Monday, December 9, 2013
Upon Further Review: Redskins Week 14
By John Keim
LANDOVER, Md. -- A review of four hot topics following the Washington Redskins' 45-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs:
Shanahan’s status: As Monday began, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan remained employed. He looked exhausted or perhaps resigned to his fate Sunday night when he left FedEx Field nearly 90 minutes after an embarrassing 45-10 loss to the Chiefs. There have been too many recent stories detailing relationships -- Shanahan and Robert Griffin III; Shanahan and Griffin/Dan Snyder and Kyle Shanahan and Griffin -- and too many losses on the field to think this situation can be salvaged. Four years into the regime, the roster still needs a lot of work. The salary-cap penalty didn’t help, but free agency has been mixed for Redskins anyway, so to think it would have solved everything is incorrect. There are reasons to change regimes other than failed relationships. Aside from Griffin, the team leaders have publicly endorsed Shanahan’s return, and privately, players support him as well. But with a 24-37 record, they haven’t backed their support up with the sort of success the organization wanted.
Griffin’s status: On any other Sunday, the fact that Shanahan did not commit to Griffin to start the following week would make huge news. But it got lost in the drama of Shanahan’s job and the dynamics of various relationships. Shanahan would only say they’ll “talk about it later.” If there was no doubt, Shanahan would say so. It could be a moot point, as Shanahan might not even be the one making that decision. And it’s becoming clear he won’t be the one making these decisions in 2014. Still, for now, Shanahan isn’t sure whether he wants Griffin or Kirk Cousins to start against Atlanta. Shanahan is a strong believer in Cousins, and Griffin has been inconsistent at best. It also makes you wonder whether owner Dan Snyder would stand for something like this, knowing the future implications. Playing Cousins to “see what you have” doesn’t make much sense because Griffin remains the future. Just like it doesn’t make sense to bench Griffin just to keep him healthy. If he is the future, he needs to play and play a lot. If you’re not sold on that, then that’s a reason to play Cousins, or maybe also if you want to send a parting shot to the current starter. Regardless, it’s just more drama in Washington -- because there wasn’t enough already.
Special-teams mishaps: Niles Paul was as upset as anyone after Sunday’s game because of the special teams’ performance. He blamed it in part on players’ mindsets, saying that some guys project themselves as future starters, so they don’t prepare right for special teams. The thing is, on punt and kickoff coverage, there aren’t a lot of young players who are even guaranteed of a roster spot next season, let alone a starting job. On kick return Sunday, there were four players who are in their first or second years -- Bacarri Rambo, Jose Gumbs, Josh Bellamy and Trenton Robinson. Rambo already is starting (he was knocked for his special-teams play earlier this season). On punt coverage, 10 of the 11 players have been in the NFL for at least three years. The exception: Robinson. No, it’s not about young guys who don’t get it. Rather, it’s about veterans who don’t do it well. This unit was put together poorly.
Milestone marker: In a bad season, two Redskins offensive players have been consistent producers -- receiver Pierre Garcon and running back Alfred Morris. Both surpassed the 1,000-yard mark Sunday; Morris has now rushed for 1,027 yards, while Garcon has a career-best 1,017 yards receiving. Morris’ overall yardage total won’t match his 2012 number of 1,613 yards, but that’s not his fault. Morris is averaging 4.7 yards per carry and has run the ball only 37 times combined in the past three games, two of which were blowouts. He’s also averaged 3.7 yards or fewer in those games as teams focused hard on stopping the Redskins' run game. Still, Morris has had a strong year running the ball in an offense with so much inconsistency. Garcon has posted big numbers, though he doesn’t have many big plays and has caught just three touchdown passes among his 89 catches. His longest catch is 44 yards, a function of a passing game that is either inaccurate downfield or doesn't get enough time to throw certain passes. Garcon is averaging 11.4 yards per catch, his lowest figure in his five seasons as a full-time starter. But he’s done a good job being able to catch and run, especially on screens, and is the lone receiver who worries a defense.