Tag Archives: Mike Shanahan

Still Searching For The Answer at Quarterback

How’s this for a knee-jerk reaction?

John Beck isn’t the answer at quarterback for the Washington Redskins.

Yes, last Sunday was only one game. Yes, last Sunday, he made his first NFL start in over three NFL season and close to four years overall. Yes, he finished last Sunday’s game without the services of his starting running back, best wide receiver, and 40% of his team’s starting offensive line. All of those are true.

Here’s my retort: when you watched the game last Sunday, did we really see anything from Beck that, at any point, made you think: “wow, I know it’s only his first game in four seasons, but I really think we have a chance with this guy”? Emphatically, no.

Anyone who’s being completely honest with themself would admit that Beck showed us that he’s an average quarterback, at best, with a little bit of mobility. That’s it. There’s nothing special, or even above average, about his game. Again, being honest, the only reason that myself, among many other Redskins fans, rallied behind John Beck was that he wasn’t Rex Grossman. That’s about it. It’s not like we saw something in 2007, or even this past preseason, that makes us believe that there’s something to this guy. Hell, this is the guy that Grossman beat out for the starting job. Decisively, I might add.

At this point in time, we just have to let Beck finish out the season. Because, really, what other choice do we have? There’s no point in going back to Grossman. He was a below-average quarterback, and he showed nothing different when he was the Redskins starter; there’s nothing to gain by going back to him (except maybe draft positioning). And it’s not like we’ve got some third guy at quarterback, waiting on the bench. Our third string, pratice squad quarterback is Jonathan Crompton, a guy who wasn’t even in camp with the Redskins and signed with the team just days before the regular season started.

Honestly, I’m sick and tired of the patchwork quarterbacking this team has rolled out over the past decade. 21 starting quarterbacks in 19 years, since the end of the Gibbs I era. That’s just ridiculous on so many levels. Even with the new hope found from the Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan, we’re still busy rolling out retreads like Donovan McNabb or castoffs like Grossman and Beck, and being told to have patience and faith.

Damn it, we’ve had nothing but patience, faith, and hope for the better part of two decades now. Enough is enough.

Quarterbacks aren’t like kickers, where there’s five capable guys waiting by the phone for tryouts, ready to take the incumbent’s spot if and when necessary. In today’s NFL, more than at any point ever in the history of the league, a team’s success lies with the performance of its quarterback.

Just take a look around the NFL, as of late October, 2011. The resurrection and current success of some of the league’s top franchises, both currently and over the past decade, began with finding their franchise quarterback – usually capitalizing on an early pick in the draft – and then putting together the rest of the team around that.

Green Bay won the Super Bowl last year, and went to the playoffs two of the three years Aaron Rodgers has been the starting quarterback (yes, I know Rodgers was drafted 24th overall; if you remember that draft, Rodgers was legitimately in the running to be the top overall pick, and only fell to #24 after Smith was drafted because so many teams were afraid of the risk and cost associated with drafting a QB, given the high bust rate between 1997 and 2004). I’ll make the argument, right now, that Rodgers could very well be the best quarterback in the entire game – especially with Peyton Manning gone – even over Tom Brady.

In addition to having him as their starting quarterback in two Super Bowl wins, Pittsburgh has never had a losing season since drafting Ben Roethlisberger. The Giants have never had a losing season since drafting Eli Manning (outside of Manning’s rookie year in 2004), and they also have a Super Bowl ring to show for it. The Chargers have never had a losing season with Phillip Rivers (the third member of that 2004 draft class) as their quarterback , and have won 11 or more games in three of the five season’s he’s been the starter.

Indianapolis drafting Peyton Manning, and their subsequent success, should go without saying (at least until this season). Philadelphia ruled the NFC East for the better part of a decade, after drafting McNabb. The Bengals won two division titles with Carson Palmer as their starting quarterback. Atlanta won their division twice this decade, behind two different highly-drafted franchise quarterbacks (Michael Vick and Matt Ryan). Joe Flacco has taken the Ravens to the playoffs every season he’s been the starter. Detroit has been slowing down over the last few weeks, but looked like one of the best teams in the league through the first five weeks of this season, largely in part due to Matt Stafford’s play.

Even Mark Sanchez, who has looked erratic and inconsistent at times (and that’s being polite), has led the Jets on 7 fourth quarter comebacks, 9 game-winning drives, in less than two and a half seasons as the Jets starting quarterback. And, of course, that’s not mentioning the fact that he’s helped take the Jets to two straight AFC Championship games. Heck, even Vince Young took the Titans and Tim Couch took the Browns to the playoffs once.

