November 22, 2019

OPINION: Redskins flat second half on the coaching staff

The Washington Redskins had this one in the bag. A 24-14 halftime lead became a 27-14 mid-third quarter lead. They dominated the line of scrimmage on offense, punishing the Minnesota Vikings defensive line all evening. Alfred Morris looked like the second coming of John Riggins… well, maybe Gerald Riggs. Anyway, Morris was running roughshod through the Vikings undersized and overmatched D-line.

So how did they allow 20 unanswered second half points to fall to ignominious defeat to a team that had won just once all season?

Easy. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan decided to get “cute”. Instead of sticking with what was working all too well, Shanahan felt that with the luxury of a 13-point lead, he could throw caution to the wind and start flinging the ball all over the field. It’s the complete opposite thinking that was required here. With a big lead, you pound the ball at every occasion. Even if you go three-and-out, you’re guaranteed to run 1:30 off the clock in an effort to get the game over a quickly as possible.

But that’s not good enough for Kyle. He wants to show folks just how smart and creative a coach he is. His offense is particularly adept at getting receivers open and in position for big gains. We saw it continuously in the first half. Building off Morris’ punishing runs, Pierre Garcon, Leonard Hankerson and Jordan Reed were wide open, making catches in space and running after the catch for even more yardage. It was a well-oiled offense running at just about maximum efficiency.

The first possession of the third quarter was the same. The Skins marched down the field, going 59 yards in 12 plays, chewing up 5:38 in the process, inching closer to what should have been an inevitable win. Alfred Morris and Robert Griffin III lugged the ball on the ground, while Hankerson and Garcon made catches in space because of the success of the run game.

After the Vikings went 74 yards in nine plays for a touchdown, the Skins got the ball back at their own 28 yard line. A five-yard Morris carry set up second-and-five. Run the ball! Chew up the clock!

Nope. Kyle called for a short pass (two-yard gain) to Garcon, then an incomplete pass. On the ensuing punt effort, the Skins called for a fake, which would have worked to perfection save for two things: Jerome Murphy did not set on the offensive line, for a false start penalty, and gunner Niles Paul didn’t hear the fake call anyway, and Sav Rocca’s pass fell harmlessly to the ground since Paul never turned to look for it.

The Redskins were never the same.

A roughness penalty on the punt return (Darrel Young) gave the Vikings terrific field position, and the comeback was on. It took Minnesota just four plays to reach the end zone.

When the Skins got the ball back, Kyle acted as if they were down by two touchdowns. Griffin ran a keeper on a zone-read, but it was brought back for holding. They then ran five straight snaps from the shotgun, and the Vikings pinned their ears back and came after Griffin, sacking him the last two plays of the possession.

The Vikes needed just seven plays and 30 yards to set up Blair Walsh’s 39-yard field goal.

Three-and-out, including another sack of Griffin, ensued, and the Skins gave the ball right back to Minnesota, who walked right down the field for another field goal.

In the NFL, if something is working, especially against a team that is already out of the playoff picture, you stick with it. The Redskins failure to stick with what was working Thursday night now has them squarely out of the playoff picture, with only a series of improbable circumstances now able to rectify that situation.

When you dominate in yardage and time of possession like the Redskins did Thursday night, against a one-win team, you have to win. Plain and simple. The Redskins coaches took the Skins out, not the Vikings.

Of course, it would have helped if the defense did their job. But that’s another rant entirely.

Washington Redskins 2013 Season Preview

The Washington Redskins ended a remarkable 2012 season on the most sour of notes. They won their final seven games, including a 31-28 victory over the future Super Bowl Champ Baltimore Ravens in Week 14, and captured the NFC East division title. But the ensuing playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks could not have gone any worse.

The Skins got up early, but on the play before Robert Griffin III threw to tight end Logan Paulsen to put them up two touchdowns, Griffin scrambled to the right sidelines, tried to plant to throw, and his right knee – originally injured Week 14 against the Ravens – buckled. Griffin stayed in the game but was obviously compromised.

The Seahawks came storming back, partly because of the Skins inability to move the football with a gimpy Griffin under center. Seattle took a 21-14 lead mid-way through the fourth quarter, and on the ensuing drive, Griffin mishandled a shotgun snap, planted his right leg to cover the ball, and, well, the memory of Griffin’s knee twisting while he collapsed in pain is burned into the memory of all Redskins fans.

