It’s Week 3 of this NFL season, and that’s where we are with this outfit. All the existential questions are legitimate before October even arrives. That Washington lost to the Bears isn’t overly surprising, because Washington could lose to anyone, anywhere. That it was 28-0 in the second quarter — en route to a worse-than-it-sounds 31-15 loss — is unacceptable, even as it fits right in with how this team generally performs on a national stage.
So here we are, with Washington as the only 0-3 team in the NFC, and it’s already not a normal NFL season here. In other cities, the endless days between games are devoted to dissection. With Washington, there’s no bit of minutia — a particular play-call, a specific personnel choice — worth discussing.
What is this season even about? It feels over before it has even really ramped up, and the direction of the franchise — perpetually in question — presents itself with hot coffee and a warm muffin, a fresh topic for a Tuesday morning around the water cooler.
That scene, in Washington: Hey, the Nationals’ bullpen actually held onto a lead! Looks around. Takes sip. So, what time did you turn off the Redskins game?
How does this keep from unraveling?
“Keep doing what we do,” Keenum said.
Uhhhhhhh, no. Wrong answer, Case. The fans of this franchise are perilously close to tuning out the remainder of the 2019 season, which is remarkable given there are 13 games left. So only things that matter for the future — meaning not next week at the New York Giants, but next year and beyond — should be discussed in depth this week:
What are they doing with Trent Williams, the holdout left tackle?
Who is the quarterback?
Who is the coach?
The first one is easy: Trade Williams. It should have been done already, because if he wanted to play here, he would be here. He’s 31. His injury history isn’t great. You’re essentially playing chicken with the guy who had been your best player solely to prove you can “win,” whatever that means? Please. There are teams that need left tackles. Get a draft pick and move on.
The second one: At some point, the quarterback has to be rookie Dwayne Haskins. What is this season even about? It’s not about keeping Keenum for any future with this team. He is a caretaker who hasn’t won a game and, on Monday, didn’t take care of the ball. On his scoresheet are five — count ’em, five — turnovers: three picks and two fumbles.
The only reason not to turn to Haskins would be in the interest of his health and safety, given the state of Washington’s line. The Bears, with a fearsome defensive front, treated Keenum like a pinball, sacking him four times. Exposing Haskins to such manhandling could scar him for life.
Yet the job is his.
“I think the most important thing is we have to have some continuity,” Coach Jay Gruden said. “I can’t be changing people every five minutes here. I’ve got to give Case an ample opportunity to play with these new guys.”
At 0-3, why? You drafted Haskins for a reason, and it wasn’t to hold a clipboard so Keenum could oversee losses. Think about the energy the Giants got from inserting rookie Daniel Jones as their starter Sunday. This franchise needs reasons for what’s left of its fan base to trudge out to Landover or, at minimum, turn on the television. Those who chanted “Let’s go, Haskins!” in the second quarter Monday night understood one way to make that happen.
That brings us to Gruden, who has, we presume, at least hours remaining on the job. This has been the predicament all season with a man who is coaching for his job: Gruden must do what is best for this week, which sometimes goes against what is best for the future.
Regardless of the quarterback, Gruden’s team was not prepared to compete Monday night. Keep in mind the Bears had struggled offensively in a home loss to Green Bay and a win at Denver. For 30 minutes Monday night, Gruden’s troops made them look like the 1999 St. Louis Rams.
Yeah, yeah, I know: Gruden’s an offensive guy by trade, and Greg Manusky is his defensive coordinator. Why Manusky is still here, I have no idea, but given the macro issues we’re talking about, does it even matter? Either way, a head coach who leans toward one side of the ball doesn’t get to completely abdicate responsibility for the other side. The defense allowed Chicago’s Mitchell Trubisky — a pedestrian, troubled quarterback who hadn’t thrown a touchdown pass this season — to complete 25 of 31 passes for three touchdowns. Mitchell. Trubisky.
That is all happening on Gruden’s watch.
“I’ve never seen a coach win a game,” defensive lineman Jonathan Allen said.
Professional thing to say. But it says here that if Washington loses to New York next week, Gruden won’t be around to coach the following game against New England.
Maybe ol’ Jay would prefer it that way. He has already lasted longer than any other head coach under Daniel Snyder’s ownership. There would have to be some relief in his dismissal, because the rest of the league would understand the difficulty of the working conditions Gruden faced.
That brings up one more massive question about this franchise: Who would even want this job if and when Gruden is relieved of it? An up-and-coming coordinator such as Kansas City’s Eric Bieniemy or Dallas’s Kellen Moore? The coaching fraternity is a grandmother’s sewing circle, and all the stories about working for Snyder and his team president, Bruce Allen, have made their way around. There’s only 32 NFL head coaching jobs. They come with life-changing money. Still . . . here?
Maybe removing Allen from the equation could help. Would Snyder be able to convince a star coach that he had cleaned the front office of its czar, and he was ready to build a real operation with new leadership?
Whew. That’s a lot for a Monday night in September. But here we are, yet again. The franchise loses, and the mind wanders.
And here’s the scarier part: Maybe Williams will be traded. Maybe Haskins will become the quarterback. Maybe there will be a new coach.
Will that bring hope for the Washington Redskins? Or will it just usher in a slew of different characters to wash, rinse and repeat? The 2019 season is going to be a slog. Is there a path to make sure 2020 — or ’21, or ’22 or beyond — isn’t, too?
For more by Barry Svrluga, visit washingtonpost.com/svrluga.
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