Mike Shanahan raised more than a few eyebrows last week at his season ending Monday press conference, for more than just his comments on Robert Griffin III
After the Redskins were dealt what most thought (and probably is) a crippling blow on the eve of free-agency last year, a 36 million dollar league imposed salary cap space penalty(spread over two years), most thought that Washington was doomed for the next several years.
I can’t say that thought, combined with no first round picks in 2013 and 2014 – didn’t cross my mind. However it wasn’t a serious thought in my convoluted brain, because I strongly believe the wrong way to build is through spending boatloads of money.I was and still am much more concerned about missing a few great potential pieces in the first round, especially considering Robert Griffin III’s current injury status.
The Redskins were punished 18.4 million dollars under the 2012 salary cap, and 17.6 million under the 2013 cap, per ESPN 980 sources. So what's the status of that punishment moving forward?
Mike Shanahan repeatedly said last off-season that he would talk about the situation and the Redskins appeal efforts when he was allowed too. Somehow, the question and a follow-up was allowed to expire during the season by the daily Redskins media corps, which I am obviously a member of and nobody from the outside, really made a big deal of it.
There was one exception, ESPN’s Adam Schefter mentionedin early November on ESPN 980 and the “Sports Fix” that the Redskins believed they had a shot at winning the 2013 war and getting some of the cap penalty room back.
During a few conversations I had with executives inside Redskins Park in November and early December, I was told the same thing. I was told by one person, that they felt like they had a really good chance.
It’s one thing to feel that, but what reason do you have for that optimism? That’s the answer that nobody knows. These conversations were informal and obviously not on the record, but I trust those that verified Schefter’s thoughts, and we know where that information is very likely coming from.
Armed with that information, the question had to be asked after all of the Griffin-gate issues were dealt with. In our last availability with Mike Shanahan until April – the head man needed to address this pertinent issue which would directly affect Washington’s free agent plans. Were the Redskins still contesting the penalties, handed down by the NFL and it’s executive council?
“Well, I can’t answer that at this time so that means we’re still involved in it. Yes, we’re still involved in it. When I can speak about it, I will speak. But at this time, I can’t. I think that answers your question," Shanahan told me.
So there you go. Now the question is – how will the NFL deal with this continued protest? Do the Redskins really have a shot, or are they just desperate and fighting just to fight. What’s the strategy the Redskins are using?
One person that is familiar with the matter, doesn’t feel as confident as others I’ve talked with. The person candidly said “They fought the good fight. It’s over.”
This person has not changed their stance since the initial arbitration case was rejected by Stephen Burbank in Philadelphia last May.
He says the only thing the Redskins can really do, is file a lawsuit against the National Football League, a strategy the person said was highly unlikely, “I can’t imagine they would do that.”
The way the Redskins and possibly the Cowboys would go about that, is to file a lawsuit in state or federal court, because the arbitration angle is dead.
The problems associated with a lawsuit of that magnitude is that according to the league’s constitution, the loser of the battle would pay all fees and could be counter-sued for “conduct detrimental to the league.”
The source described a decision to do this as a “thermo-nuclear” choice and strongly suggested that the Redskins avoid that route.
The same person also said that the only way he could think of to make this reversal take place, short of filing a lawsuit – would be to get an amendment to the league’s collective bargaining agreement. How likely is that and getting such a move past key executives like John Mara of the New York Giants? Extremely unlikely in another ESPN 980 sources thought process.
The main source did allow something that I thought was particularly interesting, by saying the NFL “amended the CBA to (bleep) these teams” before, which is why the league’s management committee was able to negotiate a cut throat deal with the NFLPA, in the person’s eyes.
What makes the issue even harder to fathom, is that the NFLPA collusion suit http://bit.ly/U0oyJk was dismissed recently, so the person who has knowledge of the situation, said the only strategy that he could see working is one of “persuasion.”
You might be thinking, Huh? The person said he was aware of the in-house thought by many people close to Commissioner Roger Goodell. He said that many league lieutenants knew how bad the screw-job was, and just how much the NFL had “(bleeped) over” both organizations, but specifically the Redskins.
One possible argument that the Redskins are still fighting was outlined by my friend J.I. Halsell, who is a former salary cap analyst with the Washington Redskins, and now is a player-agent and salary cap analyst with Priority Sports, based out of Chicago.In the interest of full-disclosure, Halsell also served as ESPN 980’s front-office insider for the last few years.
Halsell, long before this was even an issue, was truly a prophet. He wrote this column http://insidethecap.blogspot.com/2010_03_01_archive.html in which he detailed the Redskins creative re-structuring ofthe Albert Haynesworth and DeAngelo Hall contracts that they were subsequently penalized for.
We all know why the Redskins were penalized, but the most important element of Halsell’s article was that Bruce Allen essentially executed the same exact maneuver in Tampa with offensive lineman, Jeff Faine.
Halsell at the writing of the article, mentioned the dubbed “I-4 Off-Ramp,” as the ‘same device’ as used in the Haynesworth and Hall contracts. Just for clarification, to make sure nothing had changed in Halsell’s understanding of the situation, he confirmed to ESPN 980 on Tuesday that the restructured deals in both Washington and Tampa were “exactly the same.”
The greater point is this. We know that the NFL and the contract division of the league office approved the restructured contracts of both Haynesworth and Hall, as they did with Faine while Allen in charge in Tampa Bay.If they approved all three restructured deals, along with the Cowboys contracts – how is it that ONLY the Redskins and Cowboys were penalized?
Tampa performed such a move while under a salary cap, which has to be the answer from the league – however it was beyond clear that the Bucs were trying to take advantage of the extra room they had under their cap, while also clearing out a ton of space moving forward, in 2009 and in the uncapped year of 2010.
The strategy worked to a large degree, as they had a pirate ship full of money to spend in 2011 and 2012, after performing extremely well with a young, cheap and pared down roster in 2010.
Of course, it would be nice if the league took the time to explain all of this maneuvering, but maybe they don’t – because they always seem to have something to hide.
The person with knowledge said this in parting “It’s really disgusting what the league did to (the Redskins).”
While it may be disgusting, it seems awfully hard to fathom how the Redskins will get some much needed relief.
