Jay Gruden (Redskins at Saints)
The Washington Redskins came into this contest with a chance to even their record at 5-5. It wasn’t going to be easy in the electrifying New Orleans atmosphere, but Jay Gruden’s squad rose to the occasion.
They remained aggressive in all aspects of the game, not letting the Saints and the crowd gain momentum or comfort.
Ahead 31-23 with 2:34 in the fourth quarter, the Redskins faced a 3rd and 1 at their own 34-yard line. A successful first down run by RB Samaje Perine, who had been running well all game, would have sealed an important road victory. However, the Saints stacked the box and the run was stuffed to their credit. This set up a Saints comeback, and this week’s Situational Call.
After the Saints tied the game at 31, the Redskins moved efficiently into FG range at the Saints 34. With 31 seconds left, facing a 1st and 10, and no timeouts, Jay Gruden could have simply run the ball for a couple extra yards, spiked it, and then attempted the game-winning FG.
Instead, the Redskins called a quick pass play that fell incomplete due to miscommunication between QB Kirk Cousins and his receivers. And because the pass was so wildly incomplete, it was called for intentional grounding. This resulted in the ball being moved out of FG range and a 10 second runoff, effectively sending the game into overtime.
This sequence perfectly demonstrates how hard it is for even the best coaches to maintain their poise and make critical decisions during a game. For the vast majority of the game, Jay Gruden’s team had played a stellar game on the road, desperately trying to keep their playoff hopes alive. But in this sequence, he had to quickly make a judgment that involved a number of variables that all interrelated to each other (timeouts, kicker’s range, or whether his offense can lineup properly without incurring a penalty). All of this happening full speed, with adrenaline rushing, and in a loud environment.
We can understand why Jay Gruden elected to pass the ball in this spot–he is an excellent head coach, and has done well with an injury-plagued team. It wasn’t a poor decision, he relied on his veteran QB for help in properly communicating with his receivers. It didn’t help that the intentional grounding was later found to be incorrectly called.
However, it comes down to this: you’re already in game-winning FG range and your season is on the line in a tough road game, perhaps the safest thing to do is to preserve that. Yes, getting an extra few yards is always good, but that also comes with a risk. And in this case that risk played out, and resulted in a Redskins loss.