I get it. Football fans are generally optimistic about the futures of their favorite teams, specifically fans of teams that made the playoffs in the previous season. So when it comes to fans of the professional football team in Washington, D.C., this theory is enhanced by ten.
Washington fans were already irrationally optimistic, and after losing to the Packers in the wild-card round of the playoffs, their optimism is at an all-time high. Their heads are so in the clouds that they were barely upset after losing to the Packers, because “nobody expected us to be here” and “we’ll be back next year.” Only New England fans are as sure.
Now, while even I have to admit Washington showed some promise for the future, there’s cause for pause that the fans aren’t heeding to.
The first, and most glaringly obvious issue, is the one at quarterback. Kirk Cousins played amazing down the stretch this season but as has been noted time and time again, he has yet to win a game against a team with a winning record in his career.
Couldn’t fall asleep last night so I looked at Kirk Cousins wins as a starter. The teams have something in common pic.twitter.com/FjfpIm4Evt
— Joe Atmonavage (@Uncle_Joefus) January 7, 2016
Is he the quarterback of the future? With Cousins’ impending free agency, Washington will have to pay him to find out. If Washington doesn’t, somebody else will, so naturally they’ll pay him and either prosper for the next four to five years or set the franchise back as much.
I’m of the belief that he’ll be a decent enough quarterback, though. Not as good as he was in the second half of 2015, but not terrible either. He’ll be good enough to win with, which leads me to my next issue. The way he earned the starting quarterback position in the first place.
Robert Griffin III will be gone next season. He’ll finally be a non-issue in Washington, the distraction that was but no longer is. The other person who contributed to the RGIII circus, however, is still around – Jay Gruden.
Gruden deserves SOME credit for carrying a four-win team in 2014 to a 9-7 playoff team the following season, but it was only a playoff team for winning the NFC East. No one’s giving Bill O’Brien any praise for winning the AFC South and the NFC East was just as bad. Let’s hold on to our Gruden praise for when he actually deserves it. And I’m not as sure whether he’ll ever earn that type of praise.
Are we sure Gruden is a good head coach with the way he originally mismanaged the most important position on the team? It wasn’t a matter of knowledge with him, it was matter of dealing with people, the same thing that got Chip Kelly fired. Gruden clearly made the right decision in who to start, but the way he arrived to that point was a mess. A lot of talk was made that if his decision to start Cousins didn’t pan out, he would be out of job. Well, Cousins beat up on bad teams and saved Gruden, but are we sure he won’t mismanage more of his players in the future? Let’s not forget that he’s only still around because of a quarterback that still hasn’t beaten a winning team. There are still a lot of question marks.
The final reason Washington fans should temper expectations for 2016 is the most obvious. The ‘skins aren’t the best team in a division that seems to turnover every year. There hasn’t been a back-to-back winner of the NFC East since Philly did it from 2001 to 2004. Not even the team fans were so excited about in 2012, behind the now exiled RGIII, could repeat – and I think that team was better than this one.
As much as it pains me to say as a lifelong Giants fan, I think Dallas is still the team to beat.
Obviously, the Cowboys have their own coaching issues, but with that offensive line still in tact and a healthy Tony Romo and Dez Bryant returning, Dallas automatically leap frogs everyone in the division.
In addition, Cousins is still just the third best quarterback in the division, at best, behind Romo and Eli Manning. And New York’s offense will keep it in the division picture, especially if the Giants hire the right head coach.
As bad as New York was defensively, only two teams scored less than Washington did in either of its two games against the Giants. Cousins threw just two touchdowns against the Giants in 2015, and he threw for as many interceptions when New York won the first game 32-21. Washington won the second game 20-14.
So, congratulations Washington fans, you made the playoffs and I know its as much success you can fathom, but your best best was to go on a magical run this season, because getting back next year isn’t a sure thing.