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A Disappointing Game?

A Disappointing Game?

You can reach me by email at rtandler@comcast.net

Rich Tandler is the author of Gut Check, The Complete History of Coach Joe Gibbs’ Washington Redskins. Get details and order at http://GutCheckBook.com

If you want to focus on the negative, you certainly can find a lot to be disappointed about in regards to Saturday’s win over San Francisco:

  • First and foremost, the penalties—Eleven more flags for 93 yards. A third of that total came on back to back plays when the Redskins were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct on the PAT following the Niners’ last touchdown and then got another 15 for taunting on the ensuing onside kick. Now, to be sure, that was during garbage time and the penalties didn’t really have any effect on the outcome or even the flow of the game. Still, considering that cutting down on penalties was going to be a focus this week after drawing a dozen walk-offs against the Eagles, the fact that they cut just one off of that total is not encouraging.
  • The inability to punch it in the end zone—It was a case of bad things coming in threes. Three times the Redskins had first and goal to go situations and all three times they had to settle for three points. During the offseason, Gibbs and company have got to come up with a more imaginative goal line offense. The shovel pass is the first and only wrinkle they’ve come up with and the Niners seemed to have that sniffed out pretty well when Ramsey flipped it to Cooley. Two words of advice for Gibbs—naked bootleg. And, while I’m at it and since you’re not going to listen to me anyway, two more—fade pattern.
  • Portis’ fumble—It just punctuated the raggedness of the team’s performance. On top of that, it seems that his fumbles come in bunches. After going a long time without coughing it up, Portis fumbled three times in two games early in the season. He’s been glue-fingered since then, up until the fourth quarter today. It will be a nagging concern in the back of my mind on Sunday.
  • The blocked punt and generally mediocre special teams play—Tom Tupa suffered just the second blocked punt of his lengthy career. Like the Portis fumble, it didn’t turn out to be particularly costly, but was a sign of sloppiness. I was thoroughly unimpressed with Antonio Brown returning punts. Run North-South first and then worry about breaking one.

Of course, that’s just focusing on the negative. There were plenty of good things that happened on Saturday:

  • Four interceptions, one returned for a touchdown—As it has been all season, the defense was a pleasure to watch. It’s been 30 games since the Redskins’ defense has scored a touchdown. That goes back to when Darrell Green was playing; it was in his last game, in fact, when Lavar Arrington pounced on a fumble in the end zone against the Cowboys. Antonio Pierce’s play was the game-saver for the Redskins. The 49ers had just scored their safety after blocking Tupa’s punt to make it a one-touchdown game at 16-9. They were driving after the free kick when Pierce got his pick for six. Taylor’s interception came at a critical moment, too, as it was just 10-7 and a poor punt to midfield had given the Niners a chance to seize the momentum. (By the way, how can an exchange of the ball be considered to be an illegal forward pass--that’s what the contradictory term “forward lateral” is—if the ball never is airborne? Yes, I know that Jimmy Johnson sort of explained this at halftime, but I can’t find anything in the rules digest that would make Taylor’s handoff to Marshall illegal. If it is, that rule should be changed since it’s a very difficult call to make and handing off to someone who is in front of you gives you no real advantage.)
  • Patrick Ramsey’s play—After a half-step back last week against the Eagles, Ramsey took another step towards cementing his status as the Redskins’ quarterback of the present and future. His numbers weren’t quite as impressive as the ones he put up against the Giants, but his QB rating of 103 for the game and an average of just under eight yards per attempt aren’t anything to complain about. He didn’t throw an interception; in fact, he didn’t even come close to throwing one. Since taking over as starter, he’s struggled somewhat against the better teams, but he has feasted on the mediocre ones. Since there are a lot more of the former than of the latter group this bodes well for Ramsey’s future.
  • No drops by the receivers—Portis dropped one pass, but the receivers continued their excellent play of late.

An ugly win? Perhaps, but not as unattractive as some earlier W’s such as the one against the Bears. This team is progressing, absolutely no doubt about it.

By the way, the win means that the Redskins are still alive for a Wild Card playoff berth. The could possibly be eliminated this weekend depending on what other teams do, so I’ll spare you the details until Monday.

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No tension between Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins, but the coach wants improvement 

No tension between Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins, but the coach wants improvement 

MOBILE -- Jay Gruden is making jokes about Kirk Cousins again, and that's good news for Redskins fans that worried about a fracture between coach and quarterback. 

It all started in the weeks following the Redskins dreadful Week 17 loss to the Giants as Gruden and Cousins seemed to be throwing slight jabs at one another.

