So now you know who the new head coach of the Washington Redskins is, but what do you know about him? Jay Gruden, the 46-year-old husband of Sherry and father of Joey, Jack and J.J. That's a lot of J's.
Jay is also the son of the "toughest Gruden of them all," Kathy Gruden along with his Dad Jim, who Jay described as "a football coach, a football man, a football person."
That's a lot of football. I closed my eyes last week and thought for one second that Jon Gruden was now the head coach of the Redskins only to find out that his younger brother actually is. Jay was influenced heavily by Jon, a man who Jay referred to as his reason for "sitting here today."
Now that you know that, as the late and great radio icon Paul Harvey said many times, "Now....the rest of the story."
***Jay Gruden was a hit with the media in his first press conference, cracking all sorts of one-liners. He is all Gruden. If the Redskins could not convince Jon, they clearly believe in family roots. They sound alike, they have the same mannerisms, and you can tell that they are mostly real.
That alone won't get Jay very far, but it will make for a better Redskins organization. Here's why. One of the criticisms of Mike Shanahan from players and sources that I've talked with over the last few months is that Mike Shanahan was too robotic. He needed to loosen up a bit. He spent too much time in his office, trying to perfect X's and O's instead of relating to the Jimmy and Joes as the saying goes.
In talking to a coach in the league that is familiar with Gruden's style, one of the first things this coach mentioned was that Gruden was an "excellent communicator." Another coach that has been around Gruden in Cincinnati said "wait until you see this guy...he's (expletive) really good."
Communication might be overrated in some circles but I strongly believe that in this case, Robert Griffin III wants to be treated like a man and as long as he acts like one, I believe Jay Gruden will do so.
Why? The Washington Post and Dave Sheinin asked somebody who should know - Bengals Head Coach Marvin Lewis, who worked above and with Jay Gruden for the last three years in Cincinnati. “He sees offensive football through the eyes of the quarterback. He’s basically playing the game with them, through them.”
It will be imperative on Griffin's end to do everything he can to be a "Redskins Park rat" meaning he should be there as much as humanly possible. That doesn't mean come in, work-out and leave. He needs to spend countless hours over the next year not only learning terminology and the system, but he needs to work extra hard on creating a bond between himself and Gruden. That's not just on the new head coach. That's on Robert.
Do everything you can. Massage the rules. Bend the rules. Screw the rules. Who cares about the NFLPA when it comes down to it? He needs to be extra diligent because while Gruden will make Griffin III his focus, he does have an entire roster to manage.
Now let's go "Inside the Numbers" on Jay Gruden and a little more on what to expect as the Redskins move forward.
A huge reason why the Redskins failed so miserably on offense this year was their failure in the red zone. Time and time again, Washington would turn golden field position into a big, steaming pile of BLAH. Some of that is on Robert Griffin III, some was on Kyle and Mike Shanahan. Some was on not having a big time red zone threat, especially after Jordan Reed and Leonard Hankerson were lost for the year in November.
The Redskins only converted 52.0% of the time in the red zone (touchdowns) and perhaps more alarming were at 73.08% in goal-to-go situations. That had them tied for 20th in the NFL in red zone, and tied for 13th to the goal-to-go situations. Just for comparison sake, Jacksonville was the worst team in the NFL in both of these situations at 43.90% and 50.0% respectively.
In the magical run of 2012, the Redskins were 60.38% in the red zone and 83.87% in goal-to-go situations. They were fourth (red zone) and second (goal-to-go) in the division clinching year.
Honestly, 2013 felt a lot worse than the numbers suggest. I still go back to where the Redskins season basically ended in Minnesota. While everybody was celebrating a terrific first half for the offense, the very first drive was where essentially the season was lost for good. 1st-and-goal from the one-yard line, a run and two incompletions later, and the Redskins had to settle for three. Of course, if they punch it in for seven, then they only need a field goal to tie up the game on the final drive, which also ended on the Vikings one-yard line.
Game over. Season over. Shanahan over. In five years covering this team, and they are (28-52) since I have been here, I have never seen a more dejected, angry, lost locker room. They knew it then, and never won again.
