- - Sunday, December 3, 2017


It was bound to happen — sooner or later, the carriage that was pulling the Washington Redskins this season would turn into a pumpkin, the dress Cinderella was wearing would turn into rags.

Like that famous fairy tale dame, though, it couldn’t have come at worse time for the Redskins.

Okay, it wasn’t exactly a Cinderella season for the Redskins going into Dallas Thursday night to face the Cowboys with a 5-6 record. But as the season went on, and players disappeared with injuries, the Redskins remained competitive, even hopeful.

It was an illusion.

Credit to Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins for keeping that illusion going, because the Redskins were simply not as good or talented as they appeared, and it got worse every week as key players like Chris Thompson, Jordan Reed, Mason Foster and a long list of others became spectators.

But Thursday night the Washington Redskins became who they were, who they have been and who they will likely be for the future — an average team when they are at their best, a disaster when they are at their worst.

This team had managed to get through the season with a win over the Seahawks in Seattle, a near-victory over the Saints in New Orleans and an ugly win over the New York Giants on Thanksgiving night on the road at FedEx Landfill.

But the duct tape came off a week later in Dallas. The Redskins, who should have been in meltdown mode for much of the season, finally found their level. And, unfortunately for Washington, it came at the wrong time – in Dallas against a Cowboys team that had seemingly already been in meltdown mode for weeks, going into the game with a three-game losing streak, a lost team without suspended star running back Ezekiel Elliott.

The team that had beaten the Seahawks, nearly defeated the Saints and even managed to squeeze out a 20-10 win over the Giants surely would beat a Dallas team that had scored just 23 points in their last three games.

Except that Redskins team didn’t show up. Instead, you got the Redskins team with limited offensive weapons, a limited defense and a very limited offensive line. So you got three Redskins turnovers before they barely got on the field.

Now, if that Redskins team had showed up in Seattle or New Orleans, you might have found a more understanding fan base. It would have been expected.

But against a team that appeared to be a winnable game – the Cowboys, of all teams – and people are calling for Jay Gruden’s head. And former NFL players turned brilliant analysts are putting the loss on the shoulders of Kirk Cousins, saying his performance against Dallas cost him millions of dollars.

A 38-14 loss in Seattle or New Orleans? What else would you expect?

But in Dallas, carrying a 5-6 record and the illusion of wild card playoff hopes? It looked too much like the Redskins choke job at the end of the 2016 season – the 19-10 loss to a Giants team that had nothing to play for, already secure with a playoff spot, while the Redskins postseason hopes were on the line.

Now, like then, Washington fell short. Or you could say, they found their level.

There are no illusions now.

For most teams in this situation, this would result in a simple, boring, ride-out-the-season finish in the final five games. But now that the Redskins have found their level — dysfunctionally bad — ugly will soon follow.

No one does dysfunctionally bad and ugly like the Washington Redskins.

The weekly referendum on Kirk Cousins‘ contract will likely get more divisive and destructive. If you are keeping score, Thursday night was a win for team president Bruce Allen in his quest to embarrass and tear down Cousins.

And then there is the Scot McCloughan arbitration hearing coming up later this month, where the former Redskins general manager, fired by the team allegedly with cause, makes the case that he was wrongly terminated and should be paid what the team owes him.

Now that is a level of business that is familiar for the Washington Redskins, both on and off the field.

Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver podcast network.

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