Chris Russell - SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com - www.twitter.com/russellmania980
It's on....Sunday Night Football for all the whole damn division. Fed Ex Field is the site, ESPN 980 AM, 94.3/92.7 FM, ESPN980.com is your exclusive home for all day and night coverage of the Washington Redskins pursuit of their first NFC East crown since 1999, against the Dallas Cowboys.
Our pregame, wall-to-wall coverage starts at NOON and doesn't end until 3 AM - win or lose. Please crank up your radio on your way to the stadium, or in your tailgate, during the game and of course on your way home.
With that said, let's go "Inside the Numbers" for this do-or-die (for the Cowboys) spectacle. The Redskins as everybody is aware, can clinch a playoff spot before the game, if both Chicago (@ Detroit) and Minnesota (vs. Green Bay) lose, but can only clinch the division and a home playoff game next weekend with a victory.
SERIES SUPERLATIVES (AND FRANCHISE WOES): The Redskins have not swept the Cowboys since 2005, which was also the last time they won six games in a row (five in the regular season, one post-season).
The Redskins have only beaten Dallas in two out of the last eight meetings, including Thanksgiving Day. The last time the Redskins won two in a row over the Cowboys was the regular season finale in DC in 2007 to clinch a playoff spot, and the 2008 matchup in Dallas (Jim Zorn's first year).
This is essentially a playoff game, in any reasonable mind. The Redskins and Cowboys have played twice in the playoffs, and Washington won both times. 1972 and in the 1982 NFC Championship game.
While it's not a true playoff game, it could be the final game either team plays. The Redskins have lost the final game of the year they have played in during the last four years (@Philadelphia, vs New York, @San Diego, @San Francisco) and the Cowboys are a pretty astonishing (2-10) in Week 17 games since 2000, including a 27-6 loss at FedEx in 2007 to wrap up the regular season and a 20-14 loss in Washington to end the 2002 season, and finish (5-11). In other words, the Redskins are partially responsible for that late season misery.
The Cowboys lost on the road to the Giants, 31-14 in a similar battle for the NFC East last year. They wrapped up the 2010 season with a 14-13 win in Philadelphia, to finish (6-10) so in other words, it was a meaningless win. In the 2009 season, they shut-out Philadelphia 24-0 in Arlington to make the playoffs and won the only playoff game of the Tony Romo era, the next week. Before that win, they had lost a hard to figure NINE in a row in regular season conclusion games.
Since 2000, the Cowboys have won by year 5 games (2000), 5, 5, 10, 6, 9, 9, 13, 9, 11, 6, and 8 games in 2011. Since 2000, the Cowboys have lost by year 11 games (2000), 11, 11, 6, 10, 7, 7, 3, 7, 5, 10, and 8 games in 2011. They can finish no better than (9-7) with a win, and the 22nd divisional title in the franchise's history. They can finish no worse than (8-8) and of course would be eliminated from the playoffs for the 9th time since the turn of the century.
On a cumulative basis, the Cowboys are a remarkably average (104-103) since 2000, with four playoff appearances, and two divisional titles with one playoff win during that span. The Redskins of course have been a hot mess as well since the last time they won a divisional championship (1999), with a cumulative (90-117) record, two playoff appearances and only one playoff win.
Since and including the 2000 season, the Cowboys have lost their final two games of the season an alarming 5 times, and with a loss on Sunday night -- would make it six times overall after losing in overtime to the Saints at home last week.
In those final regular season games since 2000, the Cowboys have been outscored (281- 160) and have scored ten or fewer points in six of those games, and have scored 15 or fewer points, in nine of those 12 games.
HOME COOKING? : With a win, the Redskins would win a home game for a 5th time this year, which hasn't happened since 2007. To put that into context, the four wins they already have this year at FedEx, equals the two-year combined mark from 2010 and 2011. The Redskins would also improve to (5-1) against the NFC East, for the best mark against the division since 2005.
The Cowboys are 9-6 at FedEx Field. The opener of the Mike Shanahan era was on Sunday Night Football, a tight Redskins win, 13-7. In 2009, the last home game of the illustrious Jim Zorn era, the Cowboys shut out the Redskins 17-0 on Sunday Night. The year before that (on a Sunday Night Football stage as well), the Cowboys beat the Redskins 14-10 at FedEx.
RUN, RUN, FAKE, RUN, PASS, TD: Seems like most of the Redskins drives this year, doesn't it? Maybe not that easy and in that order, but you get the point. Our Washington Times/ESPN 980 Redskins Insider, Rich Campbell posted these numbers via twitter yesterday (@Rich_Campbell). The Redskins are 2nd in the NFL in terms of most runs vs. passing plays, behind only Seattle - who is a likely wild-card round opponent next weekend. San Francisco (also a possible first round opponent) is 3rd on the list, followed by the Kansas City Chiefs and the Jets who are at a 50/50 rate.
What's that list tell us? The first three teams (Seattle, Washington, San Francisco) all are playing very young/rookie quarterbacks with Colin Kaepernick getting his first starting experience over the last two months. The last two teams (KC & New York Jets) have brutal quarterback situations.
The Redskins' run to pass split is 52.9% - 47.1%, while the Dallas Cowboys are (34.9-65.1, run/pass), per Campbell's research. Dallas is the second-most pass heavy attack in the league. The Associated Press says the Cowboys are passing an NFL-high 66.3 percent of the time; while Redskins opponents throw an NFL-high 64.8 percent of the time against Washington. No doubt, the footballs will be flying around on Sunday night, even with windy conditions expected. One item to note that is a huge difference from the last time these two met on Thanksgiving. The Cowboys did not have RB DeMarco Murray and stud left tackle Tyron Smith did not play as well.
Just because you try to run, doesn't mean that you are good at it. However, the Redskins are clearly doing just fine in that category, as they lead the league in rushing yards per game at 162.3, which helps them rank first in yards per play at 6.2, and first in the NFL in yards per first-down plays at 6.47.