Gruden, in his end of year press conference, explained that while Cousins "showed flashes" in 2017, when the team goes 7-9, the coach can't say any player was outstanding: 

You know when you’re 7-9, you know it’s hard to say, ‘Wow, this guy really was outstanding.’ You know there’s a few guys obviously that jump out, Pro Bowlers like Ryan Kerrigan had a solid year. Obviously Trent when he played was Pro Bowl type, Brandon when he was healthy was Pro Bowl type guy. Kirk had his flashes where he was really good. From a consistent standpoint, over the course of 16 games, you know we’re 7-9. He did some great things, threw for over 4,000 yards and 29 touchdowns I believe. So, I think he’s a very, very good quarterback without a doubt, but as far as getting us over the hump from 7-9 to winning a division with all the injuries that we had, I think he competed and did some good things.

Cousins, in his year-end radio appearance with 106.7 the Fan, explained that he wants the team to do better but doesn't think the 7-9 record should fall on his shoulders alone. (Quote via Washington Post)

What I gathered from the comment was 7-9 and the quarterback play are causally related and that quarterback play is 7-9, 7-9 is the quarterback play. I saw that and I thought, ‘I think it’s slightly more complicated than that.’ I think there’s a few more dynamics in play as to what your final record is. … At the same time, his job is to evaluate. That’s a big part of his role and his position. In that comment, he’s just doing his job, he’s evaluating the position and he has the right to say what he wants to say.

Both comments were fairly innocuous, but also clearly at odds. Combine that dialogue with the undercurrent of another offseason contract negotiation, and it seemed things between coach and quarterback weren't quite right. 

On Tuesday, speaking at the Senior Bowl, Gruden cleared the air. Asked directly about tension between he and Cousins, the coach was blunt. 

"No." 

Gruden went on to explain his answer about Cousins 2017 play, the now infamous 7-9 line.

"When I say 7-9, if I say one player played great that means I'm saying everybody else was not very good," the coach explained (full video above). "I think we all have to stick together, we all have to improve from a 7-9 season, coaches, players, everybody."

Cousins was good in 2017, throwing for more than 4,000 passing yards for the third straight season. He also showed that he can produce offensively without a great supporting cast, as injuries robbed the Redskins of many of their best passing game threats and seriously damaged the offensive line. 

The quarterback did play two terrible games in the last month of the season, however, including a three interception stinker in the Week 17 finale.

It's possible that Gruden had that fresh in his mind when he spoke in early January, and with the benefit of a little time, his assessment mellowed by late January. 

Either way, Gruden joked about Cousins deserving a vacation, and even said the QB needs a tan. Gruden often uses humor to defuse touchy situations with Redskins players, and maybe he just did it again. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Redskins have begun contract talks with Zach Brown, but free agency looms

Redskins have begun contract talks with Zach Brown, but free agency looms

Redskins fans want Zach Brown back. Bad. And for weeks there had been no news about contract talks between Washington and Brown. 

Now that's changed.

"We've been talking to his agent," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said on Tuesday. 

Gruden, speaking from the Senior Bowl, explained that the team would like Brown back in 2018 but Washington also understands that the linebacker might want to explore the free agent market. 

"It’s a process," Gruden said (full video above). "These guys have a chance to be a free agent, they had a good year and they want to check what the market is sometimes. If we can get them before they get to free agency, great, but if not, the bidding wars will begin."

For Brown, free agency will look different in 2018 than it did last season when he signed a one-year. bargain deal with the Redskins. 

Prior to injuries forcing him to miss the final three games of the season, Brown led the NFL in tackles. For two straight years, 2016 in Buffalo and 2017 in Washington, Brown has proved to be a tackling machine and arguably the fastest linebacker in the NFL. Brown also signed new representation last offseason, Jason and Michael Katz of CSE Football, and should Brown hit the free agent market the Katz brothers will aggresively market their client. 

Washington Senior Vice President of Football Operations Eric Schaeffer will handle the contract discussions for Washington, and is known as a shrewd negotiator. 

Like many business deals, this will come down to money. Brown established himself as a fit in Washington, both on the field and in the locker room. Interior linebackers do not command top dollar like pass rushers do, but Brown will still expect to be compensated appropriately. 

Further complicating matters for Washington, the Redskins only have Josh Harvery-Clemmons, Zach Vigil and Martrell Speight under contract for 2018. 

It's too early to predict what "it's a process" means from Jay Gruden, but Redskins fans should draw some encouragement that talks have begun with Brown. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!