April 19, 2014

Redskins sign DeSean Jackson; take big risk with potential for huge reward

The first thing that pops up on search engines when you go to look for DeSean Jackson, newly signed wire receiver for the Washington Redskins is “DeSean Jackson gang signs”. The next thing you find is the litany of “addition by subtraction” columns by nonplussed Philadelphia sportswriters.

So this move isn’t without its share of inherent risk.

DeSean Jackson is an extremely talented football player. He’s got game-changing speed both in the passing and return games. He destroyed the Redskins at every opportunity — the Skins just didn’t (and still don’t) have anyone with the outright athleticism capable of guarding him. He’s impossible to defend on the outside in single coverage.

Jackson is a three-time Pro Bowl player and the first to be selected at two different positions in one season. In 2010 he was named as both a wide receiver and return specialist. He is 27 years old — in the absolute prime of his career.

So what’s the problem?

He is reported to be divisive, owns a bad attitude, an inconsistent work ethic and a lack of chemistry with Eagles second-year head coach Chip Kelly. On top of all that, some of his buddies from back home in L.A. are alleged gang members that have been connected to a pair of homicides in 2010.

In no report that I can find does it mention that Jackson had any involvement whatsoever in those homicides, or that Jackson’s association with these alleged gang members is anything more than casual.

Still, the associations with his buddies from home linger and cause a distraction whenever any discussion of Jackson is mentioned. Jackson has denied having any involvement in gang activities and is not currently under investigation (at least publicly) for any wrongdoings.

“I would like to make it very clear that I am not and never have been part of any gang,” Jackson said last week in a statement following the NJ.com story about his gang ties. ”I am not a gang member and to speculate and assume that I am involved in such activity off the field is reckless and irresponsible. I work very hard on and off the field and I am a good person with good values.”

But the distraction lingers.

The distractions are so harsh that the Eagles simply waived Jackson last week, with no compensation whatsoever, rather than deal with the constant distractions. This is an organization that signed another player to a multi-year deal that was captured on video using a racial slur.

So this deal does not come without its share of inherent risk.

Skins GM Bruce Allen and new head coach Jay Gruden know what they are getting themselves into. There’s no ambiguity about the associated risk.

But the reward is potentially huge.

Jackson will pair with Pierre Garcon and free agent Andre Roberts to give the Skins a receiving corps unmatched in Washington since the days of the Fun Bunch and The Posse. Jackson himself is a singular talent in the bunch. He has averaged 17.2 yards per catch in his career. Let that sink in for just a second. The Skins haven’t had anyone average over 17 yards a catch in a season since 2005.

With Robert Griffin III having so many weapons available to him on the field, Gruden’s offense should find success spreading the ball around.

It’s up to Allen, Gruden and the rest of the Redskins front office to mitigate any off-the-field stuff that comes along in the package. What could possibly go wrong there?

Big risk. Huge reward.

Washington Redskins jump in with both feet on day two of free agency

The Washington Redskins, fairly quiet in the first day of the free agent signing period, were quite a bit more active in day two.

The Skins added four players, including former Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Jason Hatcher.

The team also added defensive end Clifton Geathers, linebacker Darryl Sharpton and cornerback Tracy Porter.

Hatcher, 31, enjoyed his best year in the league last season, recording 11 sacks. He spent the first five seasons of his career as a backup and broke the starting lineup in 2011. He played right defensive end in the Cowboys’ 3-4 system that year before switching to tackle last season in a 4-3. He’s expected to play end for the Skins.

Hatcher represents a huge upgrade along the defensive front for the Skins. Not only did Hatcher have more sacks than the entirety of the Skins defensive line last season, he’s also adept at putting pressure on the offense in the running game.

Geathers, a massive 6’8″, 340-pound fourth year defensive lineman, appeared in 16 games with the Philadelphia Eagles last year, recording 13 tackles.

Sharpton recorded 87 tackles for Houston, starting the final eight games of the season. He should compete for a starting inside spot next to Perry Riley Jr., re-signed by Washington on Wednesday.

Porter started 16 games for Oakland last season with 67 tackles, two interceptions and a touchdown. Porter has had injury troubles in his seven-year career, playing just one full season as a pro. He can play against both wide and slot receivers.