The off-season drama surrounding the original injury, diagnosis, treatment, subsequent injury, decision to allow Griffin to play, and the possibility of a fractured relationship between player, coach and medical staff clouded Griffin’s recovery and rehab from surgery to repair his torn lateral collateral ligament and anterior cruciate ligament. It was an offseason filled with “he said/he said”, bad feelings and confusing interpretations of the same facts and details. The media called into question the integrity of the Redskins coaching and medical staff.

What should have been an offseason of feeling good about the progress the organization has made in the past few seasons under GM Bruce Allen and head coach Mike Shanahan turned into a daily soap opera of Griffin’s recovery, both physical and meta-physical, not only from local media but the national media as well.

Despite the injury problems last season, Griffin won several accolades during the year and once it was over. He was named 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and was named to the Pro Bowl. His season (32,00 passing yards, 20 touchdowns to just five interceptions, 815 rushing yards and seven rushing TDs) was obviously very special, as was the way the rookie handled himself with his teammates, coaches and media. He was a natural leader on the field and in the locker room.

How much will the injury and controversy affect Griffin in his sophomore campaign? Will Griffin still be “RGIII”? Does the quarterback and coach still trust each other? Those are the million dollar questions this season as the Redskins attempt to build off a successful 2012 season on the field.

QUARTERBACK

Griffin has been cleared to play by the team doctors and coaching staff. He’s participated in passing team drills and individual drills during training camp, but did not take a single snap during preseason, despite dressing for the games. Griffin has vowed to be smarter with regard to taking hits at the end of runs, using the sidelines or sliding better to his advantage to stay healthy.

Obviously, speed is a big part of his game, and that danger of him running – either on a designed play or off a broken one – is something that opposing defenses must game-plan for. Will his surgically repaired knee – his second major operation on his right knee – hold up for the entirely of the season? Will it allow Griffin to be “RGIII”? No one knows the answers to those questions…yet.

Kirk Cousins, last season’s revelation as a fourth round draft pick, will be the primary backup. Cousins led the Skins in that victory over Baltimore after Griffin was injured, and his progression as an NFL quarterback is limited only by the player ahead of him on the depth chart. Rex Grossman is back as the third quarterback and Pat White made the squad with an impressive preseason, but will be relegated to scout squad and clipboard holding unless dire circumstances present themselves.

RUNNING BACK

Alfred Morris was a sixth round pick in the 2012 draft out of Florida Atlantic University. Let that sink in for a moment as you consider Morris’ 2012 season: 1.613 yards rushing — a Redskins team record — at 4.8 yards per carry, 13 touchdowns, three-time NFL rookie of the week, NFC Offensive Player of Week 17, 2012 All-Rookie team and second team All-Pro. Pretty heady stuff from a guy most fans hadn’t heard of until late in preseason last year.

Roy Helu, Jr. and Evan Royster are the backup tailbacks. Helu will probably see plenty of time as the third down back. Darrel Young, in his fourth year out of Villanova, is a Pro Bowl caliber fullback.

WIDE RECEIVER

The Skins receiving corps is a mix of savvy veterans and young playmakers, led by Pierre Garcon. The 27-year-old wideout had an injury marred year last year (toe), but when he was on the field he was a valuable target for RGIII, evidenced by his 88-yard touchdown Week 1 against the Saints. Garcon caught 44 passes for 633 yards (14.4 ypc)  with four TDs in 10 games last year.

Josh Morgan starts on the other side. More of a possession receiver, Morgan had 48 catches for 510 yards with two TDs in ’12. Santana Moss became a red-zone specialist in Kyle Shanahan’s offense last season, recording eight touchdowns in his 41 catches for 573 years. Aldrick Robinson and Leonard Hankerson are exciting young players that are still trying to establish consistency in their games at the NFL level.

TIGHT END

One of the most popular players in Redskins history, Chris Cooley, has finally hung up his cleats. A prolific pass catcher, the affable Cooley is now part of the Redskins radio broadcast group. Fred Davis signed a one-year deal after not garnering much attention as a free agent over the offseason. Davis suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in mid-October against the Giants but is healthy to start the season. He can be an exciting playmaker but also has a problem disappearing at times.

