The Washington Redskins must beat the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. That’s right, a must-win just two games into the season.
Too early for such pressure? It’s never too early to fail. If Washington falls to 0-2 with Oakland and Kansas City up next, 0-4 is staring straight at them before the Oct. 7 bye. Maybe 1-3 at best.
That will make the owner nervous. A “leak” to a friendly national media plant will say coach Jay Gruden is on the hot seat. And then things will slowly go downhill as Washington plays San Francisco, Philadelphia, Dallas and Seattle. Mid-season could see 2-6 and then… look out below.
Conversely, beat Los Angeles and Washington is 1-1 and fears of an 0-4 start are gone. A little confidence follows and maybe a victory over Oakland.
The Redskins will plow through this season like an old mule – steady but without pizzazz. They’ ll win and lose with little consistency, meaning anything can happen every week.
But only if they don’t lose to the Rams. Not that Los Angeles is any big deal despite its opening 46-9 victory over woeful Indianapolis. It’s just that new coach Sean McVay has golden boy on his resume after seven years as a Washington assistant. He’s Gruden’s protege, and beating the master would mean to some that the Redskins’ front office kept the wrong coach.
Gruden and McVay dismissed their knowledge of each other’s styles into the outcome. And they’re right – players are more important. Gruden called a good game in the opening loss to Philadelphia. The offense didn’t execute. Each coach may tell their defensive coordinator what’s likely coming, but if the pass sails high or the offensive line crumbles, prior knowledge means nothing.
“You also want to be careful of not giving too much information where it doesn’t allow [your defense] to play fast,” McVay said. “You want to help guys out with some of the keys that you have, but it will be the same thing with Jay knowing exactly how we want to operate offensively. So I think it kind of goes both ways.”
Not exactly. A Rams loss won’t push the panic button in Los Angeles, which is still getting used to the NFL’s return. A Redskins loss, though, is a nuclear button in Washington.
Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter @Snide_Remarks.