As for Murray, since returning to the lineup on December 2nd, he's run for (23-83, TD) against Philadelphia, (21-53, TD) in Cincinnati, (14-81, TD) vs. Pittsburgh, and (11-40) vs New Orleans, but also caught 4 passes for 51 yards. Since returning, Murray has caught a total of 16 passes for 123 yards, catching 4 balls in each game. One huge problem for Murray the last two weeks? He's fumbled in costly spots, one deep inside Steelers territory going in for a score, and last week, while the Cowboys were backed up deep in their own territory, leading directly to a Saints touchdown. No doubt, Jim Haslett's guys will be focused on stripping the ball in cold weather. The Redskins have recovered 10 of 17 fumbles by opponents this year, and during the streak have been credited with four turnovers via fumble recoveries.
THE GOLDEN ARMS? Per ESPN Stats and Information - " Robert Griffin III has shown the ability to effectively deal with the pass rush and use the deep ball to his advantage this season. Griffin has a Total QBR of 97.7 against five or more pass-rushers this season, the highest in the NFL. Griffin has completed 68.4 percent of his passes against added pressure, the second-highest percentage in the league, and is one of three quarterbacks that have not thrown an interception this season against five or more pass-rushers. Griffin was 6-for-7 for 131 yards and two touchdowns when he faced added pressure against the Cowboys in Week 12. Griffin has also completed 50.0 percent of his passes on throws more than 20 yards downfield this season, the highest rate in the NFL among qualified quarterbacks. Griffin has thrown six of his seven touchdown passes on such throws against NFC East opponents, and threw two touchdowns on throws more than 20 yards downfield against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving."
Also per ESPN Stats and Information: "Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has 14 touchdown passes on throws of at least 15 yards downfield this season, tied for the most in the NFL. Romo has 10 touchdown passes on such throws since the start of Week 9, two more than the next closest quarterback. The Redskins have allowed 13 touchdowns passes on such throw this season, the the most in the league, and 18 plays of 30-plus yards. Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant has six touchdown receptions on throws at least 15 yards downfield, the most in the league."
I couldn't decide if these numbers belong in the Cowboys failures in the final game of the season area, or in the Tony Romo section of the blog. I say he deserves his own space. Romo is far from perfect, but...Romo is 2nd (behind Troy Aikman) in every statistical category in Cowboys history - except for two key ones. Super Bowl Championships, and oh yeah, touchdown passes. Romo actually ranks higher in the latter,(175 -165). The problem for him is that most Cowboys fans are complete MORONS, like many irrational sports fans are. He is the highest rated QB in the 4th quarter in NFL history ahead of Aaron Rodgers, Steve Young, Tom Brady, and Kurt Warner. Romo has a 102.4 rating in the final period, and also ranks 2nd in completion percentage at 63.9%, behind Young at 65.2%. Bottom line, Romo has thrown 55 touchdowns to 21 picks in the fourth quarter, and way too many fans and a lot of blithering idiots in the media, think that he can't handle pressure.
Sure, Romo AND the Cowboys are 12-14 in the months of December and January, but Eli Manning has struggled at times during December as well. He's even played a few bad playoff games, but of course the difference is - the Giants are run by a real general manager and have a legitimate football organization and Jerry Jones runs essentially a football brothel down in the Lone Star State.
Romo is (55-37) as a starter, a job he inherited in 2006. We pointed out that the Cowboys could drop to (104-104) since 2000 as a franchise with a loss on Sunday night. Without Romo numbers and leadership, their record would be (49-66) or basically the Redskins pre RG III.
Romo in his final game of the regular season in each year of his career looks like this. He's a total of (109-165) 1,229 passing yards, 7 TD's, 5 Interceptions in parts of six games. His season was cut short in 2010, but his final game against the Giants is included (a brief performance) as is the 2007 loss to the Redskins that meant nothing for the Cowboys, who had the # 1 seed locked up. Romo played for part of that game as well.
His playoff performances are less than fantastic, but nowhere near what his critics blast him for. He's (80-135) 59.3%, 832 yards, 4 TD, 2 INT and a passer rating of 80.8. His TEAM is (1-3) and the Cowboys have a net of minus 16 points in those 4 games. Again, nowhere near bad.
3rd Down is THE DOWN: The Cowboys come to Washington converting on 43.2% of third-down opportunities ((86-199) and yielding 39.8% on the money down (76-191). The Redskins offense is up to a season high 35.2%, while the defense allows opposing offenses to convert 43.6% of the time.
The Redskins actually have more net yards than the Cowboys do (5,770 - 5,698) but to show you how remarkable this season has become, only has 23 more net yards than the Redskins defense has yielded, (5,770-5,747) or a 15-game average of 384.7 -383.1. The Cowboys defense has yielded 5,326 yards or an average of 355.1 per game. They've also been on the field for 925 plays (61.6/game) as opposed to the Redskins defense, which has been on the field for 970 (64.6/game). Those three plays per game average difference could account for the 383.1 - 355.1 per game average difference between the two defenses, and based on the third down percentage breakdown we put up above, could decide the game.
Redskins versus Cowboys. The two names in the same sentence have a distinct ring to it and all credit goes to George Allen. I enjoy all of the stories of the rivalry before Allen arrived in 1971 but the meat of what we still chew on today was cooked in 1971.
Before Allen got here, there was dispute over league inclusion and song rights and there were even some wild and memorable games but the greatest sports rivalries are built on the backs of games with stakes. Starting with his first year as coach in Washington, nearly every game had division and/or playoff ramifications until he left 7 years later. Those games and the hype that surrounded each and every one of them laid the foundation for what became an NFL treasure for over 20 years.
Consider this. During Allen's seven seasons in DC, the Redskins and Cowboys played 15 times and in all 15, both teams played with winning records. In fact, during the Allen-Tom Landry 7-year war, both teams ended each season with a winning record of at least 2 games over .500. Much more impressively is this fact. All 15 games were played with either a) first place in the division on the line, b) wild-card playoff hopes at stake or c) the Super Bowl on the line in the '72 NFC Championship game. That's unprecedented importance. No other division rivalry in the history of the game since the merger has had a run like that one.