Along with intense pre-draft background searches and character interviews, the sophistication of many college offenses, along with draft preparation camps and private coaching from ex-NFL coaches and coordinators, have made some of the recent top draft picks more NFL-ready than we’ve ever seen. If you count every quarterback drafted in the first round between 2008 and 2010 – Ryan, Flacco, Stafford, Sanchez, Josh Freeman, Sam Bradford, and Tim Tebow – all but Tebow (a known project and considered a reach overall) started very early in their NFL career and are firmly entrenched as their team’s starting quarterback for at least the next decade. And while the jury is still out for most of the guys from the 2011 draft class – namely Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert, and Christian Ponder – Cam Newton is well on his way to joining the formerly mentioned entrenched starters as well.

In contrast, take a look at teams like Miami, Buffalo, Oakland, Houston, Kansas City, and yes, Washington, who’ve foregone the draft route and tried raiding other teams’ rosters or plugging in retreats at quarterback. These are among the teams with the longest playoff droughts in the NFL (you could argue that Kansas City’s playoff run was a huge fluke last year given how bad that team has been this year, and even despite all the offensive statistics they’ve put up under Matt Schaub, the Texans have never made the playoffs in the history of their franchise).

Yes, I know: drafting a quarterback is far from a perfect science, and there’s often as much of a chance of missing as there is of getting the right guy. For all the guys mentioned above, one could easily throw out names like Ryan Leaf (gigantic douche), David Carr (still in the NFL, but just never quite seemed to get it), Joey Harrington (more interested in being Elton John than John Elway), Akili Smith (overrated because of physical attributes while ignoring only one year of college football experience), Byron Leftwich (lazy work ethic and lousy teammate by numerous accounts), Alex Smith (no arm strength and gimmick college offense), Vince Young (overall IQ equivalent to a bag of hamburgers), Matt Leinart (more interested in partying and chasing tail), and Jamarcus Russell (couldn’t stay away from questionable characters, purple drank, or buffet lines), among others, as retorts. All of them, except Alex Smith (who seems to have finally caught on to some extent), have been colossal misses, setting back the fortunes of their franchises for years.

Even the Redskins had to deal with this after they tried to take this route – although not necessarily with a high draft pick – by drafting Jason Campbell, which obviously failed. Campbell was a better physical prospect – and human being – than he was a quarterback. The revolving door of coaching staffs and offensive supporting cast did hurt his development, but he was just one of those guys whose mind and football acumen weren’t nearly as good as his physical skills and talents.

But as we’ve seen, the “acquisition” route at quarterback hasn’t exactly worked either, and we’re once again in a position where we have to hit the reset button. Beck, Grossman, or whoever else we can dig up (Kellen Clemens) will suffice for the 2011 season, but not a day past that.With as many as six guys (maybe more) who could carry a first or high second round grade in the 2012 NFL draft
(assuming they all declare for the draft) – Andrew Luck of Stanford, Landry Jones of Oklahoma, Matt Barkley of USC, Robert Griffin III of Baylor, Nick Foles of Arizona, and Ryan Tannehill of Texas A&M – if there was ever a year that Shanahan was to find “his” guy that he could groom into the next franchise quarterback of this team, it would be this year.

But for now, even while John Beck remains the starting quarterback, the search for the Redskins franchise quarterback continues.

This column was cross-posted on RedskinsGab.com

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With Shanahan & Allen, where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire.

Right now, if you ask ten different so-called NFL experts, draft pundits, and Redskins fans alike the question of: “Who do you think the Redskins are going to take with their first round pick” you could very well end up with 10 different answers.

First, everyone thought they were going to take Cam Newton. If not Newton, then Blaine Gabbert from Missouri, the other “blue-chip” quarterback in this draft. Then Phil Taylor, the nose tackle from Baylor was the hot name. When it looked like the former two wouldn’t be available and it would be a big reach to take the latter, we started throwing out other possibilities. Perhaps they’d take someone like defensive end JJ Watt from Wisconsin or defensive end Robert Quinn from UNC to upgrade the defense. After the scouting combine, the new hot name linked to the Redskins – despite no other credible evidence out there supporting this idea – is wide receiver Julio Jones from Alabama. And, of course, you’ve still got “the field”: other shots-in-the-dark possibilities like running back Mark Ingram of Alabama, cornerback Prince Amukamara of Nebraska, linebacker Ryan Kerrigan from Purdue or any wild guess really.

Here’s what I think. When it comes to the Shanahan/Allen regime, they thrive on secrecy and misinformation. They’re the opposite of that bungling fool Vinny Cerrato, who if you were playing in a game of Texas Hold ‘Em, he would have let you know what cards he had before you even flipped the Turn or the River cards.

But even with this new found secrecy in Redskins park, historical precedent has shown that with Shanahan and Allen, look for the most smoke, and you’ll likely find the fire. Last year, the name of Trent Williams started emerging more and more as the guy the Redskins would take with the 4th overall pick, even though he may not have even been considered a top 10 pick late in the winter. The debate raged on, regarding whether the Redskins should take Williams versus a guy like Russell Okung, who most considered to be the more “NFL-ready” guy. Okung had all the accolades (two-time All American, Big 12 lineman of the year, Outland trophy finalist) and was even projected by some to be the first overall selection in the whole draft.

But Shanahan and Allen saw a guy with enormous potential and upside (even greater than Okung’s), and someone who could be dominant in Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme. Even on draft day itself, when rumors swirled that the Redskins would make a trade up to go get Sam Bradford (turns out there was no basis for this), or that they were seriously considering taking Eric Berry (not even close), they stuck with their guns throughout and zeroed in on taking Williams.

Really, that’s really the only evidence or precedent we have to go with, if we’re trying to predict exactly what Shanahan and Allen are going to do. So what exactly can we extrapolate from this?

Here’s my thought: even with all of those names mentioned above, as speculation regarding whom the Redskins may end up taking with their first round choice, who’s the one guy whose name is consistently linked with the Redskins, even if it doesn’t necessarily make sense right now?

That would be University of Washington quarterback Jake Locker.

If you read between the lines and take samplings of well-connected media guys, player agents, and the always-secretive guys “who know a guy who knows something,” the Redskins and Jake Locker’s name keep popping up together.

And to me, it makes a lot more sense than you might think. Let’s be honest: Mike Shanahan didn’t come to Washington to have Rex Grossman to lead him to a Super Bowl (or anywhere at all, really). Rex is the placeholder, at best. And Shanahan and Allen have to realize, at this point, that they’re at least a year or two away from being a contender for anything, given how pathetically bare the cupboard was left for them when they first arrived.

Locker has as much upside as any quarterback in this draft, not named Cam Newton. From my armchair quarterback point of view: I want three things from my quarterback: accuracy, loves the game of football as much as anything else, and a guy that his teammates would go to war with any day of the week. Those three things matter more than anything else, if we’re projecting future success in this league.

From all accounts, Locker aces the latter two. His intangibles are second to none. Even all the other accoutrement you could possibly want from your franchise quarterback – arm strength, mobility, frame – he grades out as an “A+” in all of those areas as well. He already had some experience in an NFL-style West Coast offense, playing under Steve Sarkisian at the University of Washington, which will slightly minimize his learning curve when making the jump to the NFL.

Now, as far as accuracy goes; yeah, there’s a lot to be desired with that. He’s streaky, erratic, and still has a ways to go with his decision making. There’s still a lot to develop with him, as far as his throwing rhythm, reading defenses, and footwork.

But here’s my thing with Locker: unlike guys in the past who were all athlete and none quarterback, Locker wants to get better. He wants to learn how to be better. He wants to be coached, and doesn’t just want to show off his athletic marvels (arm strength and running speed). Again, you can’t find a single person that doesn’t love Locker as a person or as a football player.

I’ve made my belief pretty clear when discussing other quarterbacks in the past, especially for one that’s as “raw” as Locker: they should hold the clipboard for as long as possible, and learn from the sidelines. Let him soak up as much as possible in the classroom first, and then take his reps with the scout team, throwing to scrub wide receivers, and improving his game the old-fashioned way: through hard work on his own. And if the Redskins happen to be out of playoff contention come early December, then it’s ok to let Locker onto the field and get some reps in real-time; but only after he’s had time to get some “seasoning” on the bench, first.

Only those fans with the highest prescriptions on their burgundy and gold glasses will think the Redskins are a legitimate contender for anything in 2011. They just have way too many holes to address on both sides of the football.

But biggest of all those holes is the future of the quarterback position. Drafting Locker at least gives you an answer at that position, especially if he turns out to be a success.  And really, how many guys in the league would you take over Mike Shanahan, when it comes to developing a quarterback? Shanahan got Brian Griese and Jake Plummer to lead his team to AFC West titles, and had Jay Cutler throw for a mind-bending 4500+ yards (still his career high) in only his third season.

Is there a big part of me that fears Locker may be the second coming of Heath Shuler? Absolutely. But there’s a bigger part of me that’s absolutely intrigued by him as well. If he was just a physical specimen that played in a gimmick offense in college for a season or two, I’d be a lot more worried. But I think there’s a ton of potential there that, if developed properly, could lead to some very promising results.

So either I really believe all of this about Locker, Or maybe I’m just convincing myself into buying into Locker, because that’s who I think will be the quarterback of the future for the time being in Washington.

