NFC East: logan paulsen
Jay Gruden only had two quarterbacks in each of his three seasons with Cincinnati, but Griffin still needs to prove his durability. If something happened to him, they woulld still be in good shape with Cousins and McCoy. If they go with two then McCoy gets left off.
Running backs (4)
The Redskins could also stash Chris Thompson on the practice squad as further insurance. Thompson can easily bump himself onto the roster with a good summer; he’s a good fit in Gruden’s offense and the new coach liked Thompson coming out of college. But durability is an issue. By keeping four here, the Redskins can go with an extra player at another spot. This means Evan Royster is on the outs, but he doesn’t give the Redskins anything they don’t have in better players. He is insurance only.
I am not cutting Leonard Hankerson, rather I’m just not sold that he will be on the active roster at the start of the season. If he shows this summer that he can play, then, yes, I would have him on the 53-man roster. But the Redskins were not sure what to expect from him and when he might be healthy. Therefore, I can see him taking a little longer to return. Gruden likes Moss and they drafted Grant. Robinson needs to take a step.
Tight ends (3)
Rookie tight end Ted Bolser would head to the practice squad, where he can develop. He didn’t look close to a roster spot just based on how he looked this spring. Reed is firmly entrenched as the starter with Paulsen their top blocker and Paul a special teams ace.
Offensive line (10)
- Trent Williams
- Shawn Lauvao
- Kory Lichtensteiger
- Chris Chester
- Tyler Polumbus
- Morgan Moses
- Spencer Long
- Josh LeRibeus
- Tom Compton
- Mike McGlynn
In reality, I could see them keeping only nine offensive linemen. It all depends on how Long and/or LeRibeus looks at guard. They love Long -- Gruden has said he could compete immediately -- so if he shows he can play, then they could cut Chester. Compton is a little surprise, but they like him as well. This position will be fluid and I’m not sold on the 10 I have listed.
Defensive line (6)
This one is fluid as well because it depends in part on Bowen’s health. I like Chris Neild and so do they, but can they keep him? Golston is more versatile and a key player on special teams, but he’s also 30 and they must get younger.
- Ryan Kerrigan
- Brian Orakpo
- Perry Riley
- Keenan Robinson
- Trent Murphy
- Darryl Sharpton
- Adam Hayward
- Brandon Jenkins
- Akeem Jordan
As of now I’d have Rob Jackson out, especially if Jenkins develops as a pass-rusher. But this will be a close race. And I have them keeping an extra guy inside in Hayward because of his special teams ability.
Chase Minnifield remains eligible for the practice squad. Richard Crawford is coming off a knee injury and it’s hard to place him on here without seeing him play. The one benefit for Crawford is that he can play in the slot; they need depth at that spot.
I really don’t feel good about this position and am not confident that I have this one right, at least for that final spot. Robinson’s special teams ability gives him the edge over Bacarri Rambo, who must have a strong camp. Akeem Davis can help on special teams, but with no NFL experience he will be stashed on the practice squad.
The Forbath selection is based on never having seen rookie Zach Hocker kick in an NFL game. If Hocker is consistent this summer and shows a strong leg, then he can win the job.
John Keim: Great question. Man, it'll be tough to have a greater impact than Moss did in 2005 when he caught 84 passes for 1,483 yards and nine touchdowns. He averaged 17.7 yards per catch. I can't see Jackson matching that total simply because he'll have much more receiving talent around him. Moss had tight end Chris Cooley, but those two combined for 155 of the team's 278 receptions. No other player came within 40 of Cooley's total (71). Moss made the offense; Jackson will complete this one. He will have a big impact, but without Moss the Redskins had no passing game. Without Jackson the Redskins could still be fine. They're just better with him and he gives them the same level of playmaker Moss was in '05.
Keim: They hosted Owen Daniels early in free agency, but that was about it (and he eventually signed with Baltimore). But the drop-off from Reed to Paulsen is only when it comes to pass-catching. They like, and need, Paulsen as a blocker as Reed still needs to show he could handle that role consistently. Ted Bolser hasn't impressed me a whole lot this spring, but I always viewed him as a guy to groom for a year or two down the road. Not much of a blocker and his hands were too inconsistent this spring.
Keim: I assume you mean if whichever one doesn't start because there's no way all three will considering each plays on the inside. But the answer is yes ... probably. Hayward is a career backup, with 13 starts in his seven seasons. He's a special-teamer and was not brought in to start. Sharpton and Jordan both can help on special teams as well and have more starting experience. The decision will likely come down to this: Do you keep a fifth outside linebacker (Brandon Jenkins and/or Rob Jackson) or a fifth inside linebacker? The guys inside are stronger on special teams.
Keim: I have my doubts too, especially if you want significant improvement. There is reason to believe they'll be better because of the new pass-rushers, giving them a more diverse attack. With new outside linebackers coach Brian Baker, there is an added emphasis on an aggressive rush. Too often in the past the outside linebackers rushed contain, as they had been taught. Inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti will have a key role in the game planning (like Bob Slowik did last year; I trust Olivadotti a lot more). Just remember: Everything sounds good in the spring. We have to see it on the field. But the defense is aging and will remain in transition for another year. There's a lot of age up front, too -- and guys coming off injuries. It's a tough mix. They'll be helped, however, by improved special-teams play and fewer turnovers by the offense.
Keim: You are right, he dropped too many passes last season. I don't think he's a lock, but the head coach certainly likes what he adds. Two weeks ago he talked about how Moss was going to help the team. In my experience, coaches don't talk about the season that way for players they don't think will make the roster. Moss also has looked good this spring. But the other reason is this: Who will beat him out? After the three starters, there's not a whole lot of proven talent. Leonard Hankerson might not be ready to open the season; Aldrick Robinson is still Aldrick Robinson and while they like Nick Williams, is he really better than Moss? No. Besides, Williams has practice-squad eligibility. Ryan Grant will be there too but he's only a rookie. Moss provides insurance and proven depth and Jay Gruden likes him around for his leadership.