Many of the Allen versus Dallas games are of legend and you could easily argue that the majority of the memorable games in the series were played from '71-'77. There was the first one. A rainy Cotton Bowl was the scene in October of '71 for the Skins' shocking 20-16 upset of the heavily favored Cowboys. It was Washington's first win over Dallas in 4 years and it was the jab that started the fight. It was so stunning that thousands of Skins' fans greeted the team when they arrived at Dulles late that night. It was not just the opening salvo in what would become a heated rivalry; it was the true beginning of the love affair between the DC area and the Redskins.
December 31, 1972. NFC Championship Sunday. Redskins 26, Cowboys 3. The Redskins defense dominated and Billy Kilmer's two touchdown passes to Charley Taylor were more than enough. RFK shook like it had never shaken before and DC celebrated New Years Eve with burgundy and gold champaign glasses.
Ken Houston meets Walt Garrison. One of THE moments of the rivalry. The first-ever Monday night game between the Skins and Boys came on October 8th, 1973 and it ended with Houston stopping Garrison at the 1-inch line on 4th and goal with less than 30 seconds left.
Clint Longley on Thanksgiving, 1974. Staubach knocked out and the rookie Longley comes in and throws two touchdowns as Dallas roars back from down 16-3 in what was the first of seven Thanksgiving matchups between the two teams.
In 1975, 5-1 Dallas at 4-2 Washington. A classic back and fourth game that went to overtime, the first OT game in Skins' history. A Ken Houston pick early in the OT sets up a Kilmer sneak from the 1 and a 30-24 Skins win. Later that year, with wildcard hopes on the line for both teams, each sporting 8-4 marks, the Skins jumped out to a 10-zip lead at Texas Stadium before four turnovers helped Dallas to 31 unanswered which put the Cowboys into the playoffs, and the Skins out.
The 1976 season-finale was all about the Redskins needing a win to clinch a playoff berth and Dallas needing a win to clinch home field throughout the NFC playoffs. Former Cowboy Calvin Hill scored the go-ahead touchdown early in the 4th quarter for the Skins en route to a 27-14 playoff-clinching win.
George Allen started this thing in earnest. He targeted the Cowboys and he beat them in big games with stakes. He riled it up with his loathing of everything Dallas from their uniforms, to Tom Landry, to Roger Staubach. His passion for it and the associated results created something that has existed at various levels for the 41 years since. No doubt in my mind that the origins of the emotion that most of us will feel Sunday night started with the Allen era.
As the Washington Redskins install the game plan on an extra long week for their NFC East Monday Night Football showdown with the first place New York Giants, and before we take a look at some of the keys for the recent Redskins resurgence - it's time to look back now that the 5-year anniversary of Sean Taylor's death has passed.
I didn't know Sean Taylor, nor did I cover him on a direct basis. I did know Sean Taylor the football player from TV and from talking to league personnel experts and analysts. The opinions were often mixed, and for good reason. There was no doubt that he was talented, but his maturity, coverage instincts and poise were always in question.
The year he was murdered, those close to him and that knew him best - insisted he changed. I believe them. I have no reason not to believe them. He certainly was having a Pro Bowl type year, before his injury that sadly and ultimately ended his career.
Everybody has their own special way to remember Sean. The Redskins pay tribute to him every year with a painted "21" http://bit.ly/1170Lqt at Fed Ex Field. ESPN 980's Enzo Giovanni put together this tribute page, http://bit.ly/11jdHJX
On Monday Night Live at Velocity 5 on the eve of the 5-year anniversary of Taylor's death, I sat down with the man that replaced him both before his death and then after. Veteran safety Reed Doughty started for Taylor after his injury, at the free position and then had the unenviable task of trying to fill some large, empty shoes down the stretch of the 2007 season.
"He really was irreplaceable. I came in and started two games before his passing because of the knee injury. He was so positive with me. I got to know Sean really well the 2nd year. He's down, I remember we're getting ready to go to Tampa, and he's like man 'you're going to do good things this game' & 'you're going to have a great game' and 'you can do things that I can't do.' I was like Sean, did you just hear what you just said? He said everybody has different strengths and weaknesses. He was so modest about his own abilities. For him to tell me that, as a 2nd year player ...that meant a lot to me, to know that he believed in me. It wasn't just like "Man, I gotta get back quick, so that we have a chance."
Doughty continued, "His passing makes you realize how much you love football, but how small it is sometimes. That was a very emotionally, difficult time. Through my faith, and family and friends, supporting me -- I was able to go out there and try to honor his memory, and also help our team win a football game, and not try to take his place because that wasn't possible -- but to play my role, within the team to go on that playoff run. I hope people look at that and at least respect what we did that year, and what I was able to do within the team."
No matter what Redskins fans say about Doughty, and I've heard it all -- on the field, he is a versatile, savvy leader. Off the field he is a family man who stresses accountability and teamwork to get ahead. He's also a important part of Redskins history -- before, during and after the darkest moment in the franchise's 80 years.
The Redskins two game winning streak and offensive resurgence, is largely due to the next level play of Robert Griffin III. Of course, the return of Pierre Garcon has helped tremendously along with many other factors. Make no mistake, the Redskins scored a combined total of 25 points in their two games before the bye (Pittsburgh, Carolina) and a combined 69 points in their two games out of the break (Philadelphia, Dallas) because they have a dynamic play maker at the position that makes the most difference.
Sure, four passing touchdowns in each of the last two games is and was epic. Clearly, Robert is doing it with his arm - which is what he has stressed from day one about his skill set. He only had six rushing attempts for 29 yards on Thursday, with almost half of that total coming on one play.
Here's the bottom line. Griffin had two designed runs that set up and keyed touchdown drives. Simple, yet effective and kept a flowing Cowboys defense guessing and on their heels. At the end of the first quarter, on the Redskins third drive of the game, which would end with Aldrick Robinson's 68-yard touchdown - Griffin busted off a simple 9-yard gain on 2nd/6 on a designed QB jet to the right, with a read zone fake. The Redskins were in pistol, and they motioned Brandon Banks from the left to behind Alfred Morris, who was set behind Griffin. The execution was brilliant as Griffin carried out the fake, took off and had Banks running on his right wing to pitch if he wanted. The run and the design (getting the Cowboys over aggressive defense to be out of their comfort zone) would set up the touchdown, which we described in full detail in our previous blog, http://redskins.espn980.com/bloggers/chris-russell/item/732-redskins-cowboys-quick-snaps.