This article was cross-posted on RedskinsGab.com

Yesterday’s Loss? Just Life as a Redskins fan

I’ve said this many times before, and I’ll probably say it many times again: the more things change for the Redskins – with their never-ending revolving door of big name head coaches, highly touted coordinators, washed up quarterbacks, high-priced free agent acquisitions, and wasted draft picks – the more things stay the same.

During yesterday’s loss to Tampa Bay, the last four minutes of the game basically summed up life as a Redskins fan: a day late, a dollar short, and all out of luck.

Let’s break it down, act by act:

Act I: An all-too-familiar refrain: the Redskins jump out to an early lead over Tampa, nurse this lead through most of the second half, only to blow this lead late in the fourth quarter. Like clockwork, the Redskins get burned on Josh Freeman’s 41 yard touchdown pass to Kellen Winslow with less than four minutes left to go in the game. The Redskins get burned on an all-out blitz, leaving Kareem Moore to cover two guys running wide open deep down the field.

If you’ve been paying attention for the past decade plus, you know exactly what’s going to happen next: the inevitable comeback attempt falling short of the mark. Even as Donovan McNabb took the field on the Redskins last drive to try and maneuver the team towards a game-tying touchdown, you had to have the feeling that something was going to go wrong. That’s just your luck being a Redskins fan: you hope for the best, but you fully expect the worst.  They’d either run out of time, run out of downs (oh, the forthcoming irony), or throw yet another game-ending interception.

Act II: On the ensuing (and ultimately doomed) comeback attempt, we get the Santana Moss “non-catch.” In a situation where the referees are supposed to let the play fully transpire on the field instead of making a judgment call that could ultimately decide the game’s outcome, the refs claim that McNabb’s pass hit the ground and Moss didn’t catch the ball.

Let’s examine the facts here: Moss may not have caught the ball 100% cleanly, but there’s not a single shred of conclusive evidence which shows that the ball hit the ground. If the refs had done their job by swallowing their whistles and let the players decide the outcome on the field, then the Redskins would have had the ball deep inside the Buccaneers territory after Moss’ catch-and-run (no Bucs defender touched him after he “caught” the pass).

But instead, the referees when ahead and made a completely subjective, and totally unprovable claim that the ball hit the ground.  Even after Mike Shanahan’s reluctant (and ultimately useless) challenge, the refs claimed that there wasn’t enough evidence to say that it was a completed pass. They essentially predetermined the outcome of that sequence of events under the following logic: “We think the ball hit the ground, even though we never saw it hit the ground, and the video doesn’t show it not hitting the ground. So we’re sticking with our guess that it hit the ground. Tough cookies.”

If that doesn’t sound like something that would only happen to the Redskins, then you clearly haven’t been paying attention.

Act III: In a shocking turn of events, instead of folding like a cheap tent in a heavy wind, the Redskins actually rebound from this gaffe and still somehow manage to march all the way down the field, positioning themselves just about six feet away from scoring a touchdown, with the ensuing extra point potentially tying the game (yep, more sweet irony). In just over three minutes, Donovan McNabb – a notoriously mediocre quarterback when running the two minute drill – goes 7 of 8 for 73 yards, down to the Tampa Bay two yard line.

But here’s where it gets interesting. McNabb’s last pass to Anthony Armstrong, on first and ten, was a “nine” yard completion that went from Tampa Bay’s twelve yard line to Tampa Bay’s two yard line. Consider the following:

A: When Armstrong went down after making the catch, it appeared that he was never touched. He alertly gets up and makes his way to the end zone, only to once again be thwarted by the referees calling him “down by contact.” Seriously, isn’t that why we have challenges and booth reviews? Aren’t NFL refs told, over and over, to let things happen on the field, so that they can go back and be reviewed if it’s an incorrect call? Inexcusable.

B: If Armstrong caught the pass and went ten yards on first and ten, isn’t it a first down? Apparently, it depends on who you ask. Armstrong never saw a referee signal first down after his catch. Fox’s game broadcast said it was second and one. The scoreboard said it was second and one. The Redskins believed it was second down.

Except he really did get a first down. Yep, that makes complete sense to me, too.

Act IV: As it forever will be known: “the 5th down.”

On what we thought was second down, McNabb attempts an awful fade pass to Roydell Williams, which falls incomplete. On what we thought was third down, Ryan Torain loses four yards. And on what we thought was fourth down, Fred Davis blows his chance to be a hero for the Redskins, letting a perfectly thrown pass bounce right off his chest and fall incomplete. We can slam McNabb all we want in DC, but that ball hit Davis right at the top of the six on the “86” on his uniform.

