At 1-3, the Washington NFL team finds itself in familiar territory: down at the bottom of the NFC East, underperforming and coming unglued. Thursday night’s 45-14 demolishing at the hands of the New York Giants was the type of game that nightmares are made of. The District’s favorite cousin, Kirk Cousins, came back down to earth in a turnover-prone disaster, throwing four interceptions on the night. After another promising offseason, the regular season has been the exact opposite for what continues to be one of most frustrating football franchises.
Head coach Jay Gruden capped what was supposed to be a significant turnaround for the club this summer. Robert Griffin III was supposed to emerge fully healthy after stinking up most of the 2013-2014 campaign. The freshly acquired DeSean Jackson was penciled in to give Washington another weapon to go alongside a strong receiving corps, and defense was prepared to be fast and fly with rush linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan both healthy. However, it’s been the twilight zone for the Washington NFL team. Washington’s defense ranks in the bottom five of the NFL in points allowed, RGIII is hurt again and even Jackson is dinged up. You couldn’t ask for a worse start.

Gruden is on pace for a 4-12 campaign, which would effectively qualify him into the “hot seat” label that typically accompanies Washington coaches after their first year. With their nickname still the talk of most campaigning organizations, their starting quarterback on the mend and another long season ahead, the diehard Washington faithful deserve better. But where does it go from here? Another loss potentially knocks the team out of the playoff race and it’s not even officially October yet. The bad news is that to start the month of October, the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks come to town next Sunday. And with a few starters already nicked up and Seattle currently resting on its bye week, it appears the Washington’s next game could get rather messy.

Last year’s 3-13 campaign zapped the life out of a 10-6 division-winning season the year prior, which was capped by Griffin’s stellar rookie campaign. It’s always one step forward and two steps back for Washington. Dating back to 1992, the last five times that Washington has made the playoffs, they’ve followed it up by missing the postseason the following year. Thursday night’s humbling cranked up Facebook posts of “change the name” and “start over,” but things won’t be that simple for Washington. While the team finally gets out from under the 2012 blockbuster Griffin trade and will receive a first round pick next offseason, they’re low on salary cap space after doing some heavy spending this summer. The free agent market is typically where Washington constructs the integral parts of its team. And despite getting its first round selection back, will the team be in the market for another quarterback? The jury is still out on RGIII as well as Cousins, and with major problems along the offensive line as well as throughout the defense, who knows where to begin retooling this roster?

Things can change quickly in the NFL as teams spark huge turnarounds from one season to the next almost routinely. However, the only thing that’s been routine in Washington for the last several years is the level of ineptitude that has broken down a once proud franchise. 

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO