Here is what you need to know on this Monday, July 2, 24 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.
The importance of beating the Cowboys
In 1991, with Mark Rypien at quarterback, the Redskins lost their Week 13 game to the Dallas Cowboys at home. And even though the Redskins lost just one other game that season and went on to win Super Bowl XXVI, it appears that the loss still sticks in Rypien’s mind more than 26 years later.
“You never want to lose to Dallas anywhere, whether it was at RFK or in Poland,” said Rypien recently on the Redskins Talk podcast.
The conversation then turned to another of the Redskins’ former quarterbacks, Kirk Cousins. Rypien commented on the problems that Cousins had against the team’s biggest rival.
“More importantly we need someone to beat Dallas,” Rypien said. “Kirk struggled to do so, and I think Kirk did a lot of great things. Again, off the field, you maybe couldn’t ask for a better guy to represent the organization, but from the standpoint of winning playoff games, he fell short and you’ve got to move on.”
The Redskins did not beat the Cowboys in a meaningful game in the three years that Cousins was the team’s starter. They went 1-5 with the lone win coming in the 2015 season finale. In that game, the Redskins had locked up their playoff seed as the NFC East champs and Dallas had long since been eliminated.
There are many reasons why the Redskins have struggled against the Cowboys and Cousins is just one of them. Football is a team game and the losses aren’t all on the quarterback.
There is one loss to the Cowboys where you can firmly point the finger at Cousins. It was in Week 2 of the 2016 season at FedEx Field. With the Redskins up by three with about 11 minutes left, they moved to a first and goal at the Dallas six. A touchdown would just about wrap it up. But after two incompletions, Cousins threw to a wide-open Barry Church in the end zone. Church, of course, was a Dallas safety. The Cowboys drove for the go-ahead touchdown. The Redskins couldn’t do anything with two subsequent possessions and they lost.
It was a particularly costly defeat even though it was in Week 2. Had the Redskins won that game, they would have been in the playoffs for the first time in consecutive seasons since 1991-1992.
Cousins bears some blame in the other four losses to Dallas. A couple of times the offense didn't do enough; in three of the five losses, the Redskins didn't score 20 points. Three times, they allowed over 30 points.
Regardless of who is doing the quarterbacking, it is important for the Redskins to beat Dallas for two reasons. First, while the rivalry may not be what it was when Rypien played as far as the players are concerned, it still means a lot to the fans. This is an organization that is trying to sell tickets, and the prospect of going to see them lose to Dallas at FedEx Field while surrounded by tens of thousands of cheering Cowboys fans is not a strong selling point.
More importantly, they have to win division games to stay competitive in the division. If they continue to essentially start the season with a 0-2 record in division play, it’s nearly impossible for them to catch up.
And one more factor. Dan Snyder and Bruce Allen want to beat the Cowboys as badly as many fans do. There were many reasons why they chose not to make a run at retaining Cousins, but the problems beating Dallas was somewhere on the list. I’m not sure how long Gruden and the rest of the coaching staff can last if they don’t turn things around against the Cowboys.
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—Training camp starts (7/26) 24
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 38
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 61
The Redskins last played a game 183 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 69 days.
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