Here we go again. We've been here, done this before.
There were Norv Turner's final few hours in December of 2000 which included the absurdity of Eddie Murray attempting a field goal from a distance he told the coach he couldn't make in a 9-7 loss to the Giants. Hours later, Norv was fired and Terry Robiske (aka Robinski according to Deion) took over with a little help from Pepper Rogers.
The next year ended with no "gleam men". Marty Schottenheimer had changed the entire culture of the organization in less than a year but despite an 8-3 finish with Tony Banks and Kent Graham at quarterback, he knew his final hours in a monsoon at Fed Ex against the Cardinals were numbered. His team won that game but he was fired the next day because at least one person in the ownership group didn't like him. Like that should’ve mattered. His 2001 team was as well-coached as any Skins' team in the last 20 years and he was on the verge of turning the Skins into winners again.
Then you had the 2003 snap shot of Steve Spurrier bundled up in the sleet and rain at Fed Ex Field during a late-season 27-0 loss to Dallas. He looked so unhappy and cold. Coaching any team north of Myrtle Beach was never going to be an option for him again even though he had two years left on his contract...."5 and 11, not too good."
The debacle of Jim Zorn and "swinging gate" against the Giants on a Monday night in 2009 with a former Bingo Caller in the booth calling plays was pure comedy.
And then there was today. A 2-time Super Bowl-winning coach seemingly positioning himself to get out of town with a planted story about wanting to leave a year ago because of the quarterback's relationship with the owner. Whether true or not and it's hard to believe that it is true doesn't really matter. He's gone. Add the embarrassment of a borderline unprofessional performance from his team on a snowy Fed Ex Field in front of hearty few; this day fits perfectly with those mentioned above.
This organization has been a freak show for a while now. Sure there have been a few moments here and there. Joe Gibbs 2.0 included two thrilling late-season runs to the playoffs. Last year's first division title since 1999 felt like an organization that had reached a good place. I was convinced the franchise had finally found solid ground. Good culture, franchise QB, division champs....it's still hard to fathom that a franchise could fall apart so quickly in less than 12 months. I mean seriously. How the hell did we get from division title and the feel-good of the win over Dallas to where we are now in less than a year? Even the Shanahai haters didn't predict this.
On another note, I don’t believe that Mike Shanahan had made up his mind that he was going to leave before the playoff game against Seattle. That story makes no sense. His personal popularity among the fans had just reached its highest point. It's ridiculous if he thinks anyone would believe that he had decided to quit after beating Dallas to win the division. There is a perfectly reasonable motive for the story if it came from the coach. He wants the "not my fault" narrative to reign. But that's not fair. He was given a lot of autonomy to do the job and if he got persuaded to do things like play a quarterback that wasn't ready or trade for Donovan McNabb, that's on him.
I certainly buy that at some point since that playoff game against Seattle he’s thought about leaving. For eight months he had to deal with a marketing campaign that pushed for his starting quarterback to come back earlier than he should have. He had to deal public and private suggestions from the QB’s family about his offense and his son’s play calling. Then he was pressured and perhaps even manipulated into playing Griffin in the opener against his better judgment. But he had the power to stop all that and didn't.
He wasn't leaving last January. But it's obvious now that this season and the future of this coaching staff was compromised the second Griffin took the field unready to play in the opener against Philadelphia. And that decision and everything that came after it lays at the feet of the head coach. He's a good coach and he'll coach somewhere else, maybe even next year, but it certainly appears to be over here.
One of the worst days in franchise history. The good, bad, and more from the game.
1. The fans that showed up at the game. On one of the worst weather days in team history, props to the diehards that showed up.
1. Overall effort. A no-show by the team.
2. Coaching. I disagree that the team wasn't ready in recent weeks but today, they weren't ready and that's on the head coach. Additionally, some of the worst Sp Teams coaching decisions you'll ever see. To continue to punt the ball to Dexter McCluster was outrageous.
3. Tackling. Laughable.
4. Running game. Non-existant.
5. Quarterbacks. Both were bad.
1. Franchise is at rock-bottom again. This week should be interesting to say the least. Shanahan, Snyder, who starts at QB....total S-show.
A good start, bad finish. The good, bad, and more.
