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Redskins: Ditching the Punt Team and Going For It On Fourth Down

Original Photo Courtesy of USA Today

With the talk of the town this week pertaining to Thom Loverro’s theory of the Redskins ditching the punt team and instead opting to go for it on fourth down, I decided to weigh in with some of my own thoughts. Original, right?

What can I say? I’m lacking creativity. Call me Jim Haslett.

Loverro, a columnist for the Washington Examiner and co-host of my favorite radio show The Sports Fix, wrote a column on Halloween night that questioned Mike Shanahan and whether or not he was really putting his team in the best position to succeed.

It wasn’t a harsh criticism or slap in Shanahan’s already brutally red face. Instead, it was an idea. An interesting one that deserves to be entertained given the Redskins’ current 3-5 position.

Has Shanahan been getting the most out of what may be the only chance for the Redskins to win this season, week in and week out?


I’m not talking about running the option or sending RGIII out as a pass receiver. I’m talking about changing a basic premise of the game and doing, as Don King would say, “SKD — something kinda different.”


The question is this: What has a better chance of success on fourth-and-5 at, say, the 50-yard line? Punt the ball and rely on the defense to pin the opposition deep in its territory and get the ball back, or go for it with RGIII?

Although the traditional football gods would disagree, the answer to Thom’s question is simple. You go for it with RGIII.

Not that anyone forgot, but Washington is atrocious on defense. Once a unit expected to have hiccups in their secondary, the Redskins are allowing more than 28 points and 400 yards per game, they’re consistently terrible at applying any sort of pass rush, and the front seven is using glue and popsicle sticks to hold itself together following the loss of Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker.

It wouldn’t necessarily apply to every fourth down-and-distance, but the Redskins should seriously consider ditching Sav Rocca and the punt team on short yardage fourth-down plays near midfield.

And let me be the first to tell you that I’m obsessed with Redskins punter Sav Rocca. He’s not only a boss for playing this season with a torn meniscus, but I also dedicated my fantasy football season to him by cleverly naming my team Sock’em Sav Rocca. Our relationship — whether he knows it or not — runs deep. But when you take everything into account, siding with your MVP quarterback in do-or-die situations makes the most sense.

Take for instance a Redskins fourth down with seven yards to go at their own 44 yard line. Shanahan has two options.

A.) Send out the punt team and ask Sav Rocca to put one inside the 20. Although not an impossible feat for the one-legged Aussie and Niles Paul’s top-five special team coverage, we’d also be talking about relying on a defense that can’t stop a nosebleed. Pin your opponent inside their own 20 and it just gives them more room to sustain a longer scoring drive. Because we’ve seen it happen.

B.) Keep Robert Griffin III on the field and go for seven yards. Haven’t we been talking about this guy revolutionizing the position and bringing a unique combination of skill to the table that we’ve never seen before? Or something along those lines? Griffin has all the weapons to beat you by himself — then a few guys around him that can catch a pass (as long as it’s not against the Steelers at Heinz Field in the rain).

The result of a successful Option B drastically outweighs the ho-hum result of a ‘successful’ Option A. And even if you fail on fourth down — gaining five yards instead of seven — the Redskins turn the ball over on their own 49 yard line and the same porous defense takes the field. But now, we’re talking about a shorter drive and less space for the opposing offense.

I know it sounds ridiculous. But think about it. Given the lack of confidence in the Redskins defense, you don’t honestly watch the game and expect them to stop anyone. Are the ten interceptions through eight games nice? Sure they are. Reassuring? Hardly.

If Shanahan is anything like fans and has as little confidence in Jim Haslett and the defense stopping an opponent, why not give yourself a shot on fourth down rather than giving the ball to the other team? Just because that’s been the established norm for the past four decades doesn’t mean Shanahan has to ignore his typical arrogance and conform to it.

And if the opposition is going to score anyway, having them go 50 yards in three minutes is much better than having them go 83 yards in six. Less wear on your defense, less effect on a crowd and its momentum, and (most importantly) less time that your revolutionizing, game-changing, Superman, Wonder Boy, do-it-all quarterback is forced to watch from the sidelines.

Again, crazy to think about initially. But damn if it’s not brilliantly intriguing.


The Author


Ringmaster at Bet Big DC, Shae is a devout food enthusiast who soaks in the misery of yelling at the TV from the couch. He takes pride in schrewd sports investing, is a sucker for the arts and is brimming with useless pop culture knowledge. When he’s not drudging away behind his outdated laptop, Shae enjoys eating, traveling and rooting for teams that usually don’t win

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