very week this season we’ve taken a look at how the Eagles' NFC East rivals have been doing… and for the most part, it’s been a thoroughly enjoyable experience, like listening to a great love song or eating a box of Cheez-Its. Alas, like that box of delicious cheesy crackers, our time enjoying the demise of the Giants, Cowboys, and Washington has come to an end. At least for this season.
Without further ado, here’s a look back at what happened, and what’ll be happening, in the NFC East. Our "savoring the Giants season" here, and Washington below. Come back for Dallas tomorrow.
2017 Headline: “At Least We’re Not The Giants!”
What Happened: If the 2017 Giants were a slapstick comedy movie, 2017 Washington was like watching an overhyped sequel; some exciting bits but for the most part tremendously disappointing.
After nearly beating the Eagles in Week One, Washington actually started the season 3-2, including what was an extremely impressive (at the time) shallacking of the presumably-playoff-bound Oakland Raiders on Sunday Night Football.
Then came a Monday Night Football game in Philly, where Washington got steamrolled by the Wentz Wagon 34-24. Jay Gruden’s squad would never really recover, dropping three of their next four to a bunch of teams that ended up making the playoffs. There was a stretch from late October till Thanksgiving where Washington could have put themselves squarely in the “IN THE HUNT” playoff graphic every football show likes to use. Instead they feel flat, like “Independence Day: Resurgence” or “Speed 2: Cruise Control.”
A lot went wrong for Washington this season, especially in the injury department, as the team looked like a M*A*S*H marathon where I was the only one laughing. Their most dynamic player, Chris Thompson, went down to injury. Their best offensive weapon last season, Jordan Reed, barely played at all. And their big offseason addition, Terrelle Pryor, never got in sync with QB Kirk Cousins and eventually was put on injured reserve when they couldn’t trade him back to the Browns. By the time the season was mercifully over, Washington had twenty separate guys on injured reserve, including offensive lineman Trent Williams, who essentially played the majority of the season on one leg.
The 2017 season may have been the grand finale in Washington for Cousins, whom Jay Gruden spit at on his way out. Blaming Cousins for the team going 7-9 is like blaming your basement flooding on the fact that its underground and completely ignoring a massive thunderstorm; the first part definitely didn’t help, but it’s not the main culprit. Gruden may regret being so mean to the only starting QB he’s ever coached when his team is forced to pay Sam Bradford $18 million this offseason.
Positive Spin: Well let’s start with the big one: Dan Snyder didn’t get into any trouble. Like, zero trouble. Sure, there was a little smoke suggesting he was the only ally to Jerry Jones when the Cowboys owner went toe-to-toe with Roger Goodell, but haven’t we all? No news is good news when it comes to the owner of the Washington Football Team, so props to Danny Boy for staying out of everything.
And regarding the QB, well… like a peanut butter sandwich or a movie starring Will Patton, there’s really nothing special about Kirk Cousins. And like the sandwich or Tom Hagan’s portrayer, Cousins definitely can flash brilliance, but it’s not something you really want to build around. So his departure can certainly be spun positively by Washington fans in need of a silver lining.
Had Washington made the playoffs again, or had they even put together a winning season, Snyder may have felt compelled to give the YOU LIKE THAT Vine some of that Matthew Stafford money. How well has that worked out for Detroit? The correct answer is: how well has *anything* worked out for Detroit?
Negative Spin: So Cousins isn’t the answer; where does the team go from here? It’s like telling me I can’t have a ChocoTaco for breakfast -- okay, we’ve established what we can’t have, but I’m still hungry and gotta eat.
It’s a similar spot to where the Iggles were when Chip Kelly declared Nick Foles his starting QB for the next 1,000 years; he (and we) knew Foles wasn’t the greatest option, but finding the greatest option at QB isn’t as easy as scarfing down a couple of early-morning ChocoTacos.
When Cousins first starting stealing playing time from Robert Griffin III, he was an interception machine the likes of which hadn’t been seen before in modern NFL history. The 76ers Big Bella t-shirt gun had less off-target shots than this guy. And yet he developed into an above-average option, and what NFL history tells us is that it’s entirely possible for an above-average QB to win a Super Bowl. Just ask Brad Johnson, or Trent Dilfer, or Eli Manning.
If Washington had signed Cousins to a moderate extension a couple years ago, they could be spending this offseason trying to build up a suspect defense, rather than looking for ways to acquire the likes of Teddy Bridgewater or A.J. McCarron. Kirk wasn’t the final piece of the puzzle, but it’s fair to argue he could have been *a* piece of the puzzle.
Oh, and speaking of “the ones that got away,” this fanbase is going to regret letting Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan walk. Mark that one down.
What’s Next: A search for a quarterback. Remember two years ago when Howie Roseman made a flurry of Houdini-esque trades to move the Birds into position to draft Carson Wentz? That’s what Washington has got to be hopeful for, though most fans of the franchise are still suffering from football PTSD over the draft day trade for RG3. Of course, if they can’t swing something, Washington fans may start getting flashbacks of the 2011 year featuring Rex Grossman and John Beck (both of whom, rest assured, are currently available).