The Battle for the Basement

Tom Coughlin and Jay Gruden

The last time the Giants and Redskins met back on Sept. 25, the game was meaningful. The Giants were 1-2 and looking to get healthy and go on a run and the Redskins were also 1-2 and looking to try to stay afloat until Robert Griffin III returned from injury. The Giants’ won that Thursday Night Football game convincingly (45-14) and won their next game as well before going on a seven-game losing streak. The Redskins dropped their next two gamse as well to fall to 1-5 and have pretty much kept on losing to get to where they are today.

With the Giants and Redskins meeting this week, I did an email exchange with my friend and the biggest Redskins fan I know, Ray Schneider, to talk about his thoughts on the Redskins, the perception of Jay Gruden, if Robert Griffin III is still considered the future and face of the franchise and if the entire fan base has turned on Daniel Snyder.

Keefe: I know this email exchange is going to destroy any happiness you have that the Cubs might be competitive for the first time since 2008, but it has to be done. It’s the “Battle for the Basement” in the NFC East when the Giants and Redskins meet on Sunday at MetLife and the only things that will really come from the result of this game are draft pick seeding and schedule making for 2015. The Giants’ and Redskins’ seasons have both been long, long, long, long, long, long, long gone and I’m sure you feel like you’re in the same boat as me in that this season has just felt like what will be a 17-week continuation of the preseason. Because for a couple months now, both teams have been playing meaningless games.

There’s so much to talk about when it comes to the Redskins that I feel like this exchange is almost the equivalent of trying to break down the entire Friday Night Lights series in a handful of emails. So many characters, both new and old, and storylines when it comes to the Redskins that I don’t know where to start. So let’s start with the newest character to join the mix on this season of The Washington Redskins and that is Jay Gruden, who has decided that RGIII isn’t going to be his quarterback and has done just about everything that Mike Shanahan did to get fired, basically daring Daniel Snyder to pull the plug on a second head coach in as many seasons.

Who’s side are you on: Jay Gruden’s or RGIII’s?

Schneider: If I’m Dan Snyder/Bruce Allen and I had to pick a side, I’m siding with RGIII. And if I’m Jay Gruden, I wouldn’t expect them NOT to side with RGIII. Jay Gruden knew what he was getting into when he took the job, fully understanding he was coming to D.C. to develop RGIII. If Gruden is saying he can’t work with RGIII after approximately four games, he isn’t living up to his side of the bargain and should be shown the door.

Obviously all of this is easy to say when it isn’t my $16 million on the line, but I’d force the marriage and if Gruden quits, he quits. In my opinion, the ceiling for Griffin as a quarterback is higher than the ceiling for Gruden as a head coach.

Keefe: I think my biggest issue with Gruden isn’t even related to his head coaching abilities. It’s that when the Redskins are on Monday Night Football that Jon Gruden refers to his brother as Jay Gruden throughout the broadcast. I can’t imagine having to talk about my brother and continuously using his full name as if the only conversations I had ever had with him were some pregame meetings to find out tidbits of information to include in the telecast. Luckily with the way the Redskins are going I won’t have to sit through many of their appearances in primetime.

If you’re going to side with the supposed franchise quarterback, who clearly has an issue with accountability and placing any blame on himself when talking with the media, then that would mean that you still believe RGIII is a franchise quarterback. And that would mean that you believe that after the league has adjusted to RGIII, that he will be able to readjust to their adjustments and figure out a way to play well enough to lead the Redskins to a championship. Well, maybe we shouldn’t start there. Let’s start with … that he will be able to readjust to their adjustments and figure out a way to play well enough to not get benched for Colt McCoy, who I thought had long been forgotten from the game of football before this year.

Are you still an RGIII believer after everything that has gone on over the last two seasons on the field and the way he has handled himself off the field?

Schneider: Two years ago I would’ve bet my life, as well as the life of my future first born on RGIII being the savior. Present day I’d possibly be willing to bet the stack of SpongeBob post-it notes sitting on my desk that RGIII is the savior.

