The Washington Redskins had a rough 2013 to say the least. There are a handful of moments that perfectly display the struggles Washington had this year, one of which being the benching of Robert Griffin III.
It was an unpopular decision to many, but things were just getting worse and worse for the Redskins; subjecting RG3 to unnecessary physical punishment at that point would have been irresponsible.
It marked a low point in Washington's season, as it was essentially the coaches admitting that they made a mistake by allowing Griffin III back as early as he did. RG3 may have healed by the start of last season, but he was nowhere near football ready as he hadn't played in an actual game since January of 2013.
This, along with many other moments, defined the type of season that the Redskins had.
*All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference*
There’s some games you just know you’re going to win. Although you should never underestimate an opponent, there are definitely games where confidence levels are high no matter what your record.
Even in a contest where they were heavily favored (didn’t get to say that too much this year) and rather confident, the Redskins collapsed under the lights in Minnesota against a Vikings team that was equally as unimpressive as Washington was last season.
The Redskins outgained Minnesota in every major stat category, held the ball for 13 minutes longer and had a better third-down efficiency, yet they still lost.
Why you might ask? Well, penalties were a big problem, for starters. Washington was called for eight penalties for 63 yards, while the Vikes committed just one infraction for seven yards.
Washington was driving down late in the game but couldn’t put things together in the final minutes. Robert Griffin III threw three incompletions, including what would’ve been a walk-off touchdown if not for his receiver’s feet being out of bounds.
This disappointing loss would spark the beginning of Washington’s 0-8 finish to the season.
Although it ended up being nothing more than a minor spat between teammates, the Santana Moss-Robert Griffin III storyline meant more than that.
It wasn’t a disconnect between quarterback and receiver so much as it revealed how the team was getting a little sick of RG3’s infallibility within the organization.
Griffin III wasn’t necessarily attacking anyone with his comments, but his failure to take responsibility for his own mistakes and shortcomings as a player obviously struck a chord with some teammates, and it was a good thing that Moss spoke up.
What happens often enough in the NFL is that upstart, big-name players—especially those receiving the level of special treatment that RG3 has—start getting a sense of entitlement. Both Griffin and Moss proceeded to release statements explaining that they were making general comments not pointed at anyone specific, but it’s evident there was some under-the-breath talking in the locker room.
For a minute, it actually looked like the Redskins would be upsetting one of the NFL’s best teams, but that moment soon ended once Peyton Manning snapped back into football consciousness.
Washington got off to a solid start against the Denver Broncos and kept it close throughout the first half and the beginning of the second half. In fact, the Redskins were up 21-7 at one point in the third quarter and seemed to have Denver on the ropes—until ol’ No. 18 started getting hot.
Manning’s three interceptions were eclipsed by his four touchdowns, three of which came in the fourth quarter (two of the three came within 40 seconds of each other).
The Redskins had five turnovers (Denver had four) and needed to convert better on third down (6-of-14) to keep Manning on the sidelines.
Simply put, this game was a tease. The Redskins lost in typical Redskins style, with embarrassing play in the second half. They did rebound against another AFC West team the next week when they took down the San Diego Chargers in overtime, but that would be the last game they won in 2013.
The Redskins couldn’t have started the season off worse. Against a Philadelphia Eagles team that was expected to have a slow start to the season with a new head coach and new offensive system, Washington looked like a high school team.
They couldn’t stop anything on defense and were pretty underwhelming on offense.
For a team that led the league in rushing just a year ago, the Redskins struggled to get much of anything going on the ground—they had just 74 yards rushing to Philly’s 263.
This deflating loss at the hands of Chip Kelly and the Eagles was the beginning of Washington’s 1-4 start and produced much doubt around the health of RG3’s knee.
They certainly started the season off on the bad note, and it didn’t get much better from there.
The most embarrassing loss of the Redskins' season came at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs. Andy Reid has plenty of experience against Washington and had a 14-8 record against them going into this game.
His team got off to a hot start and were up 17-0 early in the first quarter.
They led the Redskins 38-10 at halftime, and morale was at an all-time low on Washington’s sideline. Things didn’t get much better as the Redskins would fail to score again, and the Chiefs went on to win, 45-10.
It was the worst loss by the Redskins in recent memory, and it was clear that things were going to be changing at season’s end. This would also be the last game RG3 would start in 2013, opening the door for Kirk Cousins (who finished the game for Griffin III) to showcase himself and start at QB for the remainder of the season.
That leads to our next moment.
When Mike Shanahan announced that RG3 would be shut down for the remainder of the year, it was the beginning of the end for the Shanahan era. It was an admission of defeat, that they made a mistake letting him come back.
We all know the story of how RG3 apparently had a “superhuman” recovery, but it was clear he was not the same player and was obviously still bothered at times by the knee.
There were a few things we could glean from Washington opting to sit Griffin for the rest of the season.
Firstly, they need him healthy. Griffin is no good to the franchise broken and battered, and the Redskins didn’t invest those first-round picks for a bust.
They (finally) wised up and figured that they’d much rather have him long term than rush him back to play now, especially when it was a lost season and there was nothing to play for.
The next thing we can surmise from his benching is that, even though he’s been impressive in the past, there’s a chance they wouldn’t win another game with Kirk Cousins at the helm, and that’s exactly how things played out.
At the time of Griffin's benching, Washington was a bad team, with very little hope or optimism for the remainder of the seasons. It’s hard to stay motivated in those conditions.
The RG3 benching was certainly spirit breaking, but was clearly the best thing for the team in the long run.
There may not be another rivalry in the NFL as bitter as the one the Redskins and Dallas Cowboys share, which made Washington's loss to them in Week 6 sting that much more.
What made it an even worse loss is that Dallas ran 25 fewer plays and had less than half as many yards as Washington, yet scored nearly twice as many points. The Cowboys also held the ball for nine fewer minutes than did Washington. Minuscule mistakes are what did the Redskins in, as they committed 12 penalties for 104 yards.
This loss came after they captured their first win of the season against the Oakland Raiders. That win finally pumped some inspiration into Washington’s ambitions for the season, but those efforts were spoiled by Tony Romo and the Cowboys.
It was a resounding loss that put Washington at 1-4, their worst start in years.
There is a sort of beauty in destruction, isn’t there? The disconnect between Snyder and Shanahan became quite visible in the last couple of months of the season, although there had been glimpses of a divide at times before.
Shanahan was apparently unhappy with the special treatment that RG3 received because of and from Snyder and was ready to leave the team at the end of the 2012 season, even before Griffin III’s injury. But he stayed because he didn’t want it to seem that Griffin's injury was the reason for his departure.
This news came out later in the 2013 season, almost a year after it initially happened, and only added to the dumpster fire that the franchise had become. Once it was clear that Shanahan would be chopped at the end of the season, it dragged whatever soul was left in the team into the gutter.
One could argue that Shanahan and the rest of his staff stopped putting forth their best effort towards the end of the season, but it wasn’t like the players were doing a great job either.
As I mentioned earlier, there is beauty in destruction—and there aren’t many teams hurting more than the Redskins right now. Although they’ll be without a first-rounder this year because of the trade to acquire the rights to RG3, they will have much more cap room to work with, which will allow them to bring in new, better players through free agency and the draft.
Things couldn’t get much worse than they already were, and now they get a chance to start over. I’ve mentioned before that they’re already ahead of the curve when it comes to rebuilding because they do have several good pieces in place—they just need direction.
Washington may have had a rather somber end to their 2013 season, but just as the phoenix rises, so can the Redskins.