There may be one way, and just one way, for the Washington Redskins not to finish the season in a full-blown tailspin that costs many players and maybe even coaches their jobs – coach Jay Gruden must turn into the Grinch.
When the team’s most vocal player said practices have stunk, it’s worth a listen. If safety D.J. Swearinger is allowed to be the team’s voice during good times, then he can’t be dismissed as simply bitter following losses when saying weekday preparation is lacking.
And that criticism goes right between the eyes of coach Jay Gruden and his staff.
Gruden’s post-game frustration was evident in his facial expressions. His pursed lips and scrunched expressions showed he was biting his tongue. While not outing players is the smart move, Gruden may be too nice. Or rather, players are too soft.
Gruden treats his players like men, but now needs to throw some boot camp mentality in the final three weeks. That’s really hard to do in a lost season and a 1-4 recent run.
In 2014, Gruden’s late-season practices were relaxed. Players went through the motions as Washington lost seven of their final eight in a 4-12 season. In 2015, Gruden retooled his practices to become more efficient. The Redskins won their final four games to take the NFC East at 9-7.
Last year, the energy stayed high despite the Redskins losing the season-finale to miss the playoffs at 8-7-1. This season, massive injuries seem to have sapped the team’s strength. There’s little left shown by two straight lopsided losses.
Gruden somehow needs to rally the team on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. No matter if they’re tired, battered and have nothing to play for aside themselves. Great coaching somehow raises a team by creating urgency throughout the days. Poor coaching will lead to a 5-11 season and make owner Dan Snyder wonder whether it’s time to rebuild once more with yet another coach.
We’ll see what the players have left come Sunday against Arizona. We’ll see what Gruden has left, too. Otherwise, we’ll see quite a few new faces around Redskins Park come spring.
Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter @Snide_Remarks.