Keith Burns won two Super Bowls as an NFL player and special teams demon for Mike Shanahan and the Denver Broncos. The seeds for that success were sewn at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Virginia.
Now he hopes what started in the shadows of Washington DC ends in essentially the same place.
The Washington Redskins lost the longest tenured coach on their staff earlier this off season in Special Teams Coordinator Danny Smith. Smith is a man who the fans loved to criticize and blast, just because he was the convenient target of a sometimes great, sometimes shaky special teams unit over the years.
I have been very outspoken on that issue, and it is clear (as it usually is) the fans opinion and analysis was and is very different than that of the coaches, players and media when it came to Danny Smith. This is also the same fan base that ruthlessly blasted Kyle Shanahan in 2010 & 2011, and hammered Jim Haslett throughout the 2012 season, until a 7-game winning streak took hold.
The Redskins replaced Smith with Burns, who gets his first opportunity as an NFL coordinator.
Burns inherits a good group (by no means a great one in terms of pure talent) that lost their captain in Lorenzo Alexander to unrestricted free agency, but returns everyone else. Make no mistake, Burns doesn't get Shane Lechler in his prime (punter) or Sebastian Janikowski's leg strength (place kicker) or a lights out coverage unit, but this group can get better with a different voice and a fresh approach.
"I think the foundation is here. I think Danny's done a great job. But at the same time, I have a different philosophy than what Danny did. Everything will be new to the guys, but I think they'll like what we're doing," Burns told ESPN 980 last month in his first and only interview since signing on for his new gig.
"I'm going to try and keep it simple so they play fast and play physical football and enjoy playing the game with a lot of swagger, because that's what I played with. You'll see a lot of passion out of the guys, you'll see a lot of enthusiasm. I think that will bleed throughout the whole team," Burns said.
In a few brief conversations with Burns at Redskins Park since the interview and meeting him, I see somebody that is genuine and has a burning desire to be great.
Burns told me over a two-part on-air interview http://bit.ly/17S1qmI (4/16) how he got the job with the Redskins. It was a pretty simple process, but it was interesting to find out that this was not something that was in the works from the start of Shanahan's tenure here in Washington.
"He (Shanahan) got the job here, and when Danny ended up leaving I was like 'I guess it's an opportunity,'" recalling his thought process after Smith returned home to Pittsburgh. "Washington put in a request. I sat down with Mike, did my interview. I think he's had his eye on me for a while."
Shanahan explained that the process was not a targeted mission at first. "When I interviewed Keith as the special teams coach, I brought in a number of people and he blew me away in the interview with how organized he was and his teaching progression to all of the coaches as a teacher. He’s very organized with his thoughts. He has a very solid scheme. He’s got a lot of passion for what he does. And that’s why we hired him.”
Shanahan gave him a shot in coaching, and Burns told ESPN 980 he hopes to pay him back. "Getting my start for him was incentive enough. It took four years later, but at the same time good things happen to good people. Hopefully, I'll be able to reward him with a great special teams unit."
When Shanahan arrived in Washington, Burns was one of the names that I had circled as a guy who would potentially be added to the coaching staff and probably right away. He was already the assistant special teams coach with the Denver Broncos, and he was retained by Josh McDaniels. I thought it was a surprise in 2010 that Burns was not added to the initial Shanahan staff.
It wasn't meant to be because it would have been a lateral position move (once Shanahan decided to retain Danny Smith) and the team then hired Richard Hightower to assist Smith and also the defensive game planning.
Burns was a hungry player whose appetite was filled by Super Bowl rings and he made contributions that never were given enough credit. Be honest. Who do you remember from those Shanahan - Broncos teams? Guys named Elway, Davis, Smith, McCaffrey, Sharpe and more. Not Burns. Unless you highly value the impact specials makes. To me it's more than one-third of the game in today's day and age, so philosophy is important.
"We gotta put guys in the right position to allow them to make plays either in the return game or in the coverage unit. I want us to be a scrappy group, a physical group to go out there and create turnovers. As a return team, you want to take care of the ball number one and get the ball down field and get those hidden yardage that you really don't see until the end of the game," Burns told ESPN 980.
So how do you get young players to get better? "Just being disciplined, cut down on a lot of the penalties that will allow us to have positive plays and positive yardage in the kicking game."
Discipline is important, along with accountability. That starts with Burns who knows that he has to get players attention because of the tremendous respect they had for his predecessor "It's really not about me...I don't think as the Washington Redskins unit, it's not going to be win or lose games, it's going to be really to not mess it up. We will have our opportunities to make big plays. The biggest thing is we got to take care of the ball. If we get that emphasis across to the guys, we take care of the ball, only good things can happen."
In Denver, Burns helped a unit that was in the upper echelon of the league consistently. There is no Trindon Holliday in the return game just yet, or Matt Prater. Heck, there is no Britton Colquitt either. That's where coaching and developing comes in. According to the official press release the Redskins issued when they hired Burns, his unit's accomplishments should bode very well for the burgundy and gold.
The statement read in part "From 2007-12, Burns worked with a unit that accumulated 10 combined punt and kickoff return touchdowns, tied for most in the AFC and second-most in the NFL. In that time period, the Broncos ranked fourth in the AFC and fifth in the NFL in punt return average (10.5 yards per return)."
As if not having Prater, Colquitt or Holliday isn't difficult enough, Burns has an even tougher job than Smith had in some ways because the one major loss the Redskins suffered in free agency was special teams captain Lorenzo Alexander.
"I loved the way that he played. He played that game with passion. I don't think I'll look to replace a guy like Lorenzo Alexander. I don't think you can replace a guy like Lorenzo Alexander, Burns told ESPN 980.
"We have enough guys in that locker room that will step forward. We'll get another leader out of that bunch. A leader will step forward, and we'll just have the best guy out there."
My vote? Reed Doughty. I haven't hid from this position. It would be a flat out embarrassment if Doughty is not elected by his peers to be the new special teams on-field leader. Doughty will be a leader regardless, but this really isn't a debatable topic in my eyes.
"He's a leader, disciplined, a hard worker," Burns said about Doughty.
Doughty was 2nd on the team in special teams tackles (22) to Alexander's 31 according to coaches film stats. Doughty was 2nd to Alexander with 13 tackles in 2011. He was 3rd behind Alexander and Chris Wilson in 2010.
Niles Paul and Darrel Young figure to have huge roles on the Redskins special teams units this season. Paul had 16 tackles last year and is known for his ferocious ability to cover and close, but he can always continue to improve with more seasoning.
"I like everything I've seen. There's a couple of things that I can teach him (Paul)," Burns said. No doubt everybody can get better, but Burns feels Paul is on track for something more just in terms of coverage ability.
