Just when it started to feel as if these were the same old losing Washington Redskins, along came Jay Gruden to explain it all.
Gruden laid specific, detailed blame Monday at himself, quarterback Robert Griffin III, individual members of the offensive line and several other players as he dissected the season-opening 17-6 loss to the Houston Texans.
Some of the overall themes might have been familiar from coach Mike Shanahan's 3-13 team a year ago — an offense self-destructing in the red zone, a defense giving up big plays, special teams units making incredible gaffes — and Gruden was as real as it gets about the situation.
"Ray just was out to lunch on that one play," said the coach, describing Roy Helu's total whiff that led to a blocked punt returned for a touchdown.
The game showed that the Redskins aren't a short-term fix, even though there were some positive signs: The offense outgained the Texans, the defense was relatively stout except for a 76-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins, and the special teams were better than last year simply because they weren't a disaster every time they took the field.
But a loss is a loss, especially to a team that went 2-14 a year ago. Where to place the blame? Start with the rookie head coach who called 23 runs and 40 passes, even though Alfred Morris and Helu averaged 7.6 yards per carry.
"If I had to do it all over again Sunday, I probably would have run the ball more than I did," Gruden said.
Gruden called his play selection was "poor" in the first half.
"We could've had a nice lead. ... I took some shots at some play-actions that failed miserably," he said.
Griffin, meanwhile, had the type of game that showed how misleading stats can be. He went 29-for-37 for 267 yards, which translates to a decent 96.7 rating, but he threw mostly short passes and still holds on to the ball too long.
Griffin was cited by Gruden for taking two unnecessary sacks — one that knocked the team out of field goal range and another on a screen play during a two-minute drive. The coach also called out the subpar footwork that led Griffin to trip over center Kory Lichtensteiger's foot, which in turn caused the QB to fumble a handoff to Morris.
"Those are things you can't take for granted in football — fundamental footwork," Gruden said. "All that is very, very important."
Gruden's bottom line on RG3: "Really, to score six points on offense? Not quite good enough."
The players were taking responsibility as well. Safety Bacarri Rambo and Helu were among those accepting blame for egregious blunders: Rambo for his latest bad tackling attempt on the 76-yard touchdown, and Helu for allowing the blocked punt.
Rambo: "I should've been better on that play."
Helu: "I think we played well enough to win. I just didn't do my job."
Gruden said Helu was winded after playing during the offensive series preceding the punt and might be replaced by a defensive player on punt protections. He indicated some or much of Rambo's playing time could go to Duke Ihenacho, who was signed last week.
The coach also listed plays from four of the five offensive linemen that contributed to game-long pressure on Griffin.
"It's not good enough," Gruden said. "Overall we have got to do a much better job in pass protection."
All of which means there is plenty to fix ahead of this week's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. At least Gruden managed to find a silver lining in everything that went wrong.
"If there is a good thing," he said, "offense, defense and special teams — they all had their hand in this loss. ... I think everybody can take a long look at themselves in the mirror and realize that everybody could've done something better."
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