**** As published in RVA Mag ****
[WARNING: I will be using the term “R-Words” throughout this article because I have no idea what’s right anymore]
The term “bye week” evidently originated in cricket. It’s a moment in the game where the “batsman,” which is the name I think Batman must go by in England, can advance and score without ever actually hitting the ball. This is why the top ranking NFL playoff teams get a “bye” and advance to the second round without playing a first round game. Scoring without hitting. Winning without playing. Clearly, the R-Words are in the wrong sport. If a player could score without actually doing anything, the R-Words might have a chance. RGIII wouldn’t have to trouble himself about completing passes to his own receivers. The offensive line wouldn’t have to trouble themselves about blocking for him. And Kai Forbath certainly wouldn’t need to trouble himself with kicking the football in between the uprights. Wide right would be just fine.
The R-Words, being the heady history buffs that they are, know this. They know what the term actually means, and hopefully this will help explain to all R-Words fans what happened on Sunday. The way they played against the Buccaneers was rooted in the R-Words being surprised that they had to actually take the field. Every year, Washington salivates at the bye week on their schedule because they believe, okay, we can go ahead and pencil a W in there. I’m sorry? You don’t actually benefit from doing nothing on this “bye?” Well, clearly, there’s been a misunderstanding in the use of the term. Lexiconally, I deserve something free for doing nothing, so I’m sticking to not trying following the bye. What? We play a game called “football” when we predominantly use our hands? Well, that gives us an excuse for being bad at this game. Another misunderstanding. Kai! You should know better.
Another reason to consider is that 3-6 Day, an R-Words annual holiday, fell on a bye week. Imagine if Christmas, the Christian equivalent to Washington’s 3-6 Day, fell on a two week snow storm big enough to cancel work and school. You would have a White Christmas. Consider how sluggish you would be that first day back at work. Now think to RGIII’s six sacks against Tampa Bay. Everyone was too hungover from two weeks of Burgundy n’ Gold Nog (the recipe’s easy: take your typical egg nog and sprinkle paprika on top). This seems to have been lost on the media, whose coverage has been a little too heavy on real football analysis this week. Franchise quarterback, smanchise quarterback. Nog me.
A fact we can all agree on is that this loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hit Jay Gruden right where it hurts. Not because they were 1-8. The reasons were much more personal than that…
Griffin heard no response. He was sitting in a rented car, in a Tampa Bay suburban driveway.
“It looks abandoned,” said Griffin. “The windows are boarded up. You there, coach?”
As if on cue, a nail came loose on a board covering a second floor window. The board swooped and swayed. Griffin screamed.
“Coach, there’s someone in there. I saw a pair of eyes staring at me from the second floor. Oh, hell naw. This is not how I’m spending my bye…”
Suddenly, there was a rap on his driver’s side window. Griffin screamed again, dropping his phone this time.
It was first year coach Jay Gruden, waving at Griffin to get out of his car.
“See, that’s your problem,” said Gruden through the window.
Griffin alighted out of the car.
“You can’t see the field.”
“But the car,” responded Griffin with a high pitch tone, “the windows are slightly tinted. From the inside, I mean. You can’t tell from out here.”
“I can still hear the pitter patter.”
“The what?” asked Griffin.
“Every morning, momma Gruden would wake us up for school, but we were already awake. James would be studying hard. And Jon was already outside running, training, beating his body. But he would wake me up when it was still dark getting ready. He would move so quickly.”
“That was the pitter patter?”
“He had very small feet,” Gruden said, walking over to the steps of the dilapidated home, beckoning Griffin to follow. “You see this?”
“Looks like someone spilled red Gatorade,” Griffin said, eying a spot on the porch.
“Eventually, I started running with Jon. When I was in high school, I was the quarterback and I was winning a lot. Jon took it as a threat. Every night after a win, he would tell me I was too slow out there. And that I itched myself too much. Called me ‘dog boy.'”
“That’s true,” said Griffin, chuckling to himself.
“Well, I mean you’re not the fastest, coach, and you do… Never mind.”
“So, I started to run,” Gruden continued, “and I could never quite beat him, until one day, I finally did. And this was my reward.”
“Well, you must have been thirsty. That’s nice of him to share.”
“It’s not Gatorade,” said Gruden, lifting up his shirt to show a scar on his side, crudely spelling “dog boy.”
“I hate injuries,” said Griffin.
Gruden walked to the front door, taking a key out of his pocket and unlocked the door knob. He walked into the dark house.
“Momma? Dadda?” said Gruden loudly, then walked further into the house and out of sight.
“Hey coach!” Griffin said from the porch, cupping his mouth with his hands to cone the sound, “I really should be going. Thanks for connecting with me. I feel the bond.”
“It was here…” Griffin heard someone say to his right. He screamed.
“How did you get there?” said Griffin.
Gruden was walking out from the side of the house towards Griffin.
“Came around the back,” said Gruden. “Really very poor awareness, Robert. It was here that dadda Gruden would come home every day from work, and we would be so interested to hear about his job as the Buccaneers running backs coach. Go ahead.”
Gruden gestured toward the front door. Griffin shook his head and walked forward. He grabbed the door knob and twisted it to no avail. He twisted it again. It wouldn’t budge.