On the Niles Paul touchdown series, the Redskins were only up 28-13 after Dez Bryant turned the momentum in favor of the Cowboys just a few plays before. After a small gain on first down, Kyle Shanahan called a designed run/fake that Robert executed perfectly. Griffin took off to the left after the fake out of a 3 wide set, with Logan Paulsen lined up in a pre-snap motion H-back role. He sold it, ripped it out and took off untouched for 14 yards . The ball was placed at the 34 and the threat was on from there, igniting the offense as usual. Five plays later including one more run from Griffin III and the Redskins were back in the end zone again.
Bottom line, with a flowing, over aggressive defense - the Redskins knew they had a major advantage (before the game) and took advantage of it. In talking to a few sources that were involved in the game plan - Washington knew that Dallas was a chaotic, undisciplined disaster waiting to be exploited and they were put in their place.
Here's another question - which throw was better for Griffin III in the last two games? Both Aldrick Robinson touchdowns were spectacular. Santana Moss's touchdown before the half in Dallas to the back shoulder and away from coverage was fantastic. His 3rd & 2 pass to Moss to set up Alfred Morris' touchdown was an absolute bullet. For my money, the Robinson touchdown in Dallas was the best of them all - because of distance and where he placed the ball over Robinson's shoulder on a full run, not having to break stride. Just a brilliant read, call and execution.
It wasn't all perfect, as the defense was under siege in the fourth quarter - despite creating three turnovers and playing about as good for nearly 3 quarters as you can possibly expect. Robert Griffin III did throw one late fourth quarter interception on an overthrow, the first time that Washington had turned the ball over in nearly four games. That mistake led to another quick Dez Bryant touchdown because of where the Cowboys took over on the field (Washington -18).
Anybody that makes the mistake in thinking it was because the Redskins were in prevent defense the entire time or most of the 2nd half, is sadly mistaken. That's just not true. Jim Haslett was blitzing and gambling because he has no choice. Haslett knows the reality of the situation and how stretched for talent and pass rushers the Redskins are. That's also part of the reason why they claimed Jason Babin off waivers, who was awarded to Jacksonville.
Haslett knows that he can't play Cover-3 or Cover 2 or soft prevent defenses, and there were many examples of the aggressive plan being carried out in the 2nd half. I will try to detail that in another blog, but suffice to say - my eyes and the tape were not deceiving me.
Kai Forbath deserves major credit for his money kick from 48-yards out, that essentially iced the win for Washington. Of course, the Cowboys still had a chance to tie after that money kick, but the Skins defense was able to force a 51 yard field goal on a insanely long, late game drive of 13 plays for 46 yards. Forbath is now (10-10) with a perfect (7-7) coming from 40 + yards.
Robert Griffin III won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the month award for November (Surprise!). He was brilliant in the last two games, after a very rough start to the month (Carolina) and a bye week. He was named co-captain of the offense, and it was on from there. I think it's safe to say the Redskins have their quarterback of the future, as long as he can stay healthy. That's always going to be a concern, but even non mobile quarterbacks get hurt (Tom Brady, Peyton Manning).
The Washington Redskins have now done (at least for them) the almost unthinkable. They've actually won two football games in a row (had not happened since Week 1 & 2, 2011) and have done it in impressive motion. This has a much different feel than last year's back-to-back wins over the Giants & Arizona Cardinals - for many reasons.
Just six days ago, Redskins players woke up staring a must-win in the face and the task of avoiding another embarrassing loss at home, and to a rookie quarterback for a 9th consecutive time. The Redskins came out of the bye week with their hair on fire, and blasted Philadelphia into cheese steak hell, 31-6.
Fast forward to Thanksgiving Day in Dallas. A 28-point 2nd quarter ultimately proved to be the difference, along with some brilliant play by Robert Griffin III, clutch kicking by Kai Forbath and a dominating defensive effort in the 1st half. Even in the 2nd half, that Redskins fans are fretting about - Jim Haslett's troops came up with several monster plays to stuff a few turkeys named Romo, Garrett and Jones.
Before I fully watch the TV version & some of the coaching tape that gets posted (whenever they feel like it) on NFL.com -- here are some "Quick Snaps" thoughts and reaction to the Redskins 38-31 win that resembled what your kitchen looks like after Thanksgiving Day. What I mean by that, is a lot of delicious goodies that give you that happy, elated feeling but a lot to clean up afterwards.
***Let's start with Aldrick Robinson's 68 yard bomb touchdown, which was thrown perfectly in stride by Robert Griffin so that the dynamic Robinson could run full speed and catch it over his shoulder and in perfect stride, without the speedster having to slow down for even a half-second. Wow, what a throw and a nice route with similar components as his 49-yard score last Sunday against the Eagles. To me, this was more impressive for many reasons.
Robinson split the corner and safety on a scissor post route from the right side of the formation. The safety (Danny McCray) was caught flat-footed or was frozen for one second, because of one very important component. The Redskins ran this play out of a bunch run look. Washington had a twin H-Back type set, with Darrel Young and Logan Paulsen set behind the offensive line and split slightly in front and on both sides of Robert Griffin III.
The play before, had almost exactly the same formation with Paulsen running a left to right, stop-and-go motion and setting to Griffin's left, with Young to Griffin's right - while Alfred Morris was set behind the QB. Aldrick Robinson (on the play before TD) was lined up to the left of Griffin in a tighter alignment. Robinson tried to get a good start off the snap, and drew a false start.
On the TD, Paulsen ran motion from right to left halfway, before settling off-set right of Griffin. Young was to Griffin's left, with Morris once again lined up as part of the full house backfield look behind Griffin III. Washington ran a zone-read play action, as Robinson (on Griffin's right) got a free release and with the safety frozen - BINGO - for the touchdown and the Redskins SIXTH touchdown play of 60+ yards on the season.