Keim: He had a good enough rookie minicamp to earn a contract. He's long, which always helps, but he has a ways to go before he can think about making the roster. Bridget has a number of players ahead of him.When training camp starts, and they start doing more one-on-ones with receivers, etc., then I'll get a better feel for him. During the spring I need to focus on the returning players, impact guys and newcomers of note. So... ask again in August.
Keim: Have not heard that, no. It's too expensive to change based on what team you have; could change on a yearly basis. They will be fast offensively on any surface. Keep in mind, too, that the defense is not considered fast.
NFL's top five cap hits
Eli Manning, New York Giants, $20,400,000
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh, $18,895,000
Jay Cutler, Chicago, $18,500,000
Drew Brees, New Orleans, $18,400,000
Sam Bradford, St. Louis, $17,610,000
Redskins top cap hit
Summing it up: St. Louis is paying the price for a since-changed system when it comes to rookie contracts -- and the Redskins clearly have benefited. There’s little chance anyone would think Bradford is worth as much as his 2014 cap number. Manning has regressed the past two seasons, for whatever reason, and needed ankle surgery this offseason. Roethlisberger is excellent and Brees remains a top-five quarterback. But Cutler is an example of a guy who is being paid because of the position he plays. He's been a good quarterback, but it's tough to say he's been great. He's definitely not a top-five guy. The Redskins have Griffin at a lower cost the next two seasons and then, if he plays as they hope, his number will skyrocket.
NFL's top five cap hits
Mike Wallace, Miami, $17,250,000
Andre Johnson, Houston, $15,644,583
Percy Harvin, Seattle, $13,400,000
Calvin Johnson, Detroit, $13,058,000
Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay, $12,432,000
Redskins top cap hit
Summing it up: The top two at this position certainly didn't outperform Garcon, who led the NFL with 113 catches. Garcon only caught five touchdown passes, but that matches what Wallace and Andre Johnson did as well. Harvin played just 19 snaps all season. Calvin Johnson caught 84 passes, but 12 went for touchdowns and he averaged 17.8 yards per catch. Jackson caught 78 passes, seven for scores, and averaged 15.7 yards per catch. The Redskins received good value from their top earner at this spot. They have even more invested here now after adding DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts. The former will be a major bargain compared to the rest of this group if he puts up numbers similar to last year (82 catches, nine touchdowns, 1,332 yards. But keep in mind in his first five years Jackson averaged 54.8 catches, 4.6 touchdowns and 957 yards per season).
NFL's top five cap hits
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota, $14,400,000
LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia, $9,700,000
Ray Rice, Baltimore, $8,750,000
Arian Foster, Houston, $8,300,000
Matt Forte, Chicago, $7,900,000
Redskins top cap hit
Summing it up: Peterson and McCoy are two of the most dangerous offensive players in the NFL and are difference-makers. But what's also clear is why teams don't like to shell out huge money for running backs. Washington’s Alfred Morris, who is 93rd on the list of running backs when it comes to 2014 cap figures ($600,775), was as productive running the ball as Peterson. Morris ran for 1,275 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 4.6 yards a carry. Peterson rushed for 1,266 yards and 10 touchdowns, averaging 4.5 yards per rush. Rice ran for 660 yards in 15 games, averaging 3.1 yards on 214 carries. Foster only played in eight games. Forte is an excellent all-around back and was productive. But the Redskins are fortunate they won’t have to shell out more money here for two more years.
NFL's top five cap hits
LT Joe Thomas, Cleveland, $12,300,000
LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson, New York Jets, $11,698,666
LT Russell Okung, Seattle, $11,240,000
G Jahri Evans, New Orleans, $11,000,000
LT Trent Williams, Washington, $10,980,393
Redskins top cap hit
Summing it up: Williams is one of the games best tackles so for him to be in this group makes sense. He could be more consistent and avoid the clunker game, but overall Williams has proven himself and earned two Pro Bowl trips. I'd have a hard time paying a guard as much as Evans, but at least he's an elite player with five consecutive All-Pro nods (in addition to five straight Pro Bowl berths). Okung, drafted one spot after Williams in 2010, has missed 19 games in his career and made one Pro Bowl team. Williams has played in every game the past two seasons. Because of his athleticism, the Redskins can use him differently than other teams use their tackles.
NFL's top five cap hits
Jason Witten, Dallas, $8,412,000
Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville, $8,250,000
Greg Olsen, Carolina, $7,800,000
Antonio Gates, San Diego, $7,362,500
Vernon Davis, San Francisco, $7,342,916
Redskins top cap hit
Summing it up: Yet another position where the Redskins have a bargain for a few more seasons. This isn’t about how Paulsen stacks up, but really about Jordan Reed. If he can stay healthy, this will be the company he keeps statistically. I love watching Davis because of the matchup headaches he causes based on his athleticism. It’s the same with Reed. Marcedes Lewis has had a nice eight-year career and is an excellent blocker, but No. 2 on this list? He has 25 career touchdown catches, but 10 came in one season. The others are proven pass threats. Of course, this list will change once Jimmy Graham's situation is settled with New Orleans.
Sixty Redskins received bonuses, with 10 topping $100,000 in extra pay, according to figures released by the NFL management council. The bonuses are given to players whose performance time tops their salary level. Tackle Tyler Polumbus topped the list with a $190,601 bonus. The bonuses will be paid on April 1, 2016. Quarterback Robert Griffin III received a $27,047 bonus.