"What he's done the last two years, is just about as good as anybody in the league," Burns told ESPN 980. Paul finished last year as the primary kick returner replacing an ineffective Brandon Banks, and had 13 returns for a 21.8 average, and a long of 48. That return came against Dallas in the regular season finale, and if not for a questionable holding penalty on Chris Wilson in Philadelphia, Paul would have had another 40 plus yard return under his belt.
Still, nothing is set in stone for Paul or the guy who ended the year as the Redskins primary punt returner, Richard Crawford.
"Oh no. Every job is wide open. I'm the new guy. Everybody starts on a clean slate. Nobody actually has a job. Every job on the special teams unit will be earned. Nothing will be given to anybody. Every job is wide open," Burns told me.
This is a notion that the 2nd year cornerback from SMU (Crawford) backed up at OTA's last week, "There's no given position. To me, I'm not the starter. I have to earn that spot."
Crawford helped win the Baltimore game in overtime for the Redskins, and clearly Paul and Crawford represent a significant upgrade over Banks who never was the same after his knee surgery in November of 2010. Now the question is, can they get better?
The belief is there, and perhaps a coach like Burns can bring it out of them. "Keith is a great coach. You see it in Denver, what he did with Trindon Holliday, and those returners. He knows what he's doing. We just have to buy in to it and do it. I already bought in to what he's talking about so I'm trying to improve on what he wants me to improve on," Crawford said.
If you are looking for a long shot returner option with some potential, undrafted free agent WR Skye Dawson has turned some heads with his speed and knack for big plays in limited time during OTA's.
The Redskins were never able to find a consistent place kicker under Danny Smith. After releasing Graham Gano and Neil Rackers at the end of training camp last year, Washington went with Billy Cundiff. That worked about as well as the infamous "swinging gate" play under Jim Zorn, and it led to another change at placekicker.
Enter Sandman? Nope, try Kai Forbath. Forbath in his first NFL regular season experience did not miss a field goal attempt until the final game of the regular season on a chilly late December night. He was (17-18) overall and a perfect 12-for-12 from 40-plus yards.
"I would consider him my 'silent assassin,'" Burns told ESPN 980. "He had a great year. He doesn't really say much, he just goes out and gets the job done," Burns said.
Forbath liked the 'silent assassin' tag that Burns gave him when I mentioned it, but he also appreciates his new leader's approach. "It's been pretty smooth. He's not a guy that came in here and tried to change our technique. He know's it's our craft and we work on it. It's been great so far."
One area that could be cause for concern is distance on kickoffs for Forbath. Clearly leg strength is not his calling card as opposed to accuracy.
Sav Rocca, was re-signed to a two-year deal by Washington to provide a steady presence. If Rocca makes it to year four of his tenure in DC, that might surprise some observers because he is 39 and dealt with a nagging knee injury. However, Burns still likes what he has to work with saying that Rocca has a "big leg. He's a boom guy. I just gotta get used to the accent."
Welcome to the club on that one, Keith. Rocca fought thru the injury last year to average a gross of 43.9 and a net of 37.2, with 22 punts downed inside the 20-yard line on 68 boots. Not the best year by any means, but it was not an eye-sore.
Burns also has Nick Sundberg, the most famous long-snapper in the NFL. His football bravery caught the eye of his new coach early on. "You can't ignore his toughness. Anytime you got a long snapper that's willing to snap with a broken arm, that says a lot about him. Hopefully everybody on the team will take that lead and play with the same heart that he plays with," Burns said on ESPN 980.
Never one to shy away from an opinion, Sundberg weighed in on going from the old school of Smith to the new school of Burns. "Transition is always difficult. I think it's something when you've had one coach for a while and a new coach comes in, it's just about learning his ways. Not everybody does things the same way. We're just getting to know each other still at this point, learning from each other every day and trying to get better."
The Redskins overall on special teams did not rate very highly because of the struggles at placekicker early in the year and the lack of spark Banks provided. According to Football Outsiders (http://bit.ly/ajGvkj) Washington ranked 27th in "special teams DVOA" (a confusing measurement system) at -4.0%. In 2011, they ranked 21st in that category.
The team had a much better and more representative "weighted DVOA" to finish at -0.1% and 16th overall in the league.
Either way you look at it, the Redskins need to improve in several key areas if they are going to take the next step. While the NFC Champion San Francisco 49'ers ranked 20th in special teams DVOA, the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens ranked # 1 by a WHOPPING margin. The Ravens had an even 9.0% which was high above the next ranked team in the league, Cleveland.
I might be a complete football nerd or perhaps an ignorant fool, but there is NO mistake made when you look at Baltimore's success and make the correlation to excellent special teams play in 2012. The bottom line is this. Billy Cundiff cost them a chance at the Super Bowl in the AFC Championship the year before, they got rid of him and added Jacoby Jones and a young but talented leg in Justin Tucker. Problem solved, at least for one year.
For Burns, that march begins now. "Guys are talking about winning the Super Bowl, but are they willing to put in the work?" Burns asks. "They got a taste of it here last year. It starts with the off-season workouts, wanting to do it for that one common goal. At the end of the day, that's all that really matters."
The young man who evolved into a champion has come home to tie the package together in a pretty bow. He has a golden opportunity in a football and championship starved town, to be a piece of Redskins lure forever.
"I kinda know what every Redskins fan wants and expects out of their team. Growing up here, I know the enthusiasm that every Redskin fan has about the Washington Redskins. I know we have the fans backing us, it's all about guys just being committed. I think we have a great coaching staff to be able to do that. Who's willing to put in the time to go out there and win a Super Bowl?"
That has to be music to many Redskins fans ears. Burns' intentions are very clear. The Vince Lombardi Trophy is coming home, if he has anything to do with it.
Chris Russell -- SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com - www.twitter.com/russellmania980.
As a sports reporter, we want athletes and coaches to be honest. We want them to reveal their thoughts and plans. How do you feel? Why did you do this? How come you made that decision?
As a radio talk show host, you live for famous targets to open their mouth and never shut it. Keep on adding logs to the fire, even as the calendar turns to June.
YOU want something to talk about, something to fuel the flames. It makes your life a lot easier, and quite honestly most members of the media are not able or willing to really get into the hard core x's and o's of a game, so a verbal gift reduces your time spent searching for something to talk about.
I am going to go against everything I should believe in and stand for. I am going to do it, because it's the right thing to do. Here's a bit of advice.
When it comes to "RG Knee" and anything that has transpired since that rainy Sunday in early December against the Baltimore Ravens, everybody involved and that means EVERYBODY has to just zip their lips.
Yes, sorry to say this but that includes you Mike Shanahan. I can't forget about Robert Griffin III or Robert Griffin Jr. No disrespect to anybody, and it is a free country to say what you feel. I get that. It's hard to resist. I struggle with that internal battle in a public forum all the time. I get it.
