After the 23-0 loss to the Bills on Sunday, many Skins fans are calling for head coach Mike Shanahan’s head. That is understandable emotion from a fan base sick of years of losing and embarrassing performances. I’ve certainly overreacted to a loss before and pondered firing Shanahan. But I hope owner Dan Snyder doesn’t get impatient and pull the plug too early, something he’s arguably done before. Norv Turner was fired during a winning season, a year after going to the playoffs. Marty Schottenheimer was never given a chance and was pulled after one year in DC. Joe Gibbs retired from his second stint as Redskins head coach after a year he led the team to the playoffs. What would have happened if any of these coaches had another year or two in DC? What if one had become the guy long term? Would the Redskins still be in this constant state of rebuilding that has lasted over a decade?
So far Mike Shanahan has led the Redskins to a 9-14 record and his offense looks terrible. Still, Snyder and the Redskins fans need to be patient. Firing Shanahan would create more problems than it would solve. Even if the team finishes out the season 3-13, Shanahan should get the 2012 offseason and at least six games next year. Why? To finish out what he started.
Shanahan is currently in year two of a rebuilding process. Fire him and the last two years of losing will have been for nothing. If Snyder brings in a new coach what is the likelihood that the new coach will want to run a 3-4 defense, West Coast offense, and a zone-blocking scheme for the offensive line? Why would Snyder want to bring in a Shanny-clone if he thinks Shanahan failed? Any new coach Snyder brings in will want to blow apart the roster and start again.
A case for Shanahan’s firing can be made easily enough. He misjudged the roster coming in, believing he could win with the team last year. He has put too much faith in his system and his defense. He’s cut players that didn’t fit and brought in some questionable talent that did. Instead of working with players that have obvious football skills but weren’t system matches he let them flounder. Offensive guard Derrick Dockery and defensive end/outside linebacker Andre Carter failed so miserably under Shanahan that they weren’t even tradable.
His QB evaluation has been terrible in his coaching stint so far. First he let go of Jason Campbell last year and brought in Donovan McNabb. Campbell was having a career year and putting up wins in Oakland this year before his season-ending injury. Meanwhile, Donovan McNabb flamed out in D.C. last year, was shipped to Minnesota where he flamed out even more quickly this season. Shanahan went into this season with John Beck and Rex Grossman, two career journeyman as his top two QBs. He believed he could win games with either. It turns out he CAN’T win games with either.
So, why should he get another season after those mistakes? Because some progress has been made and firing him would destroy all that progress. In the first four games the Redskins 3-4 defense was looking stout. The team is still 7th in points allowed at the end of Week 8. They have given up a lot of points and yards since the Week 5 bye, but they have also been dealing with injuries and an offense that hasn’t held the ball for more than 25 minutes the past three games.
That offense has looked horrendous the past few games but it’s had one of the worst rashes of injuries in the NFL. In two of the first four games the Redskins rushed for over 170 yards. Then starting left guard Kory Lichtensteiger went down for the season and starting left tackle Trent Williams injured his ankle. Without those two starters the o-line has looked overmatched. The losses on the offensive line, combined with losing starting RB Tim Hightower for the season, starting TE Chris Cooley for the season, and number one wide-out Santana Moss has turned an average offense to an abysmal one.
But the point is that GM Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan were able to create a good starting core for their West Coast offense and 3-4 defense in the two seasons they’ve been here together. Give them another off-season and they should be able to finish filling in the holes and put some reliable backups in place. Next year an injury to a starter hopefully won’t have such a drastic effect on the team’s chance to win.
Lastly, Shanahan’s hasn’t yet chosen his QB of the future. I admit this is a bit of cop-out here as Rex Grossman, John Beck, and Donovan McNabb have all been floated to the media as “Shanahan’s guy”. Shanahan has had two drafts and not only didn’t spend a high draft pick on a QB he didn’t spend any picks on one. This is almost unconscionable in what is becoming an increasingly quarterback-driven league. The last five Super Bowl winning coaches had their Super Bowl winning QB starting or on the roster during their first year behind the reins. But the fact is Shanahan has bought himself extra time by avoiding this necessary step (perhaps purposefully). There are many QB options in the draft and through trades in the 2012 off-season. Shanahan should be easily able to get a guy that is both high-talent and fits his system. He may even be able to trade for his “now” QB and draft his future QB.
