Cherish that small moment, 45 yards between rookie quarterback and second-year running back, because there is nothing in the broader view that is worth remembering. In an unwatchable 34-17 loss Sunday to the New York Jets — who are merely putrid, as opposed to whatever’s worse than that — the local football team officially went through the looking glass again. There is no more forlorn frustration about the present — or even about the past few seasons. That’s from a time, long ago, when there were realistic goals that went unattained.
Now, there is only the space between numb reality and comic relief. You’re either indifferent about this 1-9 outfit, which is a scary space for the owner to find his fan base, or you’re laughing at it, which is worse. Shrugged shoulders or the butt of jokes. Quite a choice. The franchise is damaged, unrecognizable in any way from the product on which so many people around here were weaned. That touchdown in the fourth quarter from Haskins to Guice? The first for this team since Oct. 13 — back when the Nationals hadn’t even won the pennant.
“Life is hard,” Haskins said. “Got to work harder.”
Such innocent words from such an innocent face. If only he knew all the players who, over the past two decades, suffered indignities such as those on Sunday — when Washington trailed 34-3 early in the fourth quarter — and then pledged to work harder. If only it were as simple as being more diligent. If only.
Frame it this way, on this day: Washington has lost its past nine home games — more than a full season’s worth. Only one of those losses was a one-possession game. Washington lost five by at least three scores. In the year-plus since last winning on its home field, its average margin of defeat is nearly 16 points.
So if you’re leaving FedEx Field and want to beat the traffic, make sure you wait till the end of the fourth quarter.
For people to leave, though, they have to show up in the first place. The club announced an attendance Sunday of 56,426. The empty seats no longer seem jarring. The fraud of a generations-long waiting list is so passé. If you care, wait for the local television rating later this week. It’ll just be the latest data point in the long, slow, almost imperceptible slog to irrelevance.
“It’s obviously been a really tough season,” said been-here-forever linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, who knows from tough seasons. “There’s no other way around it. We were 3-13 in 2013, but right now, it’s pretty darn tough.”
It gets tiring to think about how massive any turnaround will have to be and how unlikely that seems under the current leadership of Daniel Snyder, the owner, and Bruce Allen, the team president. (Sorry, can’t help it: the 10-year anniversary of Allen’s hiring is coming up next month, and his record as an executive here is now 60-96-1, a winning percentage of .385, which averages out to be 6-10 year after year after year.) Sorry, sorry. Put those aside for a while and go through the absurdities of this game against the Jets — who, by the way, entered the matchup 2-7.
Only two teams awoke Sunday having scored fewer points than the Jets — Washington and the only team Washington has beaten, Miami. Yet on the Jets’ first possession, they never so much as faced a third down. Seven plays, 75 yards, a couple of Washington penalties. You got the sense right then and there the missed extra point didn’t matter. At all.
Two possessions later, Washington’s defense held well enough, forcing a field goal attempt. But defensive back Jimmy Moreland roughed the kicker. The Jets happily took the points off the board, and two plays after that, they scored.
New York 13, Washington 0. Around these parts, that’s called a five-possession game.
The best play of the day was Haskins’s moving-left, stepping-up, flick of a throw deep downfield to rookie wide receiver Terry McLaurin, about the only player worth forking over the donation of a couple of canned goods it would have cost you to get in. Really nice play — except Brandon Scherff was called for holding, so it came back. And then Donald Penn went ballistic at the refs, and Scherff took off his helmet and was called for unsportsmanlike conduct, and first and 10 at the New York 12 became first and 25 at the Washington 6.
“Our mind wasn’t in it today,” Guice said.
Keep going. They had back-to-back second-quarter possessions that began at the Jets’ 16- and 27-yard lines. Total points: three. It led to the following description of a Washington scoring drive: four plays, minus-10 yards, 1:26 of possession time. Yuck.
Go further. The Jets entered the game averaging an NFL-worst 231.3 yards. Washington allowed them 400.
On Haskins: Eh. He has been here since the offseason, started his second game Sunday, had a bye week for which to prepare and still looked too overwhelmed too frequently. The remaining six weeks will be a referendum on the quarterback and the coach, I guess. Who is that again?
“Certainly not the outcome we expected or desired,” said Bill Callahan, the guy filling the chair since – who was that other guy again? Oh, yeah, Jay Gruden. They fired him.
So it’s Callahan for now, Callahan facing fewer and fewer questions about the specifics of any one loss because the only sane response is to throw up your hands and put your energies elsewhere. As Haskins waited his turn at the lectern late Sunday afternoon, Callahan was still explaining the particulars.
“What is he still talking about?” Haskins said, mostly to himself.
Maybe it was those touchdowns that people perusing Sunday’s NFL scores might think saved face. Those who still care, whoever they are, realize that whether you look at Sunday specifically or step back and drink it all in, that isn’t close to the case.