- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 22, 2013

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The last-ditch pass had fallen incomplete, but Pierre Garcon wasn’t finished.

The Redskins wide receiver charged over the mutilated turf at FedEx Field until he came facemask-to-facemask with Barry Church of the Cowboys.

The pointless jawing ended only after tight end Logan Paulsen separated the two and led Garcon away.

The veteran’s lost composure in the final seconds of Sunday’s 24-23 loss to the Cowboys fit these Redskins, who struggle to do much of anything right.

Garcon is the best thing to emerge from this season-long debacle that, mercifully, is four quarters from ending. That hasn’t protected him from the buffoonery that infects every level of this franchise.


SEE ALSO: Tony Romo flips the script to stun Redskins


In anything approaching a normal season — you know, one not riddled with leaks and decimated expectations and relentless off-field drama — Garcon’s emergence as the go-to receiver would be a story worth repeating. The man handed $42.5 million as a free agent in 2012 is delivering a season worthy of the five-year contract.

None of the catches, however, have been enough to slow, even for a moment, the free-fall to a month of meaningless games and an early offseason for the NFL’s headquarters of dysfunction.

Garcon hasn’t hidden his ample frustration this season, from detailing how the team’s passing game “sucks” to kicking a football into the stands after an incomplete pass to draw the unwelcome attention of a referee.

Can you blame him?

As rain showers rolled through Sunday, Garcon did as he pleased for three quarters against a Cowboys secondary that resembled a worse version of their troubled Redskins counterparts. The Cowboys aided the 11 catches for 144 yards and one touchdown by inexplicably leaving him wide-open on play after play. The hideous condition of the turf, yet again, didn’t matter.

If you can’t beat Garcon then, um, don’t cover him?

In the third quarter, Garcon pulled in a 10-yard pass from Kirk Cousins. The receiver hurled the ball to the sideline. That gave Garcon 107 catches this year to break Art Monk’s single-season franchise record that stood for 29 years. Finally, something to discuss that didn’t revolve around Mike Shanahan’s corroded job security or the coach’s relationship with benched quarterback Robert Griffin III.

To break Monk’s record, Garcon overcame Griffin’s chronic inaccuracy that regularly forced the receiver to contort his body into all manner of unnatural positions to simply have an opportunity to catch the football. Overcame the lack of a consistent No. 2 (or No. 3, for that matter) receiver to draw attention of opposing defenses. The wild swings in play-calling. The elevation of Cousins to starter earlier this month.

Monk, you may remember, had Joe Theismann under center all season in 1984. No back-and-forth at the position. Pro Football Hall of Famer John Riggins plowed ahead at running back. And, distant as the memory may be, an actual cohesive organization stood behind the entire on-field operation.

What Garcon did Sunday wasn’t unusual by the standards of his season. Garcon kept catching footballs (aside from the one he displaced with a half-kick, half-stomp that didn’t result in a penalty).

“Even when we were in the dumps,” fellow receiver Santana Moss said, speaking as if the unfortunate destination was already behind the team, “we could rely on No. 88.”

Garcon’s words, however, barely rose about mumbles after the game.

“With the season going on like this,” he said, “it’s pretty hard to celebrate anything right now.”

If anything, Garcon’s efforts served to highlight, once again, the woeful roster around him.

The record, remarkable as such a feat is in a season so bad, couldn’t eliminate another special-teams letdown that allowed the Cowboys to return a punt 62 yards by a player signed Wednesday as a free-agent.

The record couldn’t stop the familiar penalties in critical situations, like the third-and-goal at the 3-yard line that ended in a field goal after the Redskins were called for a false start and an illegal shift before having to burn a timeout.

The record couldn’t help with the defense’s missed tackles and bad angles and, perhaps worst of all, Tony Romo’s 51-yard pass to wide-open Terrance Williams to help set up the winning touchdown.

So, Garcon broke the decades-old record. His picture flashed on the stadium’s big-screen televisions after the catch. The crowd made noise that didn’t involve boos or grumbles en route to the exits.

Then reality returned.

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