Washington Redskins venture into free agent waters, but not too far

The first day of NFL free agency is in the books, and the Washington Redskins did indeed pick up a couple of useful pieces, but did not make a headline-grabbing splash as they’ve done in years past.

The Redskins used the first day of the signing period to bring back two of their own: LB Perry Riley and WR Santana Moss; and added G Shawn Lauvao, slot WR Andre Roberts and special teams standout LB Adam Hayward.

Lauvao, a 2010 third round pick out of Arizona State, started 11 games for the Cleveland Browns last season and started all 16 in 2011 and 2012. ESPN reported that he signed a four-year, $17 million contract. Lauvao is graded as a good pass blocker but not as strong on run blocking.

Roberts, who spent his first four seasons in Arizona, is a 5’10″, 195-pound slot receiver. He caught 43 balls for 471 yards and two touchdowns in ’13. Roberts signed for four years and $16 million.

Heyward is 6’1″, 240-pounds and has played primarily as a special teamer in seven season in the NFL. He played for current Redskins secondary coach Raheem Morris in Tampa Bay.

 

 

Redskins use franchise designation on Orakpo

The Washington Redskins used their limited franchise tag on OLB Brian Orakpo, announced via team press release. The limited designation means Orakpo can continue to negotiate as a free agent and if the offer is matched, the signing team forfeits two first round picks to the Redskins.

From the press release:

The Washington Redskins announced today that they have placed the franchise tag on linebacker Brian Orakpo.

Orakpo (6-4, 257) led the Redskins in sacks for the fourth time in his five-year career in 2013, returning after sustaining a season-ending injury in Week 2 of the 2012 season. Last season he finished with 70 tackles (47 solo), double-digit sacks (10) and had his first interception of his career against Chicago, which he returned 29 yards for his first career touchdown.

Orakpo was originally selected by the Redskins in the first round (13th overall) of the 2009 NFL Draft. For his career, he has appeared in 64 regular season games, all starts, compiling 283 tackles (195 solo), 39.5 sacks, five forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and one interception returned for a touchdown. His 39.5 sacks rank fifth on the Redskins all-time sack list.

Orakpo, 27, played collegiately at Texas from 2004-08, posting 132 tackles (93 solo), 22 sacks, 38 tackles for a loss, 62 pressures, six passes defensed, six forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. During his senior year in 2008, he garnered several accolades including the Nagurski Trophy (nation’s top defensive player), Lombardi Award (nation’s top lineman), Hendricks Award (nation’s top defensive end), unanimous first-team All-America and All-Big 12 selections and consensus Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.

OPINION: Haslett has to prove he’s capable in last chance

With the announcement by Washington Redskins new head coach Jay Gruden of the return and possible contract extension of defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, those third-and-longs and fourth-and-shorts next NFL season may be more subject to hopes and prayers than the accustomed chant of “Defense!” heard from the upper deck of FedEx Field on Sundays.  

Jim Haslett, who has been the defensive coordinator since 2010, should by now be very accustomed to being a hot topic on Washington sports talk radio and at the office water cooler.  

Most fans were shocked when they heard the news that the Redskins were retaining Haslett, feeling there should have been a change in leadership on the defensive side of the ball. But if you step back and assess the situation, it’s understandable why they are going to keep him at least at the present time.  

It might not be the right idea, but you can see the team’s logic in it. 

With a new head coach coming in, whose background is obviously on the offensive side of the ball (and with the majority of a new staff), some consistency at one phase of the game might be the smart approach. You just can’t fix every problem at once. For example, most companies and managers in business world recognize that it’s better to be really good at one thing rather than being mediocre in everything.

Haslett has to prove this season that he’s capable of leading a competent defense.

Haslett has a long resume of coaching defenses in the NFL, so experience isn’t the issue here. The problem is his track record – of his past 12 defenses, none have ranked higher than 14th in points allowed, and that was the only time his defense ranked higher than 21st. Finishing in the lower third of the league in points allowed generally isn’t a way a guy accumulates 12 seasons as a defensive coordinator, but here we are. 

The issue during Haslett’s Redskins tenure is one of talent. Because of the salary cap penalties levied by the league, the Skins the past two seasons have concentrated on making the offense better at the expense of the defense and special teams.   

