The Washington Redskins got everything they needed on Thanksgiving Day. The Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys not only lost, but looked the part of being completely finished. The Eagles appear to have mailed it on Chip Kelly. The Cowboys lost Tony Romo again. If that’s the case, it means the NFC East is a two-team race—the Redskins at 4-6 and the New York Giants at 5-5.
These two teams go head-to-head on Sunday in FedEx Field. If you couple this game with Washington’s ensuing Monday Night home date with Dallas, is it fair to wonder if the jobs of the head coach and quarterback are on the line?
The Redskins have made admirable progress in a lot of areas. The defense, woeful even in the 2012 NFC East title run, is now in the middle of the league. The offensive line, an absolute train wreck last year, has been strengthened by first-round draft pick Brandon Scherff, the growth of Morgan Moses and the mostly steady health of Trent Williams. There’s a long way to go for this group, as there is for the defense, but units that were once disaster areas are now up to average.
“Average” is what has mostly defined the Redskin football season to this point. They’ve put up some great performances against mediocre competition—home wins against New Orleans, Tampa Bay, St. Louis and Philadelphia. Washington has looked overmatched against Carolina and New England, and in spots like a Thursday Night road loss to the Giants.
Now there’s two consecutive home games against NFC East rivals who are either .500 or worse. If you win both, you’ve got a great shot to win the division. Lose both, and it’s another lost December in the nation’s capital. And that brings us to the jobs of head coach Jay Gruden and quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Gruden rolled the dice with his future shortly before the season started when he benched RG3 and proclaimed Cousins to be the guy. The head coach, who was ready to crush RG3 publicly after a handful of injury-riddled games in 2014, made every excuse possible for Cousins, including an “it was windy” explanation for a poor game against the Jets that drew ridicule even from RG3’s harshest media critics in the Beltway.
As one who doesn’t care for the way Gruden handled the RG3 situation, I can’t ignore the fact that I like what I see from a lot of this team. The positives above are the reason. They look more like a disciplined football team and less like a circus. I’m less sold on Cousins—the nature of the offense makes the quarterback position more about just dumping the ball short to open receivers—but there’s no denying that the quarterback has matured this season and if nothing else, simply having a quarterback who stays healthy allows the team to grow around him.
If you ask me today, I feel like the Redskins have something pretty good developing and I’d bring the Gruden/Cousins ticket back to face a true election year in 2016. If the team sweeps the Cowboys and Giants and at least hangs in the NFC East race, I’m sure that decision becomes a slam dunk. Even a split, while probably fatal to this year’s playoff hopes, would still validate some gradual progress and merit their return.
But lose both, drop to 4-8 and face another cold December watching irrelevant football? That’s another story. I’m a lot more patient than Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, and if I’d be ready to throw in the towel at that point, how much more annoyed would the man who actually makes the decisions be? It’s not unreasonable to think Gruden and Cousins are putting their jobs on the line these next two weeks.