Saturday, December 13, 2014

THE CURIOUS (AND SIMPLY EMBARRASSING) CASE OF THE WASHINGTON REDSKINS

By: Connor Glowacki

"On paper, Washington looks good at almost every position, but it will all come down to the health and on the field performance that Griffin demonstrates during this critical season."

-CKG, From the Sidelines. September 20, 2014.

Photo Courtesy of The Washington Post.
     Needless to say, I was VERY wrong in predicting that the Washington Redskins would finish the 2014 season with a 7-9 record. Redskins fans would love a 7-9 team now more than ever. Washington has been a complete and utter disaster this season and it's impossible to point at one individual as being the sole cause of the team's demise. They stand at 3-10 with three games to go, all against division rivals. During the Redskins five game losing streak, they have been outscored by their opponents 117 to 47.
   
Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Photo Courtesy of USA Today.
     They have started three different quarterbacks throughout this arduous season. Robert Grffin III began the season as the starter after a disappointing 2013 season, but has played in only five games. After tearing his ACL at the end of his rookie season, Griffin has not been the same playmaker. This season he has thrown only two touchdowns compared to three interceptions and has a total QBR of 26.5.
     He has not been able to transition into being a pocket passer and in recent weeks has struggled to step into his throws and read different defensive coverages. In addition, he has reportedly been unwilling to run more read option style plays that allowed him to flourish during his spectacular rookie season. Although to be fair, he hasn't been able to regain the speed that made him one of the most powerful offensive weapons in 2012.
     It appears that first year head coach Jay Gruden has also given up on trying to transform Griffin into a pocket passer and has turned his attention to backup quarterbacks Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy. However, that plan hasn't worked out either. Cousins lost each of his five starts this season and has thrown an alarmingly high nine interceptions in those games, most occurring in the second half of games. Add in two additional fumbles and he's been a turnover machine. McCoy led the Redskins to two of their three wins this season, but his numbers haven't been consisted. He most recently struggled in Washington's 24-0 loss to the St. Louis Rams where McCoy threw for just 199 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions.
Redskins offensive tackle Trent WIlliams
Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia.
     But let's take a look at the other positions that I admittedly believed Washington looked solid at on paper. The offensive line has been flat out terrible. Outside of maybe left tackle Trent Williams, the offensive line have been constantly pushed back by opposing defensive lines, given up numerous sacks, committed numerous holding penalties, and have failed to provide running lanes for talented running backs Alfred Morris and Roy Helu Jr.
     Offensive guards Shawn Lauvao and Chris Chester were last minute free agent signings this past offseason that don't look like they could start on any other team in the NFL. Offensive linemen Tyler Polumbus and Tom Compton are consistently beat by opposing defensive ends, and rookie lineman Morgan Moses and Spencer Long have failed to break past their roles as unproductive backups.
     Wide receiver DeSean Jackson has been a rare offensive threat for the Washington Redskins this season, but has failed to provide any support in blocking opposing defensive backs. Pierre Garcon rarely gets balls thrown his way any more and, along with Jackson, have expressed frustration at the quarterbacks. Tight end Jordan Reed has experienced similar problems to Jackson where he excels as a pass catcher, but struggles mightily in blocking schemes.
Redskins safety Ryan Clark
Photo Courtesy of Getty Images.
     On the defensive side of the ball, losing starting cornerback DeAngelo Hall to a torn achilles early in the season was a terrible loss for the secondary. Cornerbacks Bashad Breeland and David Amerson have not been consistent enough covering top wide receivers and routinely get passed by for big first down gains. Safety Brandon Merriweather has rarely been healthy enough to play on the field, and Ryan Clark looks like he can't be anymore excited to retire after the season and join ESPN as an analyst.
Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett
Photo Courtesy of Zimbio.com.
   


     Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett came into the season proclaiming that he was free from the proverbial shackles that former head coach Mike Shanahan placed on him and his defensive schemes. He was now free to call as many blitzes as he wanted to call. The front seven for Washington is decent at blitzing, but the linebackers have struggled mightily in dropping back in coverage to cover wide receivers and tight ends, and the defensive line doesn't create enough pressure to disrupt the opposing team's quarterback in the pocket.
     Defensive end Ryan Kerrigan has posted 11.5 sacks this season and linebacker Keenan Robinson leads the Redskins with a team high 99 tackles. Outside of those two players, there has been little other production on defense. Linebacker Perry Riley and nose tackle Jarvis Jenkins have been big disappointments this season and players such as, Brian Orakpo, Jason Hatcher, Barry Cofield, and Stephen Bowen, have suffered from too many injuries to make a positive impact on the football field.
Redskins punter Tress Way.
Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia.
     In terms of the special teams unit, the Washington Redskins have once again been terrible in 2014. A horrific amount of penalties have been called against this group all season and Andre Roberts has averaged only 22.7 yards per kickoff return. That number sounds okay, but if Roberts merely knelt with the football in his endzone right when he caught the kickoff, the offense would instead start at the 25 yard line. By returning the football, he puts the offense in a worse starting field position.
    However, there have been some bright spots from the special teams this year and they include kicker Kai Forbath and rookie punter Tress Way. Even though Forbath can't send a kickoff to the opposing teams' endzone, which guarantees the opposing team a solid return, he has converted 19 of 22 field goals this season and 25 of 26 extra point attempts. Meanwhile, Way might actually be one of the best punters in the entire NFL. His punts have averaged out at over 48 yards and with the Redskins offense looking anemic this season, he has gotten 64 chances the punt the football and has made the most out of his chances.

