By DERON SNYDER
It’s always something with Washington’s NFL franchise.
Rarely is it something good.
Welcome to the non-competitive portion of another season gone off the rails. The Skins have suffered back-to-back blowouts and four losses in their last five games. Injuries or not, the team’s effort and preparation have come under fire, raising the temperature under coach Jay Gruden’s seat.
Remember when he signed a contract extension in March, a deal that would keep him in Ashburn through 2020? Many observers deemed it a rare, savvy move for the organization. Washington had lost offensive coordinator Sean McVay, was about to fire GM Scot McCloughan, and was bungling another round of negotiations with Kirk Cousins.
Locking up the coach was supposed to provide a semblance of continuity, proof that owner Dan Snyder could commit to more than his wallet. After all, Gruden had just led the team to unprecedented heights in Snyder’s tenure – back-to-back winning seasons.
But now, this season has cratered like most of them and Cousins is closer to leaving than staying.
By DERON SNYDER
Bradley Beal has always been one of the NBA’s best shooting guards … if you asked him.
Most observers haven’t thought of him quite as highly, especially as he battled injuries after Washington picked him third overall in 2012.
He had a smooth and sweet stroke but nothing else stood out besides his confidence-bordering-on-cockiness. The Wizards gave him a max contract in 2016 anyway, partially because they had no choice, and he repaid them with a career year, setting personal-bests last season in games, scoring, assists and field-goal percentage.
The performance made him a near-consensus pick for the Eastern Conference’s biggest All-Star snub.
After his outing Tuesday, Beal can safely book a trip to Los Angeles for the festivities this season.
By DERON SNYDER
The Nonsensical Football League.
That’s what the NFL really stands for. Because trying to make sense of its judgment will drive you crazy.
Commissioner Roger Goodell & Co. long ago proved they don’t have a clue about meting out punishment. Suspensions have been scattershot. Rulings have been arbitrary. Logic and reason have been nonexistent.
Whether the subject is domestic violence, bounties, weed, or air pressure, the NFL usually gets it wrong, often in spectacular fashion.
There’s no better proof than events that transpired during Week 13.
It was among the most flagrantly dirty hits ever. It was one player clearly and maliciously attempting to injure an opponent. It was a violent, premeditated attack, personal and repulsive.
I’m not talking about the block that Pittsburgh’s JuJu Smith-Schuster put on Cincinnati’s Vontaze Burfict. Nor am I referencing the hit that Cincinnati’s George Ioka put on Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown.
Those plays drew penalties and, subsequently, one-game suspensions. But those blows also were delivered within the game’s flow, arguably close to the letter of the law if not the spirit.
The same can’t be said of New England tight end Rob Gronkowski and what he did to Buffalo cornerback Tre’Davious White.
White was prone on the ground, out of bounds and on his stomach. The whistle had blown; the play was long over. Yet, here came Gronk, 265 pounds of menace, measuring his steps like a gymnast before the vault. He launched and drove his foreman into the back of White’s helmet, slamming the player’s head on the ground.
White left the game and was placed in concussion protocol.
But in its infinite wisdom, the Nonsensical Football League deemed that Smith-Schuster, Ioka and Gronkowski deserved one-game suspensions – even though Gronk’s hit occurred WELL after the play was dead.
Remember, Oakland’s Michael Crabtree and Denver Aqib Talib received two-game suspensions (halved on appeal) for fighting during Week 12. New England’s Tom Brady was suspended four games last season for Deflategate. Buffalo’s Seantrel Henderson received a 10-game suspension for using medical marijuana. New Orleans Jonathan Vilma was suspended for the entire 2012 season for Bountygate.
Gronkowski lost his appeal and will miss the Patriots’ game at Miami on Monday.
I wish White could’ve appealed the original suspension, arguing that one game was insufficient.
Gronk’s foul play was worthy of a multiple-game suspension. Maybe not the five games Albert Haynesworth got for stomping on an opponent’s face in 2006, but certainly more than Smith-Schuster and Ioka received.
Football is violent enough without after-the-whistle tactics straight from pro wrestling’s playbook. The Bengals-Steelers game was a depressing example of the danger players face when they step on the field.
Pittsburgh linebacker Ryan Shazier suffered a spinal injury while making a tackle and remained hospitalized on Wednesday. He was carted off, and so was Burfict. A chorus of voices decried the teams for excessive and unnecessarily violent play, another ding against a sport that’s reeling of late.