But hold on, there’s one more down. The Redskins get one more chance on fourth down. Again. And wouldn’t you know it, with one more chance, McNabb threads a bullet between two defenders, right between the numbers to Moss for a touchdown.

The Redskins are only a point away from redeeming their blown lead, and appear to have completed a fourth quarter comeback for the first time in lord knows how long. Seriously, can you think of the last time the Redskins came back to win the game – or even tie it – when they’re down by a touchdown with less than four minutes to go?

Act V: The culmination of this Shakespearean tragedy known as the 2010 Redskins. Only moments after the incredibly rare fourth quarter comeback drive, with the almost-automatic extra point left to officially make it a tie game, a high snap and wet football leads to a botched hold by Hunter “the punter” Smith. The ball fumbles away before Graham Gano ever gets a chance to attempt the kick, and it’s picked up by a Buccaneers defender to end the game.

It’s almost as if the Karma gods laid down their retribution on the Redskins, taking that very last point away from them after somewhat gifting them the phantom 5th down.  Or perhaps it was the system working to correct itself, after the glitch in the Matrix (the Redskins actually making a comeback).

Whatever it may be, it’s par for the course when it comes to the Redskins. All you can do is shake your head and try to laugh it off, fully knowing that the only way you can rationalize yet another punch to the collective stomach of the Burgundy and Gold faithful is by telling yourself:

“Only the Redskins…”

This article was written for and cross-posted on RedskinsGab.com

Run Over and Flattened

If there are any remaining Redskins fans amongst the burgundy and gold faithful who thinks this team deserves to even be mentioned among the teams contending for a playoff spot, you’re either completely delusional or simply allergic to reality.

Look, it’s one thing if you keep losing heart breakers week after week. As a fan, you can always rationalize that, with a bounce here or there, the outcome could have been completely different. Clean up the mistakes, cut down on the penalties, and we could have won that game. There’s something to hold on to, going forward.

But the Redskins? We just got our butt’s kicked. Again. Yet another game at the Meadowlands (new or old, it’s all the same) where the Giants took us behind the woodshed and handed us a good old-fashioned ass whipping. They beat us like we stole something, and abused us worse than a rented mule.

Yet another team – a divisional foe, no less – provided us with another highly-visible public humiliation. I mean, it’s honestly getting to the point where NFC East teams are treating us like their homecoming opponent: the team you look forward to kicking the ever loving piss out of in front of your oldest alumni and biggest boosters.

In a league filled with parity and games being decided in the last couple of minutes week after week, this team is getting it’s ass handed to it repeatedly. Instead of being a heavyweight fighter slugging it out with another equally talented and motivated fighter, we’re nothing more than a punching bag for opponents to wail on at their whim.

It’s time to be brutally honest with ourselves: this team is as bad as any franchise in the NFL right now. Can you honestly say, with any real confidence, that there is a single team in the NFL that the Redskins are unequivocally better than? If you had to put your own life on the line, would you really bet on the Redskins to beat a team like the Panthers, 49ers, or Cardinals? Not a chance. Not right now.

Every single person associated with this franchise should be held accountable for this mockery we call the Redskins. The product and effort that this team has been putting out over the last few weeks is just downright appalling. As men, and as professionals, they continually show an appalling lack of dignity or pride in their weekly performance.

As with any organization, accountability starts at the top. This Redskins front office is like a corrupt political regime: plenty of overpaid people with cushy titles spouting tons of rhetoric while getting nothing done. They sit on past accomplishments and accolades but don’t do the job they’re currently getting paid a boatload of money to perform, and they laugh all the way to the bank while their constituents pull their hair out at the inaction and corruption of the people they depend on to make the decisions. At the end of the day, they judge their actions by how well their pockets are lined, instead of by the fruits of their labor.

Right now, someone needs to step up in front of Mike Shanahan and honestly question whether he feels like he’s earned a single solitary cent of his paycheck. Everyone knows Shanahan’s resume and previous body of work, but nobody gives a crap about it anymore when dealing with this travesty of a team we’ve been subjected to over the past few weeks.

Someone needs to ask Shanahan about whom he’s fooling with this 3-4 defense that can’t stop the run, can’t stop the pass, can’t generate any pass rush, can’t get the opposing offense off the field at any critical point, and can’t generate any turnovers. This defense does nothing effectively. NOTHING. And yet we keep trotting this failed experiment out on the field again, week after week, as other teams keep running right through them like an open tollbooth.