Logan Paulsen caught 25 passes filling in for Davis last season, but is more of a run blacker than receiver. Jordan Reed, the team’s third round pick out of Florida, is a terrific athlete that was hampered by a slight knee injury in training camp.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Left tackle Trent Williams is the cream of the crop. The 6’5″, 330 veteran was a Pro Bowl selection last season, despite playing through nagging thigh and knee injuries. In addition to being a devastating run blocker, Williams allowed only three sacks in 2012.

Tyler Polumbus is huge (6’8″, 305) on the right side. Will Montgomery is the anchor of the line at center. He hasn’t missed a game since moving to center the past two season. Described as the team’s best run-blocker, Kory Lichtensteiger is the left guard, starting his second season out of two significant knee surgeries. Veteran Chris Chester is the right guard and hasn’t missed a snap in his two seasons in Washington.

KICKER

The Skins have played rotating kicker seemingly since Chip Lohmiller retired, but they have found a keeper in Kai Forbath. He made an NFL rookie record 17 consecutive field goals to start his career last season. He made 12 field goals longer than 40 yards in 2012.

DEFENSIVE LINE

The defensive line is getting attention for who is missing as much as who remains. The Redskins lost Jarvis Jenkins, an emerging force on the front three, due to suspension for PEDs for the first four games of the season. That leaves Kedric Golston the starter at weak-side end. Golston is an eight-year man out of Georgia, but hasn’t started since 2010 and has been used more for depth the last couple of seasons. Chris Baker will also see plenty of time at that spot until Jenkins gets back into uniform.

Barry Cofeild is the nose tackle and anchor of the defensive line. He’s a rare entity that he plays the pass as well as the run from the middle of the line. He broke a bone in his hand during the preseason, but is not expected to miss any time as he’ll play with his hand in a cast until it’s healed. Stephen Bowen will play the other end. He’s been reliable for the Skins the past two seasons, but his numbers took a severe dip from 2011 to 2012, going from six sacks to just one.

LINEBACKERS

The linebacking corps is the real strength of Jim Haslett’s defensive unit. Four-time Pro Bowler London Fletcher is back for his 17th season in the middle. He has not missed a game in that time, through he played through concussion symptoms, a sprained ankle and hamstring issues last season. Despite those problems, he recorded 139 tackles, three sacks and a personal-best five interceptions.

Brian Orakpo returns from a torn pectoral muscle (his second such injury in two seasons). He’ll play the rushing linebacker and the Skins hope he can return to his rookie form when he recorded 11 sacks. Ryan Kerrigan is becoming a play-maker at the other outside spot. He’s made 16 sacks the past two seasons and has a knack for making interceptions on swing passes and taking them for touchdowns. Perry Riley is the unsung hero at the other middle linebacker position, recording 129 tackles and 3 1/2 sacks last season. The fourth-year man out of LSU is the heir apparent to Fletcher as the team’s leader on defense if the elder statesman ever decides he’s had enough.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

The defensive backfield was the most overhauled unit on the field for the Redskins. Ranked 30th in the league in pass defense last season, the team spent three of their draft picks to bolster the secondary in the past year’s draft. Baccari Rambo, the sixth round pick, is slated to start at free safety. The 6’0″, 211 Georgia product was known as a ball hawk and big hitter in college, but he also has a penchant for going for the big play and getting burned. Free safety is a tough place to throw a rookie into, but the coaching staff like the way he progressed during camp.

At strong safety, the Skins hope they finally see some return on the investment they made in Brandon Meriweather. The veteran safety is skilled, but played in just one game last season due to a series of knee injuries. This season isn’t looking promising to start either, as he’s struggled with groin and knee issues in the preseason and is questionable for the opener. Reed Doughty returns as insurance should Meriweather be unfit.

The Skins released CB DeAngelo Hall before free agency but brought him back later in the offseason. Hall had an up-and-down season in 2012, including the bizarre ejection in the Pittsburgh game. He has a knack for getting his hands on the ball and doing good things with it after, but also has a knack for the strange and sometimes erratic play. Josh Wilson, seven-year man out of Maryland, is steady at the other corner. That’s it. Not spectacular. Not terrible. Steady.

The team also brought in rookie David Amerson from N.C. State in the second round of the draft. He had a huge sophomore year (11 picks), but saw his draft stock drop due to an inconsistent play as a junior. He will play a lot and eventually move Wilson into a full-time nickel back. Eventually may even be opening night against the Eagles.