Here are the top 10 Redskins who earned bonuses:
Tackle Tyler Polumbus $190,601
Cornerback David Amerson $173,375
Running back Alfred Morris $167,854
Safety Bacarri Rambo $162,807
Tight end Logan Paulsen $142,295
Receiver Aldrick Robinson $134,758
Linebacker Perry Riley $129,997
Running back Roy Helu $125,260
Tight end Jordan Reed $108,461
Tight end Niles Paul $103,475
Here's the full list of players and their bonuses.
The Redskins' tight ends liked that McVay would know – and wouldn’t hesitate.
“There’s no indecision, ‘This is what we do; this is how we do it,’" Logan Paulsen said. “There’s no gray area in my life, which is fantastic. Making sure the player knows what he has to do puts us in a great position. ... You have certain coaches who don’t like when you ask questions. They don’t know the offense spot on.”
That’s why players would be happy if McVay is elevated to offensive coordinator for new coach Jay Gruden. Though Gruden said he will interview other candidates, McVay still is considered the likely new choice. He’s young, only 27, but he also has impressed players because of his knowledge of the offense. Gruden said he will call the plays, so that could make it easier for a young coach such as McVay to ease into an expanded role.
“His ability to digest a game plan and give it to his players in a streamlined manner allows us to digest us efficiently making sure to emphasize details that are important,” Paulsen said. “Every week he’d try to call plays without looking at the sheet. He knows what everyone has to do on the field. He approached it like an offensive coordinator. That’s advantageous to a player. He knows every detail the same way Kyle [Shanahan] used to know the details. He has that big-picture mindset that helps out.”
Former Redskins tight end Chris Cooley played one and a half seasons under McVay.
“He had the highest understanding of an offense of any position coach I’ve ever been around,” Cooley said. “We’d go back and forth in meetings on scheme, why and how. There was always an answer. I love that in a coach.
“Two years ago I said if anyone becomes a head coach on this staff it would be Sean McVay.”
Players at other positions echoed what Paulsen and Cooley said. The tight ends often worked with the linemen in practice because they needed to be in tandem with their blocking.
“The relationships he has with players and what he gets out of a player with both effort and production on the field by not being a screamer,” Redskins guard Kory Lichtensteiger said. “He’s a guy you can relate to. He has a lot of shared characteristics with hard-working players. Players can see if a guy knows what he’s talking about and he goes about it the right way getting that type of effort out of his players.”
Not only did Kyle Shanahan exit with personal ware, he also left with his confidence. After six seasons as an NFL offensive coordinator, Shanahan remains upbeat about what he's accomplished -- and about where he's still headed. He should: The Redskins finished in the top 10 in total yards for the second consecutive year. And it's the fourth time in his six seasons as an offensive coordinator that his offenses ended up in the top 10 in total yards.
Shanahan was not the only offensive assistant fired. Quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur and receivers coach Mike McDaniel also were told they would not be retained. Offensive assistant Richmond Flowers also was let go.
But Shanahan is the one the players will miss most.
One opposing defensive coach, who faced the Redskins within the past two seasons, called Shanahan an "above average coordinator" who could be outstanding with the right head coach. His flaws, according to this coach: managing the game and play calling in critical situations. Other complaints over the years: he threw the ball too often and sometimes got too cute with his play calls.
But the Redskins moved the ball under Shanahan. They finished among the top 10 in total yards in consecutive years for the first time since 1991, the last of six straight years in the top 10. The problem is that Washington went from fourth in points per game a year ago to 23 this season. The No. 4 ranking in points in 2012 marked the only time Washington has finished in the top 10 since 1999.
"I liked Kyle's work ethic, his attention to detail," tight end Logan Paulsen said. "You know how in chess you play someone who is really good and they can see a couple moves ahead. I always felt he could do that. ... One thing I remember is talking to [tight ends coach Sean McVay] and said, ‘Why don't we just run this?' He said, ‘It doesn't have answers if you get into a bad coverage.' But the thing about Kyle and his staff they worked very hard to make sure every play has an answer so you never in an awful look."
Since 2000, the Redskins have been mostly dreadful on offense when it comes to scoring -- despite offensive-minded head coaches in Steve Spurrier, Joe Gibbs, Jim Zorn and Mike Shanahan. They've ranked 25th or worse in terms of scoring seven times since 2001 and 20th or worse 11 times. They ranked 13th in points per game in 2005, the next best finish after 2012.
"It's well put together," quarterback Rex Grossman said. "When he gets in a rhythm he's the best in the NFL. You can feel it as a player and it allows you to have success. ... If you're not in the right look, you do have answers so you don't feel stuck, which is a good thing and it's hard to coordinate."
Fullback Darrel Young said, "I respect everything he did for me, this team and this offense. All the people that criticized him, we still had Alfred [Morris] as one of the top 10 rushers in the league."
But Shanahan did not earn the complete trust of quarterback Robert Griffin III. And there is this matter: The Redskins finished 24-40 under the Mike Shanahan regime. In a bottom line business, that's the number that jumps out.
"You don't have a good record and that starts with myself as much as anybody else," Kyle Shanahan said last week. "The ultimate goal is wins."
When it finally happened Monday, the news still hit the players.
"It just got real," defensive end Kedric Golston said.
"Everyone expected it, but it doesn’t make it that much easier," tight end Logan Paulsen said.
"It definitely becomes a lot more real and makes the situation more sad," linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said.
Shanahan was fired shortly after 9 a.m. Monday morning as players were trickling in for their end-of-season physicals. Others were already packing up the belongings in their lockers.
It comes at the end of a 3-13 season, which is why the firing wasn’t much of a surprise. They finished 24-40 in Shanahan’s four seasons.
"Frustrating," fullback Darrel Young said. "We failed a Hall of Fame coach. It was a lack of execution by the players this year."
The players know that few, if any, current assistant coaches will stick around. The firing impacts coaches the players had relationships with, in some cases for four years. But the players also know there's a bottom line for them, too. Some players won’t fit what a new coach wants to run, whether offensively or defensively. So their futures are at stake, too.