Here's the thing. The less you say, the better. If you say nothing about the past, that's preferred. At least from a Redskins standpoint. Nobody should really care if the media needs something to talk about, or if you are asked consistently. Just say No. Or do what Bill Belichick does, and be terse.
It sounds simple, and it is undeniably much harder to execute. However, this is a professional football team that won a division and ten games last year, before everything came crashing down on January 6th at FedExField.
Don't talk about it anymore. Feel free to talk about the recovery and the progress. That's great. Certainly, we would love to hear about a setback if one should occur. There's no good, and nothing but bad feelings that can be gained from talking about it again.
Thursday was closure, and if I was Mike Shanahan - I would call a 'meeting of the minds' which would include PR Chief Tony Wyllie, GM Bruce Allen (who has also mastered the art of dodging the media), Robert Griffin III, Robert Griffin Jr. & Howard Skall of CAA, who represents Griffin's agency and is very skilled at media relations.
In this meeting, I would make it very clear to anybody and everybody that ENOUGH is ENOUGH. No more. If you are asked about the past, don't answer it.
Respectfully decline the question or deflect it. "That's in the past" or "There's nothing we can do now except move forward" or even a "I am not going to go down that road anymore, out of respect to everyone involved."
If I was Shanahan, I would make it very clear that this is an organizational challenge to be on the same page. Not everybody is going to always agree or be in perfect harmony. Families and companies have to be on the same page, in order to move forward and take on the land mines that lay ahead. Even if there are disagreements. I live it every day. It happens in your home, in your office and with your friends.
I know it's hard. Trust me, I disagree plenty with how things are done in every way in my life. That's honesty. I carefully limit if not totally prevent myself from communicating those thoughts in a public forum, because what positives can come out of it? Do I feel better? Maybe. One thing I have learned over my career, nobody wants to be around somebody who whines and cries constantly, and is obnoxious about it.
Yesterday at Redskins Park, both Robert Griffin III and Mike Shanahan handled themselves just fine and it was good to wrap it up. I would have done this two months ago, but what do I know? Next week, both parties will speak again and other than what new progress the star quarterback has made, nothing else should be said.
By now, you have seen the quotes. You have heard the sound bytes. You know that despite the claims that they 'hashed everything out," a memory like that only fades and never truly goes away.
It will come up again, and again, and yet again. If it's RG III's Dad talking to Leon Harris of ABC 7, Mike Shanahan talking to one of a handful of national writers (Peter King, Albert Breer), Robert speaking to ESPN the Magazine or quite honestly anybody, the situation will be hashed and re-hashed.
Griffin III seemed to indicate that's where he is heading, telling reporters "We are moving forward from it. I told you guys that before and I will say it again. That's all I can say. We talked about it, we are on the same page and we are ready to go."
Good. Leave it at that. Don't talk about it anymore. This will be especially important if and when Robert gets injured again or something doesn't look right.
Griffin fired a pre-emptory strike about that issue as well, saying "I just feel like everyone is going to be very hypersensitive, about anything that happens with me. My biggest fear is that I roll an ankle and they pull me out of the game, and that is being serious."
Griffin is refreshingly honest and I believe real. There's nothing really fake about him. He's feisty and to some degree, he is stubborn. Remember what he said after the Cleveland game, when he was not cleared to play. He was upset. He was real. He is emotional. He's also young, and there is a lot of pressure to say everything the right way.
Griffin III would be wise to be more like Tom Brady in this regard. Mike Shanahan would be wise to be more like Bill Belichick and even though this would hurt the media, it would go a long way to helping the Redskins through the choppy waters.
Bottom line, Just zip it. It's the only way the drama will cease and desist. There's been enough nonsense in the franchise to last a lifetime. Everybody should be on the same page, and the only way to make sure that happens, is to limit the words and have everybody buy in.
For many, March is all about college hoops. It's always been a month that has been terribly overrated in my eyes, at least if you like high quality offense instead of being 'offended' by the choppy product that swallows up the nation's focus.
For an NFL die-hard, March is just an insane month. For somebody who covers an NFL team that never stops making news, it is pure un-adulterated mayhem.
The Redskins have so many issues and questions heading into free agency, the new league year and the annual draft - so we will cover as many as we can.
1. What impact will London Fletcher's situation have moving forward?
The captain of the defense has been largely un-committal about playing in 2013, since his post game comments following the Seattle playoff loss. He told longtime Redskins reporter David Elfin http://cbsloc.al/ZqUzIa that he was having surgery today on his ankle and later this month on his elbow to try and play this upcoming season, saying to Elfin, "Surgery is the first step towards prepping for next season.”
Fletcher confirmed the news via his own twitter saying " @LFletcher59 Surgery went great...thanks for all the well wishes! Prep begins now for season 16!#Monster216#HTTR."
So you have that cleared up, but unless I am missing something, there is no guarantee that he will be able to play at a high enough level in his mind to go through the rigors of a long season.
The other issue and perhaps the one of greatest significance, is do the Redskins feel he will able to play at a high enough level to keep him on the roster next Tuesday at a cost of about 6.2 million under the team's strapped cap? The decision does not actually have to be made on Tuesday or before, as the Redskins can simply cut or re-structure other contracts to get under the mandated league number by 4 PM Tuesday, but the question has to be asked.
The Redskins are roughly 3 million over, and facing a potential loss of their special teams captain, Lorenzo Alexander, a deadly weapon (when on the field) in tight end, Fred Davis and perhaps 2/5th of their starting offensive line. Not to mention, several key contributors and starters like Logan Paulsen, Darrel Young and Rob Jackson are restricted free agents.
Washington would only save an estimated 3.4 million by letting go of Fletcher before March 12, because of a "dead-money" cap hit of about 2.8 million dollars, as part of the 3.5 million dollar guaranteed bonus Fletcher received last year. Still for a team that is being unfairly punished by the NFL, that 3.4 million might be a saving grace.
Don't get me wrong, they have a lot of other work to do to free up enough space to give them operating room for tendering & signing restricted free agents, and perhaps making a push to bring back some of their unrestricted free agents, but here's the 3.4 million dollar question....How much would that saving help the big picture?
Would it keep Lorenzo Alexander in DC? Is there anyway to cut Fletcher now, under the premise that you will bring him back on a much smaller base salary than his currently scheduled 5.5 million? I think you can try that, but unless Fletcher agrees to that pre-arranged deal, it is a large risk.
Or can you keep Fletcher for now, absorbing the 6.2 million figure while giving his body time to heal and buying more time. That plan would allow you to not only see what your other options are, but also set up a situation that if Fletcher decides to retire after June 1st, the Redskins would save not only the 5.5 million in base salary, but the dead-money hit would only be 700,00 this year and 2.1 million in 2014.
So many questions and clearly not enough answers. My money is on the Redskins holding on to Fletcher through the league year deadline and working other contracts to buy cap room. That's only a guess, as the team is as tight-lipped as any sports organization can get (which makes my life incredibly harder) but I just don't know how you can sacrifice a lot of what you are about, for 3 million dollars worth of space.