As for Gruden and the Bengals in 2011 - which was Gruden's first year and Andy Dalton was a rookie, the Bengals were a miserable 45.1% (red zone) and 53.85% (goal-to-go) efficiency. They were 26th and tied for 24th respectively in the NFL.
In 2012, the Bengals rose to 54.39% and 67.86% in the two categories, while ranking 16th and 21st in the NFL. This past year, Gruden and the Bengals were 73.91% in the red zone and 84.0% in goal-to-go situations. That ranked 2nd in the NFL and first overall this year. Considerable progress might be an understatement.
Another key area that any coach or offensive system needs to be successful at is the 'money down.' Bottom-line, if you stay on the field you give yourself a chance.
It was not a major problem for the Redskins in 2012 (35.8%) or 2013 (40.4%, 11th in the NFL) but clearly down the stretch, Washington really struggled without Jordan Reed, Leonard Hankerson and Darrel Young at times. They were 37.0 % in 2011, before Robert Griffin III arrived.
As the injuries piled up and the season wasted away, the Redskins were (24-72, 33.3%) in the final five games on third down. Before those final five games, Washington was (66-143, 46.1%).
The Bengals were 36.5% in 2011 in Andy Dalton's rookie year, 34.1% in 2012, and 40.9% in 2013 in Jay Gruden's final year in the queen city. They went from 18th to 27th to 10th in league rankings according to NFL GSIS.
Adjusting on the Fly
One of the keys to the Bengals success as injuries hit them during Gruden's tenure, was his ability to adjust to his personnel. For instance, down the stretch with young tight end Tyler Eifert not available because of an injury, Gruden used more of a jumbo offensive set (6 OL). What stood out was his ability to sell a run look and pass out of it. Occasionally, Andy Dalton would fake a cross-face hand off and waggle to one side or the other (usually left) and pass the ball.
Sell run on two fronts, pass out of it while adjusting how you used your personnel. The Redskins used Tom Compton in this role with brilliant effectiveness against San Diego and then to a lesser degree against Minnesota, and then somehow the Redskins went away from it. Not exactly sure why, but it would be something to look for and is a selling point about Gruden.
How the Bengals offense translates
In 2013, Cincinnati averaged 19.7 more yards per game (368.2) on offense than the NFL average (348.5). The Bengals rushing yards per game average was at 109.7 per game or 3.2 yards per game average below the league average (112.9). They were 13th in yards per play, but an alarming 28th overall in rushing yards per play (3.65/play).
The Bengals were eighth in passing yards per game and tenth in passing yards per play in the NFL, but 24th in interception rate which suggests that as Gruden opened up the offense for Dalton, the results improved in large part, but also regressed. The Bengals had a very good offensive line and were third in the NFL in sack percentage (sacks/pass attempt) at 4.94% behind Denver and Detroit.
Cincinnati was tied for 9th in first downs per game, at 20.6 and held the ball on average in 2013 for a clip of 31:58. They were fourth in time of possession and their 26.9 points per game ranked tied for sixth. A loaded Bengals defense certainly helps out that number.
Want some more numbers? Our story from the day Gruden was hired illustrates some more year-over-year statistics that take you further "Inside the Numbers."
What does all of this mean? Well - the Redskins are banking on a fresh approach to communication and a more relaxed environment along with 30 plus million dollars worth of salary cap space to get them right back into contention in the mediocre NFC East.
Chris Russell - SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com - www.twitter.com/russellmania980
Here we go again. Another new beginning with a splashy offseason to hype all that is shiny and new. Gruden, Cowher, the RG3-Briles reunion….it’ll be a show I’m sure. More on that in a moment.
So much for the owner’s declaration last year….”we’re in good hands with Mike and Bruce”. As it turns out, at least two of those hands weren’t used for much good. Mike Shanahan should’ve used one of his hands to massage and stroke his star quarterback into feeling good about his commanding officer. The other one should’ve been used to yank the owner away from his star quarterback. Instead, he used one hand to wave a white flag and the other to call Adam Schefter and Dan Graziano. What an utter S-show this place is.
