Jay Gruden got the full Washington Redskins circus distraction experience all in one day. A protest against the name, a bus wreck on the way to the stadium, Robert Griffin III's return from an injury, a media report the coach called "amateurish," and a defense that allowed a rookie quarterback to put up 29 points.
And perhaps the most Redskins indicator of them all: The record is 3-6 for the fourth straight year.
If ever a team needed a bye, it's this one. They could use of the break to figure out how to tune out the outside noise. Sunday's 29-26 loss to the Minnesota Vikings had all the makings of an all-too-typical Redskins day from the last decade or so.
"From a mental standpoint, you want your team to be thinking about the Minnesota Vikings, period," Gruden said Monday. "I want Robert and I want the offense to be thinking about Mike Zimmer's Double-A package and blitz package and how we're going to attack. I want the defense to be thinking about Teddy Bridgewater and their zone-checks and what they have to do, instead of reading tweets about there's locker room separation, whatever, and having bus wrecks and all that stuff.
"So there was a little bit of things that might've took our mind off the important thing, which is the Minnesota Vikings."
The Redskins couldn't do much about the accident involving team buses on the way to the game — "We're four tire rotations from driving off a cliff," Gruden said — and the players were largely isolated from the thousands who marched outside the stadium calling for the team to change its nickname.
But a pair of media reports clearly raised some ire at the Redskins' facility.
One said that "several members" of the organization "believe" the order to start Griffin on Sunday came from owner Dan Snyder and general manager Bruce Allen. The other linked a group of players' boisterous behavior toward media and a public relations staffer during a Griffin group interview to an allegation that Griffin has "alienated himself" in the locker room.
Gruden launched a blistering retort to the second report, calling it "amateurish" from "some small-time reporter reporting fiction."
But the first-year head coach is quickly learning that it's all part of the deal in Washington.
"We've got a young team. We have some fragile egos here," he said. "The guys are young guys, trying their best, and they read in the paper that nobody likes 'em and they're alienated and 'blasy, blasy.' It just doesn't seem right.
"But as a football player, as an NFL football player playing here, you have to expect it. ... The big thing is we can't let anything tear the locker room apart."
All the distractions could have been neatly swept away if the same defense that disrupted Tony Romo's life just six days earlier could've done the same to Bridgewater, who led two long, answer-back drives in the fourth quarter. Gruden said the staff will spend the upcoming bye week re-examining their defensive schemes.
As for Griffin, he did OK after missing six games with a dislocated ankle but made two poor throws at critical times — an interception before halftime that led to the Vikings' first touchdown, and a short-armed effort on fourth-and-6 that landed short of an open Pierre Garcon in the game's final two minutes. He also was sacked five times, showing he's still yet to get a good feel for pressure around him in the pocket.
As for the 3-6 record, there's no telling what it portends. In 2011, the Redskins finished 5-11. In 2012, they never lost again in the regular season, going 10-6 and winning in the NFC East. In 2013, they never won again and ended up 3-13.
Asked to give his team a pre-bye grade, Gruden said "from a human being standpoint, I'd give him an A."
"Bad thing is we don't get credit for being good guys," Gruden said. "We get credit for wins and losses, and that's not good enough. The grade is 3-6. ... That's probably a D or an F-plus."
Notes: RB Silas Redd, who had back spasms from the bus accident and was inactive for the game, underwent an MRI on Monday. Gruden said there was no structural damage and that Redd will be fine. ... Gruden said TE Logan Paulsen "has a chance" of playing against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the bye. Paulsen is battling plantar fasciitis in one of his feet.
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