EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Now, it’s hard to watch. Bad play and bad luck, bad karma and bad chemistry, bad offensive linemen and bad defensive backs are bad enough. When you add a bad match — an almost total disconnect — between Washington Coach Jay Gruden and Robert Griffin III, the quarterback he clearly shuddered to send on the field after Colt McCoy was injured in the first quarter on Sunday, you get big bad ugly.
As the New York Giants beat Washington, 24-13, you almost want to look away. You can make jokes if that helps: This dumpster fire of a season has now turned into an eternal flame.
Or you could be snarky after watching Washington’s offensive line allow seven more sacks Sunday. That’s 36 sacks in six games. A franchise that once bragged of the Hogs now features the Turnstiles.
You could shake your head at the obliviousness of players who barely seem to know what has just happened to them. Giants rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr., had 12 receptions for 143 yards and three touchdowns, plus a fourth scoring pass that was negated by penalty. So, somebody got torched, right?
“He made some plays. I made some plays,” said Bashaud Breeland, the talented rookie who fared well against the Cowboys’ Dez Bryant but got owned by Beckham. Anything you’d change, anything at all, like the four penalties on you for 70 yards, including taunting and a late hit? “Not really,” he said. Would any adjustments have helped? “Are you saying I need help? I don’t need any help.”
That’s what they all say, especially on this team that yuks it up in a largely cheerful locker room that, game after game, could be mistaken for an 11-3 team. Yet, in reality, this is the worst NFL product Washington has put on display in 50 years — losers of 19 of their past 22 games. And still in full “dive, dive” mode, heading for the depths.
Now, even plays that few have ever seen before go against Washington. A Griffin eight-yard scramble — called a touchdown on the field — looked like Washington would have a 17-7 lead at intermission. Instead, after replay, the call turned the touchdown into a touchback. Horrid luck follows losers like a stray dog.
Washington’s Santana Moss got so mad at the call that he not only got ejected but cost his team 30 yards in penalties on the second half kickoff. That meant New York had an almost risk-free chance to try an onside kick, which it recovered, leading a three more points. The game went from 17-7 to 10-10 — the kind of contest Washington knows exactly how to lose.
“I didn’t even know they’d thrown [Moss] out of the game until I came out for the second half,” Gruden said. The four yellow flags thrown in the air and the multiple officials giving him the heave-ho tipped off the 77,648 in attendance. But a whole coaching staff either missed it or didn’t tell the head coach.
This team makes you want to pretend that you don’t see what you actually see, hear what you really hear. The worst and the saddest sight of all is the apparently poisoned relationship between Gruden and Griffin. Especially since owner Daniel Snyder will be tempted, given any option, to side with Griffin — at least to the extent that he may insist Gruden and Griffin coexist next year in the same dysfunctional relationship. Bring ’em both back! What could be worse? So, for this team, that’s what will happen.
After this game, Gruden ran down Griffin’s play, damned him with faint praise and made it obvious he longs for a healthy McCoy to call the right plays, show off his offensive system and provide a coach-friendly sense of order.
“He played okay,” Gruden said of Griffin. Did his play improve his chances to start next week, especially since McCoy was knocked out by his first contact of the game? “Obviously he’s in the mix; he’s on the roster. . . . See what the deal is with Colt’s neck, that’s the priority. ”
So, if you are Griffin, or if you are Snyder, how crystal-clear is the picture now? Griffin comes off the bench, plays decently, had Washington ahead 13-10 in the third quarter and might have had them up more if not for that call at the end of the first half.
He’s on the roster?
Of course, Gruden said more positive things of Griffin. “He did some good things in the first half. . . . He competed, had some confidence, ran around and made some plays.”
But then he lowered the analytical boom. For Gruden, like most NFL coaches, converting third downs is right next to godliness. They are not all going to be third-and-short situations where the defense must defend every possible play.
What happens when you just have to have your quarterback drop back and execute? Can Griffin do it consistently? “It’s a challenge,” Gruden said. “Eventually, they’re going to stop those mobility plays, and they did. Eventually, we are going to have to drop back and throw.”
As might be expected in this alternate-universe team, quarterback and coach saw the same game in utterly different ways. Each self-serving? Gruden said that the officials “got the call right” on the Griffin touchdown-touchback, at least from the info he was given.
“It’s a touchdown in every game I’ve ever played in,” he said. “They decided it wasn’t today.”
What about that offensive style — daring at times but often doomed by third-and-longs that bedeviled Gruden. Griffin saw it, or may tell it to others, quite differently. “I thought the play-calling was on point. Get us out on the edge, let us make plays, [have] freedom,” he said. “Us,” of course, is “me.”
Meanwhile, McCoy lobbied in his own way. The first drive went so smoothly. It was going to be a “fun day,” he said. Then, thinking of the opportunity lost, he looked frustrated, almost distraught, as he headed to the MetLife Stadium exit. Would the game plan Gruden had cooked up for him have prospered if he’d stayed intact, he was asked?
No answer. McCoy, tears welling up in his eyes, smacked the handle of his suitcase several times and shook his head as he walked away.
Summary: Giants 21, Redskins 13
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