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At 1-9 and sinking, Redskins coach and players know that 'close' is just a myth

At 1-9 and sinking, Redskins coach and players know that 'close' is just a myth

Redskins team president Bruce Allen famously described his team as “close” multiple times during the last few years.

Close? Close to what?

Allen never really answered that, but in some alternate universe, there was often talk about a 6-3 record midway through the 2018 season and coulda-beens and shoulda-beens. 

“It means you’re close. It means you’re close to being better. We have to find the right ingredients and right chemistry to do that,” Allen said last January. “We were two games out of the playoffs, and no matter how you want to look at the season, we were two games out of it. And the year before we were one game out of it, and the year before we were one game out of it. So we have to find the right ingredients to get over that hump.”

Of course, none of that mattered in the real universe. Ever. 

In the time since Allen’s infamous close comments, the Redskins are 1-9, fired head coach Jay Gruden and seven-time Pro Bowl tackle Trent Williams has made clear he will never return to the organization. 

Now, however, in a fit of honesty, a top Redskins official has admitted that the team is, in fact, not close. 

"I don’t think we’re close today. I have to be honest with you,” Redskins interim head coach Bill Callahan said after his team lost 34-17 to the New York Jets on Sunday. 

Callahan provided the unnecessary qualifier that the Redskins weren’t close in the Jets game, but the reality is the Redskins aren’t close in any capacity. On Monday, the Redskins coach expanded on his comments.

"The translation is what really gets to me, taking plays from the grass to the game," Callahan said. "Nobody wants to hear it and I understand that. No one wants to hear how hard you practice and how hard you prepare because everyone does in the National Football League. You’ve got to come to the game and you’ve got to make plays. When that doesn’t translate, yeah there’s disappointment."

The coach deserves some level of credit for the honesty, but the reality absolutely backs up his sentiment. This Redskins team just don't make enough plays to validate much conversation around their proximity to real competition.

The team is not close to a competent defense, particularly after going down 34-3 to the Jets before a late two touchdown rally. 

The team is not close to an explosive offense, particularly after getting just three first downs in the entire first half against the Jets. 

The team just isn't close. 

The Redskins are 1-9 and on a solid path to a 1-15 record. It would be the worst mark in Washington since 1961. Jack Kennedy was president then. 

Even if rookie QB Dwayne Haskins improves and can lead this team to a few victories, the Redskins still won’t be close. The team lacks playmakers on offense, the offensive line has struggled much of the year, and the defense has been a mess most of the season. 

Players recognize the conversation about competing and being close isn’t accurate, and simply isn’t good enough anyway. 

“The message can't keep being, 'We're close, we're close.' The message can't be 'I'm proud of your guys' effort, get ready for next week'. We have to put points on the board, put touchdowns on the board. That's what wins at this level,” Redskins WR Paul Richardson said after a Week 9 loss in Buffalo. 

Richardson is right. Pro football isn’t about participation trophies. It’s about wins. 

For years the Redskins’ brass has talked about effort as a panacea to bad football. Effort alone won’t change anything. Effort needs to be met with capable players, and capable players also need to exert maximum effort. There’s a legitimate question how much of either the Redskins are getting. 

The only thing the Redskins are close to is their worst record in nearly 60 years. 

Close to what? Close to nothing. 

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Clinton Portis among group of NFL players charged by Justice Department with defrauding NFL health care program

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Clinton Portis among group of NFL players charged by Justice Department with defrauding NFL health care program

The Justice Department charged Clinton Portis and nine other former NFL players with defrauding a health care program for retired players.

The news broke Thursday morning when the Eastern District of Kentucky alleged that the retired players submitted fraudulent claims for medical equipment costing between $40,000-50,000 to the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan. 

Former Redskins cornerback and first-round pick Carlos Rogers is also charged along with Robert McCune, John Eubanks, Tamarick Vanover, Ceandris Brown, James Butler, Frederick Bennett, Correll Buckhalter and Etric Pruitt. Joe Horn and Reche Caldwell are also expected to be charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

Portis' attorney Mark Dycio said of the charges (via The Washington Post): "Clinton Portis had no knowledge that his participation in what he believed to be an NFL sanctioned medical reimbursement program was illegal. He is completely taken aback by this indictment and will move forward with the process of clearing his good name and those of his fellow NFL alumni."

According to the indictment, the claims filed between June 2017 and December 2018 totaled $3.9 million and the health care plan paid out more than $3.4 million.

Portis played seven years for the Redskins from 2004 to 2010, rushing for nearly 7,000 yards and 46 touchdowns. He remains a fan favorite and currently works for the Redskins Broadcast Network. 

A Redskins spokesperson was not immediately available for comment. 

Stay tuned as this is a developing story. 

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The Redskins' offense has been bad all year, but they're atrocious on opening drives

The Redskins' offense has been bad all year, but they're atrocious on opening drives

No matter how you break it down — by quarter, by month, by time of day, by location, by whether the opponent has an animal mascot or a human mascot — the numbers show that the Redskins have a really ineffective offense. Currently, they're last in the NFL in points per game and yards per game.

They're bad all the time, honestly.

However, they're downright atrocious when it comes to their opening drives.

In Week 1 against the Eagles, the Redskins scored a touchdown on their opening possession. It was fun. The players had fun. The fans had fun. Everybody had fun.

But since then, they haven't notched a single TD on a first drive. In fact, they haven't converted a field goal, either.

Overall, in their 13 game-opening possessions on the year, Washington has that single end zone trip to go along with a missed kick, seven punts, two fumbles and two interceptions (one of which was taken back for a score).

What's the opposite of coming out hot? The 2019 Redskins' offense.

"I'm tired of the slow starts, our guys are, too," Bill Callahan said Wednesday. "That's the goal of the first drive of the game — try to jump ahead, get ahead, find a way to get on the board early. We haven't succeeded at that." 

The issue is registering with Dwayne Haskins, too. So, what can they possibly do to try to improve?

"Just trying to figure out a way we can move the ball early, not getting behind the chains, finding lanes and getting the ball out fast," the quarterback said. "It helps our defense when we come off fast and move the ball down the field and not put them in a tough scenario with having a short field."

Many have complained about the offense's run-first approach being too predictable under Callahan, and that's something that could be plaguing them at the beginning of their contests. Since he took over as interim coach, for example, the offense has run the ball on their first snap in six-of-eight matchups, including four-out-of-five with Haskins under center.

Of course, this is an area where Jay Gruden struggled as well, but his tendencies weren't as obvious. Plus, and yes, this is minutiae now, he did call two play-action shots in Weeks 2 and 4 that schemed up wide-open receivers that Case Keenum simply missed. He was also in charge for that lone touchdown in Philly.

The most obvious explanation for the problem, however, is one that can explain a lot of things this season: an overall lack of talent. As mentioned at the start of the story, it's not like the offense gets into a rhythm at any point, so their numbers will be underwhelming in any situation or sample.

That said, even with an inexperienced and undermanned group, there should be more production than one TD in 13 chances. Callahan told the media that "we put a lot of thought, focus and concentration" into the early-game plan. Clearly, it's not paying off.

In many ways, the Redskins have fallen behind the rest of the NFL over the past few months. The stats above show that, at least in one way, that's literally very true.  

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