After Sunday's mistake-filled 30-20 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, that identity had taken indisputable shape. The Redskins are a team with no shortage of offensive weapons but one that misfires with fatal frequency.
And backup quarterback Kirk Cousins is its chief liability.
After keeping Washington in contention through the first half and trailing just 14-13 at the break, Cousins short-circuited instead of rallying when it mattered most.
He threw three fourth-quarter interceptions to single-handedly doom the Redskins. Cousins finished 24-for-38 for 354 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. That brought his total interceptions to eight this season in relief of Robert Griffin III.
Washington (1-5) has lost four consecutive games and 13 of its past 14. Sunday's was the franchise's first loss to Arizona (4-1) since 2000, ending an eight-game winning streak against the Cardinals.
"We keep beating ourselves," said running back Alfred Morris, who had 41 yards on 13 carries. "We're doing good, doing good — then, all of a sudden, make mistakes. I know we're a better team than what our record says right now."
Free safety Ryan Clark, who led an injury-depleted secondary, said he felt Washington's defense shouldered responsibility for the loss.
"That was the difference in the game," Clark said. "Their defense, when faced with the opportunities to help their team win the game, they did. Defensively, we didn't. We had opportunities to help our team, and we didn't do the things you need to do to win football games. That's indicative of a losing football team."
Washington's defense took a hard hit in the first quarter, with cornerback David Amerson suffering a concussion defending a completion to Larry Fitzgerald. He left the game and didn't return.
A three-and-out on Washington's second possession handed Arizona terrific field position. Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer drove his team 41 yards, capping the drive with a 20-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Michael Floydfor a 7-0 lead.
Washington's next drive opened with penalties on two of the first three plays. After getting sacked for a 10-yard loss, Cousins connected with wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who turned upfield and sped past two defenders for a 64-yard touchdown catch that knotted the game at 7.
Washington scored on its next drive as well, with Kai Forbath kicking a 28-yard field goal to put the Redskins up 10-7.
Arizona was backed up to its own 17 when the two-minute warning sounded. But a pass-interference call on cornerback Bashaud Breeland advanced the ball 36 yards and just inside Washington territory. Washington desperately needed to rattle Palmer, who looked rusty after idling for four weeks.
Instead, Palmer completed a 24-yard strike to Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald hung on and carried cornerback E.J. Biggers into the end zone as the Cardinals reclaimed the lead.
Cousins quickly narrowed the deficit, connecting with Roy Helu Jr. and Morris for 55 yards. Forbath finished with a 43-yard field goal, and Washington headed to the locker room down 14-13.
The Redskins didn't cross midfield in the third quarter, while the Cardinals extended their lead, 17-13, with another clock-chewing drive finished off by a 33-yard field goal.
On Arizona's next series, linebacker Brian Orakpo let an interception slip through his fingers.
Cousins quickly followed with the first of his three interceptions. Targeting Roberts, he threw high instead to safety Rashad Johnson.
On the next series, Cousins targeted Jackson in a thicket of red Cardinal jerseys. The ball landed instead in the hands of Jerraud Powers.
"Something has to change, obviously," Gruden said.