Back to the shiny and new. It won’t be an easy hire. For starters, this organization is perceived and justifiably so as toxic. It’s not the job most quality NFL men have as #1 on their list. With that said, the money is good and the overall football situation isn’t as bad as many have made it out to be.
It was much worse four years ago. Jim Zorn and Vinny Cerrato’s final 2009 roster included an incredible 55 players who are no longer in the NFL. That includes players who were on IR and the Practice Squad at the end of that season but still, 55 players on one team no longer playing professional football a mere 4 years later. Wow, that was a true "cupboard is bare" situation. Throw in the miserable cap situation at the end of that year and if it wasn’t clear then, it should be now….they left the place in shambles.
While Shanahan isn’t leaving a roster full of superstars, there is an attractive young nucleus of Griffin, Morris, Garcon, Reed and Williams on offense with at least a couple of legit players/intriguing prospects on defense (see Kerrigan, Cofield, Amerson and Jenkins). There are others like Thomas, Crawford, and Thompson that may prove to be impactful but haven’t had the chance because of injuries and a few more like Hankerson, Riley, Baker, and Bowen that have showed occasional promise.
As far as draft picks, after one more RG3 first-rounder goes to St. Louis this year, they’ve got all of them after that. In terms of cap space, they’ll have more room under the cap than every team in the NFC except Chicago with roughly $28 million to spend if they choose to. Add to that, Shanahan will leave a roster full of team-friendly contracts. Don't underestimate the importance of that to a prosepective new coach. It's a major plus that there won't be any Albert Haynesworth or D-Hall 400-pound contracts sitting on the chest of the new coach when he gets here. For those that have written and spoken about how Shanahan has left the “football” situation in worse shape than Zorn, it’s not even remotely close to true. The toxicity of the place aside, the “football” situation should be viewed as a potential quick fix with just a few solid moves.
It gets old trying to figure out the best course of action for this group but assuming Bruce Allen is staying, I’d like to see him be given the authority to hire a new personnel director and new coach. It would be nice if both were good, got along, and had compatible philosophies on the type of players they desire. Allen could continue to handle contract and cap management along with Eric Schaffer.
As far as the new coach goes, Allen’s top priority should be to find someone capable of molding Griffin into a top-flight NFL quarterback on the field while also nimble enough to deal with everything that comes with a still-maturing Griffin off it. I'd also prefer someone who understands how to manage the clock. This is the one area you could compare Shanahan to Zorn. Both seemed confused on how to do it and apparently too insecure to admit they needed help.
After the seedy drama of the last few weeks, answers to the coach question are around the corner. After that, their typical splashy offseason marketing machine will motor through the months of March, April, and May at warp speed. And then after all of that, the answer to the most important question will have to wait. Maybe it takes a year, perhaps 2 to 3. The most important question when all of the BS smoke of the last month clears is this....do they have a franchise quarterback or not?
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.
The Washington Redskins will move south for the summer beginning on Thursday July 25th, but the real work is in the process of being completed now.
Not that a roster of 90 guys won't be working hard under the boiling sun that downtown Richmond, Virginia is sure to bring, but in order for that to happen a facility must be built. A "Field of Dreams" as Redskins General Manager & Executive Vice President Bruce Allen called it.
Construction officially began on January 9th at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center at 2401 West Leigh Street, not far away from the Richmond Squirrels minor league baseball stadium and right off the Boulevard exit and I-95. It's nestled right by Children's Museum of Richmond and the Science Museum.
It's scheduled to be completed by June 30th, and features a main facility building for multiple uses, along with a 92 player locker room and a premier workout facility that will be used throughout the year, but specifically designed for the Redskins.
During a hard-hat tour on Monday afternoon, the Redskins and city officials made it clear that while work still had to be done -- it won't ruin the good feelings and the real purpose (they say) of going away to training camp.