One other interesting element of the play. Because it was the same exact play and formation (just flipped) when Aldrick Robinson broke the huddle - he tried to go back to the left side of the formation, before realizing that he was supposed to be on the right. In a flash, it was 7-3 Redskins and they were off to the races. You can get a better feel for how the Redskins drew this up schematically here, courtesy of Mark Bullock (@UKRedskin1) and by checking out his great timeline - pic.twitter.com/i0d1Lys7 .
**The touchdown eliminated Brandon Banks horrifying decision to catch a punt while back pedaling towards his own goal line. Officially, Banks was 'credited' with fielding the ball at the Washington 0-yard line and was knocked out of bounds at the Washington-7. Clearly, a mind numbing mistake that cost the Redskins 13-yards of field position. Mike Shanahan addressed the issue on Friday with reporters during a tele-conference, saying "we're going to take a hard look at it and make sure he makes the best decisions."
Sounds to me like they would consider putting someone else back in that role, but the question becomes who? Richard Crawford has been inactive the last few games. Santana Moss is too valuable as a receiving threat, with 7 touchdowns already and closing in on his best single season mark here in Washington. DeAngelo Hall has played on kick-off coverage this year, and of-course had the on-sides kick recovery to end the 38-31 win.
Shanahan also pointed out, when I asked him to grade Banks' performance - the key 3rd & 4 conversion he had on a quick pass for a first down. Banks slipped out of his break and still charged ahead for the first down. It was an 8-yard gain that came two plays before Pierre Garcon's 59-yard scoring catch and run.
I also thought it was interesting that on the Aldrick Robinson touchdown drive, which started with Banks' bad decision - he was immediately put back into the game and the offensive sets. On first down, Banks was in the backfield after a shift, on a Alfred Morris 4-yard run. The next play was a 9-yard gain out of the pistol by Robert Griffin III for a first down off the right side because of the threat Banks commands. After a Pierre Garcon catch and a Alfred Morris run of ten yards (the 54th run of 10 + per ESPN 980's Chuck Sapienza to lead the NFL), the Redskins dialed up the formation and scoring play that we wrote about earlier.
***Alfred Morris scored his 6th rushing touchdown of the year, and racked up 113 yards on 24 carries, to move to within 18 yards of the 1,000 mark. He would become the first Redskins RB to achieve that mark since Clinton Portis in 2008. Morris told me on "Monday Night Live" at Velocity 5 Lansdowne - that's the back he wants to be and why he first became a Redskins fan.
Morris racked up his fourth 100-yard rushing performance of the year, and per Redskins public relations - the last ten players (Royster, Helu, Morris, Griffin III) to rush for 100 yards in a game have all been rookies. He also has nine games in 2012 in which he has run for 75 or more yards, which puts him on the same line for that achievement as the great Adrian Peterson and also Marshawn Lynch.
Morris' touchdown was his first since the Minnesota win, and came out of the I-formation with a zone block to the right and a left side kick out block by Darrel Young who had several destructive blocks in the win. The most important play on the drive was a 3rd-and-2 seed to Santana Moss. It may have been Robert's most impressive throw of the day, which is pretty hard when you consider his back shoulder TD to Moss before the half and the Robinson bomb.
***So happy to see Niles Paul get rewarded for his continued improvement as a tight end. His 3rd/1 acrobatic touchdown catch that expanded the Redskins lead was a 29-yard catch and roll into the end zone. The play was so well designed that Paul could have had turkey dinner and leftovers before a Cowboys defender got near him. The play was actually on 3rd & inches, and the Redskins as you would expect gave a heavy run look with two tight ends (including Paul) and an I-stack in the formation
Robert Griffin III gave really a "show-me" fake, meaning it wasn't even a good one, but just more to create illusion and the Cowboys had two defenders including Ernie Sims cover Alfred Morris in the right flat for some unknown reason. Aldrick Robison (out of 1 WR set) and Logan Paulsen ran medium depth routes and Paul was free. He made a tough catch on a far from perfect throw as Robert was about to get popped. We mentioned Darrel Young..he had a huge cut block of DeMarcus Ware that gave Griffin a clear throwing lane.
Can you believe many fans wanted to cut Niles Paul? It's another case of Redskins fans being so passionate and angry, that they can't think with any common sense. I have received so many tweets and have seen/heard so many people talk about Niles. It truly was more ridiculous than even the Jim Haslett situation. Even after the touchdown, I faced that silly wrath. It's just so preposterous, I can't even begin to fathom the idea.
Remember, Niles Paul was far from a polished wide receiver in a option based, quarterback running scheme at Nebraska when he was drafted by the Redskins in 2011. He had no off-season in his first NFL year, then was asked to transform himself from a wide receiver to a tight end. DUH, it's going to take some time. Paul has made a big 37-yard catch in Pittsburgh and had a 22-yard catch against Carolina. It's not a huge statistical improvement but the best is yet to come.
NEW YORK (AP) The Dallas Cowboys are the first American sports franchise worth more than $2 billion, according to Forbes magazine.
The NFL's most valuable team for the sixth consecutive year, the Cowboys saw their overall worth increase 14 percent to $2.1 billion. That's about $1 billion higher than the average NFL team value, $1.11 billion, up 7 percent.
Only Manchester United of the English Premier League, at $2.24 billion, is more valuable than the Cowboys, according to Forbes' surveys. And Man U's owners, the Glazer family, also own the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are $1.033 billion, 18th in the NFL.
New TV contracts, the collective bargaining agreement signed last year that will last a decade, and higher premium seating revenue contributed to the increases. Every franchise except the Cincinnati Bengals increased in value; the Bengals stayed the same at $871 million, which ranks 26th overall.
With new stadiums in the works for the Vikings and 49ers, their values skyrocketed. Minnesota had a 22 percent increase to $975 million, while San Francisco moved up 19 percent to $1.175 billion.
Jimmy Haslam III bought the Cleveland Browns this summer for $1 billion, $13 million more than the value Forbes placed on the team, which ranks 21st.
Shahid Khan purchased the Jacksonville Jaguars for $770 million in January. Forbes values them at exactly that - the least valuable franchise in the league, $10 million less than the St. Louis Rams.
Rounding out the top five are New England ($1.635 billion), Washington ($1.6 billion), the New York Giants ($1.468 billion) and Houston ($1.305 billion).
