Turn away. Make holiday wreaths, perhaps by knotting up your old Washington NFL jerseys, then twisting them into a burgundy-and-gold seasonal garland. Or maybe have one eggnog too many, so you can forget the score at the end of the third quarter Sunday at FedEx Field: New York Giants 40, Washington Redskins 0.
If you must, find some ancient footage online of a Washington team that was worth your time and attention. Watch Art Monk run his famous “dodge” route on third and nine, or just Google “Darrell Green catches Tony Dorsett from behind.”
But don’t watch the gruesome mash-up of bad luck, bad play, bad coaching, bad owning and bad karma that has become this “Redskins” team that trailed the lousy, injured Giants 34-0 at halftime — the worst midway margin since the homely joint opened — on the way to a 40-16 loss to fall to 6-7.
“We pretty much got kicked in the jaw,” cornerback Josh Norman summarized of a team that now only has playoff chances in the purely mathematical sense.
Those who come to this team’s home finale in three weeks run the risk of seeing things they may wish they could forget. As Washington jogged off the field at halftime Sunday, thousands booed. Some fans, in the team’s own jerseys, saluted the Redskins, holding up just one finger and waving it at them.
It wasn’t the finger for “We’re No. 1.”
“They had something to be upset about,” said Norman, who criticized the team’s fans earlier in the season for booing bad performances. “Respect that.”
“We came in at halftime and said, ‘It’s us against everyone,’ ” said right tackle Morgan Moses, who added that, as far as cheers, “we got family for that.”
Nobody watches horror movies around the holidays. Those are for Halloween. So, by the same logic, this joyful time of year is not the appropriate moment to watch the thoroughly mediocre NFL talent assembled by inept Bruce Allen, overpaid by D.C.’s Grinch, Daniel Snyder, and coached by Jay Gruden who, in his fifth year, still can’t get 11 men to stay onside at the same time. Once, he had 12 men on the field — not a bad idea when your top two quarterbacks have broken legs.
Some memorably awful days mark a watershed. This game, with the 5-8 Giants playing without their best offensive performer (wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.) and their best defender (safety Landon Collins), felt like one of them.
For many seasons, fewer and fewer Washington sports fans have invested their time, energy and money in a franchise that has won only three playoff games in a quarter-century. Just as many have asked, “Is this franchise losing its fan base?” The Redskins played a total-team-quit game, even factoring in their many injuries, that screamed, “This team deserves to lose its fans.”
“It’s tough to deal with. That product was not a reflection of the work that went into preparation,” Gruden said. “However, it did look bad.”
It looked a lot worse than bad. It looked unprofessional, as if, once the score reached 10-0 — perhaps too big of a deficit for this demolished offense to overcome in a month of games — everybody panicked or packed it in. The Washington defense, good for eight games, has few injuries or excuses. Yet Giants star rookie running back Saquon Barkley was Sa-Gone with a totally untouched 78-yard touchdown run and had 170 of his team’s 227 rushing yards on just 14 carries.
Of the Giants’ first score on an easy interception return for a nine-yard touchdown on a deflected pass by Mark Sanchez, Gruden said: “It was like a punch in the gut to everybody. . . . I don’t have an explanation [for what followed].”
To Gruden’s credit, he showed more fight than his team when asked whether there is a “disconnect” between his evaluation of his team’s preparation (good) and, several times this year, the team’s actual game performance (bad).
“Yeah, there’s a disconnect. We have a quarterback who just got here [after Colt McCoy broke his fibula six days ago], and we have two offensive guards who got named starters yesterday, so there’s a disconnect there. There’s three of our starting 11 [offensive] guys that just got here a little bit ago. So there’s a disconnect there,” said Gruden, flaring perhaps for the first time in five years. “. . . We also lost [tight end] Jordan Reed in the first quarter.”
“Nobody quit,” defensive end Ryan Kerrigan said. “In the NFL, sometimes things start snowballing — all one way. . . . This is our job. If you quit, you won’t be doing it long.”
Over the past 20 years, when Snyder’s teams have suffered their worst mortifications — few equal this monstrosity of sacks (five) and penalties (15) — the owner has responded, sometimes quickly, by firing somebody, often as a scapegoat. When asked whether he felt his job was in jeopardy, after four straight losses with the possibility of a 6-3 season turning into a 6-10 eyesore, Gruden said: “My job is in jeopardy every week. So I just have to do the best I can. Get these guys ready.”
Aside from Allen, the team president who could be fired without any player noticing for months, Snyder should have a care before using his trigger finger.
What this franchise sometimes discovers when it fires coaches is that it can’t lure anybody who’s as decent as the guy it fired. That’s how it got stuck with Jim Zorn, the quarterbacks coach who was hired to be offensive coordinator but got elevated to head coach because nobody else would take the job. Maybe one day Gruden will get inducted into Canton because, the past four years, he’s 30-30-1 while working for Snyder and Allen.
The tiny glimmer of light in this game was the cheerful, scatter-dash play of quarterback Josh Johnson, who started the day as the backup to the backup’s backup. Johnson had not completed a pass in the NFL since 2011. His career quarterback rating of 57.7 would counsel further caution in expecting great things. But he used his 4.4 speed to scamper his way to an eight-yard touchdown run, and he completed 11 of 16 passes for 195 yards, including a 79-yard score to Jamison Crowder.
“Johnson got our face lifted up back up off the ground, because that is where it was,” Norman said, adding, “This too shall pass” — seldom a good sign in the NFL.
Leaning against a pillar in the losing locker room, the 32-year-old Johnson couldn’t stop smiling and laughing. His black ball cap bore the name of his personal charity: Fam 1st. However, the name was hard to read. The letters were not only printed upside down, but also backward — a fine trick for getting people to ask, “What does that say?” so Johnson can pitch his good works.
Upside down and backward is also how you must look at the Redskins’ future these days, if you want to dream up some optimistic scenario. 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.
Or, you could take the message of this gruesome day: Wise up.
And turn away.