2. Will Santana Moss and DeAngelo Hall be released or have their contracts slashed instead of re-structuring?
Hall is a relatively easy contract to work with. He is on the books for 7.5 million in base salary with a workout bonus of 50 K. His contract for 2014 calls for a 9 million dollar base salary, with the same workout bonus.
Hall said at the end of the year, that he wanted to stay in Washington and would be willing to essentially take less. However, did that mean a re-structure or an actual pay cut? If the Redskins were to simply re-structure by converting base to bonus, they could save somewhere between 5.5 - 6.5 million. However the guaranteed money would then have to be split in terms of amortization over this year and 2014, which is not something I would want to do on a contract that currently has no dead money.
I would ask Hall to take a pay cut from 7.5 to 2.5 million this year, while worrying about next year when you have to (next year) and save 5.0 million dollars under the 2013 cap. If he doesn't accept that, sorry DeAngelo but goodbye and then the Redskins would save 7.5 million and perhaps the full 8.0 depending on how the actual calculation of the bonus is interpreted.
The problem with that plan, cornerback is a much bigger position of need for the Redskins than wide receiver is and Hall is a valuable member of the unit, despite some of his inconsistency. He's an even more important member of the defense, because Josh Wilson struggled last year, while Cedric Griffin is an unrestricted free agent. Combine that with the uncertainty at safety, and you have a key necessary ingredient in Hall to 2013. Is he even more important to the defense than retaining Fletcher or Alexander? Most would scoff, but I am not asking that question for no reason.
Which brings us to Moss, who led the Redskins in touchdown receptions last year, with 8 along with 41 catches for 573 yards. Certainly those are not numbers that would traditionally blow anybody's socks off, but considering how prolific the Redskins running attack was and how they were able to spread the ball around to Pierre Garcon, Josh Morgan, Leonard Hankerson, Aldrick Robinson and the tight ends, I don't know if it would be feasible to expect anything more.
Moss will be 34 before the season begins, and counts for about 6.167 million on the Redskins salary cap. He is entering the final year of his deal, so it was very likely that this would be his final year in Washington anyway. If the Redskins were to release Moss, they would save between 4.5 and 5 million dollars worth of cap space, after the dead-money pro-ration of about 1.7 million.
It would seem pretty obvious to me that the Redskins have no other choice, but to exercise this option - despite a potential overall loss to the offense - I believe it would be easier to replace Moss than DeAngelo Hall or even Fletcher.
On a personal note, I hope that it doesn't happen as I've always enjoyed talking to Santana and we have built a good, professional relationship.
3. What impact will new "Senior Executive" A.J. Smith have on the Redskins in 2013?
It's hard to know if he will have any significant impact, but my guess is that for the most part, he can't really hurt. Smith is the only true and pure personnel executive that the Redskins have. Bruce Allen, Eric Shaffer and Mike Shanahan are not known for their expertise in that area. Morocco Brown and Scott Campbell have done a very good job procuring talent in free agency and the draft under the new regime, but they haven't done everything like Smith had to do during his long tenure in San Diego. Brown was a finalist for the Arizona job, so perhaps the Redskins are essentially protecting themselves a bit here.
Essentially, Smith gives them another set of eyes to cross-check and focus on certain areas while hoping that a new challenge revitalizes him a bit, and he can discover somebody like an Eric Weddle, Antonio Gates or Michael Turner.
What will be interesting will be to see what Chargers free agents the Redskins pursue. I don't expect them to be heavily involved this off-season because of all the various issues discussed above, but would Smith put in a good word for CB Antoine Cason, who is only 26 (fits age type) and had 12 interceptions in his five seasons with the Chargers? He's known as a high risk, high reward type of defensive back - but as we outlined with the Hall situation, it is pretty much a desperate need.
Longtime veteran CB Quentin Jammer (San Diego) and former Charger CB Drayton Florence are also veteran free agents who might be less expensive and less risky, because they are on the backside of their careers.
Safety Corey Lynch is also an unrestricted free agent, and while he's listed as a strong safety by most outlets, the word is that he's athletic enough to handle either position. Offensive lineman, Louis Vasquez had a nice year last year on a horrible offensive line, but you would have to think the Chargers are going to make a strong push to retain him.
Smith's son Kyle, is a scout for the Redskins so it probably won't take him a long time to get caught up.
4. Will the Redskins bring back Fred Davis, Lorenzo Alexander, Kory Lichtensteiger or Tyler Polumbus?
Because this is already long, I will try and make this short and sweet. I would say no on Davis, although I know the Redskins would like to see what he could be post surgery.
I am going somehow, someway with a yes on Alexander - although considering every part of the decision for both sides - I think it's no better than 60/40 that Alexander gets treated fairly and the Redskins are the choice he and his agents make.
Because I believe they will find a way to keep Alexander, and I believe ultimately they will not release Hall or Fletcher....some difficult choices remain. Kory Lichtensteiger is as mentally tough and hard of a grinder as there is. I want to believe he will stay, and I am not sure how other teams value him - but with the Redskins being so tight with cap space, it's hard right now for me to fathom that Lichtensteiger will get a fair offer from Washington. Now will he choose whatever the team offers, if he has nothing better? Sure. Will that be a likely scenario? Probably not.
The Redskins hold Lichtensteiger in high regard, but his knee injury was a major blow to a guy who was quickly becoming a more than reliable force at left guard in 2011. He was solid in 2012, but struggled every day and every week with knee soreness and some element of discomfort. I know the Redskins know that, and with Josh LeRibeus in the fold, it would make sense that they are ready to get cheaper and healthier at the left guard position.
It sucks to have to write that, because I think highly of Kory and his family - but the bottom line business might get in the way of a future partnership.
Polumbus, was on ESPN 980 on Wednesday, which you can listen to right here, http://bit.ly/WLpFZA - and I will have more on Polumbus later this week - but I believe he is a guy that the Redskins hold in higher regard than the fan base does, which is understandable. Washington does not have an answer right now on the roster, as Maurice Hurt and/or Tom Compton are far from ideal.
Will the recently released Eric Winston (by Kansas City) who was with Kyle Shanahan in Houston, be the answer to Washington's question mark? Only if he is willing to play for a veteran, team friendly deal after making a small fortune by his move to the Chiefs, and while he was with the Texans.
Washington won't be able to afford Andre Smith from the Bengals, Phil Loadholt from the Vikings or Gosder Cherilus from the Lions as some of the top free agent choices that are available - but with Winston now available - you have to think he would be the only thing that could prevent Polumbus from returning.
5. Is there a surprise cut or release that nobody is really focused on?
The Redskins have some tough choices to make and because they are extremely secretive, a lot of this is pure guesswork. They may have to non-tender a few restricted free agents (Chris Baker?, Nick Sundberg?, Darrel Young?) just to be able to squeeze under the cap by Tuesdays' deadline.