Redskins head coach Jay Gruden.
Photo Courtesy of The Washington Times.
      If the issues on the field were the worst problem that the Washington Redskins had, that would be one thing. Unfortunately, it's NOT their worst problem. As the season began spiraling out of control, the relationships between Griffin and the rest of the players in the locker room also began to dissolve.
     After a loss to the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Griffin told reporters that he wanted every player on the team, including himself, to take a look in the mirror and be better. He also told reporters that even the great quarterbacks in the NFL, like Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning, can't be great if their teammates aren't playing great as well.
      In the NFL culture, the unspoken rule has always been that if you're the quarterback and you're not playing well, you take all of the blame. If you are playing well, you don't take the credit and instead pass it to the other players on the team. That sparked controversy as Jackson put up a picture on Instagram with the caption, "You can't do epic s---, with basic people." New leaks have come out in the media stating that Gruden has never believed in Griffin as his quarterback.
Redskins General Manager Bruce Allen
Photo Courtesy of CSNWashington.com.
     This now comes back to owner Daniel Snyder and general manager Bruce Allen. They both raved about Griffin back in 2012 when he recently wrapped up his final season at Baylor University. While Shanahan expressed doubt and concern at the time about Griffin's realistic chances of success in a pro style offense, the Redskins ultimately decided to trade three straight first round picks and a few later round picks in order to move up and acquire Griffin with the number two overall pick.
     During the Redskins run to the playoffs in 2012, reports came out that Snyder exclusively hosted Griffin and his family to dinners at his private mansion. This continued into 2013 where Griffin's family was allowed into the locker room after games. Understandably so, this created friction amongst the other players on the team who openly questioned why Griffin was getting special treatment. And Snyder has done this with other star players during his tenure as the team owner.
Redskins owner Daniel Snyder
Photo Courtesy of Forbes.
     There have also been several account of Snyder meddling in with team operations and player acquisitions. With Snyder's track record of acquiring free agents like quarterback Jeff George, wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, and many others, Snyder has displayed a terrible track record of scouting players. Allen also has a terrible track record of scouting players both through free agency and in the draft in the five years that he has been the team's general manager. Out of the five drafts that he has been responsible for, the only successful draft picks that Allen can take credit for, include Trent Williams (2010), Ryan Kerrigan (2011), Alfred Morris (2012), and maybe Roy Helu Jr (2011).
Redskins rookie linebacker Trent Murphy.
Photo Courtesy of sfgate.com.
     Even if we look at the Redskins' 2014 draft class, you see very disappointing results and returns. Linebacker Trent Murphy, a second round pick, does show promise as he has posted 25 tackles, 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. Third round rookie offensive tackles Morgan Moses and Spencer Long have failed to break through as starters on the offensive line.
     Breeland, a fourth round pick, shows potential, but has not been consistent enough throughout the entire season to warrant a starting role going into next year. And finally, the only other player that was drafted and made the team was wide receiver Ryan Grant, drafted in the fifth round. Grant has posted five receptions for 57 yards this season.
     Snyder, Allen, Shanahan, Gruden and the entire scouting offices and player development offices for the Washington Redskins deserve a HUGE amount of criticism for this mess. There is a track record of missing, more often than not, on draft selections. And even worse, not seeing the draft selections develop into players that can start in the organization.

(Probably having reported 'Taco Tuesdays' during Training Camp isn't the best nutritional method to develop the best professional athletes for your team and your organization).
   

      With three games left, there seems to be an absence of hope in the Washington Redskins organization and worse among the Washington Redskins fan base. The team's last Super Bowl title was now over 23 years ago, back in 1991. Since Snyder became the team owner in 1999, the Redskins have made the playoffs just four times and have only made it out of the first round of those playoffs twice. Recently retired former Washington linebacker London Fletcher has publicly called out Haslett for being a terrible defensive coordinator back when he was playing for the Redskins. There are even rumors of Gruden trying to find a way out of his current contract so that he can go coach at the University of Michigan in 2015. There appears to be a new rumor or grumbling about the organization every single day.

     The Washington Redskins appear to be on their way to another last place finish in the NFC East. Sure, they might not be the WORST team in the NFL. But they certainly are the most embarrassing team. And with an organization that is filled with such rich history and proud moments, the last 15 to 20 years are beginning to kick the team's glory days further and further away.

Redskins quarterback Colt McCoy.
Photo Courtesy of Bleacherreport.
     So Washington Redskins fans, there is a strong likelihood that Griffin, Cousins and McCoy could all be back next year competing for the starting quarterback spot. There's also a strong chance that Gruden and Allen will be back fulfilling their roles. There is a strong likelihood that a rebuilding process could take years and the team will struggle in 2015.

    There are things that this team can do to turn their fortunes around, even if it's more in the long term than the short term. But that would take another post. So until free agency, I suggest this. Start supporting the Washington Wizards. They are 16-6, have some of the most exciting young players in the NBA John Wall and Bradley Beal, and are officially the best sports team in Washington D.C.

Any thoughts on the current state of the Washington Redskins? Leave a comment below or tweet me your comment on Twitter @ConnorGlowacki.

1 comment:

  1. I thoroughly agree with your commentary ... and your suggestion. Go Wizards!!

    ReplyDelete