So, let’s stay patient DC. If after six games into the 2012 regular season the Redskins don’t look like they’re on their way to a winning record then Shanahan should get the ax. He’s clearly not going to win here. But I think if you give him another off-season he’ll put in place the next franchise QB, a quality starting offensive line, and roster depth on both sides of the ball. At that point the Redskins should be setup to win for the next few years. But if Snyder gets impatient and fires him this season or during the off-season, he’ll just be restarting the three year rebuilding cycle with a different coach.
The NFC East is more unpredictable than it has been in years. The Redskins have a new premier QB and a new HOF-caliber coach but will that be enough to improve the team right away? Can the Giants defense regain its form as one of the best defenses in the league? Will the Cowboys offensive line stay healthy enough for them to dominate? Will the youth movement in Philadelphia succeed this year or do the young ones need a little more seasoning?
I have a few theories on the answers to those questions and that has largely shaped my predictions. However, I can very easily seeing things going the opposite way as well. So without further ado, let us move on to the predictions.
1st Place – Dallas Cowboys 10-6
Once again the Cowboys are the most talented team in the division, at least on paper. They have a Pro Bowl QB, a trio of talented running backs, multiple passing weapons, and a fearsome pass rush. There are issues with an old and beat up offensive line, an unproven kicker, and a weak secondary. I think all of those will come back to bite the Cowboys…in the early playoff rounds. Their high-powered offense should win them enough regular season games to take the division.
2nd Place – New York Giants 8-8
This prediction is more based on the Giants tough schedule. They have games at Indy, Houston, Minnesota, and Green Bay. Those are teams they may be able to beat at home but look to be tough matchups on the road. The Giants D has gotten healthier and their performance should improve over last year, but do not expect them to regain their Super Bowl form. They no longer have the talent or the coaching. The Giants disappointing run game could also cost them a few games as it is hard to protect a lead if you cannot run.
3rd Place – Washington Redskins 7-9
The McNabb-Shanahan era has started. While it seems inevitable to be better than the Zorn-Campbell era it is not going to be an overnight success. The offensive line had a major overhaul this offseason and may take a while to gel. Rookie left tackle Trent Williams may end up being a star but right now is still a green LT that elite pass rushers can expose. The wide receiving core is full of good storylines but not much actual talent. Finally, the switch from the 4-3 to the 3-4 defense will not happen overnight either. Starting safety Kareem Moore will miss a good chunk of the regular season, Albert Haynesworth does not appear to have bought into the program entirely still, and Andre Carter is having some trouble adjusting from 4-3 end to 3-4 outside linebacker. Next year, I can see this team being a favorite to win the division, this year there is just too much change going on at once.
4th Place – Philadelphia Eagles 4-12
The Eagles organization may think otherwise but I do not see a team jettisoning their starting QB and RB and making the playoffs the same year. McNabb and Westbrook may be a touch on the old side and injury-prone but they were also two of the best offensive players the Eagles have ever had. For all the promise LeSean McCoy and Kevin Kolb have, they have proven very little so far. Once opposing defenses get more tape on them they will find that big plays do not come as easy. And if either one of them gets injured there is no decent backup now. The Eagles bolstered a top 15 defense through the draft but did not add any notable veterans. In a few years this should be a good team, but right now they are mostly raw potential. I see them losing a lot of games because of inexperience this year.
So those are my picks for this year. But before you start any flaming comments let me reiterate that I could be very wrong on nearly every team. The Cowboys offense could continue rolling and finish with more than 12 wins or the offensive line could fall apart early and they could struggle to make .500. The New York Giants could become a dominating defense again and take the division. The Redskins may actually win now, especially if Clinton Portis, Donovan McNabb, and Albert Haynesworth feel like they have to prove themselves every game. The Eagles young ones could come out like a house on fire and perform right away. Like I said the NFC East is more unpredictable than ever. It should be fun year.
