Monday, September 21, 2020


“A lot of holes in the desert, and a lot of problems are buried in those holes. But you gotta do it right. I mean, you gotta have the hole already dug before you show up with a package in the trunk.”

— Nicky Santoro, “Casino,” 1995

Did anyone really think the Washington Football Team wasn’t going to wind up in a hole in the desert on their trip to Arizona to play the Cardinals, and that quarterback Kyler Murray wouldn’t have the hole already dug?

No matter what you thought of the Washington Football Team following its 27-17 upset opening win the week before over the NFC East defending champion Philadelphia Eagles, going out to Glendale to face a rejuvenated Cardinals team, led by their young second-year coach Kliff Kingsbury and his second-year quarterback phenom Murray, was going to be a tough ask.

After all, the Cardinals had a far more impressive week one victory — a 24-20 win over the defending NFC champion San Francisco 49ers on the road, such as the “road” is.

You could make the case that Arizona is a year ahead of where Washington, under new coach Ron Rivera, should expect to be. Last year, in Kingsbury’s and Murray’s first NFL seasons, they managed to get a 27-27 tie against the Detroit Lions in their season opener, then lost their next three games. They finished the season 5-10-1.

Washington, with their new coach (granted, a veteran NFC champion NFL coach) and, for all intents and purposes, new quarterback in Dwayne Haskins, playing under a new offensive system under restricted coronavirus preparation circumstances, should be happy if they finish this year with a 5-10-1 record. That would exceed many expectations and be a promising first step toward success in Rivera’s long-term plan to change the direction of this organization.

You know Rivera’s expectations were not limited to State Farm Stadium. You know that because of his decision to kick a field goal when his team was down 20-0 and his disinclination for stopping the clock with all of his timeouts In his pocket and the Cardinals driving with a 27-15 lead and time running out in the game.

“I don’t want to expose my players to injury,” Rivera told reporters afteward. “It’s a long season. We’ve got 14 games left to play. We got an opportunity to learn and grow, and that’s probably, to me, a little bit more important right now than exposing our guys to getting injured in a situation like that,”

There you go. It may be hard to swallow for those Washington Football fans who are left, but victories this season may not be measured by the scoreboard at the end of the game.

Hard? Heck, you might choke on that notion, because you’ve had to swallow it so many times before. But, after all the dysfunction and despair, if you are still waving your Washington Football pom-poms, what choice to you have?

Are you really going to bail on Ron Rivera after Week 2 and a game that no one realistically expected them to win? Especially with, for the first time in 21 years, the fate of the beleaguered owner in doubt?

Speaking of Dan Snyder, he missed his first Washington football game during his time as owner because, according to a statement released by the team, he and his wife Tanya came into contact with someone who had tested positive for Covid-19.

His absence, as it turns out, was not a motivating factor.

The owner’s good friend, Dwayne Haskins, offered the reality check after the game. “A new offense, a new scheme, basically on offense the whole team is under 25. It is a work in progress,” he said. “The biggest thing is to come to work every day with your lunch pail and try to get better.”

There were no signs that they weren’t doing that Sunday.

Haskins finished the game 19 of 33 for 223 yards, one touchdown and, for the second week, zero interceptions. He was under duress because of a weak offensive line, overthrew receivers and lost one fumble on an Arizona sack. But he never showed any weakness or lack of control.

These may be small positive signs for a second-year quarterback, but with this franchise, given the turmoil of last season and the new ways of doing business this year, small signs are at least a reason not to surrender — even if the coach did late in the game, as Murray threw the last shovelful of dirt in the hole in the desert.

Hear Thom Loverro Tuesdays and Thursdays on the Kevin Sheehan Show Podcast and Wednesday afternoons on Chad Dukes Vs. The World on 106.7 The Fan.

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.

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