The honeymoon is over, Mike. We sided with you when you spent two draft picks to acquire Donovan McNabb, a quarterback well past his prime with only a small handful of productive seasons left (little did we know that “a small handful of productive seasons” was really eight games), because of your resume and track record. We sided with you against Albert Haynesworth, because he made it easy to do so. We sided with you – albeit very begrudgingly – when you decided to cut Devin Thomas, the only young and talented receiver we had on this team, even when his replacement included has-beens like Joey Galloway and Roydell Williams.

Now it’s time for answers.

We are sick and tired of trying to duct-tape together a broken product and squeezing out a few more years of mediocrity from this current group of overpaid underachievers. This team needs to be blown up and rebuilt completely. Let’s end this experiment of slapping together a bunch of retreads and swinging for a 9-7 record so we can just barely slip into the playoffs (and finish with a one-and-done). Blow this team up, start from scratch, and actually build a foundation for the future.

Everyone knows that while you’ve come back for one last shot at a Super Bowl title, your real motive was to hand the team over to your son after said Super Bowl run. You want to turn this team over to your son in a few years? Give him something to work with. Don’t leave the cupboard so laughably bare for him, the way Vinny Cerrato did for you.

This team is at a crossroads right now. They’re at the proverbial fork in the road. Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen must make the difficult choice: Are they going to be like their predecessors, sticking their heads in the sand and convincing themselves they’re only a player or two away from being “a contender?” Or are they going to see the truth, that all the teams who consider themselves contenders today (or at least have a bright future on the horizon) took their lumps, built their teams through the draft, and sprinkled in role players in the right positions?

Only time will truly tell. But if history tells us anything, then the future looks as bleak as ever for the burgundy and gold faithful.

This article was written for and cross-posted on RedskinsGab.com

Running in place and going nowhere.

Ever see those old Hanna-Barbera cartoons (like the Flintstones or Scooby Doo), where the cartoon characters exaggeratedly run in place for a moment, with their legs kind of winding up, before they zoom off towards wherever they’re going?

The Redskins running game is just like that, only without the zooming off part. It looks like their legs are moving with somewhere to go, only when it’s all said and done, they haven’t actually gotten anywhere.

At just under 91 yards per game rushing, this is the worst Redskins rushing attack the team has ever fielded in over a decade. It’s worse than the mockery of an offense we saw under Jim Zorn last year. It’s worse than it was in Gibbs first year back, when it was rumored that Gregg Williams referred to our offense as “high school football.” It’s even worse than that of the Steve Spurrier regime, when he viewed running the football as more of an inconvenience than an offensive strategy.

While the Redskins are in the bottom quarter of the league in rushing yards per game, this doesn’t explain the magnitude of how bad things are. So chew on this: The Redskins have had two games this season where they’ve had less than 30 yards rushing in an entire game. Thirty. To put that in perspective: five different running backs have ripped off runs of over 30 yards against the Redskins this year, yet that was the total rushing output for the Redskins, as a team for the entire game, in nearly one fifth of the games we’ve played this season.

Or how about this: three running backs currently have more yards rushing individually than we do as an entire team. Heck, six running backs have more rushing TD’s than our entire team.

Are you kidding me?

This is a franchise that was once synonymous with a power rushing attack. We’ve had League MVP’s, Super Bowl MVP’s, and perennial thousand yard backs for the better part of two-plus decades line up to take hand-offs from Redskins quarterbacks. And this is how we pay homage to those greats?

Yes, I know that injuries have decimated our depth at the position, but the guys we’re trotting out in our backfield is just downright embarrassing. I know Mike Shanahan has a reputation of making productive rushers out of overlooked players, but to expect any worthwhile production from these scrubs is lunacy.

Keiland Williams is nothing more than a mediocre running back who could be replaced by two dozen other back up running backs around the NFL (most of them would probably be an upgrade over Williams). This guy wasn’t even a starter in the SEC, and we’re expecting him to be the starter for an NFL team?

James Davis, our newest flavor of the week, can best be described as spectacularly useless. As a running back, he demonstrated the super-fecta of sucking: No burst, no power, no speed, and no moves. It’s pretty pathetic when his highlights included runs that actually passed the line of scrimmage (his longest carry last week was for three yards).

Sitting here at 5-6 as we enter December, there are plenty of Redskins fans who keep telling themselves that we’re in the same position as we were in 2005 or 2007, when the team finished the season by going on winning streaks to clinch playoff births.

While it’s something to hold on to, I certainly wouldn’t hold your breath for it.

In both instances, Clinton Portis put this offense on his back and almost single-handedly willed this team into the playoffs. In 2005? 5 straight games with 100+ rushing, including six rushing TD’s in that span. In 2007? Portis ran for 100+ in two of the Redskins final three games (and had over 120 combined yards in the other). If you think Williams or Davis could duplicate anything close to what Portis did for this team, then please pass whatever it is you’re imbibing on, because it must be amazing stuff.