"It’s also difficult because we have to learn a new scheme," Paulsen said. "We have to adapt to a new coach, a new coach who you might not fit their system. So a lot of guys might be gone. That's always difficult. It will be a complete culture change. But right now I just feel for coach and the staff and hope it works out for the best for them."
And, as players who have been around here know all too well, a new coach doesn't always bring results. The Redskins will be looking for their seventh full-time coach under owner Dan Snyder, who bought the team in 1999.
"Just because you change coaches doesn't mean that all is fixed," Golston said. "You have to now start the work to build something to be successful.
"Whenever you have a coaching change it's tough because you have new philosophies. You have to understand their communication, understand what he means when he says something and what his pet peeves are, what his practices are like, what his offseasons look like. All those things are new to you, so it brings uncertainty so you have to adapt on the fly. It’s never a good thing."
The Redskins' season unraveled in a hurry. They were 3-5 after a home win versus San Diego and then blew a 13-point second-half lead at then 1-7 Minnesota. There was a palpable difference in the locker room after that game, as if the players knew they had blown their chance. They never won again.
"The turning point was the Minnesota loss," Young said. "I [still] went into every game thinking we were going to win, but to look back now that was the turning point in the season. It felt like we were playing good football … and all the emotions that go into it changed a lot for us."
Last year at this time the Redskins were preparing for a playoff game against Seattle, coming off seven straight wins and full of confidence -- about that game and the future. Despite Robert Griffin III’s knee issues in the offseason the rest of the roster felt good and were buoyed by what they considered a strong training camp.
"And then to be where we're at now," Golston said, "to lose in the ways we lost some games, it's been unfortunate just because you don’t have many years in this business to let one slip away and let something like this happen."
In the end, though, something wasn't working.
"None of these coaches played a down this year," Kerrigan said. "It’s all on us. We can complain and say we all like this coaching staff and don’t want them to be fired, but if we played better we wouldn't be in this situation. That’s what hurts me."
This is the wrong season for the Redskins to give another team one more down. It’s the wrong season to expect the Redskins to make plays when they need to be made. There’s a reason the Redskins are now 3-12 and just about all those reasons were on display. As they have been for, oh, most of the season.
The Redskins held a nine-point lead in the fourth quarter and lost. They held a 14-point third-quarter lead at Denver and lost. They led Minnesota by 13 points and lost. Make a play and your season looks a little different. Those plays haven’t been made. They did stop San Diego at the goal line earlier this season to win, but finishing that game by making plays was the aberration, not the rule.
Thus, the Redskins enter their season finale at the New York Giants with a seven-game losing streak and many questions about their future. A win would have temporarily eased their pain. Fans have to be numb to the season but players are not. At least not all of them.
“This is pretty devastating, honestly,” Redskins tight end Logan Paulsen said. “In some ways it’s worse because you’re playing Dallas and everyone knows what that means and to kind of play well. ... It’s just tough to go out like that. If anything you feel it’s gotten worse each week. I’ve been on teams where you haven’t been that competitive, like in college, and you’re like, whatever. But these, you feel them.”
When a season turns as sour as this one did for Washington, there’s never one area to blame. But there is one area that takes the fall: the coaches. Forget all the stuff with quarterback Robert Griffin III. It’s difficult to bring back a staff that has an overall record of 24-39 in four seasons. This isn't about continuity. It's about direction in a results-based league. It's not always fair and there will be good people let go. It's the sad reality of the NFL.
Regardless, Sunday was another trifecta of the Redskins' ills.
The special teams allowed a 62-yard punt return to Michael Spurlock, who was signed on Wednesday. Niles Paul missed a tackle and no one else had a good shot until he was pushed out of bounds. There was the offense that managed only 297 yards, and a paltry 4.6 yards per play, against a struggling defense. They settled for field goals on their first two trips in the red zone. They also managed one first down and 23 total yards on two fourth-quarter drives. Quarterback Kirk Cousins, praised a week ago, looked like a young quarterback Sunday in his second start in place of Griffin.
And the Redskins’ defense did a solid job at times, only to be burned by long plays at bad times. Of Dallas’ 309 total yards, 125 came on three plays And of their eight longest plays in the game, five occurred in the fourth quarter -- and they totaled 116 yards.
Welcome to the Redskins’ season in a nutshell.
“You’re always trying to seize the momentum,” Redskins nose tackle Barry Cofield said. “We felt we had it, but it can change quickly and obviously it did. That’s been the story of the season. A lot of times the negativity has spiraled out of control and we’ve had a tendency to let negative momentum drag us down as opposed to building on positive momentum. That’s why we are where we are.”
Yes it is.
“We knew it was our last home game of the season and we tried to give the fans something to remember us,” Redskins receiver Santana Moss said.
What they did was remind the fans about everything that had gone wrong in 2013. And why they can’t wait for the season to end.
2. I thought backup Rex Grossman was pretty good talking about how Griffin conducted himself Sunday. Here’s what he had to say: “Great. It’s a tough situation, but at the same time he’s a good person and he has a bright future. He’s the franchise quarterback. I think this situation is tough because it’s so dramatic and he’s handling it with class and going with it. It’s not that big a deal, I think.” Wait? Not a big deal? Here’s why he said that: “Because he’s going to have all the opportunity in the world to be as successful as he wants to be and he has a long time to get ready and his career is still [going up]. He understands that. Everybody does.”
4. But I liked how, on Cousins’ 53-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon, the ball landed in the receiver’s arms right after he made his double move. No hesitation. I liked how Cousins used his eyes and didn’t lock in on guys. He was decisive with his throws and was able to step into his passes. Cousins also usually gave receivers a chance to gain yards after the catch. He also avoided negative situations or third and real long. The Redskins were 5-of-10 on third downs with all but three for 6 yards or less. Makes a difference. Cousins helped by hitting checkdowns in certain situations, thanks to keeping his eyes downfield.
