Washington is as ‘close’ as it’s ‘winning off the field’

January 24, 2019

It has been said that “close” only counts in horseshoes and grenades. But surprise, surprise Bruce Allen thinks the term also applies to Washington’s NFL team.

“We’ve been in the middle of the pack the last three seasons,” the team president told reporters Tuesday. “It means you’re close. It means you’re close to being better.”

One of my dear aunts was a nurse and she once explained an important distinction regarding health. I was under the weather for a while and she asked how I felt. “Better,” I said. She replied, ”‘Better’ doesn’t mean you’re well.’”

In Allen’s defense, Washington IS close in several ways.

It’s one of 32 NFL franchises. It uses the same football and equipment that opponents use. It makes a boatload of money.

Did I miss anything?

(Speaking of boats and money, team owner Dan Snyder recently bought a 305-foot superyacht built around a two-level, 12-seat IMAX theater for reportedly more than $100 million. But he’s still no match for Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who earlier purchased a 358-foot superyacht for a reported $250 million. What is this, a shipping contest?)

We understand why Allen wears rose-colored glasses and paints rosy pictures when speaking about the NFL’s black hole in Washington. His job is to fool the masses and convince Snyder that he’s actually wearing clothes. So Allen was ready for some pushback when reporters questioned his assessment on Washington’s proximity to upper-echelon football teams.

“We were two games out of the playoffs,” Allen said. “The year before we were one game out of it and the before that we were one game out of it. We have to find the right ingredients to get over the hump.”

Maybe the hump is in the mirror. In the three seasons he referenced, Washington was 7-9 twice and 8-7-1 prior. (And for the record, Washington was three games out of the playoffs in 2017, not one game). Any way you look at it unless you’re Allen the team has been a mere also-ran.

Trophies aren’t awarded to middle-of-the-pack finishers, even those that try really hard and really care. Allen wants credit for trying and caring. He said he’s the right person for the job because “I share (the fans’) passion for this franchise.”

We know that’s not true, because the fans’ most intense emotion at the moment revolves around #firebruceallen.

“The passion of our fans is fantastic,” he said. “They want us to win. We hear from them. I know exactly what they want.”

That last sentence proves that he’s completely tone deaf and out-of-touch with reality.

Washington is nowhere near the level of competition demonstrated Sunday by the Patriots, Chiefs, Rams and Saints. Philadelphia and Dallas are atop the NFC East at the moment, with no foreseeable change next season. Only in your wildest dreams is a wild-card berth within reach here.

There’s a long list of needs and question marks, beginning with the starting quarterback. Alex Smith made his first public appearance this week since breaking his right leg, which is encased in a monstrous brace. I’m going on a limb and predicting he’ll miss most if not all of next season. Whether he ever plays again is a legitimate concern.

As much as everyone loves Colt McCoy, counting on him to excel and/or last 16 games is unrealistic. Elsewhere, all Washington needs is major help at offensive lineman, linebacker, wide receiver and defensive back. That’s assuming a healthy Derrius Guice is in the backfield and the defensive line remains intact.

Can teams go from 7-9 to, say, 11-5 in one season? Absolutely.

The Rams went from 4-12 to 11-5 in Sean McVay’s initial season as head coach. Chicago went from 5-11 to 12-4 in its first year under Matt Nagy. Indianapolis went from 4-12 to 10-6 in Frank Reich’s inaugural campaign.

Meanwhile, back in Ashburn, coach Jay Gruden (35-44-1) is coming back for a sixth season. That’s hardly a jump-start. But Gruden was retained because his squad was 6-3 before the injury-riddled bottom fell out. “We looked at the program,” Allen said. “We felt the direction of the team was good.”

He needs to calibrate his compass if he felt Washington was headed in the right direction.

Even at 6-3, glaring deficiencies existed; injuries only exacerbated them. The front office will need a stupendous offseason, via can’t-miss draft picks and shrewd free-agent signings, to make Allen’s proclamation a reality.

More likely, next season will resemble the recent vintage, another middle-of-the-pack finish for a faulty roster with suspect coaching. If that’s Allen’s definition of “close,” he surely remains convinced that Washington is winning off the field, too.

OK, Bruce. Whatever you say.

⦁ Brooklyn-born and Howard-educated, Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.