Our offensive line in ‘05, from left to right, was Chris Samuels, Derrick Dockery, Casey Rabach, Randy Thomas, and Jon Jansen. In ‘07, it was almost the same, except with Pete Kendall in Dockery’s place. The guys we have now are a far cry from Buges’ dirtbags. Our current group is nothing more than a bunch of miscast and over-matched misfits. Only Trent Williams and a healthy Jammal Brown could hold a candle to any of those guys (and Brown hasn’t been healthy for a single day as a member of the Redskins).

Past that? Rabach is well on his way towards washed up, Artis Hicks & Will Montgomery are stop-gaps at best, and Kory Lichtensteiger could very well be the worst offensive lineman in the NFL (I’ve seen amusement park turnstiles block better than he can).

Whether it’s Vinny Cerrato leaving the cupboard so unbelievably bare that this is all we had to work with, or whether it’s the collective hubris of Bruce Allen & Mike Shanahan to believe they could be successful with this current group of guys, we’re making a chicken-or-the-egg argument.

But the fact remains: our running backs (and their production) are symbolic of just how many upgrades are needed for this offense before before we can really consider them a contender for anything.

This article was written for and cross-posted on RedskinsGab.com

Still some vital signs left?

Of all the people who helped commiserate with me after the Monday Night Massacre, over half of them openly conceded that they had damn near given up hope for the rest of the season. As fans, they had “mailed it in,” declaring the season over and filing it away as another year of all hype with no substance.

Really, do you blame them? The Redskins were beaten in every phase of organized football in front of the whole country: offense, defense, special teams, coaching, fan attendance – you name it.

So when the Redskins go and respond to that loss by beating a quality, playoff caliber team on the road – on a short week, no less – what exactly do we make of this team?

The easy answer is that we know this team is consistently inconsistent. We know that they have just enough talent and just the right amount of good coaching where they can beat a good quality opponent on their own turf, yet just enough of a lack of talent and effective coaching to where they can get blown out in front of the whole country. They’ve shown that they’re good enough to capitalize when thing start going in their favor, but not quite good enough to overcome when thing start rolling in favor of their opponents.

But here’s another way of looking at it: As a Redskins fan, how many times have we seen this team lose a game like that? Being on the right side of an overtime victory – two times this season, no less – is a completely unfamiliar yet very promising outcome for us fans.The Redskins of this past decade would have found a way to lose this game. It would have been one of their players committing a stupid personal foul on 3rd down, or bumping a receiver downfield right in front of a ref.

Let’s be clear: the win did not somehow reassure us that this is team is somehow a contender. Our offensive line is in shambles, our quarterback is irritatingly streaky in finding the strike zone, our wide receivers scare nobody, and our two healthy running backs couldn’t even start for their college teams. Defensively,  we still have guys playing in positions which don’t match their strengths, We can’t stop the run, we can’t stop the pass, and we can’t stop mobile quarterbacks,

You have to believe that the players themselves realize that they’re so badly undermanned at this point that it’s going to be really damned hard. Yet ironically, could that be just enough of a rallying point to where they start reeling off a few wins against teams they “shouldn’t” beat?

Can this bend-like-hell-but-don’t-break defense hold the line just enough to where they can not allow opponents to drop 60 points on them – maybe holding them to just a few field goals – and give their offense just enough of a margin to where they can actually compete?

Even as they were being beat to a pulp in front of the whole country, the Redskins never mailed it in. Even if it was nothing more than pride and garbage points, the team kept competing, even as the Eagles onslaught kept coming at them drive after drive. Against the Titans, the Redskins did just enough of the right things, and made plays when it mattered the most, to secure a ridiculously critical win.

Do they have enough of that grit to where they can eek out a few more wins like this, especially in the face of an absolutely brutal stretch of games?

The schedule-makers did the Redskins no favors. Four of the Redskins next six games are against teams with winning records, and one of the remaining two games is against Dallas (in Dallas), who is playing much better football after firing Wade Phillips.

And even with that, the Redskins still very much control their own destiny. Minnesota comes to Washington with an 0-5 record on the road, while Favre is (once again) leading the league in interceptions thrown. The Giants are without their top two wide receivers for the next few weeks, and Eli Manning has turned the ball over six times in the last two weeks. Florida-based teams like Tampa Bay are not nearly the same teams when they come to cold weather climates in December (they come to Washington in three weeks). Anything can honestly happen when the Redskins play the Cowboys.

The Redskins have proven that they still have something left in the tank. Now, it’s up to them whether we’ll see the team that got streamrolled by the Eagles will show up for the rest of the season, or the team that did enough of the right things to win a critical game late in the season (like the one in Tennessee).