5. The problem with covering the Washington Redskins now is that so much of what goes on right now doesn’t pertain to football. Rather, it’s about reacting to various reports, or trying to find out what’s true and what isn’t. NFL Network reported today that Kyle Shanahan plans on setting out “on his own path next year.” Shanahan denied this in a text Sunday night, saying it’s “100 percent not true.” But I do know that he’s never liked when people refer to he and his dad as the “Shanahans”. And that it would be good for him to be on his own, away from the questions that surround coaching for your father -- especially when you’re not winning. He did a good job publicly trying to distance himself from the quarterback switch last week.
6. I don’t blame Mike Shanahan for being annoyed with questions about his job status or situation. And he did answer a lot of these things publicly last week. But these stories keep getting leaked so the local media is then forced to ask about them. It’s a bad cycle, but it starts with the leaks. Simple as that. You know why sports reporters get into this business? To cover games, not Watergate.
7. I had no problem with the Redskins going for the two-point conversion. You’re 3-10, win the game when you have the chance. They had been picking apart the Atlanta secondary all game. They used a lot of screens and rub routes throughout the game and the Falcons did not handle them well. Naturally, on the two-point conversion they ran one that the Falcons finally defended. Cornerback Desmond Trufant didn’t let himself get picked by Josh Morgan, instead clamping on to Garcon, the primary read.
8. However, Morgan appeared open. Cousins blamed himself for the play, something he does quite a bit. He’s more honest about his bad plays than his good ones. “My initial reaction is I had Josh open on an offscheduled play and if I had set my feet, I may have been able to drill it into Pierre. That’s a play I clearly didn’t have a good enough feel for.”
9. Give the Redskins’ defense a lot of credit for how they played. Atlanta scored 20 points off turnovers , with one touchdown drive starting at the Redskins’ 2. Atlanta started four drives in Washington territory (managing 20 points). The Redskins forced six punts and held Atlanta to 243 total yards. Linebacker Brian Orakpo had a terrific game with eight tackles, 1.5 sacks, three tackles for loss and two quarterback hurries working against left tackle Lamar Holmes. Orakpo used speed and power and set up Holmes well; he got him outside and then when Holmes set wide, Orakpo would get into his chest and cut inside. Defensive lineman Chris Baker played one of his best games -- maybe his best -- with four tackles and a hurry. He did a nice job shedding blocks, too, and making stops.
10. Running back Alfred Morris was too loose with the ball and it hurt Washington twice. His fumbles did not lead to points, but they occurred deep in Atlanta territory so they took away the Redskins’ chance to score. Think another field goal would have made a difference? His game was like too many others: “Good game, but …” Morris finished with 98 yards on 18 carries and was terrific on the inside zone pitch; the Falcons linebackers overflowed and gave him cutback alleys. “A rope-a-dope deal,” as Logan Paulsen called it. At times when the linebackers tried to read the play, it bought time for the offensive linemen to reach them.
This time, Shanahan decided enough was enough. So when asked what he could do to stop the reports from coming out, Shanahan ended his news conference.
“OK, thank you gentlemen,” he said as he walked away.
It’s been a long week for Shanahan and the Redskins because of the controversy surrounding his job and whether or not he’ll return in 2014. Stories have popped up almost every day, and they’ve run the gamut from he’s trying to get himself fired to not wanting to leave, but only returning under certain circumstances (perhaps with an extension and with the assurance he could run things his way).
Then there was the decision to bench quarterback Robert Griffin III, which increased the scrutiny. Shanahan said he only wanted Griffin healthy for the offseason, but this move led to more speculation about ulterior motives.
It weighed on the players, who welcomed the three-hour respite provided by playing a game.
“It was so nice to get out there,” Redskins tight end Logan Paulsen said. “I don’t have Twitter, I don’t have Facebook, I don’t listen to the radio, and I don’t listen to news. But this is so saturated, it’s touching everywhere. I’m watching Thursday Night Football, and at halftime they’re talking about the Redskins. I’ve never had a situation where I had such a hard time staying away from it. Family and friends call me about what’s going on. I’m like, I don’t want to be talking to you guys about this. It’s difficult, but it is a sanctuary to come here to play, and a sanctuary during the week at practice. Even though it’s overwhelming, we have an opportunity to lose ourselves in the game.”
At 3-11, the noise will continue to grow because the questions won’t be going away until a decision is made.
“We don’t pay attention to it. We just have to keep our blinders on,” Redskins receiver Pierre Garcon said. “You just have to let it roll off your back.”
It was a postgame topic. It will be one throughout each of the next two weeks. That means there will be two days they can just like being players again.
“Once we’re between the lines, it’s all the game,” linebacker Brian Orakpo said. “Everything else is out the window. Regardless of the drama, we came out trying to win a game and we fell short, but we fought hard to the end.”
- I just don't see how Mike Shanahan survives, nor do I think he should. This situation has eroded that much and it's not even a matter of which side is right or wrong. I thought for a while it could be salvaged, but after this weekend it can't. It's not just about the playoff loss to Seattle last season and the distrust that developed over the play calling in that game. It's a general distrust on both sides over the source of all these leaks. It's not workable.
- Will Dan Snyder fire Shanahan this week? That's tough to say. But at this point, why not make your move? It's clearly going to happen after the season at the very least. If it continues the atmosphere will be bad for the final three weeks. It's hard to imagine after Sunday that Snyder doesn't know what he wants to do. This isn't about trying not to live up to his impatient image anymore; nobody would blame Snyder for making a move. That doesn't mean it's all one person's fault and the coach still has strong support in most corners of the locker room. That's been evident all season. But after three double-digit loss seasons out of four and with the issues between coach and quarterback, there really isn't a decision to be made. Move on.[+] EnlargeAP Photo/Evan VucciMike Shanahan's days in Washington may be numbered.