1. Brian Orakpo. As active as he's been this year as a run-stopper and pass rusher.
2. Barry Cofield. He's their only legit defensive linemen although Chris Baker is growing on me.
3. Reed Doughty. Despite getting hurt, when he was in there he was what he always seems to be....a solid run-stopping safety and a very good special teamer.
4. Santana Moss as a punt returner. He catches what he's supposed to catch and when he doesn't fair-catch it, he's decisive as a runner. So much better than Thompson, Morgan, and Williams that it just angers me that they didn't put him back there in mid-September.
1. Offense after taking 14-zip lead. After taking a 14-nothing lead early in the 2nd quarter, the Redskins had 9 drives the rest of the game with the following results--184 total yards, 4 dropped passes, 4 penalties, 5 sacks, one fumble, 3 points. As for why the offense fell apart, it's not because Alfred Morris didn't get enough carries. He had 9 carries in the first half for 11 yards. How much more did you want him to get the ball? To whom was it obvious that he was on the verge of a monster 2nd half? Until they proved that they could make plays down-field in the passing game, their conventional inside-zone/outside zone run-game was going to be a tough go. The offense's lack of productivity over the final 3 quarters had more to do with drops, penalties, sacks, and lack of passing game execution.
2. Game-changing Special Teams gaffe. The Redskins had a 17-14 lead with a dominant field position advantage when Kyle Nelson rolled the snap back to Rocca and Rocca had his punt blocked. The net yardage with a holding penalty added on was 8 yards. Giants started at the Skins 46 instead of deep in their own territory and they took the lead on that drive. Not that it was game-over but it was a game-changer for sure.
3. Drops and penalties. As mentioned above, one of the reasons the offense didn't produce more in the final 3 quarters. Garcon, Davis, and Paulson all had at least one. Davis' drop on the final drive was huge. It would've given the Skins a chance late.
4. The field. Too slippery. Cost the Skins a first-down in the 2nd quarter when Morris slipped after a catch and came up a yard short. Next play, Royster stopped on 3rd and 1.
5. Aldrick Robinson. His effort and ball skills on the one deep ball weren’t very good. He also appeared to have had a big opportunity on a reverse but got less than he should've.
1. Collinsworth is one of my favorites but he went overboard with his praise of everything Redskins-related. He said the following about Mike Shanahan and staff....."if they stick with this group, they'll win the division next year".
2. Why did RG3 run rather than throw a "Hail-Mary" on the final play of the first half?
3. Griffin went to his check-down receiver several times, especially in the first half. It seemed to be an emphasis for him. It almost looked like the coaches made it a point to let him know it was okay if that's where he ended up. It worked for the most part. He was an impressive 16-17 in the first half for 149 yards.
4. The refs blew it on the "1st-down" indication on the Skins' final drive. Bottom line, even if Triplett himself indicated third-down, other officials including at least one that authorized the chains to be moved were handling the result of the play differently. There was crew confusion so he should've stopped the clock and measured the 2nd-down spot. That was the appropriate course of action. They obviously blew it and while it DID cost them a chance to continue their final drive, I've seen enough in recent weeks to believe that their chances of tying the game even if they got the correct call were less than 50-50. We were probably headed for another Minnesota/Philly ending.
1. Jordan Reed and Darrell Young play. Reed is the more important of the two but both are important to an offense that has gone missing the last two weeks. Reed is a difference-maker and gets open for a quarterback who is always looking for him. Not having him for most of the day in Philly and the entire night against the Niners impacted offensive productivity. Young is so much better than Paul as a blocker it's not even worth discussing. Without him, the run game will suffer.
2. Griffin is established as a legit run threat. If it's more important to develop him as a more comfortable pocket passer than to win the game than go for it. But they won't win if he's not a legit run-threat both out of the Pistol in the read-option game and as a drop-back passer.
3. the defense plays at least as effectively as they did vs the Niners. The defense didn't play that well on Monday night despite popular opinion. Yes, it stopped the run very effectively but no, it didn't stop anything else. It allowed 5 scores on 9 real drives. That's not good under any definition of good defense. However, for THIS defense, it wasn't as horrific as other games so it looked great by comparison. If the D can stop the run like they did Monday night, it at least forces an inconsistent Giant offense to be one-dimensional.
Neither team is very good....I'll take the home team. Skins 28-25.
