Well, that wasn't great. Let's just come right out and say it. The first season of Jay Gruden's tenure did not go well. There were glimpses of hope, but they faded fast. Like fart-in-the-wind fast. (I still think "The Shawshank Redemption" was a better movie than "Forrest Gump" and should've won best picture. Come to think of it, the only thing that could've made the 2014 season better for Washington would've been Morgan Freeman narrating each game. His voice would've fit in perfectly here.)
The link above is the final touchdown of the Washington's 2014 season. Nothing flashy, but it did show what makes Robert Griffin III an effective offensive weapon: his legs. That attribute is the same trait that caused friction between Griffin and Jay Gruden. Their chemistry was about as comfortable as that of Idina Menzel and John Travolta when he was excessively touching her face at last night's Oscars. That was weird, right? Is there an unwritten rule that once you're successful in Hollywood you can be as creepy as you like? It's like personal space doesn't exist. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, the point is Griffin is not a pocket passer, and that's what Gruden ultimately wants.
How else would you explain Colt McCoy and Kirk Cousins getting genuine starting nods? They're both a more natural fit for Gruden's scheme. But as Washington found out, that doesn't equate to giving the team the best chance to win. I think that's still Griffin, and for now, so does Gruden. Whether the decision was Gruden's or came from above, clearly the goal for 2015 is to find a middle ground.
While 4-12 isn't great and points to at least another season to build the right playbook and personnel, there is a fair amount of talent in Washington. Let's look at a some bright spots that could be the foundation for next season.
The Gruden-Griffin connection
If Washington is going to move forward, they're going to have to learn from this past season. That means finding a middle ground for their offense. This doesn't mean settling for a mediocre playbook, it simply means using the talent you have in a way that makes them more effective.
Gruden loves pocket passers. His initial scheme will have to change a bit to take advantage of Griffin's athleticism. When healthy, Griffin has enough speed to take off and move the chains. That doesn't mean that read options have to be involved, it just means you have a great trump card if everyone is covered.
Griffin, too, will have to change. He'll have to run to extend plays more often rather than running for his life. His speed gives him the ultimate check-down option in the red zone, but he has to run smarter. That includes sliding before contact. Injuries have already played too big a part in his career.
When you're dealing with a new offensive system, not to mention three different quarterbacks taking snaps, it's going to be difficult to produce consistently. But the addition of DeSean Jackson panned out well.
In his seventh season (first in Washington), Jackson racked up the second-highest yardage total of his career. He's still difficult to defend, proven by his 157 yards and 60-yard touchdown against Seattle's stingy Legion of Boom.
Pierre Garcon didn't produce as much as he did in 2013, seeing his reception and yardage totals cut roughly in half. Some of that stemming from the fact that he was no longer the top deep option, but some of his drop in production can surely be chalked up to the QB situation.
I think it's a safe bet you guys have seen the last of Santana Moss, but that could leave room for another receiver to come in. I'd love to see someone like Cecil Shorts play opposite Jackson and keep Garcon in the slot where he's most effective. That would be an interesting trio to see in action.
The 2014 season is a tough one to shake off. Much of Washington's future success depends on how well Gruden and Griffin can get in sync. But if they can, you're looking at an offense with good receivers and a solid running back that can produce an explosive, well-balanced attack. Let's just hope your QB and coach can get on the same page.