SPORTS INSIDER WEEKLY – Redskins fall to Eagles 24-34; Dusty Baker is out as Nationals manager

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Ceci Ferrara
October 24, 2017
Sports Writer
Sports Insider Weekly

Photo:  By Keith Allison

The Washington Redskins were no match for Carson Wentz and the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night, falling to the top-seeded NFC East Team 24-34 at Lincoln Financial Field. At first, it seemed like the Redskins (3-3, 0-2 NFC East) had a shot to topple their rival and gain footing in the division race. But after jumping out to an early 10-3 lead, the cracks began to surface. After allowing Carson Wentz to recover a fumble and score his first of four touchdowns, the defense began to fall apart. Washington trailed 17-10 at the half.

They were able to score 14 points in the final quarters, but it wasn’t enough to best the home team. Cousins finished the night 30-for-40 for 303 yards, three touchdowns and one pick–but was also sacked four times. With the loss, the Redskins QB fell to 0-6 in “Monday Night Football” starts.

“Kirk completed and made some great throws, some great plays, and threw three touchdowns,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “But for the most part, there’s a few…I’m sure he wished he had back. Some I wish I had back and everybody in the locker room wishes they had back.”

Cousin’s performance paled in comparison to Wentz’s, who continued his impressive sophomore year play going 17-of-25 for 286 yards and four touchdowns. His strong performances have led his team to a 6-1 record, and very likely an NFC East title.

“He’s a great player, hard to bring down,” Gruden said of Wentz. “We got to him early, tried to rattle him a little bit, but he just played with great poise and made the big throw for a touchdown, then got the touchdown at the end of the half. Then we tried to get some momentum to cut it to seven, and he had that big-time scramble.”

While Cousins was good on Monday, he needs to be better to show his team he is the leader they want for the future.

Nationals

A little over a week after the Washington Nationals were eliminated by the Cubs in the National League Division Series (NLDS), the team unexpectedly announced they were parting ways with their manager of two years, Dusty Baker.

Baker, 68, led all active managers in wins, and guided the Nationals to the first back-to-back division titles in team history, making him a front-runner for National League “Manager of the Year”. But the veteran manager, whose contract expired at the end of this season, was unable to push his team past the first round of the playoffs, where they have been eliminated in four of the past six seasons.

As news of the firing broke on Friday, the Lerner family, the team’s owners, wrote a letter to fans that was posted on the Nationals’ website, as well as emailed out to subscribers. In it, they said that after failing, once again, to win a championship, “we have decided to make a change in leadership.”

“This was a pure baseball decision,” General Manager Mike Rizzo told reporters. “Again, our goal is to win a world championship. This has nothing to do with negotiations or dollars.”

While the Nationals have been unsuccessful in their championship quest thus far, it seems unfair to focus the blame solely on Baker. It was not his fault that Max Scherzer–aided by botched plays from outfielder Jayson Werth and catcher Matt Wieters–blew the lead in the decisive Game 5 of the NLDS, which sent Washington packing early once again. Some things are beyond even a manager’s control.

But Washington has a track record of ousting their manager when things don’t go as they’d hoped. Since 2005, the Nationals have had six managers, not including interim ones. And since 2012, when the team began their regular-season dominance and playoff appearances, they have had a new leader about once every two years. Baker’s predecessor, Matt Williams (2014-15), was a rookie manager who was let go after two seasons when, one year after winning the NL East, the team failed to return to the playoffs.

“Our expectations have grown to the fact that winning regular-season game and winning divisions are not enough,” Rizzo told reporters.

While the disappointment at failing to realize the team’s potential is understandable, ousting a manager who has 22 years of experience, and is 14th on the career list with 1,863 wins, seems like a short-sighted move. Perhaps the Nationals will give their next manager a little more credit–and time.

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