Let’s take a look at the talent Haslett has had at his disposal during his Redskins tenure. One can easily argue that the salary cap penalty and restrictions have more than merely handicapped the team the past two years – they’ve has nearly crippled it.  

There have been some promising additions on the offensive side of the ball recently, notably Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris and Pierre Garcon, with little added to the defense during the reign of Mike Shanahan. Where are the Griffin and Morris-type additions to the defense?  

Even with their 3-13 record this year, the Redskins defense ranked in the middle of the league I yardage allowed – 18th overall. They were, however, 30th in points allowed. Why the disparity? 

The Redskins’ special teams were horrendous this past season. They gave up several touchdowns and yielded short field opportunities for the opposing team too many times. They were dead last in all aspects of that phase of the game, and it’s an aspect of this team that has been hit particularly hard by the salary cap penalties. 

If the Skins couldn’t address adding playmakers to the starting defense, how on Earth could they address depth signings as quality backups and special teamers?  

This offseason, many of last season’s starters on defense will become free agents.  With Haslett’s retention and the salary cap penalties being lifted, it will be interesting to watch who gets new contracts and where the team will look to improve from the outside. 

The past few seasons, the Skins and their apologists have claimed over and over that they haven’t had the right pieces and talent needed to run the 3-4 defense. They should have some flexibility to in that regard this offseason.  

With the retirement of 4-time pro bowler London Fletcher, who will step up and become the true leader of this group? His heir apparent, Perry Riley, Jr., is a free agent. So is the entire starting defensive backfield, though not many will miss those guys. And so is top sacker Brian Orakpo. 

Haslett has to decide who will replace Fletcher’s production in addition to leadership. Fletcher led the league in tackling on multiple occasions. He’ll be missed on the field as much as in the locker room.  

They need depth along the defensive line. Barry Cofield has been rock solid in the nose tackle role, but the rushing defense was porous in 2013, a huge step back from the previous season when they limited teams to 95.8 ypg, fifth in the NFL.  

The team addressed the secondary some in last year’s draft, bringing in CB David Amerson and S Baccari Rambo. Both had growing pains this season, but look to be pieces to build upon, especially Amerson. 

It will be interesting to see if they draft to build depth here. This group for the past two seasons have made so many mediocre quarterbacks look good – let alone what the actual good one do to it. The Redskins should go after a true shut-down corner this year – either via free agency or trade. They should look for someone who has been a solid citizen and that can set an example and mentor the young defensive backs they drafted last year.  

If they retain CB DeAngelo Hall, they need to stress with the veteran ballhawk that he needs to be more of a leader and eliminate the unnecessary unsportsmanlike penalties he accumulates as much as – if not more than – his interceptions. 

The team also retained defensive backs coach Raheem Morris, another of the former Tampa Bay staff that Bruce Allen has imported to D.C. They brought back inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti and brought in outside linebackers coach Brian Baker from Cleveland to work specifically within the 3-4 system. 

This year’s defense will have Jim Haslett’s entire fingerprints all over it. We will have no other person to point our finger at. They have some holes to fill but they have the money to spend. With so many defensive players testing the free market this year it will be interesting to see how it all takes shape by training camp.  

Maybe with all the needed changes that are going to happen to the team this year, coach Gruden, Bruce Allen and the ownership decided to stay with at least one part of what they knew, for better or worse.  

Changing everything at once is a dicey proposition. Obviously the special teams’ poor performance cannot continue. They have a new coordinator there as well, with Ben Kotwica coming over from the Jets. Adding personnel on the defensive side of the ball can’t help but make the personnel for the special teams that much better. 

Maybe Haslett hasn’t had all the materials necessary at his disposal to be successful. If that is the case, maybe he deserves shot with a roster stocked with difference-makers on defense.  

But he needs to take ownership and accountability, with no more excuses this time around. We shouldn’t expect a championship defense this coming season. But it is reasonable to expect a consistent and competitive one though.

It should prove interesting how Haslett, Bruce Allen and the talent evaluators approach the restocking of defensive personnel during the offseason. We gave Mike Shanahan four years. Why not see what Haslett can bring and accomplish in his fourth with appropriate personnel and no limitations.
_______________________

Staff intern Wayne Hess contributed to this report.

