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The Skins Are Delaying The Inevitable

Photo: Julio Cortez (AP)

Case Keenum declared that Washington’s dead-on-arrival loss to the Bears Monday night was “all on me.” That is absolutely false. Any truly great or truly awful team is just that, a team effort— it requires 53 men, plus coaches and front office and even ownership. And the Skins are a unicorn turd of a football team: a rare squad that is both terrible and bland. Bad enough to have small chance of winning, but not bad enough for it to be fun to watch them lose.

(Per The Athletic, in three of their last four home games the Skins have been down 40-0, 24-0 and 28-0. Is it any wonder fans are leaving early—especially since the trains stopped running around the third quarter—or staying away altogether?)

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But, back to Keenum, who last night did his absolute best to undermine my claim that this mess isn’t his fault:

Keenum tossed three picks and fumbled twice, and it wasn’t very long after kickoff that a goodly number of fans—at least among those who showed up, and of those, the roughly 50 percent who weren’t rooting for the Bears—started chanting “Let’s go Haskins.”

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Keenum’s only a caretaker, and he wasn’t even really supposed to be that. He’s on this roster only because Alex Smith got hurt, and he’s playing only because Colt McCoy got hurt, and he’s still starting only because the Skins don’t believe first-round draft pick Dwayne Haskins should step in yet. Why not? is a valid-enough question. Is it because he’s not ready, in which case you could argue he’d learn best on the job? Is it because Washington’s leaky O-line makes it unsafe for him, in which case it’s not going to get any safer this year?

Or is it because Jay Gruden has a grand plan?

“I think the most important thing is we have to have some continuity,” Coach Jay Gruden said. “I can’t be changing people every five minutes here. I’ve got to give Case an ample opportunity to play with these new guys.”

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(It’s vitally important not to disrupt the chemistry that’s led to 0-3.)

The Post’s Barry Svrluga asks the only question that really matters about this already-lost Skins season: What’s the point of it all? It’s less existential than it sounds. It’s simply wanting a clear answer on what the franchise hopes to accomplish this year, to put it in a better position to win next year.

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The most obvious, surface-level answer would be to get Haskins under center as soon as possible, but that’s fraught. This roster, with holes (voids, honestly) on defense, at the skill positions, and especially in pass protection, is not the ideal roster to make a young quarterback better or even keep him healthy. But that’s usually the case for young quarterbacks—they wouldn’t be starting if things were going well. Sometimes, either because playing is the best way to play better, or because you just need to inspire something resembling hope (or at least not despair) in a fanbase desperate for it, a rookie QB has to figure things out on the job. Often, it works out okay, as it has so far for the other two 2019 first-round quarterbacks; occasionally it doesn’t, as it didn’t for, uh, the last highly touted rookie QB the Skins had.

Haskins will play, it’s just a matter of when. That’s not an easy or an obvious decision, but every additional week of this makes it a little more pressing. And yet, Jay Gruden doesn’t appear to get that—multiple reports say he’s more likely to start Colt McCoy once he gets healthy.

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And so we turn to the more fundamental solution to the Skins’ organizational woes, and one which would go even further toward brightening the future: firing everyone.

Two people with knowledge of the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive topic, said that while Gruden’s job is in danger, he would not be fired before Sunday’s game at the New York Giants.

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That reads to this eye like a promise/threat that Gruden will be fired if Washington loses to the Giants—who currently have franchise optimism for the first time in a long time exactly because they tapped their rookie QB before they had a particularly talented roster to support him. It’s also possible that the Skins wait an additional week just so Gruden instead of his successor can get blown out by the Patriots in Week 5.

But at least that’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and every loss brings it closer. I’d expect an interim coach to turn to Dwayne Haskins immediately after the housecleaning because that’s usually how this works, and the rest of the season can be spent getting him ready for a future that’ll include games that will actually matter. And maybe Bruce Allen even gets fired too? Dare to dream, Skins fans, dare to dream.

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