- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 28, 2015


Do we think that Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden can’t wait for training camp to open Thursday?

He seems like a smart, brutally honest guy — with an emphasis on brutally — and far less delusional than the typical NFL coach.

Has he been sitting in his office during the offseason, perhaps hearing the predictions about a team that, according to any media outlet you can hit with a dart, has predicted doom and gloom for Gruden in his second season, and thought, “We’re going to prove them wrong?”

These are not your typical preseason predictions. There are polls by some media outlets that rank Gruden and his new group of coaches as one of the worst staffs in the NFL. And then, of course, there was ESPN’s anonymous poll of league coaches and insiders, all of whom ranked the anointed starting quarterback, Robert Griffin III, one of the worst in the league. One so-called insider declared he was “done” as a quarterback.

Now, typically, this all might be motivational fodder for a coach, who could use all the dire predictions as fuel to prove everyone wrong. This would be gold for Joe Gibbs, who would flip out when preseason predictions for his teams would rank them among the best in the league.

But it’s hard to use “the world is against us” as an argument when one of your players who has been here for about five minutes — Terrance Knighton, the nose tackle and 29-year-old known as “Pot Roast” — is already running around giving the defense nicknames like “Capital Punishment” and predicting great things.

Besides, I think Redskins fans have already adopted that nickname to define their own suffering existence.

All that said — the lousy coaching, the lousy quarterback, a dismal, losing season before they even take the field — has a familiar scent to me.

Different sport, different organization, different circumstances, yes, but I can’t help but recall the predictions of a historic losing season for the Washington Nationals in 2007.

Pundits were falling over themselves — myself included — to come up with new ways to describe how bad that baseball team would be. It was a team that everyone expected to lose more games than any in the history of baseball.

They lost, all right, but far less than everyone thought, putting together what turned out to be perhaps the most fun and rewarding 73-89 season we have seen in recent memory.

In this day and age, when piling on is the national pastime, predictions have a way of spiraling out of control, feeding off one another.

The Redskins will be bad. No, they will be really bad. Griffin is not a starting quarterback. No, Griffin is not a quarterback, period.

Well, I’m jumping off the pile.

The Redskins may not be good, but they won’t be this bad. RG3 may not be great, but he won’t be as bad as everyone expects.

They have too much offensive talent on their roster — Alfred Morris, Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson among that talent — to win just three or four games and struggle offensively yet again. And, while there are legitimate questions about Griffin, the second year under Gruden and one more year removed from reconstructive knee surgery should move him closer to being an acceptable quarterback, if not a good one.

Also, the addition of offensive line coach Bill Callahan should bring more offensive stability, starting with a strong running game.

Remember, at one time, the pile was about how great Griffin would be. Analyst after analyst would try to one-up the other with how good Griffin would be in this league.

They were wrong, as it turned out. And they may be wrong again now — but not that wrong.

Let me make this clear — this is not good news for Redskins fans. This is not a prediction of greatness, or even reasonably good. There won’t be any new NFC East banners flying at FedEx Field.

No, this team will not be a playoff team. They just won’t be as bad as everyone believes. No, RG3 won’t bring back the “shock and awe” of 2012. He just won’t be as bad as everyone believes.

In the past, this would be interpreted as progress at Redskins Park.

What fans have to hope for is that new general manager Scot McCloughan recognizes that it is just the mediocrity of a bad organization rising to the top — and not a sign that he inherited a team going in the right direction.

• Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 and espn980.com.

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