Why, Ron?! Why didn’t you play Antonio Gibson?!

Antonio Gibson didn’t meet fantasy owners expectations against the Giants.Image: AP

Many fantasy football players woke up this morning with their heads down. They’ve already given up on their hopes of winning their Week 2 matchup. Why? Because Antonio Gibson let them down. Gibson, the lead running back for the Washington Football Team, saw just 13 carries and two receptions in last night’s game against the New York Giants.

Many analysts projected Gibson to have a monster game against the Giants on Thursday night. Not only were the Giants a pretty mediocre team against the run in 2020, they allowed Melvin Gordon to go for 101 yards on just 11 carries in Week 1. This was matchup heaven. Washington was likely going to be up early, and that would mean more rushing opportunities. On paper, it was perfect.

That didn’t happen though. Daniel Jones, who was 4-0 against Washington in his career and 0-5 in primetime games coming into last night’s contest, played one of the best games of football of his life. He kept his Giants in it until the very end. In fact, at several moments throughout the game, his team was winning. With Washington behind for much of the game, Ron Rivera and Scott Turner opted for their pass-catching back JD McKissic over Gibson for much of the second half.

The Gibson snubbery started sooner than that though. With about 30 seconds left in the first half, and the Football Team sitting at the opponent’s 1-yard line, many people believed Gibson was surely going to score a touchdown. Sure, Washington had no timeouts, but if they were going to run it, they’d run it with Gibson… right?

NOPE! They handed the ball off to McKissic, who waltzed in for six, breaking Gibson owners’ hearts.

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Now, if you didn’t watch the game last night, you’re probably thinking: “Well, was Gibson playing poorly?” No. Not at all. Gibson recorded 69 rushing yards on just 13 carries. That’s an average of 5.3 yards/carry, which is a very good number.

As I said earlier, game script really seemed to mess with Gibson’s usage. With Washington having to play the role of comeback kings in the second half, McKissic seemed a better option in Rivera’s mind. I don’t blame him for thinking that. I see a lot of people on Twitter complaining that Gibson was a wide receiver in college who converted to the running back position, so if anyone should be a pass-catching back, it should be Gibson. While all of that is true, that is drastically undervaluing McKissic’s history as well. Apart from Gibson, do you know who else was a wide receiver in college? JD McKissic. Between the two of them, who do you think had more receiving yards throughout their Division I college careers? Answer: JD McKissic. In fact, McKissic had more receptions in his redshirt freshman season at Arkansas State (103) than Gibson had in the entirety of his JuCo and Memphis careers. So, yes, Gibson is a more than capable pass-catcher, but McKissic is far and away the better option in the passing game.

There’s also pass-blocking to account for. Gibson was not a good pass blocker in 2020, and he made an effort to improve in that department during the 2021 offseason. McKissic, on the other hand, is phenomenal in pass protection. Pro Football Focus gave McKissic a pass blocking grade of 82.9 in 2020, fourth among running backs. Gibson received a grade of 19.2, which was dead last among qualified backs.

However, these numbers still don’t explain some of the play-calling during last night’s contest. With Washington up by one point, just over two minutes left in the game, and New York with two timeouts and the two-minute warning, you’d think the Washington Football Team would play conservatively and try to kill clock in an effort to win the game, but no. Washington opted to pass the ball.

Why? No idea. If this were on 3rd & long, I’d understand the call, but this was 2nd & 7. Gibson had just rattled off 15 rushing yards over the last two plays. So, why on Earth would you give the Giants the opportunity to force a turnover like that? That pass wasn’t even past the first down marker. It was intended for Terry McLaurin, who was two yards in front of the yellow line. Even if that pass had been completed, it’s not a sure thing that McLaurin would’ve gotten the first down. Seeing as how Gibson had averaged over five yards a carry in this game. Running the ball likely would’ve had a similar outcome. Yet, Washington felt compelled to gamble the game.

I feel bad for the Giants honestly. Washington did not deserve that win last night. Obviously, there were several moments throughout where using McKissic made sense. However, Gibson being glossed over repeatedly throughout the game just makes me scratch my head. Gibson has been one of the most efficient backs in the NFL since he became Washington’s starter mid-2020. There’s no fault in having faith in your inexperienced quarterback. If you know he can ball, then by all means, put the game in his hands. However, you need to give that inexperienced quarterback as much help as possible. The Giants struggled to stop the run whenever Gibson was in. Not only would Gibson’s presence have helped Washington push the ball downfield more often, which would’ve put Washington in a position where they didn’t need a last-second field goal to secure the victory, but it also would’ve opened up play action and given players like Logan Thomas and Terry McLaurin more space to work with.

I think Twitter user @tomwendell said it best:

Rivera said he wanted to use Gibson like Christian McCaffrey, but he’s not using him nearly as much as McCaffrey. Let Antonio Gibson cook! It should only help Washington in the long run.

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