I remember one summer curiously asking my parents for probably about the 20th time in my young life, “Is Santa Claus real?” When my mom told me, “Go ask your father.” I was shocked. She had always said yes. My dad was doing work outside, and perhaps being detached from the holiday season was taken aback by my question. ”Um, yeah, why?” I told him that Mom had told me to ask him. He then told me to go ask my mom.
I was so confused and felt that my whole life was changing at that moment, changing more than I had ever wanted it to. After the back and forth, it was revealed to me that Santa wasn’t real and that he hadn’t been real (Saint Nicholas was real of course, but I couldn’t understand it at that moment and I don’t think I would have cared for that explanation either). I sat there on the kitchen floor staring into the wall, wondering aloud “How is this even possible? If Santa isn’t real, what else is a lie?” I think I asked my mom if she was my real mom, if I *actually* lived in Maryland and if they had any other lies up their sleeves. After all of that mess, while I’m still trying to grapple with this personal earthquake, my mom tells me, “Matthew, just don’t tell your sister.”
That’s kind of what happened last night. Losing to the New York Giants, a divisional rival, with a score of 45-12 was bad – but what was worse is what some of us believed. ”The Skins are getting better!” and “The offense is getting the system, it’s turning around!” and “We’ve found our way, it’s a competitive fighting team.” That this Washington Redskins team was competitive, that was our Santa Claus. Last night, it was similar to finding out that Santa as we knew it didn’t exist. But really, it was more like finding out that Santa didn’t exist while everyone in the country was watching, laughing and throwing our presents out the window.
In light of this painful but important epiphany, it’s important to understand what we do know, for sure. As a kid I found out that I was actually a family member to the parents that had raised me and I was indeed a Marylander. What do we know about the Redskins after last night’s atrocity of a game?
1) It was all a mirage, we do not have flying reindeer.
Beating Oakland was fun and being close to Dallas, New Orleans, and Philadelphia (to a reasonable extent) was but it doesn’t count for anything. Many people thought we’d see the Redskins for who they really were against the Giants (optimistically believing something amazing would happen last night). Well, the bad and good news is that we did and we do not have flying reindeer.
- The offensive line that looked like it was coming together the last few weeks almost looked like it was TRYING to get Jason Campbell killed last night. Not only that but rarely did you see an offensive lineman try to help him up after he was thrown to the turf. (Hey guys, ignoring the problem, doesn’t make it disappear)
- Defensively, with so much “talent” how in the world can you let Baby Brother Manning put up 45?! There was no true pressure on Eli Manning for most of the night and few passes were defended.
2) Bruce Allen has to feel like he got a lump of coal for Christmas
The last few weeks the Redskins looked like a competitive team that needed direction, a stronger leader and some new play calling. Last night it was hard to figure out which pieces to keep of this crappy puzzle. It is oversimplifying it to say that Mr. Allen has a lot of work ahead of him.
3) Jason Campbell may not be our “Last Action Hero” but he’s a heck of a fighter.
Statistically speaking, Campbell didn’t have a strong night: 15/28 192 yards 2 interceptions, 2 runs for 36 yards and 1 touchdown toss. That being said, he was the only one who looked he gave a reindeer’s tail during the majority of that game. He kept pulling his mangled self off the ground, commanded the offensive unit that was betraying him and kept fighting. That is, as Gibbs would say, “a true Redskin” in my mind, someone who doesn’t complain, doesn’t quit and gives it his all.
4) Jim Zorn is on the “Naughty List”, the debate is over
Whether there is a Santa or not, Zorn’s on the naughty list. He’s done here. All of the Zorn apologists and the ones’ that faintly cried, “it’s all coming together, don’t break up the system” are gone. They are in hiding at the North Pole and no one can defend him after that debacle last night. 45-12 at home against a division rival on national television is beyond unacceptable. It’s reprehensible and a joke.