“This game is hard to watch for a number of reasons,” Hall-of-Fame quarterback Troy Aikman tweeted. “Terrible for the NFL and the game of football overall.”
The league can change the rules, utilize improved equipment and teach new techniques from now until Cleveland wins a Super Bowl. But the essence of football – large, fast, and padded men running into each – remains the same. There’s no getting around that, or the accompanying consequences (scrambled brains, broken limbs, shredded ligaments, etc.).
There’s also no escaping the fact that Goodell wields his unlimited power like a drunk man devoid of sensory perception.
On-field misconduct has led to 10 suspensions this season. According to Spotrac, there were none last year and only three in 2015. Clamping down on “egregious hits” was a point of emphasis entering this season, leading to the sharp increase.
But good luck telling the difference between plays that drew suspensions and similar plays that didn’t.
Rationale is lacking and consistency is imperceptible.
Of the 10 hits that led to missed paychecks, only one was somewhat comparable to Gronk’s. Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans got one game for blindsiding New Orleans’ Marshon Lattimore after a play ended.
But Lattimore wasn’t on the ground and Evans didn’t hit him in the head. The chances of causing serious injury were significantly higher when Gronkowski went ballistic on White. The cornerback was as defenseless as defenseless players can be.
I don’t care about that being a first-time offense, Gronk’s reputation as a “nice guy,” or the Bills giving him hands-on treatment all day. It’s inexcusable that he received just a one-game suspension, especially considering what transpired Monday night.
But that’s how the so-called “disciplinary system” works in the Nonsensical Football League.”
Don’t waste your time trying to figure it out.
That would be the definition of insanity.
— Brooklyn-born and Howard-educated, Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.
By DERON SNYDER
The Philadelphia Sixers have become NBA darlings this year, featuring a pair of otherworldly players drawing national attention and acclaim.
But the emergence of point guard Ben Simmons and center Joel Embiid doesn’t erase four years of putridness or change a simple fact:
The so-called “Process” was an atrocity.
Now, Sixers fans chant about their faith in former GM Sam Hinkie’s tanking plan. Embiid has embraced the controversial strategy as his nickname. Philly already has more wins this season than it totaled in 2015-16. Wells Fargo Center has gone from crickets to sellouts, boasting the league’s second-best average attendance.
This is a charming story on the surface, a franchise finally rewarded for its patience in rebuilding.
Simmons is running away with the Rookie of the Year award. Embiid is playing like an All-Star after missing his first two-plus seasons due to injury. They have blended with an unearthed gem (Robert Covington), a veteran sharpshooter (J.J. Redick) and an up-and-coming Croatian (Dario Saric) to form one of the NBA’s most exciting teams.
But Hinkie’s decision to strip the franchise bare was an affront to everyone involved. To the players, who knew they had little chance of competing as they took the floor each night. To the employees, who manned the phones, fielded the emails and interacted with the public. To the fans, who continued to show up and root for an organization that wasn’t even trying.
By DERON SNYDER
NBC Washington analyst Brian Mitchell went on a classic rant Thursday after his former team suffered a blowout loss against Dallas. But one thing he said on the postgame show struck me as odd and somewhat funny.
“I’m embarrassed to say I’m a Redskins fan,” he fumed.
What took so long?
The franchise has been mostly a disgrace for quite some time, way before a 38-14 loss with nine starters on injured reserve and guys off the street playing key positions. Fans have had abundant opportunities to feel shame and humiliation about their team since Dan Snyder purchased it in 1999.
On the field. Off the field. The field. The nickname. The logo. If you’ve wanted something to take pride in, you’ve had to look elsewhere.
This franchise has been no better than long-time punchlines such as the Browns, Lions, Raiders and Rams – which Tom Boswell points out are the only teams with fewer wins in the past 16 seasons. Maybe paper bags haven’t been in order, but fans often have felt like covering their eyes.
By DERON SNYDER
In Kansas City, some folks are suggesting it’s time to replace quarterback Alex Smith with rookie Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs are in the playoff hunt but have lost four of their last five games.
In Buffalo, questions linger about the decision to bench quarterback Tyrod Taylor for rookie Nathan Peterman. The Bills remain in postseason contention but gave away a game with Peterman’s five-pick start.
In New York, blistering criticism flooded the airwaves and cyberspace Tuesday after a quarterback change was announced. The Giants, going nowhere at 2-9, decided to proceed without Eli Manning under center.
What’s the controversy there?
