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We’ve done this enough together that Sunday’s abomination started to feel familiar. By the time the Giants were increasing their domination to historically embarrassing proportions, I was in some sort of been-here-before trance, and suddenly it was the end of 2016, or the end of 2014, or the end of 2013, or the end of 2011, or the end of 2009. The circus music played in the background, the rage tweets freely flowed, and the stadium devolved into its natural state: empty, angry and orange.
Some fans bolted in disgust — the stadium, the Internet, the football universe. The most casual of onlookers showed up to peer at the carnage. Those who can’t quit flooded the Internet with demands: that Dan Snyder fire Bruce Allen, or fire Jay Gruden, or fire Greg Manusky, or fire someone, anyhow. The national observers who feel a certain glee when this franchise struggles appeared en masse, dunking on Snyder and Allen over and over again, a procession of dudes in wrinkled khakis wringing every last drop of schadenfreude out of that 34-0 halftime deficit.
Because yeah. It was 34-0. At home. Against a team going nowhere. Without its two best players. In front of a booing crowd. And a forking lot of Giants fans. It was the largest home halftime deficit the Redskins have faced since at least 1940. Step right up, ladies and gentlemen.
I don’t know where Sunday ranks in the broader universe of Snyder-era embarrassments; the bar is so high that unless the players were weeping in the end zone while Snyder rent his garments and contractors in Cowboys hard hats showed up to remove more seats even as furious fans erected a 17-foot high parking-lot sculpture made of cold hog dogs fused together with Burgundy and Gold Bacon Nacho Cheez, reading “HAIL NO,” I’m not sure this would even make the top five worst moments. Of the past decade.
That said, it was plenty embarrassing. Sunday turned this from a “whatever, blah” Washington season into an old-school Redskins cataclysm, the kind of afternoon when my phone becomes unusable because too many people are spewing hot bile at once for my Twitter account to even function. So the question is, who is to blame? Some candidates.
Bruce Allen: When he was hired, Daniel Snyder said “Bruce Allen is a proven winner.” It's been almost nine full seasons. The Redskins have a cumulative record under Allen of 58-82-1. (That ranks 27th of 32 NFL teams). They've played in two postseason games, losing both. (Twenty-three teams have at least one playoff win in that span.) They also endured embarrassing breakups with Mike Shanahan and Scot McCloughan, went all in on Donovan McNabb and RGIII, failed to make any sort of decisive plan with a quarterback whose first name Allen never learned, saw attendance and television ratings plummet, had to gradually de-construct their stadium, embarrassed one of their Super Bowl heroes with a botched response to a controversial signing, and alienated a new generation of potential fans that now has other local winners to support.
Other than that, it’s been pretty good. Also, great trade for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Haha.
But don’t trust me. Ask Jerry Brewer:
Is Snyder prepared to dump his toxic right-hand man? If he’s not, it doesn’t matter what Washington does in response to this new low. Unless there is accountability at the highest level of the front office, the franchise won’t change. It will keep throwing darts with its eyes closed. ... For Snyder, the most pressing matter should be whether he can find any reason — other than he’s easy to talk to and Snyder trusts few people — to justify keeping Allen in charge of the franchise. It should take less than five minutes to find the answer.
Jerry Brewer, The Washington Post
Jay Gruden: He’s in a terrible situation. He’s working for a franchise that has no track record of success, is now on his sixth starting quarterback in five seasons, has endured back-to-back years filled with calamitous injuries that would make Job feel fortunate, and probably can’t help it that his face on the sideline is so often frozen into that look that screams “I’m on a first date and just realized I didn’t bring my wallet, and also forgot to brush my teeth, and also I’m not wearing any pants.”
But still. He’s on his fifth season. He's on his third defensive coordinator. His team is good for two total no-shows a year. He’s never built a running game. His defense is healthy, and filled with first-round picks, and couldn’t stop a mechanical frog missing half its batteries. He vouched for Mark Sanchez as the best option available, before benching him for a guy who took an Uber from 2011 to FedEx Field and needed video games to learn with whom he'd be playing. Also, Gruden recently had to explain to his unhappy players why it was necessary for them to practice a bit extra on a week when half of them needed directions to Redskins Park. Doesn't exactly scream “respect of the locker room.”
At least his team is disciplined; Sunday they committed 15 penalties, their most in a regulation game since 1971, when the president was a guy named Nixon, who was similarly disciplined.
The defense: D.J. Swearinger is a genuine leader, in the sense that he will gladly lead everyone underneath the wheels of the bus. The Alabama Wall can’t get funded and is basically just a fence. (With a gate.) (And a broken lock.) Josh Norman . . . remember when he used to be on the cover of national magazines and stuff? Manusky would probably be okay if he got to face Mark Sanchez, but other than that . . . Over their past five games, the Redskins are fifth-worst in the NFL in yards allowed. If that’s the strength, don’t ask about the weakness. Just read these details.
Mark Sanchez: Just kidding. Although he really was horrendous. And Josh Johnson seemed marginally functional in relief. But look, I’ve talked myself into a lot of things in pursuit of Washington football optimism. I’m not talking myself into Josh Johnson. Though if he wants to sing the “Curious George” song, I’d listen.
Adrian Peterson: Just kidding. Although take away that one run against the Eagles, and in the past six games Peterson has 74 carries for 195 yards, a 2.6 average. It doesn’t help that he’s running behind an offensive line made up of some random dudes who answered the team’s help-wanted Craigslist ad, but still. Maybe a season plan that requires your key offensive weapon to arrive in August isn’t the greatest plan.
The fans: Hey, who gave Josh Norman my publishing password?
Seriously: Anyone who stayed till the end deserves free tickets to the Eagles game. (Wait. No. No one deserves that.)
Me: I sort of bought that whole “winning formula” thing midway through the season: an above-average defense, a quarterback who refused to make mistakes, a poor division. Maybe? Man, was that dumb.
The injuries: Not many teams will thrive after their top two quarterbacks break their legs. It really is a decent excuse. But only to a point. Because your backup quarterback has never been able to stay healthy, and you chose not to mess around with a third QB, the Bengals were just competitive on the road against one of the league’s best teams while using Jeff Driskel, and today’s bile would not be quite so neon green if yesterday’s score was 21-17. But it wasn't. It was the worst home first half in at least 78 years.
Daniel Snyder: I don’t want to pile on. (But.) (But.) (But.) (But.) I was thinking the other day about one of the last in-depth interviews he gave, to the Associated Press’s Joseph White, in the summer of 2009. “It’s been a learning experience for me, and it’s been great,” Snyder said of his first decade of NFL ownership. “I started off awfully young. I feel like I’m finally coming into my own.”
Look, at this point, more than half of Snyder’s tenure has been after Joe Gibbs left, which was the era when the owner supposedly matured, and learned, and starting coming into his own. How’s that working out? Has the second decade been better than the first?
“The most likely future, since Snyder has patented the formula, is to fire the coach after the disappointing season, hire somebody who’s no better, rip up the roster and, after two to four years of records that average out to 6-10, you’re right back where you are now,” Thomas Boswell wrote Sunday night. “Or, you could take the message of this gruesome day: Wise up. And turn away.”
As should be obvious, plenty of Washingtonians have already taken that advice. Sunday felt familiar, but it also felt a bit different than the end of Zorn, or the end of Shanahan. There are fewer die-hards to be outraged, fewer believers struggling with disbelief, a bit less rage, a bit more acceptance, and a few more people who can’t will themselves to care.
Who’s to blame for that? It isn’t a very long list.
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