The Silver Tinseled Lining
There are a lot of things to love about the Holiday Season, even though it felt like my life was over when I found out about Santa, it wasn’t. I just operated differently. Now that we know what the Skins aren’t (competitive, good, able to keep it’s starting quarterback upright for more than three plays in a row…), we can adjust our lives accordingly. There’s a lot of work to be done for next year, and in the meantime enjoy Dallas week before they actually have to play the game.
Matt may be a little too optimistic about the Skins chances with his latest article, but back here on Planet Earth the Skins have about as much chance of beating the Saints as the Detroit Lions did. Not to say I wouldn’t love an upset, I’ll be cheering for one, but I’m not delusional.
5. Injuries On Friday’s injury report both teams listed a number of players. The Saints outweigh the Skins in quantity, but not impact. A healthy Skins team would have trouble against the much better Saints; without playmakers on offense (Portis, Sellers) and defense (Hall, Haynesworth), the Skins will barely be able to hang on.
4. The Big Play The Redskins D has been susceptible to the Big Play all year. Last week it seemed like every Eagles receiver was able to get open at least once 20 yards downfield. In the Redskins most recent win against the Broncos on November 15th, star Denver receiver Brandon Marshall was left wide open twice for Touchdown catches- one for 75 yards and one for 40 yards. The Saints wideout Marques Colston is tied for first for the most catches of 20+ yards with fifteen. The Saints 2nd WR Devery Henderson has eleven. Even if the Skins can keep Drew Brees off the field for the majority of the game, the quick-strike ability of the Saints is too much.
3. Too many weapons The Saints simply have too many offensive weapons. With a secondary depleted by injuries it is unlikely that there is going to be much man coverage in the Skins defensive gameplan. The problem is that their have been breakdowns in the Skins zone coverage often in the past few games. The Skins defensive players either do not know their assignments or are not recognizing when players enter their coverage area quickly enough. Either way opposing teams are getting more wide open pass catching opportunities than should be seen in a professional game.
2. The Saints blitzes will overwhelm the O-Line The Redskins have had no consistency on the offensive line this year. This week Mike Williams is back in at Right Guard after Edwin Williams disappointed last week. Not that it matters, neither is a starting caliber Guard, and to be frank, neither is most of the present offensive line. Stephon Heyer is especially suspect. If he is beat on a few blitz packages, he is likely to get jumpy and start committing false start penalties. The Saints D is going to be in Campbell’s face all day, and he is not going to be able to establish his rhythm.
1. The Two-Minute Drill Even if the Redskins can keep this game close by some miracle, they will find a way to lose. For two weeks straight the Redskins have squandered away slim leads. If the Redskins offense is put on the field to win the game late, it won’t. Jim Zorn and Jason Campbell have perfected the art of failing at a two minute drills. I think this is a combination of the fact that Zorn gets to call the plays for the two-minute drill and the Redskins offense has no audibles. The more I see Zorn coach the more I’m convinced he couldn’t call plays for PeeWee football. Campbell is then stuck with Zorn’s idiotic calls because he has no audibles. Campbell also has to stay more collected during high pressure situations, he too often does something stupid with too little time left.
It does not look great for the Redskins tomorrow, but like all Skins fans I’ll be hoping for a Miracle.
The Washington Redskins lost another heartbreaker on Sunday to the Philadelphia Eagles, 27-24. For the second straight week, the Redskins were unable to win with the lead going into the 4th quarter. As a Skins fan, when the Redskins were held to a field goal late in the 4th, you knew it wasn’t going to end well. That’s when Washington’s defense faltered again late in the game. Last week it was Dallas, this week it was Philadelphia.
Could it get any worse for the Redskins right now; with starters on offense falling like flies and losing to divisional rivals in painful fashion for two straight weeks?
Why, yes. Yes it could, the undefeated New Orleans Saints are coming to town.
