Just in case you remained unconvinced, just in case a touch of delusion still lingered, just in case traces of denial were evident, it’s time to face reality:
Washington absolutely, positively is one of “those” NFL teams.
There really should be no doubt after last-place finishes in seven of the last 10 seasons, including five in the last six. But acceptance is difficult for diehards, who always look for glimmers of hope and reasons to refute the obvious.
They thought they found some when coach Mike Shanahan arrived and quarterback Robert Griffin III soon followed. But the glow of a 10-6 record two seasons ago has long since faded and Washington has resumed what constitutes normalcy around here.
“All the players are having their share of good plays,” coach Jay Gruden said Monday during his media session. “But over the course of the game, everybody sprinkles in a little bit of poor play and that results in 1-6.”
“Or 1-5. What are we, 1-5? I’m losing track.”
Keeping up can be difficult when losses pile up like dirty laundry. Sunday’s defeat against Arizona dropped Washington to 1-13 in its last 14 games.
That type of mark inspires confidence in opponents, no matter how dreadful they might be themselves. When they see “Washington” on the schedule, they circle the date and believe that’s the game when they’ll fix whatever ails them.
Because it’s a game against their own kind.
Take the Buccaneers, for instance. Tampa Bay suffered a 31-point blowout Sunday against Baltimore, three weeks after absorbing a 42-point rout against Atlanta. The Bucs are among “those” teams, the league’s most pitiful sad-sacks, such as Jacksonville (0-6), Oakland (0-5) and the New York Jets (1-5).
The 2-4 Tennessee Titans can’t wait to suit up at FedEx Field on Sunday. Ditto for Tampa Bay, which comes to town on Nov. 16. They know their fellow dregs in Washington are prime candidates for defeat.
Gruden ran through a list of things wrong with his team. It included virtually aspect of offense, defense and special teams. Warm-up routines might be next.
“Staying status quo is not good enough, obviously,” he said. “Whether it’s changing the way we’re practicing, the way we’re meeting, the plays we’re calling, the defenses we’re calling … something.”
He didn’t sign up for this and he seems incapable of fixing it, at least at the moment.
It doesn’t matter how well he can draw ‘em up or dial ‘em up. Plays always look great on paper, where Xs and Os are evenly paired. But mismatches become evident when the letters take on human form and run around the field.
The sad truth is Washington’s real-life Xs and Os aren’t that great. Many aren’t that good. But wearing the same colors and logos from the glory years, they think they can replicate past success. So does the rabid fan base, which clings to ancient history like Raider Nation.
Oh, wait. The Raiders reached the Super Bowl in 2002. Washington hasn’t been that far since 1991.
Oakland hasn’t produced a winning record since losing the Super Bowl against the Bucs, just one reason it epitomizes “those” teams. Detroit is right is there, too, with a lone winning campaign in the last 18 seasons.
Washington has three winning records in the last 14 seasons. That’s better than the laughingstock Lions, but it’s still a bad joke.
Did you hear the one about a team that gave up three first-rounders for a quarterback who can’t stay healthy?
Faces in Washington change; the butt remains the same. From Steve Spurrier, Jim Zorn and Shanahan, to Patrick Ramsey, Jason Campbell and RG3/Kirk Cousins. The only thing missing is a laugh track.
You know what’s funnier than thinking Washington is close to being a contender? Thinking Cousins is close to being the answer at QB. I fell for that gag, too, like plenty of others.
The subconscious mind probably played a role because Cousins is as wholesome as apple pie.
But when it’s time to perform under pressure, he’s more like apple turnover.
I know that Washington’s fan base views the Oaklands, Jacksonvilles and Detroits exactly how the rest of the NFL universe views them. They’re putrid. End of discussion.
However, despite mountains of evidence, the same, honest assessment seems hard to accept here. Instead, there’s a lot of “we almost” and “we’re close,” along with plenty of “if only … (this)” and “if not for … (that).”
Everyone outside of this area can see that Washington is one of “those” teams.
If you’ve been covering your eyes to the fact (not that I blame you, considering the product), it’s time to open them.