1. Run defense. One of the best run-stopping games of the year for the defense. Niners never got anything going on the ground. Then again, they didn't have to with the success they had throwing the ball. With that said, only allowing the opposition to score on 5 of its 11 drives is reason to celebrate one of the better defensive games of the season.
2. Santana Moss as a punt returner. Major improvement. His 13-yard return was the most impressive punt return of the year (not sarcasm) and the ball never hit the ground except when it hit in the end zone. A bad decision not to have him back there earlier in the season.
1. The offense. A bad night all-around for the offense. It started with sub-par quarterback play, got brought down even further by zero pass protection, mix in a few drops including Morgan's drop after the team got a short field off a turnover, throw in what looked like a bad route by either Paulson or Garcon when they were both in the same area on a play that may have been a touchdown, add a missed potential touchdown when Aldrick Robinson slowed down on a deep ball where he had a step on his defender and in summary....it was a pitiful night for the offense.
2. O-line. The 49er defense is really good but the O-line didn't put up much of a fight. Polumbus was a turnstile and Trent Williams was abused on a few occasions.
3. Robert Griffin III. 2nd straight rough performance. He played with no confidence and made no plays of note. The interception was brutally bad. He threw poorly on several other occasions. Some of his completions were bad throws. He didn't feel pressure well. He held the ball too long. It also looked like he didn't get a play call correct that led to an unnecessary timeout which hurt the team's chances to score a touchdown at the end of the half (may be wrong on that but Shanahan seemed angry with Griffin). With that said, Aldrick Robinson didn't do him any favors when he slowed down on a deep ball that may have been a touchdown.
4. Josh Wilson & pass defense. Colin Kapernick hadn't thrown well for 2 months but got healthy tonight. The Skins did a very nice job of making the 49er offense one-dimensional by stopping the run but they weren't good enough to stop the Niner air attack. Kapernick had his highest QB rating of the season. The 49ers hadn't had a pass play over 17 yards in 3 games; they had 5 tonight, 3 of them were for 30+ yards. Wilson seemed to be the target for the Niners and he didn't disappoint. Receivers were wide open in his area all night long.
5. Special Teams. Nothing on kickoff returns. Kickoff and punt coverage were lousy. Kickoffs were too short.
6. End of first-half use of timeouts. The use of timeouts killed their touchdown chances. They did a nice job however getting the field goal team on the field to get the 3 pts before the end of half. Garcon had the first-down with forward progress that would've allowed a spike to stop the clock and a few shots at the end zone.
1. Perry Riley had a huge Pick 6 opportunity but didn't pull it in.
2. The Vernon Davis fumble gave the Skins starting field position in opponents' territory for just the 2nd time in 7 games. It wasn't deep in SF territory but just barely at their 49.
3. RG3 got hit close to late on a couple of plays including the INT play but didn't get calls other QBs have been getting all year.
4. The new field was slippery.
5. They should go to the "turbo"/hurry-up more often.
6. Merriweather still leads with helmet on tackles.
7. Kyle called a 3rd and 3 RO run and a 4th and long-1 run. Neither worked so for all of those who say run it on 3rd and 3 and 4th and 1, he did. You happy now?
8. Skins real chance came after the Davis fumble early in the 3rd quarter. Offense didn't deliver. Morgan's drop killed the drive.
9. I wonder if Shanahan would've made a QB change if the Skins didn't get those two drives at the end of the first half.
1. they stop the run. Colin Kapernick has struggled as a passer for most of the season in part because he doesn't have many healthy weapons. The Niners can really run the ball but stopping the run has been the one thing defensively that the Skins aren't awful at. If they can make San Francisco one-dimensional and force Kapernick to beat them with his arm, they have a chance to limit points-against.
2. they improve starting field position. The Skins' starting field position is historically bad. The offense has just ONCE IN THEIR LAST 6 GAMES started a drive in the opponents' territory. That's hard to do and it speaks to poor Sp Teams in particular. Their average starting field position of their own 22.8 yard line is the worst in the NFL in 30 years. You could legitimately argue that starting field position has had the biggest impact on their overall W-L record. It's hard for the offense if every time they get the ball they have to go 78+ yards to score. Their Special Teams and Defense must keep field position competitive. The Skins can't get themselves into a situation where they need 50-60 yards just to get into FG range.
