Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden has seen those old westerns where the cavalry chases a few Indians into a canyon only to suddenly see the whole tribe waiting in ambush. Yeah, how’d that work out for Custer?
Forgive Gruden’s dismissal of rumors that the New York Giants will rest starters in Sunday’s finale. The next few days are one big chess game even if the Giants have nothing to win given they’re the No. 5 seed in the coming NFC playoffs. The Redskins still need to beat the Giants for the No. 6 seed and a division rival isn’t about to make it easy.
“Whether their starters play or not is insignificant,” Gruden said. “I know that they have a very good football team and that’s the important thing. Once they get off the plane and they get out here Sunday afternoon, they’re going to play to win. That’s the only way to play football. And I know coach [Ben] McAdoo will have them ready to play and we have to be ready also.”
Aside the NFL draft, season finales are the bigger liar’s poker of the year. Everyone misdirects their plan regardless that 20 teams won’t make the playoffs. It’s not meaningless to many. Some coaches need a win to keep their jobs. Some players use final stats for season-performance bonuses. Surely, Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins would love a big game to reach 5,000 passing yards. (He’s 370 yards away.)
So everyone lies come the final week if only to stay mentally alert. And while McAdoo can don a mask of innocence when saying his starters are playing, no one really knows what that means. He can’t openly bag the game beforehand because the NFL frowns on that. McAdoo will pretend with the acting chops of Johnny Depp when saying the Giants are coming to town for a victory.
“I don’t think, you know, at least he [Ben McAdoo] doesn’t want to put it in our heads that,” Giants receiver Victor Cruz said, “you know, someone is not going to play or whatever the case may be because you just want to keep everybody mentally into the game and making sure that we’re coming in all everything all guns blazing and take it from there.”
“Take it from there” means not playing a whole game. Sort of like the third preseason game where starters get one half.
No, no, says McAdoo.
“The whole … the starters are going to play,” he said. “I don’t know any other way to do it.”
Maybe McAdoo is going for an Academy Award for Best Actor or perhaps the Giants want revenge after losing 29-27 to the Redskins on Sept. 25 that saved Washington’s season by avoiding an 0-3 start? Is Odell Beckham looking for a rematch with the kicking net? The Giants receivers are awfully quiet about facing Redskins cornerback Josh Norman after chirping like a choir before the first meeting. Maybe it just doesn’t mean enough this time.
Most season finales have everyone trying at the start. Now if one team gets up two touchdowns, then many players just watch the clock and try to avoid an injury. After all, the Giants need to keep some credibility entering the postseason.
Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter @Snide_Remarks.