There’s only one rule: you cannot curse.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I was an aspiring rapper. As I currently sit pecking away at keys on my laptop, I can confirm that the aspiration eventually morphed into expiration. But, before trading in XXL throwback jerseys for more appropriate-fitting wears, I would compete in as many MC battles as I could possibly find.
For some, their entire knowledge of this niche form of musical competition is derived from the movie 8 Mile, which was pretty accurate during the battle sequences. However, in the real world, not every battle took place in a dimly-lit performance venue in Detroit.
One sunny, summer afternoon I found myself at a street festival in Richmond, Virginia. I had received a flyer under my windshield wiper weeks earlier at a Black Star concert, promoting an MC Battle at some outdoor location and decided to pull up. Before the competition began, the host, who did not resemble Mekhi Phifer in fake dreads, instructed all MCs to register for the battle. He then laid down one very important ground rule: you cannot curse.
With the festivities being outdoors, on public city blocks, there was talk that excessive cursing would provoke the authorities to shut down the party and send everyone home. So in an attempt to prevent that, organizers agreed a “no cursing” policy would be beneficial.
Once the battle began, I watched as one by one, rappers were disqualified for cursing. Some had pre-memorized lyrics they clearly couldn’t remember to censor. Others attempted to freestyle, but found themselves unable to curb the use of four-letter words...or worse.
You see, the problem so many had was that they were conditioned to operate in one manner. They had a specific plan and when unforeseen obstacles presented themselves, they simply were unable to adapt. They slipped into familiarity and cursed because there was not a backup plan or willingness to adjust their strategy. Sound familiar?
Following a damn near season-ending loss to the division rival Eagles, Washington has now dropped three in a row and four of five. Many unforeseen obstacles have presented themselves and key members of the organization have either been unwilling or unable to adapt. Should we name names? Well, we're not here doing the twelfth of sixteen #SundaySlices looking to make nice. This is your favorite columnist's favorite column, where we cut up the game to assign fame and blame, based on the outcome, into delicious pie chart form. Try not to make a mess.
(These are the players/coaches/etc. who are not in the pie, because they did not contribute to the loss).
Adrian Peterson. It didn't mean much in the end, but damn that was fun. Peterson finished the evening with 98 rushing yards on *adjusts glasses..squints..punches the table* NINE CARRIES?! Despite the team's longest play of the season, AP not only was held under 100 yards, but he was only on the field for 16 total plays, in a game that was within one score until the fourth quarter.
Colt McCoy. I genuinely feel bad for Colt. Put into a tough spot, but one he surely wanted to excel in, only to suffer a similar fate of the QB1 before him. I want to be the Robin Williams to his Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting: "it not your fault...it's not your fault...it's not your fault."
Josh Norman. Sure, Wentz basically hand-delivered the pick to him, but he still had to make the catch and run. Norman got cooked a couple times on third down, much like the rest of the defense, but I've taken note of his willingness to move all over the field pre-snap to follow the opposing team's #1 receiver. So there's that.
Josh Doctson. #DoctsonHive will never say die.
The Day Of The Week: 1%
Redskins fall to 5-23 on Monday Night Football since 1998. Unfathomable.— Dan Steinberg (@dcsportsbog) December 4, 2018
The Team Name: 1%
Mark Sanchez: 3%
LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL. Look, the loss wasn't Sanchez's fault. He had been with the team less than two weeks and his knowledge of the playbook and reps with the first team was almost non-existent. The laughing by me is that he's in a uniform for this squad at all. Two weeks ago Washington was 6-4 and still very alive for the playoffs. Those odds are now likely on life support.
The Injury Gods: 10%
Whatever sacrifices are needed to appease these gods, someone should really jump on. Washington twitter went nuts Monday night with conspiracy theories run amok about the team's doctors, trainers, physicians, etc. "They're not practicing correctly!" "They're not tough enough!" and my favorite, "It's all Gruden's fault!" as though he's Tonya Harding style, crowbar-to-kneecapping his own players. This isn't a coaching problem. It's systemic to the organization.
Remember Carlos Rogers? He was the much less famous Ro(d)gers selected in the first round of the 2005 draft. He spent six mostly nondescript years as a starting cornerback for Washington. He left as a free agent before the 2011 season and in his FIRST YEAR with a new team, he had six interceptions and a Pro Bowl campaign. Turns out he needed contacts. SIX YEARS in Washington, they never discovered his vision needed to be corrected. And then there's this:
Nobody else seems to think is as big of a deal as I do - but when our C Spencer Long left for the Jets he said that the Jets doctors told him the Redskins Drs had been misdiagnosing his leg injuries for years. Doubt it’s an isolated incident. We’ve called it “bad luck w injuries”— Albert (@AlbertNFL) December 5, 2018
Yeah. Maybe it's not so much the team has angered the injury gods, but more the hubris of thinking they're smarter than them.