Could we add Rob Jackson to that mix? Or will the Redskins try and work out a long term deal with the young veteran outside linebacker who emerged after Brian Orakpo's season ending Week 2 injury last year? A source close to the situation indicated on Wednesday that the team had not yet approached Jackson about his situation, but both sides could be playing poker. If the Redskins chose not to tender Jackson or any other restricted free agent, they simply become unrestricted - but it would also help the team slip under the cap limit.
Speaking of Orakpo - and I have a hard time believing that I am typing this. Could the Redskins consider letting him go, while bringing Jackson and Alexander back? It might not make sense at first thought, but according to salary database Spotrac.com, Orakpo counts for about 5.10 million under the cap. If the Redskins were to part ways with the former first round pick, they would face a dead money hit of about 2.10 million - but a net cap savings of just about 3 million dollars. It doesn't seem like a whole lot, to give up on such a high draft pick - who at times has lived up to his potential.
However, this is why I don't think you can rule it out. Orakpo suffered his original injury on January 1, 2012 and then re-injured his pec muscle in August and then suffered another tear, in a different area in mid-September. Is there any guarantee that he will ever not be at increased risk for something like that happening again?? That's the obvious part.
What isn't so obvious is this. If the Redskins have a plan in mind moving forward - that they will not sign Orakpo to a large deal when he becomes a free agent for the first time at the end of 2013 - why not move on now (possibly via trade) & secure Jackson and possibly Alexander? Again, I admit this is an unconventional thought process but SOMEBODY we are not expecting has to be released.
If it's not Fletcher or Hall - who is it? Adam Carriker would be another alternative but the Redskins just re-invested in him last year as a key part of the defensive line. It's not going to be Stephen Bowen or Barry Cofield. It's obviously not Ryan Kerrigan. Josh Wilson?? Possibly, but that seems highly unlikely given the already tenuous state of the secondary.
There's nobody on offense that seems to be a likely and significant impact on cap savings other than Moss. I don't believe you can re-structure more than 2-3 guys at max per year, which is a lot in my eyes, but you could do this as Rich Tandler suggested http://bit.ly/WS9G1r OR you could manage your franchise for the now and with one eye on the future.
Just my thoughts - What do you think the Redskins should do as the real "March Madness" begins?
Chris Russell // SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com // www.twitter.com/russellmania980
Keith Burns is returning "home", with a high pressure new job -- but a chance to create his own legacy in the shadows of a high school that helped build a two-time Super Bowl Champion.
Burns, who attended T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, is the new Redskins Special Teams Coordinator, replacing Danny Smith who left for the Pittsburgh Steelers two weeks ago.
According to the Redskins press release , "From 2007-12, Burns worked with a unit that accumulated 10 combined punt and kickoff return touchdowns, tied for most in the AFC and second-most in the NFL. In that time period, the Broncos ranked fourth in the AFC and fifth in the NFL in punt return average (10.5 yards per return)."
Broncos return specialist Trindon Holliday had a kickoff and a punt return for a touchdown in the Denver playoff loss to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens in January. Holliday led the NFL with a 32.5-yard kick return average while ranking fifth in the NFL with a 10.8-yard punt return average, after the Broncos signed him off waivers on October 11th.
Certainly those numbers are impressive and Burns must be given some credit, He served as the assistant special teams coordinator in Denver, where he assisted Jeff Rodgers who John Fox brought with him from the Carolina Panthers.
According to the Broncos official website "Burns has worked with special teams units that have accounted for 10 return touchdowns and three blocked kicks. In his six-year Denver coaching tenure, the Broncos have posted the sixth-best punt return average in the NFL in addition to the most touchbacks on kickoffs in the league."
Redskins Head Coach Mike Shanahan knows Burns as both a player and as a coach. The 40-year old helped Shanahan win two Super Bowl titles, while playing for the Broncos & then Shanahan hired him as a coach.
“Keith was an excellent special teams player and a strong influence in the locker room for two Super Bowl championship teams,” Shanahan said. “I know our players will enjoy playing for him.”
One thing that stands out to me on the surface, based on some people I've spoke with is Burns ability to communicate the plan, because he played the game and specifically special teams at a high level, while also being quick to knock down some doors.
Via text, I asked Redskins special teams captain and free-agent to be, Lorenzo Alexander for his thoughts on the hiring of Burns on Monday Night. He quickly relayed a story of how the two met at the Pro Bowl in Hawaii - where Fox's coaching staff with Denver was coaching. Alexander says they spoke for a "couple of hours" and that Burns is a "good dude" who "knows his stuff."
Alexander also mentioned this nugget based on the conversation he had with Burns at the Pro Bowl - apparently Burns told the "One Man Gang" that it was Mike Shanahan who convinced Burns to get into coaching originally.
The Redskins have yet to make Mike Shanahan or the newly hired Burns available as of this writing. Washington also has yet to officially hire a wide receivers coach to replace the departed Ike Hilliard.
The Redskins are dealing with a somewhat minor shake-up to the coaching staff of Mike Shanahan, as the coaches prepare to go on vacation for a few weeks.
The Buffalo Bills made it official, what Washington Times and ESPN 980 Redskins Insider Rich Campbell wrote about earlier todaywtim.es/V80Ojl, that Redskins wide receivers coach Ike Hilliard is leaving after just one year and joining Doug Marrone's staff in the same position.
Hilliard worked under Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, in Tampa when Hilliard was still playing and Hackett was cutting his teeth in the coaching profession. It's not known what type of deal Hilliard left for, but it would seem odd that the Redskins would let him go for a similar position.
The Redskins benefited from a great group of blocking receivers that helped the NFL's # 1 run offense, and also featured four receivers -- Pierre Garcon (633), Leonard Hankerson (543), Josh Morgan (510) , Santana Moss (573) that each had over 500 yards receiving, and plenty of variety as Moss led in touchdowns (8), Morgan in catches (48) and Garcon in yards.
It's not known who will replace Hilliard on the Redskins coaching staff, but a couple of possibilities are current three-year offensive assistant, Richmond Flowers. Flowers has worked with the receivers group before, while also helping out the offense as a whole.
Current tight-ends coach Sean McVay could be switched over to the position group, as he worked as an assistant unit coach under Keenan McCardell in 2010, before replacing former tight-ends coach, Jon Embree. Speaking of which, Embree is currently out of a job, as he was fired after two seasons as the head coach at Colorado.
Efforts to contact the parties involved and potentially involved were not immediately successful, while all of the wide receivers that played under Hilliard for the 2012 season had not responded via text as of 4:15 PM.