District Sports Page looking for writers

Do you have a passion for one (or all) of the pro teams in DC? Can you articulate that passion via thoughtful analysis or constructive opinion? Do you have an interest in describing game action, and not just who did what, but why and how they did it?

District Sports Page is looking to add to our staff of writers covering the professional teams in Washington, DC.

Do you currently have your own blog, or write for someone else’s, but looking to expand? Are you a college student or recent graduate looking for experience? Are you a seasoned writer but not in the industry anymore? Do you have a particular sports expertise but need guidance in the creative process?

We’re looking for candidates with strong writing skills, a deep understanding of the sports they write about, time and energy to commit to the endeavor, and most of all, a passion for DC sports.

Our mission here at the District Sports Page is simple: To provide independent daily, quality, analytical, critical and opinionated coverage of the DC pro teams.

Journalism is comprised of the asking and answering of questions: the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How of the story. The mainstream media in town do a great job of giving sports fans a broad overview of the Who, What, When and Where of the games and stories they cover, but because they have to cater to a mass audience, the Why and the How often are overlooked.

Hopefully, that’s where you’ll come in.

If you have a deep understanding of the games, and can articulate that in writing, DSP might be the place to showcase your talents.

We are in need of writers for all sports, so if you want to write about the Redskins, Capitals, Wizards, Nationals or United, let us know! Shoot, if you have a particular knowledge or passion for the Kastles or the Mystics, we’ll make room for you.

If you’re interested, please send an email to: comments@districtsportspage.com and include the following:

  1. Resume
  2. Examples or links to previous writing
  3. Cover letter describing your writing style, expertise in a particular sport, level of commitment, and writing ambitions

We look forward to hearing from you.

Washington Redskins hire Jay Gruden as head coach

“I don’t know what happened last year. I don’t care about what happened last year.” — Redskins new head coach Jay Gruden

The Washington Redskins announced hiring Jay Gruden as head coach at a press conference Thursday at Redskins Park.

Excluding interim coaches, Gruden, 46, becomes the team’s youngest head coaching hire since hiring eventual Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs at 40 years of age in 1981. He becomes the first Redskins coach hired directly from an offensive coordinator role on another team since Norv Turner in 1994.

Gruden spent the last three seasons as offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals. In his tenure in Cincinnati from 2011-13, the Bengals averaged 10 wins a season, making three consecutive playoff appearances and earning an AFC North championship in 2013. Members of the Bengals’ offense accounted for seven Pro Bowl selections in his three seasons in Cincinnati.

Calling it a “once-in-a-lifetime deal,” Gruden expressed the desire to instill confidence and pride among the players as a primary goal once he gets started with the team. He indicated that no decisions have been made yet regarding his coaching staff, including dismissing a report that TE coach Sean McVey had been promoted to offensive coordinator.

Gruden said he hated coaching against a 3-4 defense and would lean toward keeping the 3-4 with the Redskins, noting that the personnel was tailored to that alignment at this time, but he did note problems “on the back end,” referring to the Redskins troubles in the defensive secondary this past season.

Asked about repairing the organization’s relationship with quarterback Robert Griffin III, Gruden said, “I don’t know what happened last year. I don’t care about what happened last year.” Gruden noted many positive attributes about Griffin’s game, but also said he would demand much from his quarterback, including taking responsibility for mistakes and being a good leader.

General Manager Bruce Allen confirmed that Gruden signed a five-year contract.

Redskins fire Shanahan — Bruce Allen press conference transcript

“Has he taken a step back? He’s still one of the great fans.” Redskins GM Bruce Allen, on owner Daniel Snyder.

Washington Redskins general manager Bruce Allen met with reporters Monday afternoon after dismissing Mike Shanahan as head coach and releasing most of the coaching staff. Below is a transcript of his entire comments (courtesy Redskins Media Relations).

List of coaches not retained: Keith Burns (special teams), Larry Coyer (advance scout), Richmond Flowers (offensive quality control), Matt LaFleur (quarterbacks), Mike McDaniel (wide recievers), Kyle Shanahan (offensive coordinator), Bob Slowik (linebackers), Bobby Slowik (defensive assistant), Bobby Turner (associate head coach/running backs coach ), Aubrey Pleasant (offensive assistant), Richard Hightower (special teams assistant).

