LOVERRO: Sellout streak falls along with Redskins
LANDOVER In the first half of the Washington Redskins home opener Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, the video board at FedEx Field urged hometown fans on with this: We cant hear you.
With all the empty seats in the building, they might have added, We cant see you, either.
The rebuilding of the once-mighty Redskins brand took a beating Sunday, both at the box office and on the field, as Jay Grudens team once again squandered a chance to gain some momentum with a 21-9 loss to the Colts a game that most observers believed would wind up in the win column for Washington.
Coming off an impressive, dominant 24-6 victory in Arizona over the Cardinals, Washington had a chance to win over the zombie-like fan base with an equally-impressive win before a home crowd of allegedly 57,000 about 23,000 short of a sellout, supposedly the first time the team hasnt sold out its home opener in 50 years, if you chose to believe that.
A 2-0 start would have been a step in the right direction in Redskins chief operating officer Brian Lafeminas plan to win fans back. And it would have given the Redskins a cushion in the standings going into their next three games against stiffer competition Green Bay, New Orleans and Carolina.
Instead, youll have the varsity coming to town next week, led by Aaron Rodgers, probably still smarting from Sundays tie with Kirk Cousin and the Minnesota Vikings.
At least FedEx wont look so empty for that game. Packer fans fill up opposing stadiums. And, based on the turnout in Landover on Sunday, theyll have plenty of choices for good seats.
All the newfound transparency of the Redskins brass, with Lafemina and his new imported business team, wont mean much if the product on the field is the same, inconsistent, disappointing one that has become the identity of this football team.
Which means that maybe Jay Gruden is the wrong guy for this job.
Its a question Ive raised before after the season-ending loss to the New York Giants two years ago, when the Redskins, with the playoffs on the line, lost to a Giants team that had already clinched a postseason spot and had little to play for. I suggested that Gruden may not be equipped to be the chief executive officer of a football team. He may not be able to keep all the parts working, consistently, to win in this league and to prepare a team for its big moment.
Maybe hes just a good offensive coordinator. In fact, all the media fanboys who love Slap Happy Jay will tell you what a genius he is.
But what if hes just another Norv Turner one of those geniuses who simply isnt cut out to be head coach?
This was the second week in a row that Gruden in his fifth year as the Redskins head coach faced a rookie head coach. Last week against Steve Wilks and Arizona, Gruden seemed to push all the right buttons.
Then again, he had most of the preseason to prepare for that first game. He had one week to get ready for Frank Reich and his Colts game plan.
They were executing and we werent, period, Gruden told reporters after the game. You know, hats off to them they did a good job. We didnt do a very good job out there in the second half. We werent on track. We were off track a little bit, lost our balance, never really had it, really. We were kind of one-dimensional throughout the game. Our running game suffered and we were pretty much one dimensional..
Later Gruden said, We had no chemistry at all today, and its myself as a play caller. Really, its my fault. I couldnt give any room to call plays. The inside zone wasnt working, the outside zone wasnt working, our read options werent working very well.
Gruden is about one post-game press conference away from his Jim Zorn moment I just feel like the worst coach in America.
Andrew Luck, in just his second NFL start since Jan. 1, 2017, and despite two interceptions and only 179 yards passing picked the Redskins apart when he needed to, particularly on the final score, completely fooling the defense on a three-yard touchdown pass to T.Y. Hilton.
The Redskins new quarterback, Alex Smith, didnt turn the ball over, which, in case you missed it, is his special gift. He didnt throw a touchdown pass, either. Then again, he didnt have many weapons to work with.
Smith threw for 292 yards, but the longest pass was 34 yards and many of those yards came at the end of the game when the Colts, with a comfortable lead, let the Redskins practice pitch and catch for a while until the clock ran out.
The running game, the one that gained 182 yards against the Cardinals last week? Jet lag, perhaps. They gained 65 yards, and future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson looked every bit his 33 years, with just 20 yards on 11 carries.
Last week Peterson said in an interview he thinks he can catch Emmitt Smiths career rushing record of 18,355 yards. He has nearly 6,000 yards to go. Hes going to need a golf cart to catch Emmitt Smith.
This wasnt just a loss. It was a lost opportunity for the franchise, another setback for an organization trying to dig itself out of the hole it created with its dysfunctional football and heavy-handed and deceitful business practices.
Meeting with reporters in June, Lafemina referred to the Redskins as a sleeping giant. It was a startling admission for what was once the undisputed king of the local sports landscape. But it was telling Sunday that the team had Washington Capitals Stanley Cup champion Alex Ovechkin as an honorary captain on the field for the coin toss.
In past years, the Redskins wouldnt even acknowledge the existence of another sports franchise in this town. Now they are trying to draft off the Capitals Stanley Cup success among fans.
Strange days, indeed.
⦁ Thom Loverros podcast, Cigars Curveballs, is available on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver network.