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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

I admit It's getting better

A little better all the time (it can't get much worse)

Yes, I admit it's getting better

It's getting better since you've been mine!

--The Beatles


It wasn’t their best game of the year, not even their best of the month. They committed a dozen penalties for 137 yards, clunked on offense for most of the game, let Eagle receivers run open deep often, gave up six receptions to Terrell Owens, and put little pressure on Donovan McNabb.

Still, they almost pulled out a game against on the three best teams in football. Despite the penalties, Philadelphia converted just 3 of 13 third downs. Offense woes aside, the Skins held the ball for over 33 minutes. The Eagle receivers didn’t always catch the ball when they were open deep including one where Todd Pinkston developed one of the most severe cases of alligator arms ever seen when it appeared that the safety was bearing down on him (Pinkston might have to have surgery to remove his elbows from his rib cage, so severely did he yank his arms back to protect himself). Owens’ catches gained just 46 yards and McNabb was effective but hardly dominant.

If I believed in moral victories, I’d say this was one, but I don’t so I won’t. Still, while putting numbers in the left-hand column of the standing is what it’s all about, you can take some good out of a loss.

  • The defense was good, very good. Holding the Eagles to 17, with seven of those points coming off of a highly questionable pass interference call on Shawn Springs against Owens, is an impressive performance. Not dominant, but impressive nonetheless.
  • Ladell Betts continues to impress in different ways. Against Pittsburgh and the Giants he ran well from scrimmage. Yesterday his return of the opening kickoff set up a seven-yard touchdown drive, a score that gave Washington a working margin that got them through some poor stretches to come.
  • The whole offense is running more smoothly. It’s not always effective, but there seems to more some continuity. Part of this is due to the fact that the offensive coaches are getting the plays in more quickly. The call gets in, they line up, Ramsey starts the cadence, players go in motion, and there are still over 10 seconds left on the play clock. Sure, they cut is close from time to time, but nearly every team does.

Still, when it came down to it, the Redskins didn’t get it done. Every week, you see teams turn a deficit into a lead in the last two minutes of the game. I’m just going off of memory here and please correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it’s been over five years since the Redskins did that. On October 3, 1999 Brett Conway booted a field goal in the dying seconds for a 38-36 win. Since then, the Redskins have taken the lead in tie games in the last two minutes and they’ve come from behind to tie it up in the late going, but they haven’t turned a loss into a win during crunch time in a half a decade.

Nobody on this team was playing for the Redskins that day (Jon Jansen is the only one left in the organization and, of course, he’s out with an injury). There’s no carryover, no legacy of pulling out the close ones. If this team is ever to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat on a regular basis it will have to do it the hard way—they’ll have to learn it on their own.

Certainly, Gibbs and the coaches will help them learn how to win and a lot of the players who were with other teams recently played in games that their teams won in the dying seconds. That helps, but until they mesh as a team during crunch time and each player knows what the others are doing, it will be a hit or miss proposition.

Last night, it was a miss.

Yes, you Eagle fans who called my sanity into question when I predicted that the Redskins will win, I will examine my predictions and rate them, but that won’t happen until tomorrow. Also tomorrow, I will reveal how I voted for the Quarterback Club Redskins Player of the Year award.

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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!