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Jay Gruden sends a mixed message by waving the white flag


Jay Gruden sends a mixed message by waving the white flag

Sometimes a coaching decision is just a coaching decision. Other times, a coaching decision is a message to the team.

A decision made by Redskins coach Jay Gruden late in their game against the Chargers sent a message, a very wrong one, to his players.

With 2:55 left in the game, the Redskins were trailing 30-6. The Chargers had the ball on the Redskins’ nine yard line. Backup quarterback Kellen Clemons threw a pass to receiver Mike Williams, who was tightly covered by Bashaud Breeland. The cornerback won the battle for the ball and rolled 96 yards for a touchdown.

The TD made it 30-12. A two-point conversion would have made it a 16-point game, a situation where two touchdowns and two two-point conversions would tie the game. To be sure, the odds of pulling that off were very long (details in a minute) but there still would have been the proverbial Dumb and Dumber “So you’re saying there’s a chance” chance. However, Gruden sent out the kicking team. The one-point PAT was good and it remained a three-possession game.


Why did Gruden decide to go for one? Here is his entire answer when he was asked that during his Monday conference call with the media:

“I thought about it a little bit,” he said. “I just didn’t think it was a realistic chain of events that would’ve had to occur, to be honest with you. You know, with the situation that we had offensively with Trent Williams out and we were down to one back, Ryan Grant was banged up with his ankle, down to three receivers, Josh [Doctson] was a little bit banged up. I just wanted to make sure I got out of that game with enough healthy bodies and didn’t want to risk anymore, especially with having to get two onside kicks, two two-point conversions with two minutes to go. I wanted to, you know, try to get out of this game, get back on the plane, and get ready for Arizona.”

That is all well and good. There was very little chance of winning the game. If they had gone for two points and succeeded and then recovered an onside kick, their win probability would have been 1.1 percent. What would the point have been with, as Gruden noted, so many injured players?

Well, the point would have been that the team should never give up no matter what the odds, no matter how beaten up they were. Last week he was asked about shutting down injured players with the team’s playoff odds hovering at less than one percent.

“I think there are some mathematical possibilities where we can get in,” he said. “I know it’s a long shot, but this is a 16-game season. We know that anything can happen, so we’re going to continue to play to win. That’s the only way we know how.”

Well, it’s the only way they know how until it’s late in a game and apparently the coach is more interested in getting back on the plane than he is about seeing in a chain of events that didn’t seem to be realistic can somehow play out.


Just like it’s a 16-game season, it’s a 60-minute game. By going for one, Gruden waved the white flag and ended the game after about 57 minutes.

That’s telling your team that, yes, there is a time when you stop fighting. That’s telling the players who are in for the injured players that they’re not good enough to rally the team. That’s telling them that it’s OK to quit when they’re hurting and the odds are long.

That’s not the right message to send. This hasn’t been a consistent issue for Gruden while he has been the head coach. But the slope to losing the locker room is slippery and the drop is steep if many more of these mixed message decisions occur in the future.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.



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Need to Know: If Kirk Cousins leaves, with the Redskins rebuild or retool?

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Need to Know: If Kirk Cousins leaves, with the Redskins rebuild or retool?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, January 16, 57 days before NFL free agency starts.


Days until:

—NFL franchise tag deadline (3/6) 49
—NFL Draft (4/26) 100
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 236

Nickel coverage—Five Redskins questions

Taking a look at some of the key questions surrounding the Redskins, sometimes coming up with more questions in the process. Yes, it's going to be that kind of offseason. 

What will the Redskins do at left guard? It would be better for the Redskins to find their left guard in the draft, but assuming that the successor is picked after the second round, they will want someone to start until the rookie is ready. That could be Arie Kouandjio or maybe a veteran free agent.

Can the Redskins make do with what they have at running back? The short answer is no. The running back situation needs attention. It’s hard to picture Samaje Perine and Rob Kelley forming a formidable tandem, or even a very good one. I’m wary of spending a high draft pick on an RB, but the success of the likes of Todd Gurley and Leonard Fournette have to be factored into the thinking.

Are the Redskins OK with Zach Brown and Mason Foster at inside linebacker? For the time being they are, assuming that they are able to sign both of the unrestricted free agents, however the Redskins need to continue to build that position. That means continuing to develop Josh Harvey-Clemons to use in nickel situations and spending draft resources there. Even if Brown and Foster are back, the Redskins might be smart to grab Roquan Smith out of Georgia if he’s there in the first round.

If they are without Kirk Cousins, will the Redskins rebuild or retool? This is a key question for the organization. If Cousins leaves, do they just try to plug in the best available/affordable quarterback they can find and roll on with the same basic personnel with which they have hovered around .500 the last three years? Or will the make other changes, perhaps moving on from Josh Norman and Jordan Reed to save cap money for future seasons and give their younger players a chance to establish themselves? The latter might be the better way to go but this organization rarely considers short-term pain for long-term gain.

If Junior Galette leaves, who replaces him? While Galette did not light it up in the sack department, he put plenty of pressure on opposing quarterbacks. He is likely to leave since he would remain behind Preston Smith and Ryan Kerrigan on the depth chart if he re-signed in Washington. Can they rely on 2017 second-round pick Ryan Anderson to take a giant leap in his sophomore season? Will they try to lock up free agent Trent Murphy and hope that he can bounce back from an ACL injury he suffered last August and regain his nine-sack form of 2016? I don’t see how they can rely on Anderson to suddenly provide pressure after recording zero sacks this past year. Whether it’s Murphy or another free agent, someone with a better track record has to be in the picture. If Anderson improves enough to move ahead of that player on the depth chart, so much the better.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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Where does Stefon Diggs' remarkable catch rank among some of the best NFL playoff walk-offs?

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Where does Stefon Diggs' remarkable catch rank among some of the best NFL playoff walk-offs?

There is nothing quite like January playoff football and Sunday night's Vikings vs. Saints game further proved this point.

In case you have been off the grid the past 12 hours, the Minnesota Vikings literally got a last second win against the New Orleans Saints.

With 10 seconds left in the fourth and facing a 3rd and 10, quarterback Case Keenum heaved the football near the sideline to wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who dodged two defenders while managing to stay inbounds for a 61-yard touchdown as the clock expired. 

It was one of the most remarkable playoff walk-off wins, if not the most remarkable one, in football.

So, where does it stand among the others?


Broncos vs. Steelers 2011 AFC Wild Card game: Remember Tim Tebow's 80-yard overtime touchdown to Demaryius Thomas during the 2011 Broncos vs. Steelers AFC Wild Card game? It was the first and last snap of overtime and it was wild.

Mile High Miracle: On third and three with 43 seconds left in the game, Ravens' Joe Flacco launched one towards wide receiver Jacoby Jones, who got in front of the Broncos receiver and ran the ball in for a 70-yard game-tying touchdown. The Ravens would eventually go on to win the game in double overtime. Some could argue it was the defining moment in the Ravens' Super Bowl run. 

Cardinals vs. Steelers Super Bowl XLIII: Under the brightest lights of all, Ben Roethlisberger found Santonio Holmes with 43 seconds in the fourth in the back of the end zone for a toe-dragging, Super Bowl-winning catch. 


Saints vs. 49ers 2012 NFC Divisional game: Sunday's loss wasn't the first time the Saints have experienced a fourth quarter letdown. Back in 2012, Alex Smith threw one to the endzone on 3rd-and-three with 14 seconds left that sealed a win.

While these are only a few, we can't wait to add more to the list in years to come.