The NFL schedule will be released next week. Lots of mock drafts out there, how 'bout a Redskins' mock schedule. It includes a road opener against the Eagles, a Monday nighter home opener against Dallas, and a season-ending home game against the Giants. Here it is.
It took about two weeks of mayhem for the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys to take their first official step towards striking back at the seemingly obvious and glaring mis-deeds of the National Football League, and to a lesser degree - the NFLPA.
The move is in direct challenge to an agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA to punish four teams (Redskins, Cowboys, Raiders, Saints) that removed and redistributed cap space allocated to the Cowboys and Redskins (to the other 28 teams) in exchange for increasing the total salary cap for 2012 to $120.6 million per team.
I'll be the first to tell you that I am probably missing some huge element of this fiasco that gives the NFL a legal leg to stand on, but based on everybody that I've talked too, inside and outside the organization, many who would not agree to be quoted, even anonymously, this situation appears to be a disastrous (at the least) and completely unwarranted decision by the NFL and NFLPA. It would not be the first time that the two sides screwed something up royally.
According to Cole, the league also forced, reportedly, the NFLPA to agree that they would not file any collusion charges against the NFL, for having -- well u guessed it - colluded league wide by issuing strict warnings to not over spend and violate the 'competitive balance' in what was a limitless salary floor and ceiling year.
Cole reported on twitter on Sunday that the NFLPA was 'secretly hoping' for this as a way to get more evidence of collusion
The Redskins, by the way, simply did not violate any rules by doing some crafty accounting and converting signing bonus money of DeAngelo Hall and Albert Haynesworth to a so called 'option-bonus.' Did they violate the 'spirit' of the rule? Maybe.
Giants Co-Owner John Mara, who also serves as the the Chairman of the NFL Management Executive Committee said on Sunday "I thought the penalties imposed were proper. I think they're (Redskins/Cowboys) lucky they didn't lose draft picks," according to ESPN.com
"As we already know, the agreement regarding the imposition of the penalties was struck between the NFL Management Council Executive Committee and the NFLPA, making it a revision of the CBA without a vote of the league’s owners or union leadership. That deal happened even though Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was and still is a member of the NFL Management Council Executive Committee.
It’s one thing for the so-called CEC to use its delegation of authority to work out side agreements with the union. It’s quite another for the CEC to do so without knowledge of one of the men who has secured membership on the CEC," courtesy of Pro Football Talk
"As of March 11, the Redskins had a total team salary of $141.6 million. By virtue of the Haynesworth and Hall renegotiations of March 12th, this number is now roughly $170 million. To put this in perspective, the baseline salary cap in 2009 was $128 million. So what did the Redskins do?
In his infamous $100 million contract of 2009, Haynesworth had a $21-million option bonus. As part of the deal, the Redskins reserved the right to convert that option bonus to a signing bonus, and that’s exactly what they did. But they converted it with a slight twist. Not only did they convert the option bonus to a $21-million signing bonus, but they also added a voidable provision. In the provision, if Haynesworth pays back $26 million of his signing bonuses, then the 2011-2014 contract years void away. From a team salary accounting standpoint -- because the voidable is solely in the player’s control -- the proration of the signing bonus does not go into 2011-2014. That means all of the $21 million signing bonus counts in the uncapped year of 2010. As a result, Haynesworth’s team salary number in 2010 went from $8.8 million to a whopping $25.6 million. His subsequent team salary numbers are $6.4 million, $8.2 million, $10 million, $10.8 million, and $12.8 million, respectively."
Halsell continued, and in what is perhaps the most interesting part of the column - this was a move that Bruce Allen was more than familiar with and had already used before. "The voidable language added to the Haynesworth and Hall contracts is the same device included in the contract for center Jeff Faine that Allen (signed/changed) in Tampa. Interestingly, Allen named the voidable clause the "I-4 Off-Ramp," named after the highway that joins Tampa to the rest of central Florida."
This fact, means that just like the NFL league office approved the Haynesworth and Hall deals, they also approved the Faine deal when, THERE WAS A SALARY CAP, which technically would be violating the spirit of the cap that particular year.
Andrew Brandt of the National Football Post and ESPN, in an e-mail to HogsHaven.com recently said this: "I am not defending the penalties levied on the Redskins, but there is a point that needs clarification. The Redskins did not front-load newly negotiated contracts into the uncapped year. They renegotiated existing contracts that were already on the books to dump future years' proration into the uncapped year. There is a big difference between the two."
Our spin is this. The Redskins did not go out and purchase any new toys, like Julius Peppers or Karlos Dansby or any of the other few premium unrestricted free agents in 2010. As Brandt said above, this wasn't a new contract - just an old one that they re-structured. If they had done so, I think you could argue more fairly that Washington violated the spirit of the salary cap. Of course, as you know - every contract has to be approved and is subject to cancelation by the NFL office.
My ESPN 980 colleague, the very shrewd Kevin Sheehan, wisely brought up a point that the Redskins would have just likely released Albert Haynesworth prior to June 1 of 2010, to cut the contract off the books, if the voidable clause had not been allowed. Under the old and then current collective bargaining agreement, and under the new CBA as well - if you release a player before June 1st, the players amortized salary cap bonus "dead money" counts on that years cap in its entirety.
The Cowboys did front-load the Miles Austin contract, that they are accused of, but again, he was property of the Cowboys. They did not go out and 'buy' a new player, with a front-loaded deal. If anybody did that, it was the Chicago Bears and the deal they inked with Julius Peppers.
The breakdown of Julius Peppers deal with the Bears is as follows according to Rotoworld.com, which is widely regarded as the best hub for NFL contract information: - "3/5/2010: Signed a six-year, $84 million contract. The deal contains $42 million guaranteed, including a $6.5 million signing bonus, a first-year roster bonus of $12.5 million, and a second-year "signing" bonus of $10.5 million. Another $7.5 million is available through incentives based on sacks, Pro Bowl berths, and Defensive Player of the Year awards. Peppers can earn annual $100,000 workout bonuses in years one through five. 2012: $8.9 million, 2013: $12.9 million, 2014: $13.9 million, 2015: $16.5 million, 2016: Free Agent."