"Being in the same hotel together, living with each other. It's no different than what the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts do from the very beginning. It creates a special bond. It's not a secret or coincidence that only four Super Bowl winners haven't gone away for training camp. There's a special uniqueness and camraderie that you can build," Bruce Allen said.
Allen mentioned that the facility might be so state-of-the-art and new that the players won't have to endure some of the unique challenges that a off-site training camp might bring.
"We knew what we needed at this training camp, for this limited time. It's actually going to be a little bit nicer because it's brand new than you probably would want. You like the idea that training camp is a tough time. That's where a little bit of suffering is going on in order to succeed later on in life," Allen said to reporters.
The facility has two full-size natural grass fields and a natural grass drill field, with the sod (which normally takes 6-8 weeks to fully hold) put in to place last week. Allen said a key component was making the fields the same as they are at FedExField and Redskins Park, because the crown affects how key components of a offense work together.
As for who will be here and when?? The Redskins open up training camp in just over two months and while Robert Griffin III will be present, there is obviously no guarantee that he will be able to participate in practice.
Allen said that they won't know Griffin's ability to participate until he takes a physical saying it is "too early to tell" if he will on the field from the start, but that currently "he's been doing a lot of drill work on his own and with the other injured players. He has to just follow the doctor's and the trainer's advice on a daily basis."
"My wife will select that. Unfortunatly, I think it's going to be something nice," Allen said in a joking manner (I think). He also added that he didn't think he was going to be asked about the mini-drama, saying he thought "it was going to be about when's "RG 4" come out or something like that."
Well OK then, Bruce. That's all I can say about that.
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
The Redskins are officially a part of the city of Richmond moving forward, as the team and city along with sponsor Bon Secours had a ceremony to break ground on their new training camp facility near the "Diamond" (baseball stadium) off the Boulevard in the West end area of the capital of the Commonwealth.
The "Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center" was already well under construction when we arrived on Thursday afternoon, and a team official that is highly involved in the construction process told ESPN 980 that the project is well-ahead of schedule and will absolutely be ready for late July.
Mayor Dwight Jones of the city of Richmond, said "we're all in...we're gonna be ready" when I asked if there were any contingency plans for delays in construction.
The real fireworks came after the ceremonial burgundy and gold shovels were discarded. Redskins General Manager and EVP Bruce Allen met with reporters for the first time since the night after the Redskins move to the # 2 overall pick last March became known.
Allen, was as loose and blunt as I've personally ever witnessed. Among the highlights.
Allen on the controversial nickname "Redskins" :
“There’s nothing that we feel is offensive and we’re proud of our history. It’s ludicrous to think that we’re trying to upset anyone....It doesn't make sense."
“We’re not a new franchise, we’re 81 years old," said Allen on Thursday to a group of reporters. “I’m proud to be the general manager of the Washington Redskins. We represent an iconic sports franchise.”
Allen also relayed a story that the President of the National Congress of American Indians, in conjunction with members of the Red Cloud Athletic Fund, requested in the early 70's that the Redskins change their logo from the "R" to the current logo.
Allen on the Redskins 18 million dollar cap penalty for 2013 :
"I think the penalty was wrong. It's unfair." Allen then seemed to be pretty confident in the Redskins abilities to get some relief, saying "the time is coming."
Allen on Robert Griffin III & do Redskins officials support Adam Schefter's report from earlier Thursday:
"He's progressing well. He's on schedule or ahead of schedule, and it's really because of the work ethic that you know he has. We’re going to let the doctors quote on where they are. I know Dr. James Andrews was hopeful after the surgery. We’ll see how it progresses. This will be an ongoing thing throughout the summer.”
Allen on FedEx Field's surface and if the Redskins have any plans to put field turf in 2013 :
"No. We missed an opportunity last year during a window between the 7th game and the 10th game to re-sod the field. Once the schedule comes out, our people are ready to commit to a schedule so we have some new sod for the end of the year. We think that is going to address the playing field in December, and hopefully, January."
Allen on Trent Williams who was injured in a incident before the Pro Bowl in Hawaii:
"He's fine. He gotsome stitches from the incident and they've been removed...I will say this, when we heard about it from league officials - they said not only did Trent not do anything wrong, he did everything right. He handled himself with a great professionalism."