PUNTER

Sav Rocca, the 39-year-old Australia native, returns for his eighth season in the league. He averaged a career-best 43.9 yards per punt last season an is steady as they come at the position.

RETURNERS

Chris Thompson, a fifth round pick in the past year’s draft out of Florida State, is going to get the first shot as the return specialist. Listed at 5’8″, 187, Thompson is too small to withstand the rigors of playing running back on a full-time basis in the NFL. But his speed and vision could be an asset as a return specialist and change-of-pace back.

Washington Redskins Practice Update and Audio for Aug. 27

Audio courtesy Sky Kerstein

Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan touched on a host of topics after practice today, including the offensive line, Brandon Merriweather’s status, and the third running back spot. But all anyone wants to hear is the about the quarterback situation and whether Robert Griffin III is still on-track for opening night.

On his plan for the quarterback rotation against Tampa Bay:

“Pat White will play the entire game unless he goes down, and if he goes down then Rex [Grossman] will go in. If he goes down, I’m going in. I’m the only guy left [laughing].”

On how the evaluation of quarterback Robert Griffin III will work on Thursday in Tampa Bay:

“I don’t know yet. I know Dr. [James] Andrews will sit down and evaluate Robert and probably just give us his recommendation. I’m sure very similar to what he did last game… Sometime Thursday, I don’t know when it’s going to be. I haven’t talked to him yet. Either before or after the game, but I’m sure it will be sometime Thursday because he’ll be at the game.”

On if he noticed subtle difference in Griffin III during his pregame warmup vs. Buffalo:

“Well, I didn’t watch him warmup so I can’t talk about that, but he had a good practice yesterday and he had a good practice today. I can see a big improvement from the start when he came out here the first day to where he is now. You can see he is in football shape and there hasn’t been a setback so everything has been very positive.”

On what constitutes a good practice for Griffin III:

“I think just feeling more relaxed, being put in more team situations. You can tell when somebody has had enough reps where it starts to be automatic, you don’t have to push it.”

On if he feels like Griffin III is 100 percent:

“You are hoping he is 100 percent. Like I said, the reason why I am a little iffy on that is because I want to judge him every day, but I have not seen a setback. He looks good. Like I said, I’ve seen much improvement from the first day to where he’s at now from when he first came out – just in his ability to move, his ability to scramble, just the ease in which he practices.”

For full audio of Shanahan’s remarks, as well as assistant Kyle Shanahan and Jim Haslett and several Redskins players, please click the links below.

08-27-13 Mike Shanahan Practice RAW

08-27-13 Kyle Shanahan Practice RAW

08-27-13 Jim Haslett Practice RAW

08-27-13 Brandon Meriweather Practice RAW

08-27-13 Brian Orakpo Practice RAW

08-27-13 David Amerson Practice RAW

Washington Redskins Practice Update & Audio from Aug. 22

Audio courtesy Sky Kerstein

All the talk out at Redskins park on Thursday was about London Fletcher’s apparent undisclosed concussion last season that led to his balance problems the first few games of the season. Coach Mike Shanahan addressed the issue right off the bat during the interview sessions, stating that there was a certain amount of confusion regarding the injury.

“I recall with London it was more of a balance issue,” Shanahan told reporters. “He wasn’t really sure exactly what it was. He got a lot of tests. I know he got a lot of tests and at the end of the day, I think it was a different experience for him because he is old school. He hasn’t had very many injuries that would set him back, and to have an injury like that where you’re not really sure what it is, something you haven’t experienced, I think it was really tough on him. He did everything he could to get the proper attention, but I think it was tough on him for a while because he wasn’t really sure what it was.”

Shanahan then stressed the importance of players coming forward with head injuries of any kinds.

“It’s much different now in comparison to what it was… I remember a number of quarterbacks come to the sideline and you knew there was something wrong. They’d give him the old one-two-three finger test and they’d go back out there. Times have changed. The education has changed for the right reasons. And so if anybody experiences something like that, we have a procedure to go through and hopefully it’ll help these guys in the future.”

As for on-the-field news, both Mike and Kyle Shanahan feel like Kirk Cousins will not play in Saturday’s preseason game against Buffalo due to the foot sprain he sustained against Pittsburgh.