Executive Vice President/General Manager Bruce Allen

Opening statements:

“Good afternoon. Obviously this is a painful day for me and the organization. It is fitting though, after a painful season, that these type of press conferences and events happen.

“Four years ago we thought we did the right thing. We went out and met with Mike [Shanahan]. We wanted a proven coach who had a good record and we felt could lead our football team, and in discussions with Mike, he was always honest with us. He said he wanted to make sure he had the same type of control and staffing that he had in Denver and we agreed to that. Unfortunately today our results aren’t what we had hoped on that day, and that’s why we’re here.

“Today [Owner] Dan [Snyder], Mike and I met at 9:00 and we relieved Mike of his duties. It was a cordial, professional meeting. We talked about the future of the team and the direction that we both want it to go. After that I’ve been meeting with all the assistant coaches individually and telling them of their status. Later today [Senior Vice President] Tony [Wyllie] will give you a list of coaches who have also been relieved of their duties. The other coaches will depend on the next head coach – if they fit into the schemes and the system that the new head coach wants to implement. Later today I’m going to meet with a couple more of our staff members and we’re going to start to formalize the coaching search.

“I know there’s been speculation throughout the last weeks and maybe even months about what is going to happen and the reason we waited until now versus all of the previous comments of if we were going to make a change during the season was because we wanted Mike to have the ability to right the ship. We wanted to end that losing streak. For every play on this team and for everybody in the organization, for every fan out there, we wanted to get a win. We came close in the last few weeks, but as is the frustration over the last four years, we played some good quarters, some good halves, but we didn’t play complete games.

“As I said a moment ago, our head coaching search will start tonight. Because of league rules, we’re not going to try and publicize who we’re going to try and talk to. I know there’s going to be rumors out there as we meet people, and we’re going to try and keep you updated on a regular basis. We’re going to try and do this as quickly as possible, but more importantly we want to do it correctly. We want to pick the right coach, the right leader for this franchise that can inspire this football team, that can lead this team and teach them the fundamentals that are so critical in the game, who understands the value of time, because in the NFL right now time is really, really critical to manage. You don’t have much time in the offseason with the players. You don’t have much time during training camp with players. So to understand the value of that time is going to be important, and to have someone with some urgency to accomplish the goals that we’re looking for for this franchise.

“To sit here and talk about Mike Shanahan leaving us is difficult because we’re all 3-13. We accept that. We understand it. The Washington Redskins will win and lose as a football team. Period. That’s who we are, and we understand some of the mistakes that were made and we are going to take the next several months and figure out all the mistakes that were made in order to learn from them. [Cornerback] Josh Wilson gave me a great Christmas present, pretty telling, it was a book and it said ‘Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.’ We learned too much this year, maybe, but we’ve got to learn to go in the right direction and that’s what we’re going to do.”

On who will have control over player personnel moving forward:

“The control will be mine, and it will be working with our personnel department. The personnel department of [Director of Player Personnel] Scott Campbell and [Director of Pro Personnel] Morocco Brown actually do a very good job at what they do. We are going to redefine some of the characteristics that we’re looking for in players. Obviously when we have a new head coach there will be some schematic adjustments that we will make, but that power will be with me.”

On the reports and rumors around the franchise late in the season:

“Part of that was – let me use the right word – distasteful to hear. Within in the Redskins — and I do like that the players say it’s on us, it is on us, it’s on all of us from people in the front office to people on the football field to people in the locker room, it is on us — and to see those anonymous sources and the back-biting and different comments, I think it’s very important to know that a lot of it was untrue, but at the same time it was distasteful. Any coach, any organization knows in pro sports you need to eliminate distractions. Instead we created our own distractions and it distracted from our play on the field and we will do our best to alleviate any of those issues in the future.”

On if they will redefine front office roles:

“No, we’re going to keep everybody in their role and we’re going to make sure they can focus on their job that they have to do. They’ll be involved in the interview process. They will be involved as they have been in talking to some of the coaches today. We feel comfortable with them. It doesn’t mean we might not add somebody to the personnel department, but we feel we have a good personnel department that has been interviewed for other positions and we’re comfortable with it now.”

