Another NFL season has come to a close in Washington, creating the annual void of football-filled Sundays.
Then again, the local team was extremely uncompetitive, again. Maybe it could win an Emmy nomination for “Best Comedy,” but it would probably lose that contest, too.
Good news is scarce when a team goes 4-12, but here it is: Washington isn’t the league’s worst team.
It’s not No. 1 but it’s not No. 32, either!
Dan Snyder’s outfit won twice as many games as Tennessee and also doubled Tampa Bay’s total in the win column. Yes, it needed a last-second field goal to beat the Titans and it was drubbed by the Buccaneers, but Washington still won as many games as those teams combined.
Washington also had more victories than Oakland (3-13). Granted, that isn’t saying much – the Raiders have averaged 4.6 wins per season since 2003 – but it’s more than could be said last year.
Jacksonville (3-13) also was no match for the locals, yielding 41 points at FedEx Field and losing 12 other games as well. Too bad the Jaguars couldn’t be the opponent 12 more times.
The New York Jets were equal record-wise, but Washington was better in the only way that counts at this subterranean level … getting the higher draft pick. The Jets earned the sixth overall selection, one slot behind the DC team. (A couple of early projections have Washington selecting Iowa tackle Brandon Scherff; at least he plays the right position if he’s not the right player.)
You can argue that Washington would be better off finishing behind Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Jacksonville and Oakland. A more abysmal performance could have resulted in the No. 1 pick, which the franchise hasn’t enjoyed since it drafted Syracuse halfback Ernie Davis in 1962 and traded him to Cleveland.
Alas, there’s a downside to Washington having high picks. Misses are more costly and no one besides Snyder trusts his decision makers in the front office.
Besides, having the top pick this year would put Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota in play and further muddle the position. Coach Jay Gruden has enough trouble on his roster with one Heisman Trophy winner who ran an option-style offense in college. Bringing in a second – or swapping the old one for a new one – could further set back Gruden’s team.
As noted, the situation is short of rock bottom, even in the aftermath of Sunday’s 44-17 whipping by Dallas.
“We have a lot of time now, which is good and bad,” Gruden said afterward. “Bad that we’re not playing anymore, but good in the fact that we can evaluate a lot of players and we went through a lot of players this season on both sides of the ball.”
Opponents also went through a lot of his players on both sides – through, over and around.
Washington’s defense tied for 29th in points allowed per game. The offense gave up the second-most sacks. Only two teams had more giveaways; just six had fewer takeaways.
Comparatively speaking, Gruden’s crew was a well-disciplined bunch: Only 12 teams had fewer penalties.
So Washington is superior to some peers among the NFL’s most inferior teams. That’s not much to celebrate but you have to start somewhere. Give them an F-plus for 2014.
“You’re judged on wins and losses,” Gruden said. “We’ve said that all along – every coach is – and when you’re 4-12, obviously that’s a poor grade.
“We’re not getting the most out of our players. We’re not getting enough victories and that’s the bottom line. It’s our job here as coaches and my job as head football coach to do a better job of motivating not just the players, but the staff – everybody – to get the most of players and figure out ways to wins games.”
This is new for him, but perennial putridness is all-too-familiar around here. The feel-good from the 2012 NFC East title arrived in a blink and lasted as long.
Sustained excellence as exhibited by New England – 12 consecutive seasons and 13-of-14 with double-digit victories – is impossible to imagine under the current regime. Likewise the personnel prowess exhibited by Green Bay – only six of its 53 players on opening day were ever on another team’s active roster – which consistently develops college players into NFL material.
Fans in those cities and other well-positioned outposts such as Seattle and Indianapolis take pride as their NFL franchises battle for the claim, “We’re No. 1!”
As I constantly tell my daughters, comparisons are meaningless, because you can always point to someone who’s better or not as good as you.
But sometimes that’s your only recourse. And that’s where Washington finds itself after 2014:
“We’re not the worst!”