“I think with Kirk you always say there’s hope. I wouldn’t rule him out but I’d say he would be a longshot. No, we haven’t decided on the rotation. We’re going to look at today’s practice and get a game plan together. But it’ll probably be pretty close to a 50-50 split [between quarterbacks Rex Grossman and Pat White].”

Then there were the daily questions about Robert Griffin III and his status for practice and games.

“It has been a full practice for him. We’ve had a chance to go against cards, we’ve had a chance to go against our defense. So he’s had two excellent days, same thing he would have during the regular season.”

For both Shanahans’ full comments, and those of Fletcher, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and others, please click the links below.

08-22-13 Mike Shanahan Practice RAW

08-22-13 Kyle Shanahan Practice RAW

08-22-13 Jim Haslett Practice RAW

08-22-13 Darrel Young Practice RAW

08-22-13 Donte Stallworth Practice RAW

 08-22-13 London Fletcher Practice RAW

08-22-13 Pat White Practice RAW

Seahawks formidable foe as Washington Redskins try to take next step

Robert Griffin III hands off to Alfred Morris in Redskins 40-32 win over New Orleans Saints in Week 1. (Photo by Brian Murphy)

First, the good news: the Washington Redskins won their last seven games in a row to advance to the NFC Playoffs. Now, the bad news: they advance to face the Seattle Seahawks, the next hottest team in the conference, winners of seven of their last eight games. Add in the fact that the Seahawks knocked the Skins out of the playoffs in both of Washington’s most recent post-season games (2005 & 2007) and that might have some fans of the Burgundy & Gold on edge Sunday evening.

If you’re reading this page, you know all about the Redskins, led by Rookie of the Year candidate Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris and veteran linebacker London Fletcher. The Skins lead the NFC in rushing yards per game and are second in the conference in points per game (27.2). But the Seahawks are sixth in the conference at 25.8 points per game, so they’re no slouch either. Their secret weapon is quarterback Russell Wilson, a fellow rookie that will certainly garner his share of ROY votes in the off-season.

Wilson is in the mold of RGIII, a gifted athlete with exceptional presence in the pocket. He’s thrown for 26 touchdowns (against just 10 interceptions), while rushing for 489 yards at a 5.2 per carry clip. Wilson is supported by RB Marshawn Lynch, who carried for 1590 yards and 11 touchdowns. On defense, they led the league in fewest points per game, allowing just 15.3 per contest, and ranked fourth in fewest yards allowed. Formidable, indeed.

The even matchup and relative hotness of both squads has many pundits proclaiming the winner of the 4:30 pm matchup as favorite to advance out of the NFC — if they don’t get beaten up too much by their opponent.

This is pretty heady stuff for a team that was 3-6 heading into their bye week and had their head coach declare that he was in evaluation phase the rest of the season.

Mike Shanahan was asked at practice this week if his young team would be affected by nerves heading into the team’s first playoff game since 2007. “It’s been seven games with a do-or-die situation. So I think our mindset has been the same. Great preparation during the week and you’ve got to go get it done on the weekend.”

He’ll ask his rookie quarterback and rookie running back to shoulder the load on offense, as he and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan have all season. “We’ve got a little experience over the last few years with our offense. We’ve been able to put a nucleus of people together and with the addition of [quarterback] Robert [Griffin III] and [running back] Alfred [Morris] who have been able to make some strides.”

While Griffin has received the lion’s share of praise for this offense, Kyle Shanahan has beamed about the production from Morris, especially since the bye week. “For about six weeks in a row, I’ve told him that he needs to have his best game of the year today and I feel that he’s continued to do it. Each game, he’s gotten better. It is rare. It’s a long year, especially for a rookie, and he’s never hit that wall.

“The guy doesn’t seem to get too sore, either. He’s always in practice as soon as we go on Wednesday – takes every rep. We make fun of him because he won’t ever go walk-through tempo either. He’s always full-speed. We can’t get him to slow down. He’s always fresh and he’s very fun to coach.”

Perhaps the biggest matchup on Sunday will be between the Skins receiving corps and the Seahawks big, physical defensive backs. Kyle Shanahan described what made the matchup so difficult. “They’re very good at jamming guys. They’re very physical. They try to beat you up all the way down the field. They compete in the run and the pass game. They have a lot of confidence in them. They play a lot of single safety and they get after it.”

