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Washington enters offseason with more questions than QBs

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USA Today Images

Washington enters offseason with more questions than QBs

very week this season we’ve taken a look at how the Eagles' NFC East rivals have been doing… and for the most part, it’s been a thoroughly enjoyable experience, like listening to a great love song or eating a box of Cheez-Its. Alas, like that box of delicious cheesy crackers, our time enjoying the demise of the Giants, Cowboys, and Washington has come to an end. At least for this season.

Without further ado, here’s a look back at what happened, and what’ll be happening, in the NFC East. Our "savoring the Giants season" here, and Washington below. Come back for Dallas tomorrow.

Washington (7-9)

2017 Headline: “At Least We’re Not The Giants!”

What Happened: If the 2017 Giants were a slapstick comedy movie, 2017 Washington was like watching an overhyped sequel; some exciting bits but for the most part tremendously disappointing.

After nearly beating the Eagles in Week One, Washington actually started the season 3-2, including what was an extremely impressive (at the time) shallacking of the presumably-playoff-bound Oakland Raiders on Sunday Night Football. 

Then came a Monday Night Football game in Philly, where Washington got steamrolled by the Wentz Wagon 34-24. Jay Gruden’s squad would never really recover, dropping three of their next four to a bunch of teams that ended up making the playoffs. There was a stretch from late October till Thanksgiving where Washington could have put themselves squarely in the “IN THE HUNT” playoff graphic every football show likes to use. Instead they feel flat, like “Independence Day: Resurgence” or “Speed 2: Cruise Control.”

A lot went wrong for Washington this season, especially in the injury department, as the team looked like a M*A*S*H marathon where I was the only one laughing. Their most dynamic player, Chris Thompson, went down to injury. Their best offensive weapon last season, Jordan Reed, barely played at all. And their big offseason addition, Terrelle Pryor, never got in sync with QB Kirk Cousins and eventually was put on injured reserve when they couldn’t trade him back to the Browns. By the time the season was mercifully over, Washington had twenty separate guys on injured reserve, including offensive lineman Trent Williams, who essentially played the majority of the season on one leg.

The 2017 season may have been the grand finale in Washington for Cousins, whom Jay Gruden spit at on his way out. Blaming Cousins for the team going 7-9 is like blaming your basement flooding on the fact that its underground and completely ignoring a massive thunderstorm; the first part definitely didn’t help, but it’s not the main culprit. Gruden may regret being so mean to the only starting QB he’s ever coached when his team is forced to pay Sam Bradford $18 million this offseason.

Positive Spin: Well let’s start with the big one: Dan Snyder didn’t get into any trouble. Like, zero trouble. Sure, there was a little smoke suggesting he was the only ally to Jerry Jones when the Cowboys owner went toe-to-toe with Roger Goodell, but haven’t we all? No news is good news when it comes to the owner of the Washington Football Team, so props to Danny Boy for staying out of everything.

And regarding the QB, well… like a peanut butter sandwich or a movie starring Will Patton, there’s really nothing special about Kirk Cousins. And like the sandwich or Tom Hagan’s portrayer, Cousins definitely can flash brilliance, but it’s not something you really want to build around. So his departure can certainly be spun positively by Washington fans in need of a silver lining.

Had Washington made the playoffs again, or had they even put together a winning season, Snyder may have felt compelled to give the YOU LIKE THAT Vine some of that Matthew Stafford money. How well has that worked out for Detroit? The correct answer is: how well has *anything* worked out for Detroit?

Negative Spin: So Cousins isn’t the answer; where does the team go from here? It’s like telling me I can’t have a ChocoTaco for breakfast -- okay, we’ve established what we can’t have, but I’m still hungry and gotta eat.

It’s a similar spot to where the Iggles were when Chip Kelly declared Nick Foles his starting QB for the next 1,000 years; he (and we) knew Foles wasn’t the greatest option, but finding the greatest option at QB isn’t as easy as scarfing down a couple of early-morning ChocoTacos. 

When Cousins first starting stealing playing time from Robert Griffin III, he was an interception machine the likes of which hadn’t been seen before in modern NFL history. The 76ers Big Bella t-shirt gun had less off-target shots than this guy. And yet he developed into an above-average option, and what NFL history tells us is that it’s entirely possible for an above-average QB to win a Super Bowl. Just ask Brad Johnson, or Trent Dilfer, or Eli Manning.

If Washington had signed Cousins to a moderate extension a couple years ago, they could be spending this offseason trying to build up a suspect defense, rather than looking for ways to acquire the likes of Teddy Bridgewater or A.J. McCarron. Kirk wasn’t the final piece of the puzzle, but it’s fair to argue he could have been *a* piece of the puzzle.

Oh, and speaking of “the ones that got away,” this fanbase is going to regret letting Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan walk. Mark that one down.

What’s Next: A search for a quarterback. Remember two years ago when Howie Roseman made a flurry of Houdini-esque trades to move the Birds into position to draft Carson Wentz? That’s what Washington has got to be hopeful for, though most fans of the franchise are still suffering from football PTSD over the draft day trade for RG3. Of course, if they can’t swing something, Washington fans may start getting flashbacks of the 2011 year featuring Rex Grossman and John Beck (both of whom, rest assured, are currently available).