3. the offense is productive in the Red Zone. The offense needs to score when it gets into the Red Zone. Their last 3 trips into the Red Zone have gone a) 4th down miss in Minnesota, b) fumble in 1st quarter in Philly, and c) interception to end game in Philly. The Skins' offense is #5 in total yards, #1 in rushing, #1 in yards per carry, #4 on 3rd-downs. They've been very good at moving the football between their own 1 and the other team's 20. They need to finish when they get close.
The discussion in recent weeks has become whether or not Dan Snyder will tolerate a bad ending to an already poor season. There's a chance we're looking at it the wrong way.
While many believe that Snyder may be faced with a tough decision about his head coach at the end of this year, Shanahan could surprise us and make the decision himself. I could be way off but something tells me that Shanahan isn't in love with his situation here.
First and perhaps least importantly, he's never faced the public and media criticism he's faced here over the last 3+ years. Denver was in love with Shanahan for most of his tenure thanks to two Super Bowls. Even in his final few years when he heard skepticism, it was delivered in faint Rocky Mountain tones. He's a Midwest guy softened by 14 years of Colorado's beauty. DC may not be Philly, Boston, or New York but when it comes to its professional football team, it's got east coast passion and when appropriate, northeast rage. Shanahan is absolutely sure he knows more than you and for a while was humored when he was questioned by you. But the humor of those questions is long gone. The 24-34 record gives weight to the questions. He's not used to it and my guess is he's getting sick of it.
Secondly, while Shanahan the competitor might be willing to take the hits until he gets this thing right, he probably doesn't like watching his son get battered around. Kyle Shanahan had success as an offensive coordinator in this league without Dad standing next to him but nobody here seems to care. He's the coach's son and the view from the beginning on Kyle has been skeptical. Despite four top 10 offenses in his six seasons as a coordinator, Kyle is thought by many here in Washington to be someone who was gifted the job. Shanahan and son know they are a capable offensive duo and may decide that Tampa, Miami, or Dallas would be more appreciative.
More importantly than the heat he and his son are taking, Mike Shanahan's relationships with his boss and star quarterback will likely determine his future in Washington. The word is that Snyder and Allen felt great about Shanahan and the football operation before the season began. There was recognition that the salary cap penalties of the last two years could impact this year's record if there were a rash of injuries but there was confidence that a healthy team could compete for another division title.
Have they been healthy? If you discount their star quarterback's inconsistent play due to offseason knee surgery then yes. But that's a huge discount. It's not a reach to think that the team would've been better off losing 5 front-line starters in exchange for a healthy RG3 from the start. How Snyder is handling the nuance of their 3-7 is either straining or strengthening the relationship with his head coach. That's a key question that nobody really has an answer for right now but it's probably the second-most important factor in how Shanahan views the job moving forward.
Then there's the most important factor....his relationship with Griffin. Is there a rift or not? And if there is, can it be repaired? Bottom line, Griffin isn't going anywhere and Shanahan knows it. Is he willing to stay if the relationship is irreparable or if it can be fixed, is it worth it to him? If he's come to the conclusion that Griffin is too diva for him then I can't imagine the thought of coaching him is as attractive as we once thought.
Despite what many think, Mike Shanahan and his son are employable if it doesn't work out for them here. Sure $7 million is a ton of money to leave on the table but there will be multiple openings at the end of the season and if Mike is available, he'll get one of them for at least $5 million. Knowing that he can get paid somewhere else in combination with everything mentioned above may lead to a surprise end-of-year decision. A decision he makes all by himself.
A bad loss that for all intents and purposes ends the competitive portion of this year's schedule. The good, bad, and more.
1. The comeback. The defense gave them a chance by stopping Philly on their final 5 drives and the offense made a few plays. I respect the fight till the end but the way they played the first 3 quarters made it too big of a hill to climb.
2. Alfred Morris. He's the best draft choice of the Shanahan/Allen era.
1. The final play. A bad play with the game on the line. He said that he didn't want to take a sack on that play with no timeouts left and I get that but the play he made was both a bad decision and badly executed.