Both Seattle corners, Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner, had their troubles this season — but not on the field. Browner returns this week after serving a four-game suspension for PED use while Sherman avoided a PED suspension by successfully appealing to the league. Browner had 44 tackles, three picks and three forced fumbles in 12 games. Sherman had a dominant season, even if Pro Bowl voters didn’t see it that way, recording eight interceptions to go along with 64 tackles, one sack and three forced fumbles.

It will be imperative for the Skins wide receivers — especially Pierre Garcon — to give RGIII open targets early to allow Morris the opportunities to find the seams in the Seahawks run defense, which ranked 10th in the league in rushing yards.

The Redskins run to the playoffs — and the play of their two rookies on offense — has re-energized a long-dormant fan base. A playoff win in the duo’s first NFL playoff game might have FedEx in a frenzy Sunday evening. With the Green Bay Packers’ victory over the Minnesota Vikings Saturday, should the Redskins emerge victorious over the Seahawks they’d earn a trip to Atlanta to face a Falcons club that didn’t exactly light the world on fire down the stretch.

Big game, indeed.

Washington Redskins might be RGIII’s team, but they’re more than just one man

Kirk Cousins guided the Redskins to a victory over the Browns. (photo by Brian Murphy)

The Washington Redskins announced Friday night they planned to face the Cleveland Browns — in Cleveland — without their leader, quarterback Robert Griffin III. Despite a week of encouraging news from practice, the team’s doctors and coaches decided to be cautious with their best playmaker, and likely rookie of the year, and sit him at least a week after spraining his knee the previous week against the Baltimore Ravens.

That left the reigns to Kyle Shanahan’s high-powered offense in fourth round draft pick Kirk Cousins.

The rookie shook off a couple of rough series at the beginning of the game to lead the Skins to a fifth consecutive win and first place in the NFC East — thanks to tiebreakers — with a 38-21 win over the hapless Browns.

The Redskins now control their own playoff destiny by virtue of a victory delivered by their backup rookie quarterback.

Cousins, obviously, is not the only rookie that has delivered for the Redskins this season. Fellow first year player Alfred Morris, a sixth round pick, has emerged as a tough running tailback in the mold of Gerald Riggs — big enough to run folks over but with enough speed to break off a big run when the hole is available.

The Skins are getting contributions from unheralded young offensive linemen as well. Of course, that depth will be tested this upcoming week with the news of Will Montgomery’s knee injury, Troy Polumbus’ concussion and Jordan Black’s PED suspension.

Another big contributor has been wide receiver Pierre Garcon. Once he got back on the field from a foot injury, the fifth-year playmaker has developed a big-time rapport with Griffin and given the Redskins a young veteran receiver that opposing teams need to game-plan for. That gives room for younger receivers, such as Leonard Hankerson (two TDs against Cleveland) and Aldrick Robinson, to make plays. Even veteran Santana Moss is enjoying a renaissance season with seven touchdowns among his 37 catches.

Kyle Shanahan has designed and developed an offensive scheme to take best advantage of the talent that has been assembled. He’s also showed an ability to adjust the game plan when necessary depending on injury or opponent. The offensive coordinator — much as his head coach father — took a great deal of critique the last couple of unsuccessful seasons with less-than-NFL quality signal callers.

Now that the Skins look like they possess two of those, they are on the precipice of the playoffs. The team sent out a press release Monday morning announcing the plan for distributing playoff tickets — with two big NFC East games yet to play. It’s heady days for the Washington Redskins organization, and it seems like health will be the biggest challenge to the success this season, and for the foreseeable future.

Entertainment, Drama, and Another Redskins Loss

On weekends, I work for a mainstream media website, where part of my job description on Sundays is to write a recap of Redskins games. I started working there in the beginning of October, which happened to coincide with the last time the Redskins won a game. That nearly changed during Sunday’s 27-24 overtime loss to the Dallas Cowboys. So nearly, in fact that on two separate occasions, I began mentally preparing myself to punch up a Redskins victory story. [Read more…]

At Redskins QB position, Two Strikes for Mike Shanahan

The quarterback play of John Beck (pictured) and Rex Grossman has been worse than most Redskins fans could have imagined (photo by Brian Murphy)

Confession time: I didn’t see a single live snap of the latest Washington Redskins loss, a 20-9 setback at the hands of the Miami Dolphins. I had a very good reason for this: I’ve been in Vienna (as in Austria) for the last week. So it happened that the first half of Sunday’s game coincided with me flying into Dulles Airport, while the second half coincided with me going through immigration, collecting my luggage, getting on a bus to the West Falls Church Metro station and following the game on my phone.