The off-the-field “concerns” aren’t really concerns in my book. He’s not out partying, drinking and driving, beating his wife, etc. He tweets too much and loves to see himself on camera. I can say with 100 percent confidence that Redskins fans would be fine with Griffin’s off-field behavior if the Skins were winning.

That’s a big IF and I am no longer confident that Griffin can consistently win, but given what was invested to get him, I’m not ready to part ways with him until I am 100 percent certain he is not the guy. There are some glaring on the field issues that raise doubts (decision-making, inability to make reads, mechanics, etc.), but that’s what Jay Gruden was brought here to fix. Instead, not only has RGIII regressed under his watch, so has the other potential long-term answer at quarterback, Kirk Cousins.

Keefe: I used to think that Kirk Cousins was the future of the Redskins and not RGIII until Cousins played himself out of that role. Now they essentially have three quarterbacks and no real answer for who the future is going to be. I can’t imagine the future is going to be Colt McCoy and I’m not sure anyone really thinks he is. So if McCoy isn’t the future, then why is he starting right now for the Redskins? Wouldn’t it make more sense for either RGIII or Cousins to start if those are the most realistic choices to be the Week 1 starter in 2015? Or does McCoy really truly have a chance to be “the guy” for the Redskins? I have a hard time imaging fans in D.C. walking around with McCoy jerseys on, but maybe that’s where this is headed?

Schneider: I think you would be hard-pressed to find a Redskins fan that thinks McCoy is the answer, which is why starting him ahead of Griffin and Cousins is so strange. The only answer that seems to make sense is that McCoy is the only hand-picked Gruden quarterback on the roster. Either that or Gruden realized what a mess the team is and is begging to be fired.

McCoy has established himself as a serviceable backup, but starting him at the expense of developing one of the other two is asinine. Also, McCoy is a free-agent after this year, so what’s the point?

Keefe: I never thought about the idea of Gruden trying to get fired. What would be better than making millions of dollars to not coach the Redskins? It’s a pretty great plan if that’s what his plan is: get paid to not coach.

The only person who can decided if it’s worth it to waste money on yet another coach that isn’t coaching is Daniel Snyder, who might be the last true RGIII fan there is. There always the idea that Redskins fans liked Snyder’s willingness to spend money even if he spent it incorrectly, but what is the perception of him now?

Are you a fan of Snyder?

Schneider: A lot of Redskins fans think Snyder is the problem and the Skins won’t win again until he sells the team. I’m not one of those fans. His gaffes have been well-documented and have impacted on-field performance, but I no longer think he is to blame. He was too involved for far too long, but from what is reported, he has removed himself from the equation and now simply signs checks.

I think he actually curried himself a lot of favor with Redskins fans this past offseason with his “over my dead body” stance on changing the name, but that evaporated by the first week of October once it was clear the Skins would be picking in the Top 10 come April.

One other thing that somehow gets overlooked, the Skins weren’t very good in the years prior to Snyder taking ownership. In the seven years between their last Super Bowl and Snyder buying the team, the Skins record was 45-66-1. So it’s not as if he took over this dynasty and ran it into the ground — he’s just helped to carry on the tradition of suck for the past 15 years.

Keefe: Well, the last time we ended our email exchange I asked you how the game would play out on Thursday Night Football back in September when Derek Jeter still played baseball, the weather was still nice and the Giants and Redskins both still had seasons to play for. The score and result doesn’t matter this Sunday in what is a meaningless game, so there’s only one thing left to ask. We talked about the coach, quarterback and ownership situation with the team, but aside from those things what is your overall perception and feelings of the Redskins as a whole?

Schneider: I can honestly say that in my 20-plus years of true fandom, this is probably the low point. The roster is a mess, the coaches are a joke, the front office is incompetent. I don’t think a sane person could look at the Redskins and say, “Boy, that’s an organization that is headed in the right direction.”

They won’t win another game this season and the silver lining there is that they’ll have a top draft pick, but they’ll inevitably screw up the pick and/or draft a stud that they’ll run out of town in three seasons (see: Robert Griffin).

I’m pretty defeated, BUT … Pitchers and catchers report in another 70 days or so!

Like Jimmy V said, “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.”