Joel Embiid belongs among the very best

Joel Embiid belongs among the very best

You can't really fake it at an All-Star Game, especially one where people are actually trying. There's no lucking your way into a couple open shots and a couple generous foul calls and all of a sudden rolling your way to a 30-plus-point game; there's no isolating one defensive mismatch and exploiting it to make yourself look like '01 Shaq. Generally speaking, an All-Star Game shakes out as it should: The best shine the brightest, and those who aren't ready yet fade into the periphery with extra motivation to step things up for next year. 

And that's why it's so awesome that Joel Embiid, a mere 75 games into his NBA career, unquestionably belonged on the biggest stage with the biggest names last night. Playing for Stephen Curry's squad, JoJo posted 19 points on 8-13 shooting, with eight rebounds and two blocks, and a +5 rating for the night -- the only positive plus/minus for the Steph starters. 

Out of context, those numbers may not sound particularly impressive for an All-Star outing, considering the final score of 2017's game was 192-182. But thanks to increased financial and personal motivation in this year's game, the competition was ratcheted up, and though the final score was still a robust 148-145 -- Team LeBron emerging victorious -- no one player really went off in this one, with Team Stephen being led in scoring by DeMar DeRozan and Damian Lillard (21 each). Consider that JoJo's 19 outpaced both teammates James Harden (12 points on 5-19 FG) and Curry himself (13 on 4-14 FG) -- only two of the greatest scorers in NBA history. 

And what's more, down the stretch it was Embiid who seemed most ready to rise to the moment. With minutes remaining and his team up one, Embiid posted up LeBron James -- LeBron James!! -- for an easy bucket, and with the score tied and under a minute left, he got stuck isolated on the perimeter against Paul George, and still ended up blocking George's shot to win the possession back for his team. Had his squad been able to hang on in this one, he would've been able to mount a fairly compelling case for MVP, which would've made him the first player since at least the 20th century to win top honors in his first All-Star appearance. 

Of course, it didn't happen that way, and Team Stephen coach Mike D'Antoni might get most of the blame as to why. With his squad up one and Team LeBron inbounding out of a timeout, D'Antoni opted for some incomprehensible reason to bench Embiid, his best defensive player -- which, somewhat unsurprisingly, resulted in LeBron scoring quickly and easily at the basket to go up one, and then DeMar DeRozan throwing the ball away at the other end. Embiid entered for the final possession, with his team needing a three to tie, and he had a chance to hoist one, but understandably passed to Curry, who drove his way into traffic and ended up not even getting a shot off. Team LeBron won, and James took home his third MVP. 

Frustrating finish, but it can't ruin what came before: Joel Embiid squaring off against the best the NBA has to offer, and proving himself a factor. (Also nailed a three and then blocked a Russell Westbrook drive at the other end, btw, so that beautiful random feud lives on.) He got as good as he gave -- LeBron drilled a triple in his face immediately after JoJo took him down low -- but he was in the mix, and a crucial part of his team's successes and failures. It should be the first of many such All-Star starring roles for Embiid, and hopefully the last for some time that doesn't also include him being flanked by Process Truster in Arms Ben Simmons. 

But even if it isn't -- even if nothing good ever happens again with Joel, and we look back at this All-Star Game 25 years from now as the high point of this career -- it still would have all been worth it. It was worth it when the team went 10-5 two Januarys ago. It was maybe worth it when Embiid gave his first-ever post-game interview following a Sixers win. 

That's what people will never understand about The Process, and that's what makes nights like this so gratifying. Franchises go decades, entire generations, without getting a moment to feel this way about one of their players, and even getting the chance to feel it about one of ours is worth seasons of sacrifice. JoJo lives, and somewhere in the bowels of the Staples Center last night, Our Once and Always Dark Lord Sam Hinkie had to be there and be smiling. Hope he enjoyed the Fergie national anthem as much as I did, as well. 

JJ Redick responds to video in which he allegedly used racial slur

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SB Nation/Twitter

JJ Redick responds to video in which he allegedly used racial slur

Updated at 12:50 a.m.

Early Sunday, a video surfaced on social media that appeared to put Sixers’ guard JJ Redick in an extremely poor light. Redick has since responded to clear up the situation.

Here’s what happened:

At about 8 a.m., a post appeared on Reddit showing a screenshot and caption alleging that Redick said a racial slur during a video from NBA players wishing Chinese fans a Happy New Year. The video caused a huge uproar on social media. If you wish to see the video, it is located here, at the top.

On the surface, without a response, it looked odd from the start. Redick, who we have come to know as a well-spoken individual who is typically very appreciative of basketball fans, isn’t someone you’d expect this from, let alone with a camera pointing directly at his face with an NBA microphone in front of his lips.

He offered this response on his official Twitter account, saying he was tongue-tied and had no intentions of saying what he did on the video.

Fans reacted on both sides of the issue, some still asking for an apology and others taking Redick for his word. 

On Sunday night, Redick followed up with a longer statement on his Twitter and Instagram, where he further explained himself and indeed issued an apology.

Please read. Thank you.

A post shared by JJ Redick (@jjredick) on

Early Monday, Brooklyn Nets guard Jeremy Lin tweeted a statement saying that he spoke with Redick and believes the Sixers' guard didn't say a racial slur.

With the All-Star Break going on, Redick won’t be available for a few more days for the media to ask him about this. There’s a chance this story will continue into next week.