Heading into Week 9, the Redskins appeared to be in a decent position. Despite their five losses, the team was hosting a 1-6 Carolina Panthers team at FedEx Field and a win would give them momentum entering the Week 10 bye. The season was far from dead.
Cam Newton and the Panthers established an effective rushing attack and didn’t look back — limiting their mistakes and keeping the Redskins in check. The Panthers would go on to win the game 21-13 and move the Redskins to 3-6 on the season.
1. Foul offense reeks for second consecutive week
75 plays, 24 first downs, 337 yards, no turnovers. Not a terrible stat line.
3-of-15 on third down. One touchdown. Terrible stat line.
For the second time in as many games, the Redskins failed to set a rhythm on offense and their 13 total points was a direct result. Alfred Morris had 76 yards on the ground, but they came by way of just 13 carries. Meanwhile, Robert Griffin III had an inaccurate game made possible by a combination of poor throws and a few drops.
After starting the season hot and watching the offense climb league ranks, the Redskins have fallen flat over the past two weeks. As fans, the only hope is that the bye week helps to get players and coaches back on track.
2. Will the defense be able to stop anyone, ever?
Whether people want to believe it or not, the Redskins played some of their best defense of the season against the Panthers on Sunday.
Allowing just 330 total yards (82 of which came on one missed assignment) and 18 first downs is a pretty decent outing. Not to mention, Jim Haslett actually dialed up some blitzes that helped to create that poor excuse of a pass rush you saw.
But what it ultimately comes down to is just how horrid this Redskins defense is. For the second straight week, we watched as the Redskins struggled to stop the run — allowing the Panthers nearly five yards per carry (4.8). The secondary was once again brutal, but this time arguably more on player technique than actual scheme. And has anyone picked up on the poor tackling from this group?
This doesn’t mean that I’m suddenly pro-Haslett. However, I will say that a lot of Sunday’s loss to the Panthers fell on poor performances by individuals. A missed assignment here, poor technique there, a missed tackle over there. That kind of thing doesn’t fall on the coordinator.
3. Is Mike Shanahan giving up on the season?
If this isn’t already the talk of the town, it soon will be.
Mike Shanahan’s comments following Sunday’s loss had ‘QUIT’ written all over them. Although it’s hard to accept your head coach throwing in the towl, that’s exactly what it sounded like following a game that Shanahan deemed a ‘must win’.
“Now you’re playing to see who obviously is going to be on your football team for years to come. Now we get a chance to evaluate players and see where we’re at,” Shanahan said, via Cindy Boren of the Washington Post. “Obviously, we’re not out of it statistically, but now we find out what type of character we’ve got and how guys keep on fighting through the rest of the season.”
The Redskins may have six losses, but they’ve yet to play the Cowboys or Eagles at all this season — both division opponents that have five and four losses respectively. And while the NFC East leading Giants may have beaten the Redskins in their first matchup this season, they’re still tallied with three losses themselves.
Following NBC’s “Football in America” broadcast on Sunday night, host Dan Patrick asked former NFL coach Tony Dungy what he thought of Shanahan’s latest comments. As one of the most respected guys in the league, Dungy’s words would certainly go a long way.
“Would you ever say that as a coach nine games in?” Patrick asked.
“I would not,” Dungy replied. “We’re still battling. We’ve got a chance. The Denver Broncos were 1-4 last year and made the playoffs. I would never tell my team that.”
Ding, ding, ding!
Former New England Patriots safety Rodney Harrison also weighed in, respectfully giving his opinion from a player’s perspective.
“If you told me that, I would look at you and say, ‘Coach, we have seven games left. Why are you giving up on us?’ ” Harrison said. “Even if you look at our division, with the Cowboys, the Eagles, they’re not very good. The Giants may be the best team in our division. But we still have a chance.”
And if the division is within reach, then the season itself certainly is too. Shanahan’s comments, on the other hand, are telling.
4. Robert Griffin III is human
Bless his heart. Robert Griffin III is the true quarterback. He has an off day (we all do) and he goes out and continues to fight. Then, following the game, he shoulders all of the blame in a postgame presser — just exactly how it’s written in books.
But the truth is, Griffin isn’t to blame. Did he play great against the Panthers? No. Was he lights-out against the Steelers? Hardly. But he’s playing well enough to win ball games.
Just because he’s not putting up the same numbers we saw in the first couple weeks of the season doesn’t mean Griffin deserves to be criticized for the Redskins’ 3-6 record. He’s limiting his mistakes, he’s extending plays, and most importantly, he’s the only thing giving the Redskins a chance.
I won’t hate a guy for being hard on himself and wanting to perfect his craft. But deep down inside, I hope the rookie understands that he clearly isn’t the problem in Washington.
5. The Brandon Banks Experiment
I think it’s fair we drag the whole Brandon Banks Experiment out to the curb on trash night this week. Not that I don’t want the guy to do well or find his niche in the NFL, but this season has been a disappointment.
Starting out the summer, I was completely against keeping Banks on the roster and I didn’t include him on my final 53. But as the offseason progressed and camp reports became available, I thought including him in the offense could keep him in Washington. And as the Shanahans implied back then, Banks would need to earn a roster spot as a receiver.
Banks has shown well on a few returns this season, but not nearly enough to justify the roster spot. During Sunday’s game, Banks allowed a punt to bounce in front of him, over his head, and then decide to field it. The play ultimately led to a loss of about 15 yards and it was the final straw for me.
6. Prepare for change
Before Mike Shanahan’s postgame comments, I thought the Redskins were due for some coaching changes come summer.
As of a couple weeks ago, I thought one particular coaching change could show itself prior to season’s end.
Now I’m prepared for even bigger coaching changes.
In my opinion, it’s clear that Jim Haslett won’t have a job in Washington next season. Make what you want of the “reported” contract extension, but I can’t see him being retained after the three years we’ve witnessed from this defense under his reign.
And perhaps it’s reading a little too much into Shanahan’s comments, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a change at either head coach or offensive coordinator. Mike Shanahan isn’t getting any younger and he’s clearly disgruntled with a 3-6 record that isn’t nearly as bad as he’s making it.
That said, people should keep Kyle Shanahan in mind too. Although many believe that Mike would never fire his son, who’s to say that it’s up to Mike? At the end of it all, Bruce Allen is the general manager and I believe his job is safest. Maybe you thought Kyle was the head coach in waiting, but losses can alter plans very quickly.
By the way, have you heard that Sean Payton’s latest contract extension in New Orleans was voided by the NFL?
I’m not saying. I’m just saying.