Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden isn’t resting injured players over the final four weeks despite no playoff chances. Offensive tackle Trent Williams plays on despite needing surgery. And practices continue midweek because the games are still played each Sunday.
“We’re going to play like we’re still in it,” Gruden said. “I think there are some mathematical possibilities where we can get in. I know it’s a long shot, but this is a 16-game season. We know that anything can happen, so we’re going to continue to play to win. That’s the only way we know how.”
Maybe it sometimes looks like the Redskins have given up in bad losses, but it’s more about extensive injuries often wearing a team down at the end of the season to account for losses.
Junkies: Willing to Embrace ‘Subtle Tank’
Here’s the bottom line: Walk between the lines without a full commitment and you’ll likely get hurt. Don’t give your best effort and the film will show it and your career will end.
Remember Albert Haynesworth lying on the ground during a play? It happened seven years ago and everyone still talks about it. That’s why players can never dog it.
Now, what you may see in the final weeks by those on losing teams is a lack of second-half effort when trailing by a large margin. It becomes a matter of running out the clock.
And in the season finales, players on non-playoff teams simply want to avoid getting hurt. That truly influences their play. It’s no different than you not doing much on your last day at a job.
Now players won’t admit to slowing down at the end. Free agents know they’re graded on every play by general managers thinking of signing them. Reserves recognize their status for next season is always tenuous and don’t want a bad lasting impression with coaches over the offseason.
While everyone wants to win, it’s not as important at the end. They don’t care about moving up in the draft by losing. Once the season ends, it’s quickly forgotten as players worry about the next season. Doing their jobs, staying in the NFL, is the bigger motivator.
“I think the big thing is I just want to make sure we’re continuing to compete at the highest level and there’s nobody in here that’s feeling sorry for themselves or any of that stuff, which I don’t think we have,” Gruden said. “But at the end of the day, you say, ‘Other than winning,’ but it’s all about winning and that’s what measures success in this league – winning and losing. It’s important for us to finish the fourth quarter out stronger than the way we started. That’s all I’m looking for is for the guys who haven’t had a lot of experience, for them to continue to gain experience and play better, and the veteran guys to make sure they lead the right way and continue to play better also.”
So don’t give up watching games. After all, players haven’t given up.
Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter @Snide_Remarks.