Just when I was finally able to devote my full attention to the graphics and text on the tiny screen in front of me, the sequence that decided the game unfolded. You know the one: with 12 minutes to play in regulation and Washington trailing 13-9, newly reinstated starter Rex Grossman drives the Redskins to a first-and-goal situation at the Miami 10-yard line. On the next play, Grossman stares down Jabar Gaffney as if the former is trying to set the latter on fire with his mind and serves up an easy interception to Karlos Dansby. Miami promptly drives 81 yards for the clinching touchdown, and that is the end of that.

Trying to compose these essays on a week-by-week basis has become challenging over the course of this current five-game losing streak due to the fact that it is impossible to discuss the root causes of this decline without sounding like a broken record. But circumstances demand that we restate the obvious: I stated on record at the beginning of the year that there was no way the quarterback play would be as bad as it was in 2010. I was obviously wrong, very wrong. Grossman and  Beck’s individual performances have ranged from “merely competent” to “downright dreadful” over the course of the season, but their cumulative performance has been that of a sub-optimal backup; including Sunday’s loss, the Redskins quarterbacks have completed a pedestrian 193 passes in 329 attempts for 1,347 yards, 8 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions (as many, we hasten to point out, as Donovan McNabb threw in 2010).

It’s fun, normal, and perhaps even healthy to argue whether Mike Shanahan’s campaigning and/or acquiescence to the McNabb trade, as well as his resolve to “stake his reputation” on the quality of Beck as an NFL quarterback signaled a descent into football senility or whether Kyle Shanahan’s  ongoing association with Grossman marks him as the Dave Shula of the new millennium. Whatever the value of this exercise is, it completely misses the point, which is this: no matter how loud the baying for blood is this season (and my hunch is that it will get a good deal louder before the season mercifully ends on New Year’s Day), it won’t change the names on the organization chart.

In the NFL, as in most industries, the ally of success is stability. When Daniel Snyder signed Mike Shanahan to a five-year deal with all the trimmings, stability is precisely what he was paying for. These are the things you do when you’ve had Vinny Cerrato and Jim Zorn running your football team.

So be prepared, Redskins fans, for a lot more of the firm of Shanahan & Son. Having whiffed on McNabb, Grossman, and now Beck, they’ll likely get yet another chance to bring in the right quarterback that will pull the offense into something resembling competence. Kyle Orton, anyone?

Cowboys 18, Redskins 16: The Knockout Punch That Missed

Redskins QB Rex Grossman is stripped on last meaningful play of the game. (Photo by Brian Murphy)

Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett is from Pittsburgh. So was Billy Conn. If you don’t know who Billy “The Pittsburgh Kid” Conn is, you’re not alone. Conn, a light-heavyweight who died in 1993 at the age of 75, is best remembered for being knocked out in a heavyweight title fight by Joe Louis in the summer of 1941. Despite being ahead on all three judges’ scorecards entering the 13th round, Conn continued to fight in his trademark aggressive style. His reward was a savage beating from Louis and a defeat by knockout. The New York Herald Tribune wrote, “Conn wound up on his wounded left side, trying to make Irish legs answer an Irish brain.”

Leaving nationality and the innate folly of cross-sport comparisons aside for a moment, Haslett’s defense found itself in more or less the same position on Monday night. [Read more…]

Kyle Shanahan and the Mystery of the Disappearing Ground Game

 

There was a lot to like about the Redskins 22-21 win over the Arizona Cardinals Sunday afternoon at FedEx Field. Rex Grossman showed admirable resilience to bring Washington back from an eight-point fourth quarter deficit despite throwing two early interceptions (in fairness, only one was his fault). The defense generally carried over its strong play from the opening week win over the New York Giants, with the linebacker corps of Rocky McIntosh, London Fletcher, Brian Orakpo, and rookie Ryan Kerrigan playing particularly well. With the exception of the 73-yard fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Kevin Kolb, the damage inflicted by Larry Fitzgerald was minimal (he had 6 receptions for 60 yards the rest of the day), which was largely down to good over-the-top coverage by DeAngelo Hall. [Read more…]

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