Allen on Fred Davis:
"He's progressing well. That's a very serious injury. We expect he'll have a full recovery."
Allen on new Special Teams Coordinator Keith Burns:
"I am excited about Keith Burns. We had him for one year in Tampa. He oozes leadership. He's a committed young man, who I think is going to do great things in the future." Allen also said the WR coaching position is "still open."
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
That was the somewhat obvious, but completely unexpected statement from Redskins Head Coach/EVP Mike Shanahan on Sunday in front of over 50 members of the media, assembled on a humid late morning/afternoon in Ashburn.
Of course, "he" is Robert Griffin III, and while practically nobody expected him to be the 2nd string in New Orleans as the Redskins open up the 2012 campaign, I figured that Mike Shanahan would do everything he could to push, poke and prod "RG III" with motivation and a good old fashioned 'controversy,' by keeping the competition open publicly or by listing Rex Grossman as No. 1 in the first unofficial depth chart.
That's not happening according to the man that matters most.
"We're going to put him with the first team when we come back … We'll have our first team on one field, working against our second defense, and we'll have our second team on the other field, working against our first defense," Shanahan said on Sunday.
I have to admit I was stunned. Not at the fact that Robert Griffin III was anointed as the starter, but just the timing. It was very unusual for Mike Shanahan to be that bold, that upfront, THIS early.
"I thought it was very important to start with Robert with our first unit. He's able to do it and pick up the system as quick as he has, which is always good, to go out there and be able to call plays and feel good with what you're doing, and I've seen that over the last five practices."
It tells you the obvious desperation of the franchise and management, but also it is a credit to Griffin III that he has caught on so quick.
Shanahan explained "Any time you pick a player with the second pick of the draft and you give up another two No. 1's and No. 2 and you move up four spots, you've got a game plan in mind. We're going to adjust our system to what he feels comfortable with, and we'll watch him grow, and we'll do what we feel like he does the best."
That's all fine and good, that's what every staff does. It is what Mike and Kyle Shanahan did with Donovan McNabb as well.
Despite Donovan's claims, as my colleague Kevin Sheehan points out, and as we talked about routinely on the air in 2010, the Shanahan's dialed up a lot of screens and the deep ball, accentuating McNabb's skill set.
Just color me surprised. I have attended just about every Mike Shanahan press conference since he became the head man in charge. He is a coach who has been honest with the media about not always being honest with the media. In other words, he has admitted to fibbing, to protect certain things.
I would be astonished if this is nothing but 100% truth, I just didn't expect it. It speaks volumes for the 'intangibles' side of RG III.
His new teammate, offensive lineman Josh LeRibeus told reporters, "it feels like he came in, and already new the damn playbook."
His head coach gushed some more, "He's great. You can see what an incredible athlete he is," Shanahan said of Griffin. "I was impressed with the first day. He didn't have one bust on a formation or a play call, and I've never had that in all the mini camps I've been involved with."
On Monday, I asked General Manager and Executive Vice President, Bruce Allen why the Redskins were so up-front about their plans, which again is extremely unusual.
"We're excited. We feel good about Robert. If we can surround him with proper talent, we'll be OK. We think he's a unique talent. What coach envisions for him, what we think we can do with our offense, we think we can achieve our objectives. The sooner we get too it, the better."
Allen was speaking to a group of reporters at the annual Leukemia and Lymphoma Society charity golf outing, hosted by Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo.
The bottom line is this. If Robert Griffin III was not the starter for Week 1 in New Orleans, it would have been somewhat concerning. If Robert was not listed as the number one starter on the 'public' depth chart in training camp, it would have been a controversy. If Kirk Cousins would have looked better at mini-camps and training camp, it would have been well, unexpected.
Now, the Redskins can just move on without the daily questions about depth charts. For now.
“In order to execute each of our club’s plans for free agency and the upcoming draft, we have agreed to a trade between our two teams for the 2nd pick in the 2012 draft. We will submit this trade to the NFL for approval."
