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The latest, greatest embarrassment to be inflicted upon the fans of one of the NFL’s most important franchises happened again this weekend.
And it’s not just that the defending champion New England Patriots went into Landover, Maryland, and depantsed the Washington Redskins 33-7 on an overcast Sunday afternoon. No, we all expected that to happen.
It was the way it went down, with the Patriots scoring 33 unanswered points in a beating so thorough that at 3:45 p.m. ET, after many of the Redskins fans who subjected themselves to this misery had long raced to the exits, the Patriots fans who had commandeered FedEx Field burst out in a cheer that likely made Jack Kent Cooke roll over in his grave.
Brady! Brady! Brady! Brady!
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There have been other times where opposing teams have successfully invaded FedEx Field. But on a day when Pats fans had a loud, consistent presence throughout, the number of moments like this took even the man they were cheering for, not to mention his coaches and teammates, by surprise.
“It was ridiculous and pretty amazing — it felt like a home game,” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said.
“It was amazing,” coach Bill Belichick said. “Oh my God, there were so many Patriot fans here it was surprising and overwhelming.”
“It was confusing,” receiver Josh Gordon said. “It felt like a home game, just like Foxborough. To be honest, I’m just grateful to have that support, our fans traveling, maybe we got some Redskins fans.”
No, Josh. Although Sunday’s contest felt more like a Pats home game, many Redskins fans remain loyal despite rooting for a sinking ship of a franchise that sits 0-5 and may have reached its nadir under the ownership of Dan Snyder, who might lord over the worst organization in pro football. The spectacle was too much even for Snyder, which helped prompt the Redskins on Monday morning to fire head coach Jay Gruden.
Washington is one of the league’s most storied franchises, one that I first became acquainted with 28 years ago growing up in Detroit, when 7-year-old me became a fan of the NFL by the “Thumbs Up” Lions. That team went 12-4 and reached the NFC championship game. The Lions, of course, got steamrolled by the Redskins 41-10, and I quickly came to understand the difference between a perpetual loser like the Lions and perpetual winner like the Redskins, who went on to win their third Super Bowl since 1983. While the Lions used hope and Barry Sanders to sell tickets, the Redskins were one of the most competent organizations in the NFL, with regular sellouts and a mile-long season-ticket waiting list fueled by plenty of on-field success. The Redskins were who I wanted the Lions to be.
But now? Pssst. You might not find a more hopeless organization in the NFL. As far as overall ineptitude goes, only the hapless Bengals — who sit at 0-5, need a quarterback and have a long-established reputation for being cheap — appear to be close. The Browns and Cardinals are out there, but they have Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, paired with coaches they believe in. The Raiders and Lions both look shockingly competent now. Hell, even the Dolphins — for as bad as they are on the field at a completely non-competitive 0-4 — at least have a plan for long-term success, albeit in the form of tanking.
The Redskins, meanwhile, are rudderless. They just drafted a promising young first-round quarterback in Dwayne Haskins, but he started off being coached up by a man who reportedly didn’t want him. Gruden had the look of a coach who was ready to be put out of his misery the past couple of weeks.
“Nobody told me anything and I don’t have a concern. I’ll just wait and see,” Gruden told reporters after Sunday’s loss. “If the key works on Monday, I’ll keep working.”
The key didn’t.
Anyone who thinks firing Gruden will fix anything is sorely mistaken. Gruden had a 35-49-1 regular-season record in Washington, but he’s a sound offensive mind whose overall competency is the sole reason he has fashioned multiple competitive teams in D.C. despite the chaos and lack of organizational competency above him. He may not be the end-all-be-all as a coach, but that doesn’t mean he’s the problem.
The problem is clearly Snyder. He has exhibited over the past two decades that despite his desire to spend, he simply does not know how to win. Since Snyder bought the team in 1999, the Redskins have gone 139-185-1, a dismal winning percentage of .427, as the Redskins’ famed waiting list for tickets has simultaneously (and embarrassingly) evaporated.
They’ve won only two playoff games and two division titles during that timespan, all while navigating more organizational dysfunction than Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.
So it should come as no surprise that they are currently on their way to their ninth last-place finish in the NFC East under Snyder’s stewardship. At this point “Redskins fans abandoning hope in October” could rival The Masters as a tradition unlike any other, and, boy, is that sad.
Snyder grew up loving the Redskins and imagining what it would be like to own the team, something he accomplished by the age of 34. Unfortunately for Redskins fans, they’ve seen the tangible proof of it for the past two decades as one of the NFL’s most storied franchises has become a punch line, a narrative Sunday’s embarrassing events only reinforced.
Gruden is the fall guy for the ongoing atrocity occurring in D.C., but Snyder would be wise to take a hard look at doing the same to his buddy (and team president) Bruce Allen, who has posted a dismal 59-89-1 record since his arrival in 2010.
And after that? Well, Redskins fans can only hope Snyder has the wherewithal to swallow his pride, take a deep breath and take a long, hard look in the mirror.
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