Tuesday is Election Day and Washington’s football team has pletny of candidates on the ballot, collectively and individually, especially after Sunday’s game at Minnesota.
The 29-26 defeat made the team a shoo-in for “Most Disappointing Loss Following a Huge Upset on Monday Night Football.”
So much for visions of a 5-5 record with victories against Minnesota and Tampa Bay bookending the upcoming bye week. That was a perfectly reasonable scenario after Washington shocked the Dallas Cowboys at Jerry World.
Yes, the season was likely to resume its downhill direction for the final six games, in which opponents will be favored in every contest except perhaps one (St. Louis). But reaching .500 at least would have allowed folks to consider playoff possibilities before the inevitable descent.
Instead of steaming into the off week with momentum from three straight wins, Washington limps in with a 3-6 record. This marks the third consecutive season the team has fallen to that mark, which makes it a runaway winner for “Most Unlikely 2012 Playoff Appearance Sandwiched by Terrible Records.”
The previous two campaigns ended in opposite extremes and neither version of a seven-game streak is likely this year.
But there’s no question how we’d bet if we knew another run was certain.
Now that Robert Griffin III has resumed his role as starting quarterback, the remaining games will help determine the outcome in several key races, none of which involve the NFC East.
Griffin gets my vote for “Most Controversial Quarterback Without Even Trying.” Like cameras and commercials, conflict seems to be a constant with him.
Pocket passer or running quarterback? Returning quickly to help the team or to put himself ahead of it? Coach killer or innocent victim? Leader in the locker room or cause of dividing line?
The latter question was raised anew Sunday when ESPN reported that RG3 has “alienated himself” from the locker room. Coach Jay Gruden strongly refuted the report after Sunday’s loss.
It was merely one pre-game subject swirling around his team, including a massive protest by Native Americans and a bus crash en route to the stadium. “That was a unique way to start the day,” Gruden said Monday in a news conference. “We were four tire rotations from driving off a cliff.”
A rookie coach, Gruden is learning why Washington holds the title as “NFL’s Most Complete Team (Non-Football Related Category).” The bus didn’t go off the cliff but he might feel like taking a leap after tasting life in Ashburn.
“Whatever people want to write about, it’s their right to write whatever they want,” he said. “But we’ve just got to make sure that we stay together and don’t pick sides and believe everything that we read because some of those reports are just false – they’re just outright false.”
“We just can’t let them get to us,” he said. “We have a young team, we have some fragile egos here. These guys are young guys trying their best and they read in the paper that nobody likes them and they’re ‘alienated’ and blah, blah. As an NFL football player playing here, you have to expect it.”
I suppose it can happen anywhere, including champion-caliber teams such as Seattle and San Francisco. But it’d be much more tolerable if Washington’s drama came with fewer defeats.
As things stand, the sideshows have become the main attraction and RG3 is the ringmaster.
Sunday’s loss was more about the leaky defense than the rusty QB, and it’s unfair to expect his areas of concern to disappear after a six-week layoff. But there’s a perception that outside noise gets to him, giving him the nod for “Quarterback With the Most Super-Sensitive Hearing.”
Gruden probably didn’t help matters Monday when he assessed the roster’s quarterbacks so far. “The jury’s still out on that position,” he said. “But we feel good about Robert’s progress so far. We’ve just got to continue to build and see how he does from week to week to week.”
Who knows what’s next week will bring? Washington is the odds-on favorite to be a repeat winner in “Largest Differential Between Victories and Media Coverage.” And most of the attention isn’t positive.
“I said all along that a quarterback’s No. 1 trait he has to have – or any football player – is you’ve got to be thick-skinned,” Gruden said. “You have to be tough-minded, tough-willed and accept the good and the bad equally.
“… The big thing is we can’t let anything tear the locker room apart. We’ve got to stick together and I think our guys have done that so far.”
That sounds good.
But on my ballot, Gruden is still ahead for “Coach Most in Need of a Vote of Confidence,” while RG3 leads the pack in “QB Most in Need of a Hug.”