Let’s flash back to week nine of the 2018/19 NFL regular season. In the wake of the departure of star quarterback Kirk Cousins, the Washington Redskins had outperformed everyone’s expectations, sitting on an promising 6-3 record – good enough to earn them first place in the desolate NFC East landscape. This would be their best start to a season since a decade prior, in 2008. As a member of a fanbase which perpetually expects disappointment, I could be forgiven for allowing a tiny flame of optimism to blossom in my mind.
Thus began the degeneration.
The Redskins would achieve an impressively awful 1-6 record to end the season, mostly due to the subsequent quarterback crisis arising after veteran quarterback Alex Smith horrifically broke his leg in the week eleven loss to the Houston Texans. The same fate would await reliable backup Colt McCoy in week thirteen, leaving the playoff hopes of the Redskins in the hands of well-travelled quarterback Josh Johnson after a brief outing for legendary slinger Mark Sanchez. Bar their surprising win against the pitiful Jacksonville Jaguars, the Johnson-led Redskins performed about as well as expected, finishing the season on a 7-9 record.
So where did it all go wrong for this team?
The Washington Redskins, yet again, had their season crippled by what felt like a thousand injuries. The NFL Gods didn’t even have the courtesy to wait until the regular season to implement this curse, as promising second round draft pick Derrius Guice was lost for the season with a torn ACL seemingly only moments into his first pre-season outing. Their troubles only escalated from this point, as throughout the season the team lost several key players to the extent that, by week seventeen, the squad was nearly unrecognisable from the start of the season. At the end of the season, a total of twenty-four players had been placed on injured-reserve. These include:
-Starting QB Alex Smith.
-Backup QB Colt McCoy.
-(Projected) Starting RB Derrius Guice.
-Starting WR Paul Richardson.
-Starting TE Jordan Reed.
-Both starting Guards, Brandon Scherff and Shaun Lauvao.
Even our long-snapper Nick Sundberg wasn’t safe.
In retrospect of this, it’s difficult to blame the coaches for this mostly dismal season. The team clearly was not playing at their full capacity for a large majority of the season, leaving Jay Gruden with a severe shortage of manpower at several points throughout the season. If anything, it’s a miracle we reached the dizzying heights of 7-9 with such a depleted squad. The worrying fact is, however, that the Redskins are no strangers to injury trouble.
By the end of the 2017/18 NFL season, the Washington Redskins were carrying twenty players on injured reserve. The season before they had twelve. The season before that it was sixteen. The Redskins have been trapped in this injury purgatory for a while. Washington will be doomed to mediocrity for all eternity if they can’t escape this curse.
So where does the team go from here?
Firstly, I believe that a productive 2019 draft class is absolutely paramount if this team has any ambition of becoming contenders. The team is still filled with holes on both sides of the ball. At this moment, the priority should be to strengthen the receiving corps and secondary.
Secondly, the Redskins need to work out their quarterback situation. Sadly, it looks like Alex Smith may never play another down of football, and as a result the front office needs to look elsewhere. Whether it’s a short-term free agent acquisition or a young play-caller from the draft, this situation is of the utmost importance.
Finally, with the recent injury history of the team, the conditioning/medical team of this franchise desperately needs a shake-up. A healthy roster would be incredibly beneficial for several coaches who find themselves on the hot-seat after a disappointing stretch of seasons.
Us Redskins fans are no strangers to misery, yet the 2018/19 season is one which a large majority of the fanbase would like to forget. As this franchise lurches from one disappointment to another, one thought remains; surely things can only get better?