Even though the situation seems bleak right now, the Redskins actually could pull out a win against New Orleans this weekend at FedEx Field. Here are five reasons to stay hopeful on Sunday:
5. The Redskins won against a very good Saints team last year, 29-24. Mind you, our offensive line wasn’t so patchwork then as it is now, but our defense actually matched up pretty well against them. This year, the Saints have come close to losing to the Miami Dolphins and the St. Louis Rams (oh don’t we know the feeling…) but have absolutely obliterated NFC East Opponents 96-49 (the Giants and Eagles). Looking back at the Rams game, the Saints are beatable and the Skins may be able to finish what St. Louis couldn’t.
4. The Skins should know what Gregg Williams, Defensive Coordinator of the New Orleans Saints will be doing against them. Besides the fact that Gregg Williams will be attempting to crush his former team, Washington should know what his plan will be: to blitz. It will happen early, often, and probably always. The Skins defense knows how much Williams loves to bring the pressure, especially with a lead and Washington should know the types of blitzes that Williams will employ better than anyone. Hopefully that turns into good preparation for the Skins.
3. The Skins defense is #7 in the league right now, and #1 against the pass (but an atrocious 25th against the run). Everyone knows that the Saints offense flows through Drew Brees (27 touchdowns, only 9 interceptions). The Skins’ pass rush may be able to hurt Brees’ rhythm and timing. Obviously, this theory only holds if Albert Haynesworth and DeAngelo Hall play.
2. Jason Campbell and the offensive line seem to be improving and are now working well together. The last two weeks the Skins rotating offensive line has only given up 2 sacks (1 against Dallas and 1 against Philadelphia). Campbell last week was releasing his passes much quicker than he had earlier this year. Whether this is because he’s got his rhythm now or because he’s paranoid his head will get knocked off (like it almost did on the last play of the game against Philly last week), the results have been positive. This would seem to be just in time for Gregg Williams and his blitz-happy schemes coming to town.
Also, worth noting is that the “young three”: Fred Davis, Devin Thomas, and Malcolm Kelly are getting more action and have started contributing on offense. Against Dallas they combined for 6 catches for 93 yards and against Philly, 10 catches for 139 yards.
1. The weather could get ugly, which would favor an NFC East team. The Eagles and Giants would have had a much better chance if it had been on their turf at this time of the year, rather than in a dome or before the elements come into play. The forecast for this weekend has the game at the low 40′s and it could get dirty out there on the field. If it is windy, cold, rainy, it will slow down the high-powered, built for indoors scoring machine offense of the Saints. If Rock Cartwright and Quinton Ganther get their game going early, it will help the Skins keep Brees off the field as well.
Later, I will post five reasons why the Skins won’t win against the Saints.
Other Local Links & Happenings:
Jarrett Carter writes about something that will cross every Washington fan while the game is being played on Sunday, “Why wasn’t it Gregg Williams?!”. What Would Gibbs Do? Williams would have been the hire, we don’t know what would have happened but I’m pretty sure it would be better than what’s going on now.
Earl Boykins helped the Wizards beat the Milwaukee Bucks, 102-104 last night. How exciting is this guy?! His final move to win the game and beat Brandon Jennings was incredibly savvy. The Wizards have won 4 of their last 5, by the way. Here are some highlights (Also, Brandon Jennings is the real deal.)
- Episode 75 - 75 Great Years!
- Episode 74 - Capitals Season in Review
- Washington Sportsjam NHL Playoff Preview Special
- Janette Cantu on Washington Sportsjam MMA Pound-for-Pound Rankings:April 2012 Edition
- Ivy L. Mckay on Anderson Silva’s Last Four Fights
- Edwardo F. Francis on Washington Sportsjam MMA Pound-for-Pound Rankings: July 2012 Edition
- Rickey X. Olson on Washington Sportsjam MMA Pound-for-Pound Rankings: June 2012 Edition
- Kimberly Clay on Anderson Silva’s Last Four Fights
- BeltwayBoy Sports
- DC Pro Sports Report
- Official Redskins Blog
- Washington Post Express
- Washington Redskins Examiner
- Podcast Episode
- Site News