Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Schedule Could Make 2019 Jay Gruden's Final Season With Redskins



I'm all on board with Jay Gruden continuing to be the head coach of the Washington Redskins.

All signs point to 2019 being Gruden's sixth season with the Redskins which would make him the longest tenured Redskins coach since Norv Turner at the turn of the century. Strangely enough, that may be a parallel comparison and both coaches typically kept the Redskins around the .500 mark but just couldn't get them back to Super Bowl contention.

After a 4-12 season in Gruden's first year, he has gone 9-7, 8-7-1 and now a pair of 7-9 seasons. While the last two seasons have been disappointing, injuries completely ravaged the team. It isn't a stretch to think that the Skins could have hit at least 9 wins in both seasons.

Still, you are what your record says you are and Gruden's Redskins have been 35-44-1 over these five years. Again, Gruden deserves to stick it out in DC but will 2019 be his final year there?

Probably.

It may not be his fault. The 2019 Redskins schedule will be brutal and the team must find a way to improve on a defense that started great and ended with a thud. They must figure out what Alex Smith will be able to do heading into the future as well as improving the skill positions. Oh yeah, health must be a factor in what the team can do next year. No matter who is wearing the burgundy and gold they will face up against a schedule that could be damaging to any success Washington can have.

Let me preface this with the obvious fact that just because a team looks like it should be good doesn't mean they necessarily will be next year. If you would have told Redskins fans back in August that they'd have a better record than the Packers, Panthers, Jaguars and 49ers ... yet a worse record than the Browns ... they'd be stunned. Still, you can make some assumptions going foward. So let's look at who we play:

NFC EAST

Of course there is the six games against the fellow NFC East foes. While the NFC East isn't really world beaters in the standings, the division does house the defending Super Bowl champion as well as two of the six NFC playoff teams. There isn't any reason to think the Eagles or Cowboys are going to stink it up next year and the Giants steadily improved as the season went on. Philadelphia is sitting on two capable quarterbacks and may have to make a decision on who leads them going forward. Dallas has the NFL's leading rusher and are a few skill guys away from having a dynamic offense. New York has a lot of issues to sort out at the quarterback spot but still has Odell Beckham Jr and Saquon Barkley.

When compared to what the Redskins are heading into next year, Washington has no idea who will be able to be the quarterback and will have a rookie running back who missed the entire season after shredding his knee (or bring back an old Hall of Famer) with a lot of questions everywhere else.

NFC NORTH

In the conference rotation, the NFC East will play the entire NFC North next year (the Redskins played the South this year). The Bears and Lions come to Washington while we head out to Green Bay and Minnesota.

The NFC North is tough. The Bears surged to a division championship this year a season or two ahead of schedule.  Their defense is wicked and young Mitchell Trubisky seems to be developing quite nicely. It is an old school NFL battle when the Bears and Redskins share a field. Same goes with the Lions, though they are tough to figure out game to game, let alone season to season.  Heading to Green Bay and Minnesota is tough as both teams underachieved this year. Aaron Rodgers will have a new head coach to guide him with the Packers and should look to avenge their loss in Washington this season. This will be the fourth time in five years the Redskins and Packers play but the first in that stretch at Lambeau. And, of course, heading to face the Vikings means facing off against former quarterback Kirk Cousins. Do you think he'll "like that"?

AFC EAST

Next year, the NFC East faces off against the AFC East in the rotation. That means the Patriots and Jets will come to FedEx Field while the Redskins will travel north to Buffalo and south to Miami.  The AFC East has a lot of fluidity to it right now. The Bills and Jets will be going into year two of their young quarterbacks. The Dolphins and Jets will have new head coaches heading into next season. The Patriots seem to be pretty much in dynastic form as they've been for nearly two decades but there may be some question marks heading into the offseason. New England wasn't as dominant as usual and there are some out there that wonder if Tom Brady may hang 'em up after these playoffs.

I'm guessing Brady will be back again and, while he won't be the MVP that he's been in the past, he's better than 2/3 of the quarterbacks starting next year. As of right now, it is hard to gauge what the AFC East teams will look like next year, but there are certainly some opportunities there.

THE FINAL TWO

Since the Redskins finished in 3rd place in the division, they'll play the Carolina Panthers (away) and San Francisco 49ers (home). The Panthers were a legit playoff team this year before a shoulder injury clearly affected Cam Newton and Carolina crashed and burned over the second half of the season. The Niners lost Jimmy Garrappolo during the season and never recovered. Certainly these two teams will be much better with healthy quarterbacks and could find themselves back into contention for an NFC title.

To recap, here is the Redskins' 2019 schedule:

HOME: Patriots, Bears, Cowboys, Eagles, 49ers, Giants, Lions, Jets

AWAY: Cowboys, Eagles, Vikings, Panthers, Packers, Giants, Dolphins, Bills

Six games against playoff teams isn't bad (even the easiest schedule guarantees you play four games against playoff teams), though seven is the max next year. You can argue that the 49ers, Packers, Panthers and Vikings underperformed and could be tougher next season.

In any event, the Redskins must bulk up the roster and get things in order or next year could be a 5-11 affair (or worse) and lead to Gruden's dismissal as head coach.

Or we can Hail to the Redskins and Hail Victory!