Asked last week to give an assessment of Jordan Reed’s season, Redskins coach Jay Gruden shrugged and threw his hands up to the side. It was the human version of this emoji: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
“What do you want me to say?” Gruden said. “He hasn’t been out there the last four, five, six weeks. So he’s been incomplete. It’s just unfortunate.”
Reed’s “incomplete” season came to an end Tuesday after the Redskins placed him on injured reserve with a hamstring strain. The move marked another year Reed failed to play all 16 games — this time with a career-low six appearances. He finished with just 27 catches for 211 yards, also a career-low.
The timing of the decision makes sense. At 5-8, the Redskins are eliminated for the playoffs. Reed’s hamstring injury has caused him to miss six straight games, so there is no need for him to be out there. He just needs to get healthy.
But the reality of Reed’s season is this: he was never reliable from the start. Since the offseason, Reed dealt with a fractured left toe — limiting him through training camp and during the season.
Reed, who wore orthotics to help manage the pain, never got right. His hamstring strain was caused from trying to overcompensate by putting too much weight on his right foot.
While his hamstring needs to heal, so does he toe.
“The toe thing, I guess that would be unlucky, man,” said Reed, whose lone bright spot this season was a two-touchdown performance Oct. 23 against the Philadelphia Eagles. “It just came out of nowhere. I’ve just got to get it right.”
Gruden defended Reed’s injury history, calling his tight end “unlucky” rather than injury prone. By season’s end, Reed will have missed 28 games in his five-year career, also dealing with concussions, shoulder, knee, chest and shoulder injuries in previous seasons.
The problems have created a weekly challenge for Gruden, who forms his game-plans early in the week often without knowing Reed’s status. Without Reed, Gruden has limited the team’s personnel packages.
When healthy, Reed gives the Redskins offense another element, creating matchup problems for the defense. In 2015, he had a career-high 952 yards and 11 touchdowns in 14 games.
At one point this season, quarterback Kirk Cousins revealed the Saints had one defensive game-plan for if Reed was playing, and another if he wasn’t.
“When you have Jordan Reed up and healthy, a big part of how you’re going to attack the defense is with Jordan Reed,” Cousins said. “I think now that he hasn’t been available, that’s where I think the challenge lies, for the coaches to sit and say, ‘how do we want to attack this defense without Jordan? Who do we want to feature? Who do we want to use?’”
It’s almost a guarantee Reed will be back with the Redskins next season, unless the team tries to trade him this offseason. The tight end signed a five-year, $46.75 million contract extension in 2016.
If the Redskins wanted to release him, they would have still have almost $11 million in dead money over the next two years with a post-June 1 release, according to Spotrac.com. Cutting Reed would save just $187,500 in salary cap room for 2018, the move would be almost nonsensical.
But it’s still a frustrating place for the Redskins to be in. Even when Reed was available, he spent two games on a pitch count because of a rib injury — playing just 56.3 of the team’s offensive snaps in Week 2 and 28 percent of offensive snaps in Week 4. He missed Week 3 with his rib injury.
Still, this hasn’t been easy for Reed either, saying last week that this was one of the most difficult times in his life. After suffering the hamstring strain in Week 8 against the Dallas Cowboys, Reed had another setback when practicing on Nov. 9.
Initially, Reed admitted there wasn’t a solution to feeling 100 percent better without fully resting.
“We don’t have time for that right now,” Reed said. “So it can be confusing and tricky to try and get back out there.”
He has time now.