The Washington Redskins are beyond a struggling team right now. In a nutshell, they are bad team that tries really hard and comes up short in roughly eight-out-of-ten areas on a weekly basis.
Many fans and some media feel they are poorly coached. If your main definition of that is their (3-9) record, that's your choice. However, they were not poorly coached last year at (10-6) and winners of the NFC East - so somehow Mike Shanahan, Kyle Shanahan, Jim Haslett and the rest of the coaching staff became a bunch of dummies with the snap of a finger.
If your criticism revolves around the lack of progression by Robert Griffin III, and the usage or lack there of when it comes to Alfred Morris. You have a point. If you are going to sandblast a defense that is consistently asked to clean up the carnage, that's where we strongly disagree. If you are going to blame the coaching staff for players taking undisciplined penalties, again I would ask what coaching staff can MAKE players not lose their cool or control of THEIR emotions?
You can point to Bill Belichick all you want as an example of a coach who breeds discipline, but for every Belichick - I show you the Oakland Raiders who have historically taken dumb penalty after dumb penalty. No matter who the coach is.
Just to provide an example, the Tampa Bay Bucs with a hard nosed, disciplinarian in Greg Schiano lead the NFL with 98 penalties. They have a losing record, but that's not because of penalties. Guess who is # 2 and # 3?
The two best teams in the league. Seattle (11-1) has committed 95 penalties, while Denver (10-2) has been guilty of 90 according to NFL.com statistics. The Redskins have 75.
To illustrate the point further, the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens had the 2nd most penalties in 2012 on their way to the top of the mountain at 121. The Redskins had the fourth most in the league, and won the NFC East. I know, I know -- they didn't really win the division. It was just a figment of my imagination and they really were a two-win team but because I am a corporate shill - I want your mind to be poisoned.
Oh by the way, for those convinced numbers always fluctuate from year to year, the Seahawks were 6th in the NFL with 110 last year. As a matter of fact, in 2012 - five of the top ten teams in penalties committed made the playoffs.
There is a difference between a dumb penalty and a bad penalty of course, but the thing that is not different - is coaches can not prepare you during the week for the tempers and emotions a game will present. When you have no live tackling, and extremely limited contact and pad work - who would really lose control of their emotions? Don't blame this element on coaches. The NFLPA rules won't allow it.
It's the same reason why Robert Griffin III wasn't ready to play at the beginning of this year. Mike Shanahan knew he wasn't ready, but he really had no choice. At least in my eyes and many others that I talk with inside the walls at Redskins Park. You can't possibly practice and simulate everything that will happen on gameday. The only thing you can hope for is that repetition in a controlled environment gets you more on the right side than the wrong side.
You can't practice players not being hot-heads. Either you are, or you are not. That's personality. Not a coached tool. Mike Shanahan actually went out of his way to defend DeAngelo Hall, Santana Moss and Pierre Garcon on Monday. All three drew penalties for retaliation or acts of frustration in Sunday night's loss to the Giants. Garcon, appeared to have at the very least a mis-communication if not a mistake on his part, that almost cost the Redskins dearly. Clearly he was frustrated and Pierre is a very emotional player.
Shanahan said "he's one of the most fierce competitors I've been around. If I get everybody playing like him, you won't need coaches.” There you have it. A player has a silly reaction, and could have cost his team -- and it is swept under the rug as a tip of the cap. Proves the point. It's not coaching, it is players.
Here is one valid criticism of the coaching staff. Sometimes they fall in love with certain things, and stick with their principles no matter what.
Logan Paulsen is one of the smartest an thoughtful members of the offense. He summed up some of the issues to ESPN.com & ESPN 980's John Keim. "Last year we were able to keep it pretty simple and a lot of basic stuff was very effective for us. This year teams have had a year to look at us and look at that seven-game run and say, ‘This is what they're doing and this is what we need to do to stop them.' So the counter punches to their counter punches are things we have not been able to execute as well."
Paulsen continued "We sit in meetings and see it on tape and say these are the plays we need to get to and these are the plays we need to execute to counteract. We haven't been able to nail that home. It's hard to explain. We rep something all week and we expect a certain coverage and sometimes that look isn't there and we have to get to other things in the progression and other routes have to win that aren't the primary route."
For instance, Kyle Shanahan feels that a true running back screen works great against a pass rushing team that plays soft coverage behind the rush. I can't disagree with that at all, but I would argue that in a league where tackling is at an all-time low (once again you can't practice it) that coverage doesn't always have to be the look you need to run a successful play.
Tackling or the lack of it, is what you need and eventually if you have enough speed and get it right or they get it wrong - boom. It's a perfect way to keep your quarterback in a rhythm and get the ball out of his hands quickly, while also being able to then pick apart the vacancies in the defense in other areas.
As anybody knows, I defend coaches much more than about 98% of the public and media, simply because they do not play the game and they work 110 hours a week. Sure there are great defensive minded coaches who fall into great quarterbacks and have monstrous success (Bill Belichick, Tony Dungy) and then there are coaches that have great defenses and no quarterback (Rex Ryan) or head coaches like Sean Payton that gave Drew Brees a new lease on life and has built a powerhouse offense that is dominant at home, and good but far from great on the road. The Saints defense? Up and down, with a lot of the latter in Payton's tenure.
There are many different philosophies and many different styles. I still believe in the coaching philosophies of Mike Shanahan and this staff. I would make a change at special teams, not because I think Keith Burns is a bad coach - but almost because you are forced to do so. A few of the core players only bought in because they are professionals. Not because they wanted to or liked the philosophies.
I don't agree with a lot of things Mike Shanahan says or does, but I am still of the belief that you have much less risk if you stay the course, as opposed to blowing up the foundation at Redskins Park.
I believe you point the finger elsewhere. Not just in one spot. Sorry kids, but Jon Gruden or some hot shot coordinator might have temporary success, but long term success is really hard to achieve and Shanahan's experience and philosophy still gives this team their best chance to succeed.
Will there be a year number five? It is becoming harder and harder to justify it for many reasons. I would say my current position is that Bruce Allen and Dan Snyder pull the plug, BUT if I was making the decision, I would give Shanahan one final year (as he was promised) to fix the mess.
Chris Russell -- SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com -- www.twitter.com/russellmania980