The Redskins made one move to dramatically upgrade their coaching staff and hopefully their disappointing (at times) secondary by hiring former Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach, Raheem Morris on Wednesday night.
Morris has a strong familiarity and a connection with Redskins General Manager/Executive Vice President, Bruce Allen who was in a similar role in Tampa Bay, when Morris was an assistant. He also was on the same staff for one season as Kyle Shanahan before the current Redskins offensive coordinator left for Houston.
With the addition of Morris who will serve as secondary coach (he reportedly has a clause in his contract allowing him to leave for another defensive coordinator position after 2012), the Redskins also released two coaches according to Washington Times/ESPN 980 Redskins Insider Rich Campbell and other sources.
Safeties coach Steve Jackson and Wide Receivers coach Keenan McCardell were both reportedly let go. The Redskins as is their normal operating procedure, would not confirm the moves.
ESPN 980 has learned that another coaching staff move is likely to be made on Thursday, but it is not expected to be a major name. Most of the speculation and the logical thinking is that Bob Slowik, the current secondary coach, will be released. However, that is far from absolute and only logical theory.
Slowik and Mike Shanahan have a long time working relationship and are said to be very close still. Would Shanahan fire his friend? Or could the Redskins be making another somewhat unexpected move like McCardell's firing was.
The Redskins ranked 13th against the pass, surrendering 221.0 yards a game through the air, a significant change from the 261.7 yards allowed (31st/NFL in 2010). Defensive backs had only 10 interceptions.
The decision to let go of McCardell after two seasons, is a bit surprising -- despite Santana Moss regressing somewhat significantly, especially after his injury. Anthony Armstrong also struggled in his 2nd year, after coming out great in the season opener, Armstrong suffered a hamstring injury in the Redskins third game (@ Dallas) and was never the same after returning.
Who can forget Mike Shanahan's 'bump coverage' comment about why Armstrong was not getting any opportunities. Who knows, maybe Armstrong could become the Redskins new receivers coach. (Just kidding, AAA).
Despite the struggles of Moss and Armstrong, and with Moss missing essentially five whole games, the Redskins only passed for 140 less yards in 2011 then they did in 2010.
In 2011 - the Redskins attempted 591 passes, had 346 completions (58.5%), 3,773 yards, 235.8 YPG, 19TD's, 24 INT's. In 2010 - the Redskins attempted 605 passes, had 349 completions (57.7%), 3,913 yards, 244.6 YPG, 21 TD's, 19 INT's.
Armstrong, told ESPN 980 late on Wednesday night about McCardell "It's surprising, but it's the business we are in. He will definitely help the next team he is with."
Some possible names to keep in mind for the wide receivers position would be flipping current tight ends coach Sean McVay to the spot he is more of a natural with. He was a college wideout, who worked specifically with the ball catchers last year, before taking over at the tight end spot.
Also, when tapping into Mike Shanahan's past - it would be wise to keep an eye on former UCLA Head Coach, Karl Dorrell and former Denver assistant, Jeremy Bates.
As for the addition of Morris -- his Bucs were a team on the rise at 10-6 last year, and coupled with a fairly strong start this year - a ten game losing streak and his ouster was unimaginable. It happened.
Morris, saw his defense in 2011 (as head coach) allow 6,311 yards (30th/NFL) and 238.4 passing yards per game, which ranked 21st in the league. In 2010, Tampa allowed 5,323 yards (17th/NFL) and 201 passing yards per game, which ranked 7th.
In Morris' first year as the top dog in Tampa, his defense was 27th in the NFL overall (total yards) but was 10th overall in passing yards allowed.
Morris, 35, was the defensive backs coach under Jon Gruden up until he took over for Gruden -- following the 2008 season. In that final year as a position coach, Tampa was FOURTH (187.3) in the NFL in passing yards allowed. In 2007, the Bucs were # 1 in passing yards allowed at 170.5.
Hopefully, I will get a chance to speak with Morris sometime soon and bring those comments to you -- for now -- it is off to chase more changes and moves that will shake up the Redskins.