“It’s open,” said Gruden, “What’s the problem?”
“Sorry,” said Griffin, “I can’t seem to… Gosh!”
“It’s open, Robert!”
“I can’t! I’ve always had a problem telling if something’s open or not,” admitted Griffin, his head down.
“I know,” said Gruden, opening the door himself.
When they entered the atrium, there was dust dancing in the beams of sunlight. Griffin looked around, perplexed to see the house still furnished, albeit draped in cobwebs. A cloud moved on the outside, diverted a ray of light onto the wall above what looked like the dining room table. It was a Tampa Bay Buccaneers flag.
“In 2002, Jon took over,” Gruden explained, “as the Bucs head coach, and he hired me as an offensive assistant.”
“Aw, that’s so good to hear that you two turned out to be close like that.”
“The entire year, he treated me well, heeding my advice. He knew I had a good football mind, and I was usually right.”
Gruden walked towards the flag.
“When he hoisted that Lombardy trophy,” said Gruden in the intermittent dark, raising his hands to hold something invisible, “I was elated, and I was happy for him. We embraced in the confetti, and he whispered something to me I’ll never forget.”
All of a sudden, Griffin heard a pattering of something small and fast in the boards above him. There was someone upstairs.
“Okay,” said Griffin, bending his knees and extending his hands out, one to each side, “I told you earlier there was someone upstairs. You heard that, right?”
“It took me six years working as his assistant to realize that he only had me on staff to help him win, so that he’d get the credit. And if I’m working for him, I can’t compete against him, can I?”
“What’d he tell you?” Griffin said.
“Now, it’s my turn,” said Gruden as he walked towards Griffin, “Guess who we play next, Robert.”
“What’d he tell you?” Griffin said, his voice raised.
As Gruden walked closer, he entered a space in between rays of sunlight, impossible for Griffin to see in the dark. Griffin’s head was on a swivel. The footfalls reoccured above him in surround sound.
“F*** you,” came a whisper.
Griffin screamed. The sentence had come surprisingly from his left.
“What?” Gruden said. “You asked me to tell you what he told me. Golly day, you really need to work on your vision and awareness. Look at you, you’re shaking. I’m hungry. I’m gonna go grab a bite. You coming? I’m buying.”
Reasons for Depression
The R-Words, while not mathematically so, played themselves out of the playoffs by losing to a team that was 1-8. I wish Mike Singletary had been waiting for them in the locker room after the game with his pants down.
Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams, possibly Washington’s best player, got injured. Surprisingly, it wasn’t season-ending, but if it had been, would it really matter? He’ll be back in a game or two, but if I were Trent, I’d fake it for a few more and call it a season.
Ryan Clark looked very old for the 10th game in a row (there have only been 10 games). He single-handedly allowed a deep Mike Evans touchdown when he was supposed to be giving safety help. At least he took the blame, immediately pointing at his own chest, which I wish I could say for…
Robert Griffin III looked awful. He had actually looked decent against Minnesota before the bye week, hitting on a few big plays and showing some escapability and speed. Against Tampa Bay, it was a complete nightmare. He was sacked six times, many of them his fault and a couple of them driving them out of scoring territory. He missed two deep throws to DeSean Jackson that would have changed the game. To the naked eye, it looked like his two tipped interceptions were not entirely his fault. Unfortunately, they were due to terrible decision-making, more than anything. Chris Cooley analyzed the tape, and concluded that Griffin was catastrophically terrible and that the coaches had even dumbed down the playbook by the end of the game for him. Cooley doesn’t say Griffin is terrible, just that he played terribly. It’s an important distinction going forward, but if RGIII continues to play that way in this next six-game audition for the future, he’ll be out of Washington, no matter his potential or what he’s done in the past.
The offensive line was porous, contributing heavily to RGIII’s six sacks.
Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed were non-factors.
Reasons for Hope (Poison)
Alfred Morris neared 100 rushing yards, and caught a few balls to total over 100. He did his part.
That’ll do her…
The only interesting thing to watch for the rest of the season is whether RGIII plays well or not. If he doesn’t, it’ll be easier for Gruden’s job security because he can just move on and consider his first year the RGIII test year, and he’ll have bought himself another building year next year. If Griffin plays well enough for the job, it’ll put Gruden in a hotter seat, ironically. He’ll be expected to win in year two. Clearly, due to how much work there is to be done on all the other areas of the team, this would be an unfair expectation for Gruden. So it goes in Washington. The other interesting decision he’ll have to make is when to give McCoy a shot. My guess is Griffin has four more games, really, instead of the entire six. If he continues to play poorly, the R-Words will look at McCoy for the last two.
Week 12 Outlook
Robert Griffin III falls back in love with Pierre Garcon this week. Griffin floats an easy ball to Garcon in practice, who inexplicably drops it. They both tilt their heads at each other and giggle over the snafu and embrace. With their chemistry rekindled, Griffin’s confidence soars. Against San Francisco, his decision-making returns, and he runs when he’s supposed to, to the tune of 75 yards. Morris benefits from the dual threat and rushes for over 100. Jackson benefits from Morris benefiting and catches a deep touchdown throw on a play action pass. Garcon benefits from Jackson benefiting from Morris benefiting and catches 10 balls for over 100 yards.
Washington 28, San Francisco 21