2. RG3. It started with a throw that was 20 yards off the mark to a wide-open Logan Paulson on the opening drive and it didn't get much better from there until the 4th quarter. That miss to Paulson was one of the worst throws you'll see from an NFL quarterback and it killed a potential tone-setting opening drive. Overall, he threw high, he threw short, and he had several balls batted down at the line of scrimmage. After the 3rd and 1 incomplete pass to Paulson early in the 4th quarter that was badly underthrown I thought he should be benched for performance. One more, Aldrick Robinson was open on that 1st down throw to the end zone on that final drive.
3. The offensive play calling. It's LOL funny to hear people complain today about the play calling in the first half saying there was "no balance" when the same people have been begging for exactly that, "no balance". Today however, those complaints were valid. Kyle seemed intent on proving to a certain part of this fan base and media group that you can't run the ball over and over again and win. If that was his point, he proved it. 28 runs and 7 throws in the first half would've been fine if they had scored but it's too hard to score up here as Coach Joe would say without making plays in the passing game. Yes, there were some early opportunities with the miss to Paulson and a drop by Moss but there should've been more play action throws on early downs. After the first-drive miss to Paulson on a first-down play action throw, the Redskins ran the ball on 10 of their next 12 first downs in the first half.
4. Defense until late 3rd and 4th quarters. It was as bad as it's been in the first half and the first drive of the 3rd quarter. Players wide open, screens were a problem, and tackling was an issue even though most teams in the league have a challenge tackling McCoy.
5. Special Teams. Nick Williams' decision-making wasn't any better than Josh Morgan's. He cost them 15 yards of field position on the Eagles' last punt. He also fumbled another but was able to recover it.
6. Injuries. No Jordan Reed hurt a ton more than no Leonard Hankerson but not having both no doubt limited the offense.
7. Turnovers. The first one was clearly a result of a confused/botched pass protection with Jordan Reed but Robert should've called timeout or thrown the ball away. The last INT....head scratcher.
1. RG3's height/stature in the pocket is a problem. Teams are batting a ton of balls. This is just another reason the drop-back game doesn't work for Skins.
2. McCoy on Kerrigan is a mismatch. Skins need a ton more speed on defense.
3. Santana Moss had the big 3rd and 25 catch but his early drop was costly.
4. Interesting to hear Robert say that the Eagles schemed them up well and that they seemed to know what was coming....shot at Kyle?? He also said that they've been very good on offense the last few games but today nothing seemed to work.
5. Shanahan's challenge of the spot on the Eagle 3rd down late in the game was obvious.
1. they score 35 or more points. The Skins are allowing nearly 34 a game in their last 5 so simple math says they need 35 to win. Treating each offensive drive as if they must score is the mindset required so being very aggressive should be the approach. Specifically, mixing in some of their hurry-up "turbo" offense might help. I hope they consider going for it on 4th and short with decent field position. Any more than 3 punts in this game is a recipe for a loss.
2. the defense gives them something. The Skins' D has given up points on 8 of its last 10 drives including 6 of 8 against the Vikings. Generating at least an occasional pass rush would be nice. Nick Foles has been red hot so getting him out of rhythm with a legit pass rush seems like a must-have. Bottom line, if they can get Philly off the field on half of their drives....say 5 of 10, then that's a good day for this defense and it should give them a chance to win.
3. they make no more than 2 big mistakes. It seems like a given that this team will make an error or 4 on Sp Teams, a penalty or 6 when you least need it, or a mixed up coverage that matches Perry Riley against a wide receiver. To have a chance in Philly, any more than 2 of these types of mistakes will doom them.
This game is a pretty much must-win and in similar spots this year at Oakland and at home against Chicago and San Diego, they've played well.
A painful loss against a team that was hurting, down several starters, and lost its starting quarterback during the game. The good, bad, and more.
1. 1st-half offense. Amazing first half which included 24 points on 4 drives, 288 yards, 18 first downs, 7-8 on 3rd down, and 20:40 of time of possession. Robert went 16-21 for 179 yards and 3 touchdowns. He completed 6 of 7 for first downs on third down. Morris, Garcon, and Reed were outstanding in that first half.
