.
“I watched the Westfield High School Bulldogs — who have won two state championships in a row — but they didn’t come out complacent,” Mitchell said. “They came out knowing they had to really do it. … I understand it’s high school. But I saw a bunch of little kids give me more effort than I saw [from] these grown men that are getting paid millions of dollars. That bothers you, when you’re looking at it. I’m like, this is a much better game. …
“It’s my job to watch these games here,” Mitchell said. “But I look at effort. When I talk about sports, I don’t care what sport it is, if you don’t know baseball, you don’t know basketball. If you are an athlete, you know the heart of a player, you know the psyche of a player. And when I watched this game, I’m not impressed by the psyche of these players. Because you shouldn’t need somebody to tell you to play. It’s your job. And when they get on the football field, I need to just see a little bit more fight, a little bit more effort.”
Players, of course, will say the same thing.
“The older guys should know how to prepare; it shouldn’t take Jay to prepare us,” D.J. Swearinger said after the game, while describing the team’s recent practice habits as “blah. (Really.) “And as leaders, we should trickle it down to the guys who don’t know how to prepare. … But we need to do something to figure this out.”
Indeed. Earlier in the season, if there was a sunny takeaway from almost every loss, it was that the team seemed to have admirable resilience. Now, even that’s being questioned.
“We want to talk about something good, and these guys just don’t give you anything to really hold on to,” former wide receiver Santana Moss said on NBC Sports Washington’s post-post-game show. “So it’s up to these guys to really show more. Now they know they’re out of the postseason, and it’s like now what do you have left in you? Are you going to play these last three weeks and show this city, show the organization, show these people that write your checks that it means something to you. And so far, the last two weeks, it hasn’t seemed that way.”
Does the team need more effort? Did the Redskins come out complacent? Does this reflect poorly on the coaching staff? Is the issue instead that the Redskins don’t have enough good players — to dominate when they’re healthy and to survive when they’re not? None of these are great questions to be asking with three weeks left in the season.
Neither was this one: The postgame show asked viewers to vote on whether the team has “checked out” for the season. Seventy-four percent voted yes. There are three weeks left in this season.
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