It's my understanding and I am far from an expert, the Bears deal with Peppers allowed them to count the 12.5 million dollar roster bonus (which is a blatantly obvious guaranteed contract mechanism) on the 2010 uncapped year, so it would not be a 'signing bonus' which has to be spread mathematically (2 + M approximate per year) over the remaining years of the contract. This would be in addition to the 6.5 million dollar signing bonus that Peppers actually did receive upon inking the deal, which does get spread out.
If you combine Peppers base salary of 2010 (figure unknown) plus the 12.5 million 'roster bonus' - it seems to me that would be a classic case of 'front-loading' a deal, with a NEW free agent. Something the Redskins did not do.
One last example, and yes it is under a salary cap and completely legal as far as I can tell - the Denver Broncos who had ample salary cap space in 2012 - decided to make Peyton Manning's 18 million guaranteed this year, a guaranteed base salary. In the past, teams have given smaller 'base' salaries and higher 'signing bonus' figures so they could spread it out against the cap.
The point is, the Broncos front loaded the contract to avoid having signing bonus money spread out over a number of years, because they had ample space under the cap. and that obviously is an important qualification (cap vs. no-cap) but theoretically, it does violate the 'spirt of the rules.' Doesn't it?
My point is - EVERYBODY is finding different ways to work the numbers and if it was allowed and approved by the league, oh freaking well. The league should just pipe down and accept the fact that they screwed this whole process up.
NEW YORK (AP) A person familiar with the decision tells The Associated Press that the $46 million in total salary cap reductions for the Redskins and Cowboys will go to other teams.
The Redskins will lose $36 million in cap space over the next two years, while the Cowboys will lose $10 million. They were cited by the NFL for paying exorbitant amounts in the uncapped 2010 season to get more spending room for the upcoming season.
Washington and Dallas must reduce their spending by at least half of those amounts in 2012, then forfeit the remainder in 2013.
The forfeited space will be distributed to 28 other teams, with the Saints and Raiders not included. That will result in an increase above the $120.6 million salary cap for those clubs this year.
This list is for me but I'll share it with you. It's a list of things about the Skins' 2011 season that I want to remember when we get to free agency, draft, and beyond.
1. Rex Grossman Makes Throws But Can't Make Plays. After 13 games of Rex in 2011, my mind is made up. I like the way Rex throws the football and I love his competitiveness but I can't live with his inability to make a play when the play as-designed breaks down. His lack of mobility, lack of feel in the pocket, and overall lack of extend-the-play ability is just too limiting. Good teams in the NFL have quarterbacks who can extend plays. Teams that score touchdowns in the red zone usually have quarterbacks who can extend plays. It's Grossman's biggest limitation and it's why they shouldn't bring him back.
2. Evan Royster and Roy Helu. While neither is Chris Johnson speed-wise, they're both perfect for the Shanahan running-game scheme. As impressive as Helu was with three straight 100-yard performances in weeks 12-14, I thought Royster was the more-impressive pure runner.
3. No WR YAC. The Skins lack playmakers on offense for sure and much of that is simply that their wide outs can't turn 15-yard pass catches into 30+ yard catches. How many times did Moss, Gaffney, Stallworth, et al make a catch and either fall down or immediately get tackled. Other than QB, this team's biggest need is a playmaking offensive player. They need a WR who can score touchdowns from a distance.
4. Front 7 Impressed. The defensive front 7 was impressive all season long. The free agent additions of Cofield and Bowen were a huge net gain. Adam Carriker played well at times and the linebackers led by Fletcher and Kerrigan were solid. Orakpo can struggle at times against the run and he needs more consistency as a pass rusher but I'm still hopeful his edge speed can wreak havoc. Kerrigan's motor is non-stop and he's a natural playmaker. The emergence of Riley as the other inside LB was a nice surprise.
5. The Davis/Williams Disappointments. Here's the bottom line with this from my perspective. Both were dummies for doing what they did but the overall feeling about both of them from within is that they're not bad people. Given their talent and in particular, the investment in Williams, the Redskins have no choice but to give them a second chance. Williams is under contract which makes the decision on him easy. Davis is a UFA. I would do my best to sign him to a deal that minimizes the risk to the team but incents him to behave and peform.
6. Kory Lichtensteiger. With him, 3-1. Without him, 2-10. Lichtensteiger became late in 2010 and early in 2011 their most reliable offensive lineman.
7. 5 Blocked Field Goals. The Skins were lucky it wasn't more than five. They could've easily had 2-3 PAT's blocked. The problem was interior blocking. Each of the five blocks came from up-the-middle pressure.
8. Clock Managment. This was a problem all season long but reared it's ugliest head in the season-finallee at Philadelphia. With no timeouts and 17 seconds left, the Skins threw a pass short of the goal line, in bounds, and then tried to get the FG team on before the clock ran out. Other examples of horrible clock management included not knowing that they needed to spike the ball after a huge completion at the end of the Minnesota game and using timeouts on offense at the end of the Jet game. Additionally, they never seemed to have a true hurry-up offense. In the Jet game, it took them close to 25 seconds to get snaps off in their supposed "hurry-up".
9. 3rd and 21. If not for an all-out blitz on 3rd and 21, the Redskins would've likely started the season 4-0.
10. Rex's Return Equaled Offensive Competence. The three John Beck games (at Carolina, at Buffalo, SF) were offensive disasters. He seemed terrified and was clearly in over-his-head. When Rex came back against Miami, the Redskins were far more competitive over the final 8 games of the season.
11. Could've, Would've, Should've. A) Both Dallas games were winnable....3rd and 21 at Dallas and Gano's overtime miss at home. B) New England at home looked good until an offensive pass interference penatly was called on Santana Moss on the potential game-tying or game-winning touchdown. Remember, Shanahan indicated he would've gone for two and the win. C) Minnesota at home if not for a horrible holding call against Darrell Young on a Brandon Banks game-tying touchdown run. On the flip side, if not for a 4th and 5 TD pass from Rex to Moss the Skins wouldn't have beaten Arizona.
12. Biggest Offseason Needs. QB, WR, OL, CB, S, and a coach that knows how to manage the clock at the end of halves and games.