Back in the spring, the Washington Football Team guaranteed more than $35 million in salaries to two players in an effort to breathe life into a moribund offense.
Now, heading into Week 2, both of those players are on the injured reserve.
Of course the two players are quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and wide receiver Curtis Samuel.
Fitzpatrick was brought in for $10 million to provide stability at the game's most important position after Washington has served as nothing but a changing table for a number of bad to mediocre passers in the last three years. The analytics suggested Fitzpatrick was playing the best football of his nearly two-decade career. Fitzpatrick called Washington "the best situation" of his time in the NFL, repeatedly and there was genuine excitement among many that this offense could perform at a high level with the new signal-caller.
That excitement lasted about two quarters of the first game before Fitzpatrick was helped off the field with a hip injury. There's no timetable for his return, but it will be at least three weeks and likely much more.
Samuel was signed for his versatility and explosiveness, and to provide a complement to Terry McLaurin in the pass game. Here's the problem, however: Samuel hasn't run in months while he's been dealing with a groin injury. Seriously, at least while the media has been present, the speedy Samuel has not really run since May.
Let's stop pretending that this isn't a big deal.
Let's stop shouting "next man up" like losing QB1 and the free-agent prize wideout won't impact the product on the field.
Seriously, Washington signed these two players specifically to fix their offense. This is a big deal.
Yes, Taylor Heinicke shows flashes of playmaking potential. He's a spark every time he's on the field, and yes, the coaching staff likes him.
But the staff also went out and spent $10 million to bring in Fitzpatrick. They wanted Fitz out there. That was the plan.
And yes, rookie Dyami Brown looked explosive in college and during training camp. Cam Sims impressed coaches during camp too. Adam Humphries should be able to help in the slot, and maybe Washington can lean more on running backs Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic in the pass game.
But the staff also guaranteed Samuel nearly $25 million to wear Burgundy and Gold. They wanted Samuel out there. That was the plan.
Heinicke might be great. He has legions of fans in Washington, and this is his opportunity to prove them right.
Perhaps Brown will explode in Samuel's absence. That didn't happen Week 1, the rookie logged just one catch that actually went for negative yards, and outside of McLaurin, all of Washington's pass catchers accounted for 73 yards receiving. And excluding McLaurin, the wideouts only accounted for 25 yards.
That's an incredibly small sample, it was just Week 1. Brown and the rest will have another opportunity beginning Thursday night against the Giants, but again, the early numbers are paltry.
Coach Ron Rivera has a duty to keep his team looking ahead, not looking at the IR. Rivera extolls the next man up philosophy, as he should, but he also has no choice.
Among fans and media, however, there's been a similar tone surrounding the losses of Samuel and Fitzpatrick.
"Well Samuel never even practiced so it's not that big of a deal. You can't miss what you never had!"
Incorrect. Washington signed him for a reason.
"Heinicke is better than Fitzpatrick, he just needs a chance!"
Maybe, but if that was the case, why'd they sign Fitzpatrick in the first place?
Here's the bottom line: Washington has only lost one contest in a 17-game season. Things can get right in a hurry on a short week with a division game. Playoffs and playoff wins are absolutely still on the table.
But Washington has also lost a lot - already - to injury. The losses of Fitzpatrick and Samuel hurt. It's time to be honest about that.