Trent Williams: 10%
Man it hurts watching Trent playing hurt. Bull rushes, swim moves, spin moves, they all work against him now by opposing pass rushers when they never did before. With the aforementioned injuries ravaging the offensive line, #71 not being up to his usual all-pro standards has reeked havoc in pass protection and the outside run game. Also, Trent, find you some new cleats.
The Defense...All Of Them: 25%
Yikes. Swearinger, per @InstantRHIplay: "It takes coaches and players. Players, we locked in last week. We felt like we was locked in, especially on the defensive side of the ball. It takes players and coaches, not just the players." https://t.co/Ev3bFnFDEX— Burgundy Blog (@BurgundyBlog) December 4, 2018
You know what? D.J. is right. It does take more than coaches. But, boy is out of touch with what the defense he captains has been able to do and not do. Washington has now given up 400+ total yards, 20+ points scored or both in four of the last five weeks. The two main reasons? 1- they can't tackle. Like, at all. Time after time we watch as arms flail limp, failing to wrap up. As shoulders are lowered to produce a big hit, only to have the runner bounce off or miss completely. Every member of the secondary must love steak, because all they do is go for strips, most times ending up without dislodging the ball and the ball carrier five yards further. The poor tackling has reached epidemic levels. Tough to win games without that component. And 2-
Holy cow. In the last five games the Redskins have allowed 54.1 percent of third downs to be converted, worst in the nfl. Good morning!— John Keim (@john_keim) December 5, 2018
This has been the subject of many past Slices, but the inability to get off the field after third down cannot be understated. Infuriation further rises when the opposing offenses seem to find success with the same two plays over and over again: crossing/rub routes and screen passes.
While many fans and media members are focused on the newest, controversial Foster, the Foster that wears #54 and currently starts at inside linebacker has been exposed incessantly during this skid. His partner Brown hasn't fared much better in coverage, though he has been an excellent tackler. j
The line started strong in the first half, with Allen, Payne and Settle providing pressure up the middle, but Philly adjusted after half and they were never heard from again in the second half. I didn't see any flex celebrations, so I can only assume Kerrigan went MIA. The good news is that Quinton Dunbar, maybe our best CB, is out for the year. Good times.
As maddening as the results have been recently for the unit and team as a whole, they are the trickle-down effect of the process from above...
This game in the summation of every Redskins game for the last 15 years. Former all-pro but over the hill free agents, terrible injuries at QB, hundreds of missed tackles on defense, and a loss on Monday Night Football. This is the Redskins Mona Lisa. Fuck Dan Snyder.— Natey Boy (@BarstoolNate) December 4, 2018
For the uninitiated, "Ashburnistan" is the amalgamation of Ashburn, VA, the HQ of the team and the country, Afghanistan. It was originally coined by ESPN columnist, Clinton Yates while he worked for the Washington Post, who explained: "it refers specifically to the once proud nation, ruined by the greed and avarice of small-minded men." In other words, the Washington football franchise.
From the completely tone deaf, "small potatoes," bungled mishandling of the Reuben Foster waiver claim, to the ludicrous assertions that Colin Kaepernick would not help this .500 team toward a playoff push, the once flourishing flagship franchise that Jack Kent Cooke and Joe Gibbs laid the foundation for and built, has been completely gutted and foreclosed on by the ownership of the last 20 years. And to be honest, there's not a bailout in sight.
The Redskins are now 58-84-1 in Bruce Allen's 9+ seasons running the team. GM spot in that time included McCloughan saga, Jay Gruden is his 3rd coach. The QB situation has involved the McNabb trade & extension, Griffin fall from grace, Cousins fiasco and Smith trade/ extension.— Grant Paulsen (@granthpaulsen) December 4, 2018
See, that's the thing. When you don't have true leadership, there's no one to blame. You think it's Bruce Allen's fault? You're probably right! But, he's not the GM.
Wholesale changes. Go nuts.— FGB (@FiftyGutBlog) December 4, 2018
You wanna blame Doug Williams? Well he does have an exemplary last name, but he's not the GM, either.
There's always this go-to, though: blame the head coach. As typed-out and defended for nearly two full seasons doing this column, I am a Jay Gruden fan. I think he's an excellent offensive mind, aggressive, gets his players to buy-in and having this dysfunctional, moribund franchise hovering around .500 for half a decade deserves a medal.
HOWEVER, if there's one fair critique of Jay that cannot go overlooked, it's that he doesn't have the innate ability to shift gears. Remember the MC battle in Richmond? He would be on stage, cursing up a storm, despite the rules. And it's not that his curses and battle wordplay would have been bad, they just would not have been effective given the parameters. He rarely has shown the moxy and willingness to adapt to new challenges. Those rappers that were disqualified weren't bad artists. A couple of them were actually really talented. But when you can't handle difficult circumstances as they present themselves and adjust accordingly, you won't be able to stay on stage long enough for a chance to win.
#SundaySlices will return following Sunday's divisional battle against the suddenly surging, New York Giants. If you have any slice suggestions, critiques, complaints or questions send them to @slimceeVA on Twitter. Should you feel the need to add snarky commentary about pop culture, sports or politics into your life, you can also follow @slimceeVA—and you should.