On if the next head coach has to be someone that has won as a head coach before:

“It really is an open list. It will have NFL coaches, it will have college coaches on it. Some have head coaching experience, some don’t, and I’m really looking forward to meeting some of the people who I haven’t met yet. I’ve seen them from afar and I want to hear what their dreams are, what they can do, the fire in their belly to coach the Washington Redskins, to inspire the kids on this football team.”

On reports of fractured relationships within the organization:

“That’s part of the rumors that are out there. Mike has always been professional and we always had an easy dialogue when discussing issues. I don’t think there was a fractured relationship. I think that the intensity of trying to do the right thing all the time maybe was too much for everyone at times, but I think the relationship was good, as it was in our meeting this morning. Mike and Dan have a very good relationship as people, and I think that’s going to continue in the future.”

On if he is concerned about instability after another coaching change:

“In the NFL right now, stability is a strange word. I think we need to put that up at a league meeting, ‘What is stability?’ There’s eight head coaching changes last year, eight the year before, no reason to believe there might not be eight again. Last year half the offensive coordinators in the NFL changed teams, so I think we’ve had a pretty good run with four years. Unfortunately, three of the years were losing records and those are the results. The great thing about sports is we play with a scoreboard. We don’t have to wait for a quarterly report to tell us how we did in sales or any of that. We know immediately, and the distasteful and the painful part was we were 3-13. We lost 13 times.”

On if continuity not breeding success is a problem that goes deeper than the head coaching position:

“No, not at all. You can look at teams that turn around in one year — I think the greatest example is Philadelphia and Kansas City — [Kansas City] Coach [Andy] Reid did a great job with the Chiefs. He just left Philly and they didn’t perform well but the new coach came in and led them to the division title. If we find the right person, we will have the stability that we all want in the NFL.”

On if the team is better off now than it was before hiring Shanahan:

“In ways, yes. The frustration of the season is there is a nucleus for success. We saw it. We saw it just a year ago. And the nucleus is here, and we have some of the right foundational principles to win. We just have to learn to take advantage of all 60 minutes in a game and close the deal. We had way too many giveaways this year. I don’t think there’s anything that speaks to our season as much as our first-quarter record. We had the worst in the league net point differential, minus-79 points, in the first quarter, so obviously that made the games even more painful when you’re trying to come from behind at times. I feel we have an opportunity because of the nucleus of the team, the spirit of the team. I think through all of the different issues that came up this year – some true, some untrue – the team did stick together. The core of this team believes in each other.”

On when the decision to relieve Shanahan was made:

“I would say probably after the Dallas game it was near 99 percent, but the most important thing after the Dallas game was to try and beat the Giants, and we felt that Mike and his staff gave us the best chance to beat the Giants the next week. Unfortunately that didn’t happen and that’s why we’re here today.”

On why fans should believe the next head coach will succeed after previous coaches have not:

“I can’t speak for the prior years. I can speak for Mike’s years, and Dan was very supportive of all of Mike’s wishes and ideas, as he has with the different thoughts that I’ve had from time to time. This is the Washington Redskins. This is a very high-profile team. When the Dallas Cowboys or the Washington Redskins are in first place it’s a lot of news, and when they’re in last place it’s a lot of news. I think coming into this environment, knowing that there is a nucleus, I think it will be a very attractive position to coaches.”

On if he learned anything specific from mistakes made in his time here:

“We met this morning in the personnel department to make sure that we documented every pick that we’ve made and we’ve documented every free agent that we’ve discussed or gave a bad grade to that is performing well right now in the NFL. So we’re studying the personnel at this point.”

On how responsible he feels for this season and the record over the last four years:

“I feel very responsible. I think I said that at the beginning that everyone here feels responsible, and in my position it’s what creates the pain because I can see where we want to go, I can feel where we want to go, and I know that the players have that same drive. So I feel responsible for it. We’re all accountable for our record. That’s the great thing, once again, about sports. I’m 3-13 as is Tony Wyllie over here.”