- All the leaks and stories that have come out lately were supposed to stop under this regime. This is what happened in the Jim Zorn era, only that time there was clear player dissatisfaction. Some of the stories emanated with them. Some from the coaches. Some from the front office. It was ugly. It's ugly again. It's back to what it's been too many times in the Snyder era, an atmosphere that is not conducive to winning. The locker room is terrific and has been. This is not a divided team.
- I know players will be disappointed. But they're just as responsible for what's happened as the coaches. “I'm a guy that's backing [Shanahan] 100 percent,” Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo said. But is he worried about moves being made? “Who knows man? It's the NFL. Having been through it already who knows. I just have to keep playing.” A couple of months ago I thought we'd be talking about a team ready to go on a playoff run. Instead, it's a coaching search. I was far from alone in my assessment.
- The problem with starting over is not just bringing in a new staff, it's new offensive and defensive systems. Not many coaches run the stretch zone scheme the way Shanahan does. That means the bulk of the line will be gone because they fit something rather specific. And if a new coach comes in and wants to return to a 4-3 front? I hear the cheering now, but you need to know this has never been about the scheme they play. It's about the talent they've accrued to fit that scheme. If they switched to a 4-3 tomorrow they'd need to make major changes. If they stay in a 3-4 they'll need to make changes. Heck, it's probably a good time to undergo this transition defensively because of the need to make multiple moves regardless.
- I've heard Art Briles name floated. Maybe Snyder pursues him and hires him. That doesn't mean it would be a good move. I don't think the quarterback needs that sort of attention, with the thought being that he got one coach fired to hire another. Briles has never coached in the NFL and would not be prepared for what he would be about to face. Forget defenses, which will be much more complex, it's about dealing with issues he never had to in college. You would need a strong organization to make it work with a college coach. That's not Washington. Chip Kelly is not the rule. Heck, Steve Spurrier had pro experience before he arrived in Washington. Snyder will need to do better than Briles.
- The Redskins played a game Sunday and were embarrassed. Logan Paulsen: “Stunned, embarrassed. Those are all good words. We just got taken out behind the woodshed and got the belt taken to us. It's awful. No one expected this.” Santana Moss: “They beat our [butts] man and it was embarrassing.”
- Embarrassing would describe the special teams, too. Do I need to go into detail here? They allowed 300 return yards! Yes, I used an exclamation point because that's an astonishing number. That goes on top of the 347 yards they gained as a team. They returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown and a kickoff 95 yards. Punt returner Dexter McCluster returned seven punts for 177 yards. That's ridiculous. Field conditions played a part and McCluster's running style did as well. He is not a dancer; he's a glider who cuts and goes. That made it easy for him to weave through tremendous gaps.[+] EnlargeGeoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsDexter McCluster, lower left, returned seven punts for 177 yards and a touchdown.
- But Niles Paul was sickened by what he saw once again on special teams. It's not about special-teams coach Keith Burns and whatever he's teaching them. At some point effort and intensity must enter into play. They haven't, not as a group. I don't know how you can say you have the right players if you don't have guys buying into what they're asked to do on special teams. Here's Paul: “Hopefully they get it and understand this is your role this year, whether you become a starter next year is neither here nor there. This year your role is special teams and you should give the effort you're being paid to give. ... Reed [Doughty] has held meetings talking about effort. We haven't called anybody out. That's not the type of team we want to be. It almost comes down to us having to do that. It feels like everyone's not on the same page and it's frustrating. ... Coaching has never been an issue. The issue we've had is the effort from players. You can't have four or five guys out there giving effort and no one else is giving the same. You get what we had today, an embarrassment.” There's that word again.
- What else to really say about this game? It's one of the ugliest losses that I've seen because of the timing of certain stories and future implications. Jamaal Charles was terrific, though he had big gaps to cut through. Charles worked well on a slick field. Defenders had a tough time cutting; he did not. Meanwhile, the Redskins' offense was bad. The quarterback didn't play well. The line didn't create openings. It was 45-10.
LANDOVER, Md. -- The game didn't matter at all, just like too many December games in Washington in the past dozen or so years. It’s down to this: trying to figure out whose version of the truth is the correct one.
Both sides -- the Mike Shanahan camp and the Robert Griffin III camps -- come across the same way. They look and sound exhausted by what has transpired. One side leaks out how the relationship between Dan Snyder and Griffin displeases the head coach and is damaging. They’re too close. The other side says that’s just not the case. They rarely talk during the season; they’re not that close.
But this is the state of the Washington Redskins. Trying to parse meaning from every sentence, from the way someone answers a question. Did they look angry? Defeated? Teary-eyed? Other cities talk about playoff races; in Washington it returns to politics and body language. Oh, and job security: Will Snyder fire Shanahan? If so, is it imminent? Will Snyder let him twist a little?
Shanahan had the opportunity to deny an ESPN.com report about the events of last season, when it was reported that he planned to quit because of Griffin’s relationship with Snyder. Shanahan obviously didn’t quit -- nor did he shoot down the story. If a guy wants to get fired, one good way is to have a story like this come out (and then not say who your starting quarterback is for next week, as Shanahan did as well).
It was the first topic he discussed after the Redskins’ 45-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in front of a record-low 56,247 fans at home.
“It’s not the right time or place to talk about my relationship with Dan Snyder,” Shanahan said, “or it’s not the right time and place to talk about something that happened a year ago. I will get a chance to talk to Dan at the end of the season and I will give him some viewpoints from me and I’m sure he will give me his thoughts. I’m not sure what direction we will go, but we will communicate that at the right time.”