I understand that no position receives as much scrutiny, acclaim and blame as quarterback. I realize that Manning has won two Super Bowls and his family is NFL royalty. I know he’s a fixture in the Big Apple with 210 consecutive starts since November 2004.
But I’m confused by claims that the Giants are mistreating Manning by making a move now. Is it because Geno Smith and rookie Davis Webb will play instead? Is it that Manning represents the best chance to win? Was the team simply supposed to let the veteran ride out the string?
The only argument that halfway makes sense is this: New York stinks with him and will stink without him, and if that’s the case, he might as well finish the season.
By DERON SNYDER
College coaching carousels are fascinating to behold, a sport within sports.
Maybe it’s the public nature of job openings that often materialize after rampant speculation. The list of hot prospects and rumored candidates are intriguing as well. So too is the debate in defining great jobs vs. good jobs vs. lousy jobs. The high salaries involved don’t hurt, either.
A lot of mid-major coaches can’t be picky when opportunities arise within a Power Conference. Moving up often offsets any deficiencies found at the new school.
But the most sought-after up-and-comers can turn down overtures from lesser outposts, waiting a few years for destination jobs.
That’s especially true in basketball. This season, Archie Miller has the reins at Indiana after six seasons at Dayton, which he led to the last four NCAA tournaments. Two years ago, Shaka Smart was the nation’s most-coveted mid-major hoops coach after taking VCU to five consecutive NCAA tournaments, including a Final Four. He parlayed that success into the Texas job.
Dayton and VCU have become veritable launchpads. Miller is the third consecutive Flyers coach who left for a Power Conference. Will Wade, now in his inaugural season at LSU, is the forth consecutive Rams coach to make the leap.
But whereas 68 coaches reach basketball’s Big Dance each season, the stakes are higher in football. Only four teams reach the College Football Playoff. Another eight teams are slotted in the remaining “major bowls.”
By DERON SNYDER
It’s not bad enough that Washington’s last back-to-back playoff appearances were 1991-92.
It’s not bad enough that the franchise has won 10 games just three times since Dan Snyder’s purchase in1999.
It’s not bad enough that poor personnel decisions affecting the front office and roster have made the team a laughingstock since the last playoff victory (2005).
Instead of letting that sorry litany speak for itself in solidifying their reputation for ineptitude, the Skins insisted on going a step further. They used a stunning, visual display Thanksgiving night to hammer the point for a national TV audience.
By DERON SNYDER
LANDOVER – Where’s the flex schedule when you need it?
I know, I know. It would never work for Thanksgiving. The NFL only switches games scheduled for Sunday, moving them in or out of the primetime window based on their appeal. Games slated for Thursday, Saturday or Monday are ineligible.
Besides, NFL fans have suffered through decades of mostly lousy Lions football on Thanksgiving.
We couldn’t expect the league to react just because Washington’s first-ever home game on the holiday was as appealing as weeks-old mac-n-cheese left on the counter.
But if ever a game didn’t warrant infringing on our collective Turkey Day, it was Washington’s 20-10 victory against the New York Giants.
This isn’t Detroit or Dallas, where generations of fans have grown up with the custom and turned it into a ritual. I suspect most of us would be perfectly fine if the Skins never played a home game on the fourth Thursday of November.
For the majority of the evening, both teams appeared lukewarm to being there as well.
By DERON SNYDER
Birthdays are the most common method for noting our individual orbits around the sun.
Collectively, we reflect and celebrate our treks when New Year’s Eve slides into New Year’s Day.
While I certainly rejoice on those occasions, Thanksgiving has become just as meaningful. Gathering with family has a lot to do with that, recognizing we survived another 52 weeks and remembering those who didn’t.
The next holiday isn’t guaranteed for any of us.
So, when I’m blessed with the opportunity to express gratitude on the fourth Thursday of November each year, it carries special significance. Especially with Vanessa, Sierra and Sequoia by my side. With food, clothing and shelter to address my physical needs. With family, friends and loved ones to meet my emotional needs.
And I can’t forget about sports. The industry has provided entertainment for as long as I can remember, and employment throughout my adult life.
With that said, I’m thankful:
• FOR THE NFL’S REALIZATION THAT IT’S NOT IMMUNE TO ADVERSITY.
I understand setting the bar high. But the league got full of itself in attempting to generate $25 billion a year by 2027. It showed disdain for fans (full-price tickets for exhibitions), players (a full slate of Thursday games) and advertisers (an increasingly sloppy product). Having POTUS pick on you as TV ratings decline doesn’t help.
Karma is no joke.