Almost always when the Redskins win the coin toss, head coach Jay Gruden defers the choice to the second half. In recent weeks that decision has come under some scrutiny as the Redskins continue to start slow and face early deficits after kicking the ball to the opposition to start the game.
In their last four contests, Washington has booted the ball away to open the game, and after each opening kickoff the opposing team has gone down the field and scored. Two touchdowns and two field goals. Whether it's coincidence or not, the 'Skins have a 1-3 record in those games.
In Monday night's loss to the Panthers, again Gruden deferred on the coin toss. Carolina promptly took the ball and marched nearly 60 yards before kicking a field goal. They would go on to never relinquish the lead.
Before this gets any further, let's be clear that defering is often a smart choice. Getting the ball to start the second half, after a game flow has been established and Gruden, offensive coordinator Sean McVay and qaurterback Kirk Cousins know what's working, has plenty of merit.
That said, perhaps it's time the Redskins opt to receive the ball, if for nothing else than to mix it up. Gruden acknowledged the slow starts plaguing his team, and maybe getting the ball to Cousins on the game's first possession could change the monotony of the last four games.
In Chicago on Saturday, however, don't expect that to happen.
"Usually I’ll defer on the road just because of a couple reasons. I like to get the ball to start the second half. I like to send our defense out there first and let them fly around and try to make a play," Gruden said on Tuesday. "Plus, the crowd is not quite as involved the first drive of the third quarter as they are in the first drive of the game."
Gruden's logic is sound, and many other NFL coaches feel the exact same way. Still, the Skins lost a great opportunity Monday night to control a Wild Card playoff spot, and now the team is not only competing with the Tampa Bay Bucs for the sixth and final spot, but also the Green Bay Packers.
For as much conversation the decision to defer generates, it really doesn't matter if the offense is ineffective on their first possession, like the 'Skins were on Monday against Carolina.
"You know, we can look at that," Gruden said of electing to receive the opening kickoff. "If we have a slow start, going three-and-out and punting is not always the best option either."
The best option, whether Washington kicks off or receives, would be for the unit that starts on the field to suceed. Certainly, that's what Gruden wants to see on Christmas Even in Chicago.