Shanahan wouldn’t answer any questions about anything other than what happens on the field. His focus, he kept repeating, is on next week’s opponent Atlanta.
“I’d like to talk about the job at hand,” he said, giving the impression he was already resigned to his fate. “And not speculation or my relationship.”
That will be tough to do as long as he remains employed by the Redskins. As Shanahan exited Fed Ex Field at 5:20 p.m. ET, he still was the coach. And as long as he’s the coach all aspects will be picked apart because they all play into any decision Snyder will make.
The players harp on the old lines of not focusing on what they can’t control. But it takes a toll, not just the losing but the endless speculation.
“It’s extremely difficult,” tight end Logan Paulsen said. “It’s like going to work every day and someone is standing outside your window telling you how much you sucked. It’s a distraction and it’s very difficult to navigate that. I think that’s the biggest thing. It’s noise constantly. People talking about your coach getting fired. People talking about cutting players. People talking about everything under the sun. That’s always really difficult.
“I do worry about [what might happen]. Shanahan is a guy I have a ton of respect for. I want to play at a level that is going to keep him here. Every time we have a game like this, I feel I’m not helping him keep his job.”
It’s clear that Griffin is perturbed as well. He’s a 23-year-old quarterback who was the talk of the NFL a year ago. He still is, for different reasons. It’s one thing for him to hear his game picked apart; it’s another to have other aspects of his life probed. There’s always noise that accompanies terrible seasons in Washington, especially when there are questions about whether or not the head coach will return.
Now Griffin is caught up in it. Safe to say he understands how it looks for him. Safe to say he’s frustrated about how his relationship with Snyder is portrayed, that they rarely talk during the season and not about football. Snyder was pilloried in the past for his chummy relationship with players, something that was not an issue the past several years.
“I’m not going to talk about that stuff guys,” Griffin said. “It’s not relevant to the game or relevant to my life. That is my answer to that. This is ridiculous.”
But he did go longer when asked why his relationship with the coach or owner is always being questioned.
“I don’t know,” Griffin said. “I’m getting frustrated now, too, and trying to hold everything back. Some things are allowed to happen and we can cut a lot of this stuff out and it is not being cut out. I don’t know what else I can do about that. It is very unfortunate.”
This is no longer a healthy relationship, this one between Shanahan and Griffin. When these stories come out, it makes you wonder why.
“Is it calculated?” Griffin said. “I don’t know what it is.”
Here’s what many would call it: the end.
You’ve been honest about your thoughts on the team. Have you received any negative feedback?
A lot of guys in your spot don’t take the time to do all that work. Players also have to know you know what you’re talking about.
Cooley: I’m also the first person to say someone did a phenomenal job. I want to be the guy that people say, 'We want him to say good things about us, because if he does it’s real, and if he says bad things it’s his job.' Two weeks ago we did that film study and I said Logan Paulsen played at a D level. I thought he played terrible. The next week he was my player of the game. It’s because I graded the film and looked at impact plays versus negative plays, and he was the best on offense. … My job is to be judgmental on how you play on the field and what’s going on in the locker room. I’ll never personally attack a player.
How did you react to this when you were a player?
Cooley: [Doc Walker is] pretty hard on guys, especially in games. Over the last couple weeks I sat back and wondered, how many times did Doc talk trash about me? When I say I don’t look at a lot of stuff for the most part, that’s true. I didn’t know if Doc said anything about me. I was more focused on what I was doing and needed to do than what someone said about me. Some players are different. But I’ve always looked at it like the media has a job to do and they get paid to do, and we’re part of that job. I have to respect your profession and help you with what you need, and understand your story is just as important to you as my play was to me.
Are you enjoying this?
Cooley: At first, no. At first I thought it was tough and I was really busy. I had to get to the point where I had to say no to a lot of things, to TV stuff and a lot of events. All stuff I like to do, but when you put it all together and you have a hundred of them, I didn’t like it. Over the last month I do it under the umbrella of my job on radio, the game, the three TV stations I do, and my life. Now I love it. I’m at the Park talking football to assistant coaches. The biggest thing for me is I love the Redskins, and that’s super cliché. They gave me so many opportunities to be what I am in life. All I want is for them to have success. I want to be part of that success for as much as I can for as long as I can. … It’s a really cool job. Over the last three or four years I started to enjoy the game more than I did, and appreciate the game for what it is. That’s why I’m able to do the job the way I am. I watched a lot of film like a coach and spent time learning the offense like a coach and quarterback. That film thing is something I always do, and something we did really well. I got so much good feedback, and then I came home and my girlfriend said, ‘I tried to listen, but it was so bad.’ I’m like a football nerd. But if you don’t get it, it’s like, ‘Whoa, he’s getting way over the top.’
What do you ultimately want to do?
Cooley: My goal is to be Sonny [Jurgensen]. Sonny had access to the team for a long time. He’s a guy people look up to and respect. He travels to every game. He gets paid well. He loves his life. Let’s say two or three years from now someone says we want you to call games. That might be something hard to turn down, but it’s not a goal of mine. My goal is to be here. My life is ideal right now. The only thing I miss is playing. I watch games and I think I could do [stuff] and I think I miss playing. I’ll get over that, and it’s not like every day I wake up and wish I was playing. But I do miss being part of the team, I miss the adrenaline, miss that feeling of excitement when you do really well. You just don’t get that when you do this job. ... I talk to so many [ex-players] who say, 'I work for this company now where I sell [stuff] and I just go to work.' I miss that feeling of everyone saying you did the best job ever. To some extent I still get it. I now realize If I prepare and do a really good job then I do get some of that.
