The 2017 Redskins have reached a fork in the road with two clear paths.
To the left is a sign-post labelled “0-3”. This leads to Chaos Town. In Chaos Town, nothing is off the table – nothing. The highly probable and most notable outcomes of arriving in Chaos Town, is a mass firing of coaches and the departure of the teams first franchise QB in a quarter-century. A cloud of complete dysfunction will descend, and the Redskins will be thrown right back to the dark days that at one point not all that long ago, appeared to be getting smaller in the rear-view mirror. Anger and apathy will be the primary feelings and emotions washed across the faces of the fan-base. Hope will be sparse.
To the right is a sign-post labelled “3-0”. This leads to Sanityville. By stark contrast, Sanityville is an altogether more peaceful and composed place to be. Far from perfect – the team will at least be able to stand back and make rationale decisions, backed up by the fact one of the more injury-plagued teams in the league by a considerable distance arrived home with a pretty respectable record. The coaches, or at least the majority of the most important ones, will live to fight another season. The Quarterback, while still probably in the eyes of most will be favored to leave, will certainly be far more likely to stay than if the team had arrived in Chaos Town. A strong finish will see the rebirth of the most tantalizingly teasing of all football mindsets – hope.
A 1-2 or 2-1 finish muddies the path a little, literally. The team goes off-road and ends up somewhere in between these two extremes endpoints. And the irony here is that perhaps this of all outcomes is the worst. If the team is going to move forward, it needs clarity. It needs strong decisions based on the research and knowledge of the people in the Front Office. No, those people haven’t exactly endeared themselves to the fan-base, nor do they have much, if any, of a buffer of respect to fall back onto when making these decisions.
Redskins fans are in the worst place of all right now – they have no answers. No direction. They are stuck between two paths and there is no indication which direction the team will go. It’s very difficult to invest emotionally in a team which isn’t giving you much of a clue here. Chances are, doing so is only going to hurt you.
I’d rather deal with anger than apathy.
I’ll admit, during the second half of the Chargers game I was mostly paying attention to Rams v Eagles game on the other screen. That’s Apathy 101. And I’m not sure I’ve ever passed through the anger stage quite so quickly either. Fully pumped up for the Cowboys game 10 days earlier, some 90 minutes of football-time later I had already grown futile of being angry. It became evidently clear to me I was investing more emotion into the team than a lot of the playing personnel. They just didn’t seem to care.
Then there’s the Head Coach. I like Jay Gruden, and given the choice I would bring him back next season. But his lackadaisical, ho-hum attitude is utterly infuriating at times. I don’t doubt his tactical knowledge. I don’t doubt if he lost his job today, he’d be lined up for OC interviews elsewhere tomorrow. But there does seem to be a key element of being the Head Coach that leaves a lot to be desired. The best Head Coaches don’t mope in post game press conferences. They don’t wave the white flag before the game is over, despite the improbability of a win. They exhibit passion and great desire for winning. Or perhaps more pertinently – an overwhelming loathing for losing. Gruden doesn’t do appear to do either. And if we infer this is the way Gruden feels, then the question has to be asked – how do his players feel as a result of this? Then the dominoes keep falling; if the players show these feelings on the field, the fans realize they’re wasting their time by being angry.
The thing is, the Redskins are fully capable of beating all three teams left on the schedule. If the coaches get them adequately prepared and motivated, 3-0 is well within reach despite injuries. At 8-8 we could breathe something of a sigh of relief, better armed for what will still no doubt turn out to be a turbulent off-season. Those three wins would make things much more straightforward.
But this is the Washington Redskins. Nothing is ever straightforward.