It’s only been nine games, but to some it feels like the season is already over. At
least for a day, that’s what Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan would have
had us believe.
Sure, Shanahan changed his tune on that stance,
and we’re all supposed to believe the Skins are still focused
on making the playoffs
this year. In reality, for a team with a 3-6 record, the
playoffs ain’t happening.
With the Skins on a bye this week, it’s a good time to look at this team and this
season. Unlike in years past, the anchor for this team is an awful defense. Washington’s
coaches attempt to blame the defensive woes on injuries, and certainly losing Brian
Orakpo and Adam Carriker for the year hurt the team. But those two players would not
prevent all of the defensive incompetence the Redskins routinely show.
Week after week, the Skins D gets torched by opposing offenses. The defense does poorly
against the run and even worse against the pass. Going into the season, the Skins
brain trust knew they had a weak secondary to defend the pass, and the idea was that
a staunch pass rush would compensate for the backfield deficiencies. That idea has
been about as successful as Bing.
Last week, the Skins defense allowed the 1-6 Carolina Panthers to drive 99 yards for
Ninety-nine yards! It is impossible in the game of football to have a drive longer than 99 yards. Maybe
that could be the slogan for the Redskins defense: Against us, anything is possible.
At some point, Shanahan and Washington’s (insert important-title-in-name-only here)
Bruce Allen need to reconsider the defensive scheme. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett
has not delivered in his time in Washington. If anything, Haslett deconstructed what
was a capable defensive unit playing a 4-3 scheme and rebuilt that into an incompetent
and bumbling squad playing the 3-4.
And enough about injuries; every team in the league deals with injuries. Successful
teams do not use the mishaps as a crutch.
Haslett has coached enough games, in DC and elsewhere, for the fans to know he is
not the person for the job. In the offseason, the Skins hired Raheem Morris to serve
as defensive backs coach. Morris also has experience as a defensive coordinator and
a head coach. Though it is Morris’s secondary that has been the weakest link on a
bad defense, I think it is time for the Skins to allow the younger, more energetic
Morris to take over the defense.
Haslett can return to the retread NFL coaching bin where he hung out before the Shanahans
brought him to Washington. Morris can’t do any worse.
What’s worse for the Redskins defense: There is little
hope in sight. After a series
of bogus penalties inflicted upon Washington’s salary cap
the usually flamboyant free agent signings of owner Dan Snyder
will have to wait another
year. Combine the lack of free-agency cash with all of the
traded draft picks used
to obtain quarterback Robert Griffin III, and Skins fans can
expect few reinforcements
coming to the defensive side of the ball.
But there is a silver lining for Redskins fans—and his name is RG3.
Sure, the Redskins defense is abysmal. And too many wide receivers have dropped too
many passes. And yeah, maybe the Skins can’t sign any marquee free agents because
of a sham of a league ruling, and okay we know we won’t have a first-round draft pick
for the next two years.
Even with all of that information, there is still room
for optimism. Having a franchise
quarterback can cure a lot of things. Outside of the two most
recent losses to the
Pittsburgh Steelers and the Carolina Panthers, RG3 has kept the
Redskins in every
game. The kid has the talent and heart to lead this team. The
payoff may not come
for a few years, but it is hard to watch and listen to Griffin
without envisioning playoff games in his future.
But as good as RG3 is now and may become in the future, he still needs a quality team
around him for the Skins to ever deliver on his promise.
Long before Peyton and Eli Manning, there was Archie Manning. Considered an all-time
great in college at Ole Miss, Archie was drafted by the New Orleans Saints and breathed
life into a lifeless franchise. In more than a decade in New Orleans, Archie was a
fan favorite, but the team never accomplished much because Archie had no tools around
The suggestion here is not that RG3 will have a similar career arc as Archie, but
to show a cautionary tale of promise wasted. For decades, the Redskins searched for
the right player behind center. Now they’ve found him. Let’s hope it doesn’t go to
Find JP Finlay on Twitter @jpfinlay.