This article was written for and cross-posted on RedskinsGab.com

The Redskins revolving door of futility at receiver

Here’s a stat for you. Since the 2006 season, the Redskins are one of only three teams to have had exactly one player exceed 1,000 yards receiving (Santana Moss did in ‘07; the Chiefs and Seahawks are in the same boat). Sure, it could be worse – there are four teams who haven’t had anyone break a thousand yards receiving in that same span – but is that really the company we strive to be with? I mean, even the Bills, Lions, and Browns (three of the worst teams of this decade) have had more than one player break the 1k yard mark.

Anyone who follows the Redskins is well aware of the revolving door at quarterback this team has had in that same span (Mark Brunell, Jason Campbell, Todd Collins, then Campbell again, and now Donovan McNabb), but take a look at the revolving door of spectacularly craptacular receivers this team has started opposite of Moss, prior to the Shanahan regime: Brandon Lloyd, Keenan McCardell, Reche Caldwell, Antwaan Randle El, James Thrash, Devin Thomas, Malcolm Kelly. I’m going to go ahead and take a stab by saying that you wouldn’t run into any of them if you were vacationing in Hawaii around, say, early-to-mid February.

And four years later, what do we have to show for it? Three of those guys are retired, all but one of them are no longer on the team, and the lone “survivor” of that group (Kelly) is spending yet another season on injured reserve because his muscles and tendons are about as strong as a wet kleenex.

This year, it’s been nothing but more of the same. We’ve handed over the keys of the offense to Donovan McNabb, and asked him to “save the franchise” while throwing to Anthony Armstrong, Joey Galloway, and Roydell Williams. That’s like giving your 16 year old kid a brand new car with no gas in it, and then giving him a can full of turpentine to put in the gas tank.

To borrow a line from “Coming to America,” Joey Galloway is good… good and terrible. When the Redskins signed him during the summer, the majority of fans thought that he’d be nothing more than training camp fodder, or a Methuselah-like receiver who could impart some work ethic and professionalism on the young guys (namely Thomas and Kelly). In a best case scenario, he’d play in a preseason game or two before he’s mercifully released by the team.

So it’s absolutely shocking, appalling, and mortifying to see him on the regular season roster, let alone getting snaps, and definitely let alone starting for this team. To put it succinctly: he is utterly and completely devoid of use to this offense, and has no business being on an NFL roster. I get that he’s not starting anymore and that Armstrong is now the starter, but it’s still really hard to get excited about your receiving corps when your #2 receiver is a 5′11, 27 year old rookie who used to play in something called the “Intense Football League.”

And the sad thing is: what do Redskins fans have to look forward to? Moss is going to be another year older. Galloway turns 407 years old next season. Anthony Armstrong is a great story, but he’s nothing more than a #3 receiver at best . Roydell Williams isn’t even good enough to be a journeyman.

While Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan did almost nothing to upgrade the current personnel we have at the position, the fact is that we can think none other than Vinny Cerrato for this alarming lack of talent.

Marinate on this for a second: in nine years of being the de facto General Manager of the Redskins, do you know that Cerrato has never drafted a wide receiver that has eclipsed 350 yards receiving in a single season? Are you really telling me that, in nearly a decade of running a billion dollar organization, he couldn’t find a single receiver that could contribute a measly 16 receiving yards per game? A monkey flinging it’s poop at a war room draft board could have done a better job than that.

Honestly, take a look around the NFL. How many teams can you say have unequivocally worse talent at wide receiver than the Redskins? St. Louis probably has the least talented group of receivers in the NFL right now, but past that? Maybe Carolina, Kansas City, and/or Oakland; that’s really about it. Cleveland has a lot of young and unproven talent, but at least they have talent to develop.

Heck, take a look at Tampa Bay. Over a two year span – where the majority of the time they were being skewered by the media – the Tampa Bay Buccaneers already have their answers at quarterback, #1 WR, and #2 WR for the future. They found a bell-cow running back, and already have a change-up running back on the roster. It’s been a freaking decade for the Redskins, and we still can’t say the same thing.

The Redskins desperately need an infusion of young talent if they expect any quarterback – be it McNabb or his eventual successor – to be productive. Yet once again, the Redskins are without draft picks in the 3rd or 4th round next year, thanks to the trades for McNabb and Jammal Brown. If the Redskins don’t use their first or second round picks on some combination of a quarterback and/or offensive linemen, I may throw my laptop across the room.

So where or how they’re going to get this young talent at receiver, we’re not really sure. But they sure as hell need it.

This article was written for and cross-posted on RedskinsGab.com