- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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LANDOVER, Md. -- They don't have the answers, though they certainly say all the right things. They're trying hard. They're led by the right people. They have the right guys in the locker room. Here's the thing: Parades aren't thrown for those accomplishments. Not when you're four years into a regime.
The Washington Redskins are 3-8. They're 3-8 in a season that began with high expectations. They're 3-8 and headed nowhere fast, all the while trying to convince everyone, most of all themselves, that they're moving in the right direction.
They'll have to forgive everyone outside the organization for thinking this is not the right direction. Some of it can be explained, but not all. If they have the right players and have the right coaches and have the right organization, then they would be better than this. They would put up a better showing on prime-time TV than losing 27-6 to the San Francisco 49ers.
At this point, you must question everything, because nothing seems to be working.
"We certainly deserve some criticism now, that's for sure," Redskins guard Kory Lichtensteiger said.
If the coaching is fine, as the players say, then it's on the players. If the players are good enough, as they still say they believe, then it's on the coaches. If both of those are working to their capability, then it's on those responsible for bringing in those players.
Something is not working. It's not just the quarterback. You can point your finger just about anywhere and have a legitimate beef. You want to blame head coach Mike Shanahan? Go ahead. You want to blame defensive coordinator Jim Haslett? Have at it. You want to target special-teams coordinator Keith Burns? Stand in line. You want to point the finger even higher and look at the owner, Dan Snyder? Fair game.
The Redskins have gone from being a team playing badly to just being a bad team. It's not about the record; it's about the way they've gotten there. It's about the fact that they haven't played a complete game at any point this season. It's about needing to do so in the next five weeks.
"It's fair at this point to wonder," Lichtensteiger said, when asked if they're just a bad team. "It's just a bad display of football tonight by us."
True, the salary-cap penalty (brought on by their actions, others would say) put them in a bad spot. They couldn't fill holes they knew were coming or already existed. True, the quarterback's lack of an offseason hurt as well. It prevented a quarterback who needs to learn to pass at an NFL level from taking what he learned as a rookie and improving upon it.
But does that explain all that has gone wrong? No, it does not. If everyone wants quarterback Robert Griffin III to look in the mirror and accept blame for his shortcomings, then everyone else must do the same, starting at the very top of the organization. Good organizations win consistently. The Redskins have not done so since 1992. If they had been banged up all season plus had those other issues? OK, a 3-8 fall would not be inconceivable. That hasn't been the case.
They've collected players who won't blame one another. That's great -- and to this point players have not done so. They're more shocked than anyone at what has happened. But four years into a regime, there should be more to hang your hat on than this, especially when an owner will have a decision to make in a month or so: Do you extend the contract of the head coach or tell him he must serve as a lame duck? Or do you fire him? You need to provide more than talk. There has to be an upward stretch over the next five weeks.
"At the end of the day the only stat that matters is the win and loss column," Redskins left tackle Trent Williams said. "You can choose and judge by that and you can make your own opinion. I'm never going to say we're a bad team."
That's not the players' job, of course, to say such a thing.
"What am I supposed to do? Come up here and talk about how bad we are?" Griffin said. "My job is to answer your questions and move on to the next day and get better. ... I mean, I love my guys. I'll go to war with them any day."
It's the proper attitude to have. Again, it's a locker room full of proper attitudes. The locker room culture is better than it was during Jim Zorn's two seasons as coach, when backstabbing happened all the time. You still don't hear players knocking the head coach; even privately, it's just the opposite.
But it's not enough anymore to sell that, because the locker room will change after this season. The defense needs an overhaul and there are only three defensive regulars who will be 26 or younger next season -- linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, corner David Amerson and end Jarvis Jenkins. That means a defensive rebuild is coming. That means more change next season. Are you confident the right changes will be made?
"This is unacceptable when you look at what we were able to accomplish last year," linebacker London Fletcher said. "To be where we're at, it's not a good feeling at all. Individually, you have to look at yourself."
Yes, they do.
"We had high hopes, but we understood talk is cheap," said defensive end Kedric Golston, who has been with the team since 2006. "That's been our message. We're prepared and we work hard and we're coming up short. It's frustrating, but the onus is on us, the people in this locker room and the people in this organization. We can't blame anybody else for it."
The tough part this season? There's so much blame to go around. There are so many areas that need to be fixed.