The Redskins could also lose current defensive backs coach Raheem Morris, to the Cleveland Browns. He is interviewing for the Browns defensive coordinator position, under new head coach, Rob Chudzinski. The move was first reported by Rick Stroud in Tampa, who covered Morris for three years when he served as head coach of the Bucs.
The potential loss of Morris - would be a big one in my eyes. While the media was not afforded a lot of opportunity to get to know him really well, I can tell you from every dealing I had with Morris -- he is as genuine as they come. Just a fun, energetic guy to be around. I can tell many stories, but most encounters were behind the scenes and obviously not for publication. Trust me, he made a quality impression.
His absence would also be a big blow for the secondary, as he took over a year ago - and while the defensive backs struggled for the first ten games or so - it was clear they made a pretty dramatic improvement. Most notably, Jim Haslett saluted Morris for his management of the constant shuffle at the safety position for most of the season.
If the Redskins choose to stay in-house, they could promote assistant special teams and defensive backs coach, Richard Hightower to replace him. Hightower has been on staff since Mike Shanahan was hired, and is a part of the defensive and special teams game planning. Off the top of my head, I believe Hightower does the red zone part of the game plan for the upcoming opponent.
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
This is a list of things about the Skins' 2012 season that I want to remember when we get to free agency, draft, and beyond.
1. RG3's Spectacular Season. The whys and hows of his injury will dominate the offseason discussion but let's not let it totally overshadow the greatest rookie season in franchise history. His debut game in New Orleans was stunning. The final drive in Tampa, the 76-yard game-clinching run against Minnesota, and the go-ahead touchdown drive late in the 4th quarter in East Rutherford were breath-taking early-season moments. The 7-game season-ending win streak featured 8 touchdown passes in back to back wins over Philly and Dallas, a clutch go-ahead touchdown pass against the Giants in a huge Monday night win, and two clutch throws on the final drive against Baltimore on one leg. He threw 20 touchdowns against just 5 picks with a 102.4 QB rating.....as a rookie! Oh and by the way, he rushed for 815 yards while leading the league in yards per carry at 6.8. The list of eye-popping plays he made during the course of the season are too numerous to mention but how's the 88-yarder to Garcon in the opener, the 4th and 10 to Paulson the first Giant game, the 76-yard TD run against Minnesota, the 30-yard go-ahead TD pass to Moss in the first Giant game, and the TD pass to Moss just before the half on Thanksgiving in Dallas for starters.
2. Pierre Garcon's Impact on W's and L's. With Garcon the Redskins were 9-2, without him they were 1-5. He was a difference-maker for sure.
3. Alfred Morris. He was the perfect zone-stretch and zone-read runner. He set the franchise record with 1,613 yards with the perfect combination of vision and power. His 33 carries for 200 yards and 3 touchdowns in the NFC East title game against Dallas in the season-finale is one of the franchise's all-time great individual performances.
4. Santana Moss Wasn't Done. The 33-year old led the team with 8 touchdown catches and was third on the squad with 41 catches.
5. The Offense Was Top 5 and Could've Been Better. They finished 5th overall, 1st in rushing averaging 169.3 per game, 4th overall in scoring at 27.3 points per game, and it could've been better if their defense didn't rank towards the bottom. Imagine that offense with a defense that gave them the ball back quicker.
6. Offensive Innovation. Mike and Kyle Shanahan introduced the NFL to the "Pistol". The "Pistol" was nothing more than a formation that allowed them to more effectively run their traditional zone-stretch offense while also threatening defenses occasionally with the lethal "Read-Option". Once the Shanahans introduced RG3 as a run-threat out of the "Pistol", the offense became nearly unstoppable. The most overrated talk during the season was how many times RG3 ran from the "Pistol" while underrated was what the threat of him running did to defenses. Separating truth from fiction, the "Read-Option" was not only the most effective passing offense the Redskins ran, it was the safest and cleanest pocket for RG3. He barely got hit on throws on the "Read-Option" and his primary receiver was almost always open. By midseason, San Francisco and Seattle were among the teams copying what the Redskins were doing.
7. Turnover Margin. The Skins ranked 3rd in the league at +17 and led the league with just 14 giveaways. A big reason for their 7-game season-ending win streak was 15 takeaways and a plus-10 margin.
8. Defense Got Better. 28th overall isn't good and leaves a ton of room for improvement but after the bye at 3-6, a defense that couldn't stop anybody started to and a team that couldn't generate any pass rush got some. Jim Haslett deserves a lot of credit for figuring out how to take a defense decimated by injuries and suspension early (see Carriker, Orakpo, Merriweather, Jackson) and turning into a competitive group by the final month of the season.
9. Penalties' Good and Bad. The Redskins were penalized an average of 7 times a game (5th most in the league) but just 2.7 times per game in their last 3 games (best in the league).
10. Danny Smith's Comeback. From two blocked punts in the first two games to a very good rest of the year. Fans wanted him fired early but his punt coverage team finished 8th while his kickoff coverage team finished 12th. Brandon Banks was ineffective but the move to Richard Crawford on punt returns worked.
11. Kai Forbath. Nobody can explain the move to Cundiff at the end of the preseason but the final outcome was a good one after Cundiff predictably failed. Forbath set an NFL record by making 17 straight field goals to start his career....he finished 17-18, missing his final attempt of the season into the wind and on the sand at Fed Ex.
12. Fed Ex Turf. A total disaster late in the season and a total embarrassment in the playoff loss to Seattle.
13. Biggest Offseason Needs. Safeties, corners, and another playmaker on offense are my top 3 priorities. Big decisions regarding Fred Davis and Brian Orakpo.
Last week this time it was grins, giggles, and excitement about an amazing run to an NFC East Championship. RG3 was getting better, a home playoff game was underway, and Mike Shanahan had turned 2.5 years of criticism into a probable contract extension. Today, the Redskins are out, so is their prized quarterback, and Shanahan's seat is hotter than ever. What more proof do you need that the NFL is truly a week-to-week league.
My view on whether he should or shouldn't have is that either decision wasn't easy for the coach at the time. It's easy now, it wasn't then. From what we know, nobody else on that sideline tried to convince him his quarterback couldn’t go. Not one doctor nor trainer screamed to get him out. None of RG3's teammates believed it was necessary to protect their captain. London Fletcher, the most mature and senior of team leaders said he thought RG3 would make a play. RG3 himself never indicated to anyone with authority that he was in trouble. Many believe that a blind man could see how hurt RG3 was and how much risk Shanahan was taking by leaving him in there but those closest to it weren't as convinced.
There are so many reasons why those closest to the situation didn’t see it the way many of you did but the most obvious is this. In their eyes, he still looked capable of performing well enough to win. Remember, he played hurt against Philly and Dallas and played well. While he clearly looked worse against Seattle, how much worse? The talk this week of him playing as if he were a one-legged amputee is hyperbole. He didn’t look great but he wasn’t incapacitated as some talked themselves into believing.