1. Defense. A regression to the first two weeks and this time they can't blame being out there too much because of an ineffective offense. Minnesota scored 34 pts on just 50 plays (not counting kneel downs) and had the ball for just 23:59. The defense didn’t stop Minnesota once on its own. The Vikings scored on 6 of 8 drives and the only two times the Skins' D got off the field was because a receiver fell down on a third down throw and Ponder threw a terrible pass on the first drive of the game. Other than those two drives, the defense got torched.
Now, did Minnesota have some good field position in the 2nd half courtesy of a bad punt and a penalty….yes. And overall, the D did an okay job on Peterson relatively-speaking. But play-action passes off of Peterson's run-threat killed them all night long. Kerrigan was a non-factor as a pass rusher. In fact, other than the sack on the 2nd play of the game by Orakpo, the pass rush overall was non-existent. Just 3 QB hits the entire night. Pathetic. Ponder and Cassel combined to go 21-27. I can barely remember an incompletion.
2. 2nd-half offense. The offense had to be perfect all night long to win with the defense getting zero stops and it wasn’t. They really needed a touchdown on that opening drive of the 2nd half to extend the lead to 2+ scores but didn't get it. The 1st and 10 read-option run by Robert at the Minnesota 22 on that drive should've gone for big yardage but Reed didn't stay on his block thinking Griffin had passed him already.
Drops hurt them too, particularly the Garcon drop on 3rd and 3 up 27-21 in the 3rd quarter. Robert also missed Jordan Reed on a 1st and 10 throw with Minnesota leading 31-27. It should’ve been a fairly easy throw if he had some touch to it. It was a 15-20 yard play that didn’t happen.
There's talk already of Kyle getting away from the run after they took a 27-14 lead but that’s not accurate per usual. There were 19 offensive plays run between the time they took a 27-14 lead and first and goal with no timeouts left with 38 seconds left. Those 19 plays included 11 runs and 8 passes.
For those that want Morris on every play with a one-score lead, why? They built a 27-14 lead with balance, there was no reason to get away from that balance up 27-21 when they got the ball back.
3. Drops. Paulson’s on the first drive was catchable even though it was thrown quickly and hard. Garcon’s drop on 3rd and 3 up 27-21 was one of those turning-point plays. The Skins had scored on every drive of the game up until that point and had gone 9-11 on third downs. The play call was a good one, the execution wasn’t. Garcon doesn’t drop many but that was a big one. Also, Reed could’ve had the touchdown catch at the end even though he was held before it got there.
4. Pass protection. The interior of the O-line really struggled in the 2nd half.
5. Clock Mgt. It was very good at the end of the game but they got lucky at the end of the first half when they wasted a down by spiking the ball on first and goal at the Minnesota 8. The spike came with 24 seconds left. They should’ve called their last timeout with 36 seconds left after Moss’ catch got them to the 8. 36 seconds is plenty of time to run 3 pass plays into the end zone and then kick the field goal if you don’t get in. Just another example of how poorly they handle these situations even though they overcame the loss of a wasted down with a touchdown anyway.
6. Penalties. The Riley 15-yarder in the first half may have been the difference between 7 pts and 3 and the Young 15-yard penalty on Sp teams gave Minnesota great field position which led to another score.
7. Officiating. No sour grapes intended but the officiating seemed one-sided tonight. The late hit on Chris Baker in the first half was a brutal call. There were at least two hits on Robert that were later than the Baker hit and neither one got called. Josh Morgan was clearly interfered with on the punt return that he fumbled and it wasn’t called. There was a fairly obvious false start that wasn’t called on Minnesota on a key third down. And Jordan Reed was held by Erin Henderson on the 2nd and goal at the end and it wasn’t called.
8. Special Teams. Morgan’s decision not to fair catch a first-half punt was a bad decision. Rocca’s 2nd shanked punt in last 3 weeks hurt. The fake punt attempt was obviously badly executed.
9. Final Play. It looked like Robert should've thrown to Reed. He was open.
1. Saw some screen passes in the game…perhaps not enough.
2. Niles Paul did a nice job on kick returns.
3. Griffin’s inability to slide makes him reluctant to turn some of those read-option runs up field when it looks like there’s a ton of room.
4. Kerrigan’s near-pick would’ve been huge.
5. RG3 was near-perfect in the first half but he missed a wide-open Jordan Reed on a 1st and 10 play down 31-27 and he had an opportunity to avoid lost yardage on one of the sacks if he had just thrown it away.