Does he fire Gruden, as two people with knowledge of the situation said Snyder was considering last week if the team fell to 0-4? Does he fire defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, whose unit gave up 389 yards and 24 first downs to a rebuilding Giants team with a rookie quarterback, Daniel Jones, making his second career start? Does he do nothing and hope something changes?
For now, everyone remains.
So Gruden was left walking between an interview room and the locker room mumbling about an early gamble that didn’t work on a day when little did. He shook his head. He thought about all the injured and missing players and seemed unsure himself how this year can fix itself.
“Let’s see here. Well, the first explanation is Brandon Scherff, Chase Roullier, Jordan Reed, Trent Williams and Terry McLaurin are on the sidelines watching the game,” Gruden said, naming five injured or holding out starters after he was asked why his offense didn’t work Sunday. “That’s the first explanation. Second explanation is the guys we are playing aren’t executing as well as they should be, and I’m calling a crappy game.”
That appeared to sum up an offense that was 2 for 11 on third downs, gained just 176 yards and got only eight first downs. But as running back Chris Thompson later said, “I’m looking at everything, not just Jay.”
There is no single explanation for what went wrong and for what continues to go wrong. Even when things go right, they go wrong. For the second straight week, the Redskins had a wide receiver get wide open for what should have been an easy touchdown on the game’s first play only to have Keenum overthrow him.
On the Giants’ first drive, the Redskins stopped New York on third down deep in Washington territory only to have Gruden accept a holding penalty, thinking he could push the Giants out of field goal range. Instead, New York got 16 yards on third down, converted a short fourth down and scored all the points it needed six plays later on a pass from Jones to running back Wayne Gallman.
Gallman, who also had a touchdown run in the second quarter to make the score 14-0, was supposed to be a reason the Redskins had a good chance to win this game — primarily because he wasn’t star back Saquon Barkley, who is out with an ankle sprain. But Gallman and four other Giants rushed through giant holes in Washington’s defense for 164 yards.
They ran with such ease, New York was able to overcome Jones’s two interceptions — gifts the Redskins could do nothing with because they couldn’t move the ball.
With Keenum missing several open throws, Gruden pulled his starter for Haskins, the rookie the coaches have not wanted to play because they didn’t think he was ready. And while Haskins did help get a few first downs, he mostly struggled as the Giants’ pass rush swarmed through yet another makeshift offensive line.
His final numbers were not pretty, especially compared with those of fellow first-rounder Jones, who had only eight incompletions. Haskins completed 9 of 17 passes for 107 yards, was sacked twice and had three interceptions, the third of which was returned 32 yards by Jabrill Peppers for a touchdown that made the score 24-3 and all but ended any hope the Redskins would come back.
Keenum bluntly said he was “surprised” to be benched.
Haskins said he “didn’t execute the way I wanted to.”
He added: “The good thing about it is that it hurts and there are going to be brighter days tomorrow.”
“I’m just worried about tonight,” he said.
Which could have been an answer to a number of questions.
“You’re just not handed the keys because of where you are drafted,” Gruden continued.
As to who will hold the keys to what doors at the team facility, that was to be determined Monday. The players did not blame the coaches, but frustration is setting in. Many, especially on the defense, believed this was going to be a strong team and had remained encouraged following the season’s first two defeats. Sunday was different, though. Even defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, who attacks each defeat with a vow to play better, brushed out of the locker room with a flurry of words in Spanish.
After most of the players had left, running back Adrian Peterson put his shoulder on Haskins’s shoulder and whispered in his ear. Encouragement, Peterson later said.
“He’s going to be good,” Peterson promised.
Peterson, though, is the team’s past. Haskins is its future. And in the nearly empty locker room, there did not look to be a steady bridge between the two.