He clearly tweaked his knee immediately before his 2nd touchdown pass in the first quarter. For the remainder of the first half, he took just six snaps in total. Six! And which of those six was obvious proof of his lameness? None is the answer. He didn't limp or wince noticeably after any of them. Did he throw a pick on a deep shot to Pierre Garcon? Yes. Was the ball so badly underthrown that it looked like a 12-year old threw it? I don’t think so. After that, RG3 took a mere 18 total snaps the rest of the game. There were indications of stress for sure but a one-legged amputee….exaggeration.
The most obvious vision of trouble was his 9.5 yard hop on the read-option play early in the 4th quarter. This was the play that convinced most of you that he couldn’t do it and more importantly, was at great risk if he stayed in the game. Two things about that play. First, his touchdown run against Dallas a week earlier and his first run against Philadelphia two weeks earlier were different-looking but not ridiculously different. Second, the play actually happened on the other sideline where it’s possible, Shanahan didn’t see RG3’s struggle to run while pulling that right knee with him. Now, if he saw it and feared from it, how could the decision to pull him from a game in which they led 14-13 with 12:45 left facing 2nd and short be easy? It may have been the right call, but is it that much of a reach to consider the decision was a tough one? I know, RG3 is "the franchise" and it was Shanahan's job to protect "the franchise" but that wasn't his only responsibility that day. He was responsible for giving 53 players and 15+ coaches/employees his best effort in order to win the most important game of the year. At that time, no matter how bad RG3 may have been hurting, he had just gone 9.5 yards to start one of the most important drives of the game. Taking him out at that point seemed obvious to some. Not to him and not to those on his sideline that thought after that 9.5 yard hobble, that's our leader. Hurt or not, he's going to lead us to victory.
For a week now, Shanahan’s critics have wanted more than just their opportunity to vent. They have demanded explanation, investigation, and in some cases, Shanahan’s head. Leaving it alone as simply a football coach making a football decision that went wrong isn’t enough. Some believe that this was selfishly motivated, irresponsible, and negligent. The NFLPA considered investigating but realized that opening an investigation about a football player playing hurt was Pandora’s Box times 10 and smartly ditched the idea.
A week after being united, Redskin fans are divided. Should he or shouldn’t he will be the question of the offseason and it might last until we know for sure that RG3 is the RG3 we saw before the Baltimore game. It might get old talking about it but those that think Shanahan “should have” are finding it hard to accept discussion about anything else. After all, if we drop it and move on, we’d have to talk about the coach that guided this team to their most successful season in 13 years. That’s a hard swallow for those that are convinced he ruined their quarterback. Almost as hard as the decision a certain football coach faced a week ago.
For all of the criticism that Redskins Head Coach and Executive VP Mike Shanahan has endured during and since Sunday’s NFC Wild-Card loss to the Seattle Seahawksand for his handling of Robert Griffin III , one thing is clear.
This controversy is never going away, and this pretty much ensures that the Shanahan’s will be under even more scrutiny than they already were, which is not going to be fun for the daily Redskins media corps to deal with.
As anybody who has listened to me since halftime on Sunday night on ESPN 980 and the Washington Redskins Radio Network knows, I have been critical of Mike Shanahan, Kyle Shanahan, and everybody associated with the decision or perhaps we should call it the “non-decision before the incision.”
It does no good to keep bashing, because the damage is done. Surgery was performed Wednesday, as we detailed here and now the Redskins future is on the clock. AGAIN.
Before we move forward, I do think it is important to examine if the criticism was even valid or not. There were two components. The first issue was the medical side.The second issue was talent evaluation, and the Redskins refusal to remove a clearly hobbled Griffin III from the game to prevent further injury and to not hurt the team any further.
The latter was my issue. As for the medicals, we’ve already seen that the Redskins have a chaotic, unorganized environment which directly involves (or doesn’t?) Dr. James Andrews, who the team flies to every game – and secures his game day services exclusively.
I don’t necessarily blame Mike Shanahan for any of that mess, although as essentially the figure head of the Redskins organization, it is safe to say that the team needs to strongly examine that element.
I had a much harder time with Mike and Kyle Shanahan not-seeing what everybody in the press box could immediately see and what America was able to see via the replays and close-ups by FOX.
I wanted to reach out to somebody who knew a lot more than I do, about quarterback mechanics. I wanted that person to have a level of expertise, and independence that they would be willing to speak honestly.
That man? Terry Shea (www.coachshea.com) .Robert Griffin III’s quarterbacks coach from the time he left Baylor University until just before the phenom was drafted by the Washington Redskins in late April.
Terry Shea is not only a quarterbacks guru, but somebody who also spent time on the sidelines coaching in many NFL games. He knows the environment, and how crazy it can be.
Mike Shanahan often says he has the "worst seat in the house" on the sidelines. Hard to fathom, but I understand that the vision is different. So does Shea.
Shea, served as quarterbacks coach for the Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins and St. Louis Rams, while also landing the offensive coordinator position with the Chicago Bears at one point. He knows the sidelines of an NFL game, as much as he knows the position.
Shea has also worked extensively with Matthew Stafford, Sam Bradford, Blaine Gabbert and currently has Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson, USC’s Matt Barkley & Kansas State's Collin Klein under his tutelage.
Shea had not broken down any of Robert Griffin III’s film from his rookie season, but you know what a quarterback looks like, when you see one. He watched parts of the Seattle playoff game, and said the one big thing he noticed was that most of the throws Griffin made were “almost all with his arm.”
On the touchdown throw (Logan Paulsen), following the first re-aggravation of the right knee, Shea said “I didn’t see the mechanics of his right leg come through. A tender knee was very apparent.”
Shea, is not about evaluating system and fit. That’s not what he works on. He works on motion and mechanics and ways to develop and best utilize the natural talent.
He told ESPN 980 that if Griffin III had a ‘locked knee’ that it would absolutely affect his accuracy, and it “might have impaired some of his ability to push off (the plant leg),” which I think anybody watching the game was clearly able to notice.
Shea told me via phone on Thursday morning that Griffin III’s left leg or his lead leg is more important than his right, or back leg, saying “If you had to injure one or the other, the right knee not as important as the left. If u had to choose one of the two legs (to get injured), the least damaging would be the back leg.”
I thought that was an interesting point, but maybe that is my pitching and baseball side of me coming into my thought process. I was under the assumption that the plant leg was more important than your forward leg. It’s not, in Shea’s opinion and I’ll trust his expertise.
Here’s the other thing that I would have had no idea of, and this is where Shea basically said that the media’s criticism of Mike Shanahan was unwarranted.
Shea told ESPN 980, that while he could see on TV and with close-up HD replays that Griffin III was clearly not throwing the way you normally would, “You just can’t see it on the sideline as a coach. You can see that on tape. You really can’t see the mechanics on the ground level.”