On what the head coaching job has to offer to candidates:

“As I just said a little bit earlier, the attractiveness of coming to one of the flagship franchises in the NFL is exciting to coaches. The coaching profession is one that I have tremendous respect for and I think it has some of the highest highs and some of the lowest lows of any profession out there, and sometimes you find coaches who can’t wait to have a tough situation of taking over a last-place team. I think if you would ask coaches a lot of times would you want to take over a first-place team or a last-place team, in football, they’d say last place. Unfortunately we’re there, but I do think it’s going to be a great opportunity for a coach.”

On his role in the organization moving forward:

“My job is to put the Washington Redskins organization on the right track and to continue to build the foundation for this team to win and it is my job to find the next head coach for the Washington Redskins.”

On if his role will include control over personnel decisions:

“That’s all part of it.”

On if he will be looking for specific offensive or defensive schemes in the new coach:

“I think I’m going to look for the person who can describe what they want to do the best. It could be a 4-3, it could be a 3-4. It’s the person who has the understanding and the knowledge of what he wants to teach the players. As I said at the beginning, we’re going to look for someone who is a leader first and it could be on the offensive side of the ball, defense or special team. There have been a couple special teams coaches who have made great head coaches. We’re going to keep an open mind and look forward to them telling us how they’re going to make the Washington Redskins successful – have that fire in the belly that I discussed about being excited and what they can do to make the Redskins win.”

On how much Snyder’s involvement has changed in recent years:

“Once again, it’s tough for me to discuss what he did before I came here, because I wasn’t here. He’s been very supportive of everything we’ve wanted to do. Has he taken a step back? He’s still one of the great fans. I think – and I’ve seen some of the reports, if you knew how much Dan Snyder wants to win – I mean, he wants to win more than life itself – and he has given us the support and the resources to do what we think is necessary to help us win. It showed a year ago and this year it didn’t, but it’s our job to do the execution. It’s not Dan calling the plays. It’s not Dan picking the players. It’s the people he’s hired, it’s our job to actually turn this team into a winner.”

On his reasoning for not restructuring the front office:

“I see some people who have to be given an opportunity to succeed. I think Scott Campbell running a college draft will be as capable as any personnel director in the NFL. I know what Morocco Brown can do in free agency. I’ve seen the grades of the players he’s given in free agency. To blame them, I think, would be unfair to not giving them an opportunity to succeed. Our front office will win and lose as the team does. We believe that we have the right people in place. You saw it last year. This year, you saw – not the complete opposite, because we lost eight versus winning seven in a row. We’re very confident where we’re going to go with them.”

On if something is inherently wrong after finishing in last place in five out of the last six seasons:

“Not in the NFL. Not in sports. I can’t change history. You’d like to, but you can’t change history. It’s all about today and where we’re going in the future. I think when we provide the right type of leadership, the right type of foundation for a new coach and a new team, that’s what’s going to matter. I can’t change what happened yesterday. We are going to have the chance to change the future and that’s what our task is and we look forward to it.”

Closing statement:

“It is a difficult day. In talking to the coaches, it’s very painful, and I respect all the work that they put into it, but the results weren’t there. It’s now our job today with the nucleus that we have to change our fortunes in the future and we think we can do that. I want to thank you, and as I said, we’re going to try and keep you updated during this process so the fans know what we’re doing with the coaching search. Thank you.”

Redskins fire Shanahan — Audio of press conference

Mike Shanahan, dismissed as head coach of the Washington Redskins, was permitted by the team to address the media Monday morning. Saying that he believes, “the direction of the team is going in the right direction,” Shanahan took the high road talking about his dismissal, citing the cap penalties and depth issues as principal factors in the degradation of the roster during his tenure.

Below please find the full audio of Shanahan’s final press conference, courtesy of 106.7 The Fan’s Sky Kerstein.

2013.12.30 Mike Shanahan Press Conference RAW

OPINION: Redskins fire Shanahan — Where do they go from here?

After meeting with owner Daniel Snyder Monday morning, while the players were in the locker room answering to the media following their eighth straight loss ending a 3-13 season, the Washington Redskins fired head coach Mike Shanahan and his entire coaching staff. Where the team goes from here is literally anybody’s guess.

The move comes as absolutely no surprise. Shanahan compiled a 24-40 record over four seasons — reason enough to dismiss the veteran coach and start over, were the problems with this franchise limited solely to the playing field.

