It’s election season—and one cliché applies to both the government and our football
team after the meltdown the Washington Redskins suffered last Sunday in St. Louis.
Politicians often talk about bringing accountability to Washington. I’m not sure that
ever actually happens on Capitol Hill, but it’s about time it happened at FedEx Field.
It’s a trend that has been around ever since team owner
Dan Snyder fired former coach
Marty Schottenheimer. All Redskins coaches since, including the saintly
Joe Gibbs in his second run, refused to blame players or coaches for their deficiencies. In
St. Louis, in a game the Skins should have won and basically gave away, the lack of
accountability was obvious.
Josh Morgan made a really stupid play, which Redskins players have been doing for most of Snyder’s
tenure. There’s no need to rehash it—everyone saw the personal foul. It was a heat-of-the-moment
brain fart. No way around it.
But in the days and practices afterward, the entire organization made excuses for
Morgan. Drastic action like cutting Morgan was not the right recourse, but the coaches
and the front office needed to be clear that boorish behavior will not be tolerated,
especially in the closing minutes of a tight game.
What Morgan did was dumb, but wasn’t the biggest sin I see from the Skins’ loss to
the Rams. The more egregious example of a lack of accountability is on display every
week on the Redskins sideline. His name is
Danny Smith, he coaches special teams, and he chews a lot of gum.
How in the hell does Smith keep his job? I have no frickin’ clue.
To open the season, Smith’s special teams allowed a
blocked punt in each game. Last
year, more than half the league went the entire season without
any blocked punts.
Against the Saints in the opener, the blocked punt resulted in a touchdown that altered
the course of the game and breathed life into a confused New Orleans team. For that
type of error to occur again—the very next week—is simply mind-boggling.
When asked about the special teams errors, head coach
Mike Shanahan tends to give a generic response
about how one player missed one block and then blah
blah bah. The players defend Smith,
This goes beyond one player missing one block. For the Redskins, bad special teams
have become the rule, not the exception. The players change from year to year, but
the mistakes remain consistent. Who else is there to blame but the special teams coach?
Last year the Redskins suffered through similar
special team collapses, though blocked
field goals were the error du jour.
But last year the team sucked, so the special teams gaffes were
just one more thing
that went wrong. When your starting quarterbacks prefer
interceptions to touchdowns,
people tend to forget about blocked kicks.
This year is different. This year, the Redskins will be competitive. This year, the
Robert Griffin III.
Griffin, and an offense capable of moving the ball and putting up points, deserves
better than Danny Smith.
For whatever reason, players love Smith. I’m sure he’s a nice man, but for years he
has proven inept at coaching special teams. Many of the game’s best coaches—think
Bear Bryant and
Bill Parcells—were never described as nice men.
There are positive marks on Smith’s coaching record, as the Redskins’ propaganda machine
to point out. But with the NFL’s move to reduce violent collisions on kickoffs, the
impact of special teams in 2012 is felt more in the kicking game than the return game.
Smith may be a solid return man coach, but his preparation in the kicking game is
clearly lacking. There is simply too much empirical evidence to think otherwise.
In a classic Redskins move, cementing the
organization’s philosophical lack of accountability,
news leaked this week that Smith received
a contract extension. How or why this dude got an extension is
beyond me, and most
fans tend to agree. Wait for the next Redskins special teams
botch and then check
Twitter. I got five bucks that
will be trending locally.
The Skins’ troubles go beyond just special teams. A perennially overhyped defense
has not delivered thus far, and with season-ending injuries to All Pro
Brian Orakpo and solid contributor
Adam Carriker, the worst may be yet to come for the Skins D. Of course, the Danny extended defensive
Jim Haslett, too.
For the first time in a long time, this year’s offense has the talent and explosiveness
to keep the Redskins in every game (as long as RG3 stays healthy).
What they cannot afford are simple mistakes that give the momentum to the opposing
team. Blocked punts are the new blocked field goals. Either one will cost the Redskins
With or without Danny Smith, it’s time for some accountability at FedEx Field.
PICK: Redskins 34, Bengals 27
Find JP Finlay on Twitter @jpfinlay.