Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden is either a mad genius, or else we were watching him have a bit of a breakdown this week.
Not having a quarterback when you thought you had two of them can do that.
Gruden’s decision on who will start at quarterback Monday night in Dallas against the Cowboys became the latest bizarre drama played out at Redskins Park — topped off when a muzzled Robert Griffin III emerged Friday to make a statement to reporters, answering no questions and quoting Winston Churchill:
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and do something. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
That’s the second athlete to quote Churchill this week. Kansas City Royals veteran Raul Ibanez did so in a New York Daily News story. Did somebody pass out a Churchill quote book to everyone as a gift?
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Churchill isn’t the statesman that comes to mind when you look at the Redskins quarterback mystery. I prefer to quote the great Michael Ray Richardson: “The ship be sinking.”
The Redskins have three quarterbacks on their roster, but they may not have one who can play and succeed in the NFL.
If we are to believe the public proclamations of Gruden, they aren’t sure if they have one who can play against the Cowboys Monday night.
Will it be Griffin, making his comeback from an ankle injury? Will it be Colt McCoy, the third-string quarterback, who came in and saved the team from an embarrassing loss last week to the lowly Tennessee Titans — the quarterback no one expected to see on the field this season?
Ironically, it won’t be the guy who Gruden secretly may have wanted all along to have the job — Kirk Cousins. Who, in training camp and practice, ran the offense the way this coaching staff wanted it run, and did it well.
“We’re really tinkering on thin ice here,” Gruden said last week. He was answering a question about who is getting the majority of first-team reps in practice, but he might have just as well been talking about well, everything. The team, the coach, the quarterbacks, the organization — take your pick.
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The ice seem to be cracking beneath Gruden this week, with public proclamations about his quarterbacks becoming a daily, confusing tap dance that began following McCoy coming in for Cousins last week and leading Washington to a 19-17 win.
When asked after the Tennessee game who would start in Dallas Monday night, Gruden said, “You would like to have your decision made as soon as possible to have them ready. Now, you throw Robert into the mix. Robert has a chance to practice Wednesday and we have to see where he is heath-wise, and from there I will make a decision from watching the tape of what I’m going to do.”
Wednesday came and went, with no decision — only mystery.
In one breath, Gruden said he was proceeding as if McCoy was the starting quarterback. “Oh, yeah,” he said. “Yeah.”
But in the same breath, he described how they were basically preparing Griffin to play Monday night as well. “You know we are trying to get Robert as many reps on scout team also to really get him some looks as far as in the pocket moving around,” he said. “And also get Colt ready. So, Colt is getting the majority of the first-team reps right now, sprinkled in with Robert. So, we’ve just got to do the best we can with the limited amount of time and reps that we have and everybody has to take advantage of them.”
The last thing were heard from Gruden was his Friday meeting with reporters,
“As far as the quarterbacks are concerned, nothing has really changed there either,” Gruden said. “So, if you guys want to eliminate the quarterback questions, we can do that. We’re still preparing for Colt to be the starter and Robert is continuing with his practice exertion. He’s getting more and more reps. As far as the status for Monday, we will announce that on Monday.”
Normally, if this was a franchise like, say, the New England Patriots or the Pittsburgh Steelers — you know, a functional franchise — you might chalk this up to coaching gamesmanship.
But because it’s the Redskins, a franchise engulfed in the aura of self-destruction, you read the worst into it. When you do that, you’re often not wrong.
Is Griffin pressuring Gruden — and with him, the owner? Are the coach and the franchise quarterback — who, ironically, is still Griffin, which says everything you need to know about this franchise and this mystery — battling over what plays Griffin will run?
You know, the same things that Mike Shanahan faced last year?
• Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 and espn980.com