Shea continued, “I would have seen the TD catch, and I would have thought Wow!”
I asked Shea – what about Kyle Shanahan and Redskins QB coach, Matt LaFleur and how they did not see enough in Griffin’s mechanics to notice the drop-off.
“Your eyes are focused on seeing what the quarterback sees. You don’t watch his mechanics. I would say the (Redskins) coaches would not have any opportunity.”
I still found it hard to believe that with all of the technology (HD video boards) and coaches, that somebody could miss what was fairly obvious to every one watching the game, and Shea countered “unlessyou have magic eyes and not many of us do, it’s not realistic.”
He kept going back to the touchdown throw (he did not see the interception) and said “You can see where Robert didn’t get his back leg through and over, he made it all with his arm on TV,” but he hammered home his belief that it would have been very difficult if not impossible for Mike Shanahan to see that from the ground.
Some good news for Griffin III’s future, according to Shea who said it was great that Griffin had the surgery so quick, “his body type is built to eliminate swelling, than a guy who has a bigger frame.”
You can buy a copy of Shea’s fantastic book “Eyes Up” right here.
Chris Russell // SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com // www.twitter.com/russellmania980
The Washington Redskins now face a dilemma that might be compared to the national debt or the gun control debate. Alright, maybe not that serious or hopeless but you get the point.
You have the future of the franchise on an operating table for the 2nd time in three plus years, with a ‘direct repair’ tohis LCL and a ‘re-do’ on his previous ACL reconstruction from 2009.
How do you move on from here? The answer is not very easy. The Redskins and Dr. James Andrews seem optimistic. Robert Griffin II (RG 3’s Dad) made comments to USA TODAY that would suggest the damage to the ACL wasn’t that bad.
The‘re-do’ as the official statement released by Dr. Andrews and the Redskins called it would suggest that a new grafting procedure was not done, and therefore the recovery process should be easier.
The ‘direct repair’ to the LCL would suggest to me that a graft was not utilized, and therefore the original components of the LCL are still intact. Again, theoretically this should make the recovery time shorter.
Now for a splash of bad news (I think). Washington Times & ESPN 980 Redskins Insider Rich Campbell tweeted the following on Wednesday night “For those sweating the ambiguity of James Andrews’ statement, a source confirms RG3 had his reconstructed ACL fully reconstructed again.”
Campbell also added via tweet (@Rich_Campbell) “Dr. James Andrews used a patellar tendon graft from RG3’s left (healthy) knee in Wednesday’s ACL revision surgery, a source confirms.”
Mike Shanahan has not spoke since Monday, so we await his words. ESPN 980 reached out via text to Shanahan on Tuesday night, and he has not responded. ESPN 980 also reached out and made contact with Dr. James Andrews on Tuesday and Wednesday, and he said that he was not authorized to speak anymore about the situation, by order of the Redskins.
OK, so where does that leave us? With a gigantic question mark is one spot it leaves us. Who knows when Robert Griffin III will be on the field for practice, let alone an actual game.
I would think it is very optimistic for him to be ready for the season opener which would be right around September 8-10, 2013.
The Redskins and Dr. Andrews, I believe did a major disservice to Griffin III and some unrealistic expectations and hopes by issuing a statement that in part read,“We expect a full recovery and it is everybody's hope and belief that due to Robert's high motivation, he will be ready for the 2013 season.”
If Griffin III can not play or practice at all in training camp or in the four-game preseason, then it would be beyond obvious – he wouldn’t start in the regular season opener.
I would think a more realistic target and cautious time frame would be to have Griffin III on the preseason physically unable to perform list (PUP), and then likely have to transfer him (if he doesn’t practice even once) to the regular season PUP list, which would mean he would have to miss and not practice for the first six weeks of the regular season.
At that point, the Redskins would then have an opportunity to engage in a three-week window in which Griffin could practice and be activated, similar to the Jammal Brown situation.
Obviously the Redskins hope it would work out better than it did for Brown, but the point is still the same. As I wrote about on Monday, rehabilitation and recovery from any injury can vary and be extremely complicated.
There are many examples and possible reasons for setbacks, but possible arthritis, swelling, fluid and pain are all amongst them.
In the column linked above from Keim and Dr. Lehman – Keim specifically asks Lehman about possible long-term side effects like arthritis and if he would be worried or not?. “No, I would be concerned. You still have the same issues in play. … Virtually everybody the clock starts ticking and there are degenerative changes in the joint so every time you re-injure that joint you re-up that a little bit and the breakdown in joint damage gets worse so you still have similar issues.”
Redskins offensive lineman Kory Lichtensteiger had massive reconstruction surgery on his ACL and MCL on October 25th, 2011. The surgery was performed by Redskins team doctor, Dr. Christopher Annunziata.
However, Lichtensteiger came back for the start of camp late last July and two days into practice was out, a setback that required arthroscopic surgery to clean out what the team called “loose particles” in the knee.
In talking to Lichtensteiger on a weekly basis throughout the season, he would admit that he was in constant discomfort, and at times pain – a process that he once joked about needing until Saturday night after a game on Sunday six days before, to have his body feel better.
Defensive end Jarvis Jenkins tore his ACL in mid-August, 2011 and had surgery in early September of 2011 to repair just his ACL (no other ligaments). Jenkins was cleared to return to off-season workouts in April 2012, and displayed the type of potential the Redskins thought they had him as the season wore on. He played in all 16 games.
It is important to note that Jenkins did not have any previous history, and only had his ACL repaired.
Everybody (including Mike Shanahan) is bringing up the name Adrian Peterson, who tore his ACL/MCL and damaged cartilage on December 24, 2011 at FedEx Field. Peterson went on to have a fantastic, record setting campaign and did not miss a regular season game.
No doubt, modern medicine and treatment is in Griffin III’s favor. Dr. Andrews performed Peterson’s surgery as well on December 30th, and Peterson (27) is older than Griffin III. Peterson, according to USA Today had his torn ACL ‘replaced by a graft from the patellar tendon of his kneecap, anchored on either end by screws.’
To read more on Peterson’s surgery and recovery, this is an excellent piece via Bleacher Report bit.ly/Vj0gZW
However, that was Peterson’s FIRST knee surgery (he had multiple injuries at Oklahoma, collar bone, shoulder, high ankle sprain) and it was to repair the ACL/MCL and not the ACL/LCL which many orthopedic surgeons, including Dr. Michael Kaplan of ESPN have suggested that is a much more difficult recovery.
Not to mention that Griffin is again, recovering from his 2nd operation. Common sense and medical analysts all agree that it could be a much more difficult road for Griffin III.
Common sense tells me a lot of things, and while I don’t pretend to know everything – it’s hard to fathom seeing Griffin III on opening day. If I am wrong, I will be more than glad while also being very concerned for his long-term well being.
Chris Russell // SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com // www.twitter.com/russellmania980