Yesterday at his first news conference after his team returned from the bye, Redskins coach Jay Gruden talked about how they are not too far from having a better record.
“When you go back and you look at what’s going on, being 3-6, you look at the six losses and there’s a play here and a play there and we’re just so close to being 7-2 as opposed to being 3-6,” he said. “That’s the way the NFL is right now.”
— Chris (@cdawgRVA) November 10, 2014
Should Gruden talk about his team being close? Or should he talk about the areas of the team that need to be shored up and about how much work needs to be done before the Redskins are good enough to contend for a Super Bowl?
You can make a case that what Gruden said is true, that just a couple of plays in some of their losses would have flipped the result.
—Against the Texans, if they pick up the blocking on that early punt and it doesn’t get blocked for a touchdown and fumble the ball away just once inside the Houston 10 instead of twice they could have won 14-10.
—In Philadelphia, just one first down after they get the ball in Eagles territory in the final minutes gets them in tying field goal range and the could have won in overtime.
—In the fourth quarter in Arizona, the Cardinals led by seven when Carson Palmer threw a pass right into the hands of Brian Orakpo, who had some running room. If they get the pick six there it’s a tie game and the Redskins have the momentum.
—Against the Vikings the defense had multiple chances to make a stop as Teddy Bridgewater rallied the Vikings from behind three times in the second half. You could also look at the Redskins’ last meaningful play on offense where Robert Griffin III could have kept the drive alive with either an accurate pass to Pierre Garçon or perhaps by turning on the jets and running for the first down.
One problem with playing the “what if” game is that you could just as easily say that if the Titans and Cowboys had made a play here and there they could have changed the result of the Redskins’ two close wins.
The Redskins do need an upgrade in talent if they are going to join the ranks of the best teams in the NFL. But there are plenty of teams out there that are managing to stay competitive despite having holes in their lineups. Just look in the Redskins’ own division. The Eagles are 7-2 despite having issues at safety, a shaky offensive line, and a linebacker corps that wasn’t very strong to begin with and then weakened by injuries. The Dallas defense has absolutely nobody that scares anybody but they are 7-3.
Bottom line, there really isn’t anything wrong with Gruden stepping up to the podium at midseason and presenting the rosy scenario. Yes, the Redskins do need to upgrade their talent on both lines and at safety but there isn’t much they can do about that in the middle of November. Gruden has to work with what he has. There would be no point in him railing on the work that needs to be done when the season is over.
At the same time, it’s easy to understand fans who do not want to hear it. The team has been 3-6 after nine games for four years in a row now and it’s always been a play here and there that made the difference between reality and an imaginary winning record. Only once, in 2012, did the Redskins start to make the plays and turn the season around. The other three years there were only the “what ifs” and the cycle started again.
For Gruden’s part, he’s just trying to make the best of a bad situation. As far as the fans go, they’re just tired of getting into that bad situation year after year.