Shanahan’s teams in four seasons finished with double-digit losses three times, and the sole time they did not, they started the season 3-6 and in Shanahan’s press conference following the sixth loss, a 21-13 decision to the Carolina Panthers, he essentially gave up on the season, saying that over the course of the season he’d find out who belonged and who did not.

The Skins then went on an improbable seven-game winning streak to win the division and make their only playoff appearance under Shanahan — a loss at home to the Seattle Seahawks, one in which the franchise quarterback, Robert Griffin III, was allowed to return to the game when his right knee was obviously compromised, only to blow it out completely requiring extensive surgery, causing him to miss all of the offseason workouts, training camp and preseason.

During the rehab process, and indeed, even after the season started, Shanahan and Griffin’s camps were divided and fractious, with the player having lost trust of the team doctors, his head coach, and by extension, his offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, Mike’s son.

What was left was a tenuous situation at best, with an obviously rusty Griffin not succeeding on the field and left warring with his immediate supervisors, all under the same big tent as Snyder — and General Manager Bruce Allen — sat silently, out of the spotlight watching all the ugliness unfold: all the ugly losses, the leaked reports citing “unnamed sources”, the headlines in the national media and the degraded play of the previous season’s Offensive Rookie of the Year, ultimately leading to Shanahan benching a seemingly healthy Griffin for the team’s last three games of the season.

So Shanahan — and the $7 million that remained on the original five-year contract he signed — ride off into the sunset, his reputation and legacy further clouded by the stench of three double-digit loss seasons, the pandering nepotism, and the ceaseless turmoil and divisive media leaks that could only have come from within his camp as this season wound down.

But he’s not the Redskins’ problem anymore. Where, exactly, do they go from here?

The Redskins head coaching gig should be a prized position. Despite the 3-13 season — and the lack of first round draft picks the next two seasons, the new coach will have a presumably healthy and motivated Griffin to work with. That will be the new guy’s primary responsibility: repairing the damage this franchise has done to Griffin, both physically and psychologically.

The new head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach have to iron out Griffin’s footwork, keep him better protected, and put him back in a position to succeed, not simply live out the OC’s desire to prove he’s smarter than everyone around him.

That means, among other things, they have to fill the playbook with screens, picks and slants — like most teams with young quarterback do. They have to design plays intended to get the ball out of Griffin’s hands as quickly as possible and allow players more suited for the rigors of NFL contact to take that punishment on a regular basis.

Griffin’s legs are a weapon, yes. But they don’t have to be the only trick in the book. Griffin should run when he feels the pressure to escape the rush, where he’s able to break down defenses on the edge with his speed and natural ability. He just doesn’t have the frame to withstand running the ball off-tackle, where 300-lb linemen and 250-lb linebackers can neutralize that speed due to more-confined spaces.

There’s a really good reason the option doesn’t work on the professional level as a basis for an offense.

It also means the Skins have to fine several offensive linemen that excel in pass blocking. The group they currently have are decent-enough run blockers, but as a group — especially the interior – they aren’t proficient enough in the passing game.

That task should fall to a new talent evaluator as well. The Redskins have had enough experience with “my way or the highway” coaches to realize that a traditional system, with a GM that acts as talent evaluator and head coach that manages that talent, should be the way to go. The new coach is going to have enough trouble getting Griffin’s career back on track.

And once and for all, Mr. Snyder needs to stay away from the field. He needs someone to help him finally realize that fraternizing with the players, though a perk of ownership, should be confined to team holiday parties and special occasions like the Homecoming Luncheon. He needs to finally realize that his relationship with individual players undermines his coaches and lowers opinions of him throughout the league.

Mr. Snyder needs to hire a competent GM and let him do his job. He needs to allow the GM to hire a head coach, preferably and up-and-comer, not another “big-name” retread looking for a golden parachute. He needs to allow the head coach to hire his own coordinators and assistants, with the guidance of the GM. And he needs to step away and enjoy his product from the comfort of his suite AT ALL TIMES, instead of hanging around on the sidelines at practice like a giddy fanboy.

Or else we’ll just be back at this again in another couple of years.

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