1. I’m sure over the next four weeks there will be a few more calls for the Washington Redskins to play Kirk Cousins now that they’re out of the playoffs. The only way I would consider that is if you’re not sold on Griffin for the future or if you think he’s just too beaten up. There are major ramifications if you sit Griffin now. It’s not the same as when they sat Donovan McNabb for the final three games in 2010 to give Rex Grossman a shot. McNabb was not in their plans. Griffin had a strong game Sunday; why sit him now? What if he finishes with four more such outings? Isn’t that what you want?
3. The pockets were clean too. On a third-and-7 on the first drive, Griffin had 3.5 seconds to throw when he hit slot receiver Nick Williams for 6 yards. Thing is, Griffin stared at him almost the whole time. Meanwhile, Aldrick Robinson had broken open over the middle (starting from the right side). It’s irrelevant because the Redskins eventually converted the first down and drove for a score, but it could have been a missed opportunity.
4. Another missed opportunity: On the bootleg pass to Fred Davis for 1 yard in the second quarter, Griffin had Logan Paulsen running free to the end zone on the same side. Two plays later, Griffin made amends. He held the safety on the left side by looking at Pierre Garcon (running the same route Davis caught a pass on during the first scoring drive), and that allowed Paulsen to break to the middle from the other side and catch an open touchdown pass. Griffin has improved at using his eyes to hold defenders.
5. Griffin did a better job avoiding hits in the first half, when he wasn’t out in front on end arounds, that is. On a third-and-8 in the first quarter, he looked left, middle and then right and dumped it off to running back Roy Helu. The ball was out in 2.7 seconds, and Griffin wasn't hit. Of course, it didn't gain a first down, but no one was open and he got rid of the ball.
6. On the next drive, Griffin started up the middle and, rather than continue to scramble, tossed it to running back Alfred Morris for 5 yards. Again, another hit Griffin didn’t take.
7. Griffin managed 39 yards on seven zone-read runs, but it was evident the Giants were fine with him keeping the ball. They played it well with their safeties; even if he got wide, someone was coming up hard in pursuit. The linebackers seemed content to read and then react to him running wide. Griffin is still a fast quarterback; he just lacks explosiveness, and teams play him accordingly. Last season, he averaged 8 yards on zone-read runs; this year it’s 5.46. I don’t know why any team wouldn’t focus on Morris at this point.
8. Griffin’s mechanics still need to be more consistent. On the short pass that Santana Moss had to reach low for, Griffin appeared too stiff-legged. Sometimes he still doesn't get his feet around on certain throws, but a few examples of that Sunday night stemmed from the pocket collapsing. In a clean pocket, I did see Griffin get his feet around when he started left but had to throw to the right.
9. Not all of the sacks were the fault of the protection. There were at least two coverage sacks. On one, Griffin had 5.5 seconds but no one was open. Not good. Another time Griffin, on third down, had the ball for 5.6 seconds. No one was open downfield, but Griffin had a chance to turn and throw to Helu in the right flat. The pocket was clean as Griffin stepped up. That was the only throw he had available.
10. I liked the comeback route Griffin threw to Garcon against a five-man rush in the second half. Griffin and Garcon were on the same page here, as Griffin released the ball just before the receiver made his break.
11. For the most part, I liked Griffin’s decision-making. He seemed to do a better job on some reads in terms of how quickly he went through his progressions. I’m most disappointed by the final drive, because I wanted to see if he could finally produce a touchdown in that situation this season.
12. But his teammates didn’t help him. Paulsen dropped one right in his hands. Griffin threw in 2.6 seconds and wasn't hit, but perhaps a smidgen more patience and it's a 15-yard gain elsewhere, as Moss had broken open over the middle. Still, a good ball that Paulsen should have caught, and it would have resulted in 7 or 8 yards. One thing I liked last season with Griffin was his penchant for starting such drives with sure completions just to move the chains. So I won’t quibble here. A similar situation occurred on second down when he dumped to Helu for 7 yards though comeback routes on both sides appeared open. Still, a positive gain.
13. The second-and-6 pass to Garcon should have been a big gain. The Redskins ran a terrific play, sending four vertical routes and leaving Garcon one-on-one with a linebacker underneath. But Griffin was under duress, and his throw did not lead Garcon. Had he been able to do so, it could have been a nice gain.
14. Loved the bullet to Davis on third-and-1 (or first-and-10, some might argue). Another drop, but a good, strong delivery. Griffin was on target to Garcon on fourth down too.
2. And then there were the lack-of-composure fouls. Pierre Garcon kicked the ball in the end zone after a failed pass play -- from what I understand, the ball was thrown where it was supposed to be. Garcon wasn't there. He then kicked the ball after New York's Prince Amukamara dropped it in the end zone. "Because we didn't score a touchdown," Garcon said. "[If] we'd spotted 75 yards and didn't score a touchdown ... I'd have punted it harder."
3. Then there was Santana Moss, who did not like holding being called on him. "He called a holding and I just thought it was a B.S. call and I told him it was a B.S. call and he gave me unsportsmanlike conduct. I guess I got a unsportsmanlike conduct for saying, ‘B.S. call.' " Teams trying to snap losing streaks can't afford those sort of 15-yard losses. You dig out of such holes by playing with composure. Instead the Redskins built a 14-0 lead, saw the Giants rally to tie and then resorted to their habit of playing losing football.
4. There is genuine frustration on the faces of numerous players, notably Garcon and Moss and tight end Logan Paulsen. Garcon gave short answers to every question he was asked. Paulsen looked exhausted and drained. Moss was passionate. Others looked stone faced or numb (Ryan Kerrigan). I don't think every player takes losing this hard. That's not to say you should feel sorry for them. Just an observation. Losing has taken a toll. It's not easy to keep asking, "Why are you bad?" It's even harder to keep answering the questions. Four more weeks.
5. The Giants did an excellent job taking away running back Alfred Morris. Some teams have geared up to stop the play-action pass (partly because they felt they could win matchups up front). The Giants knew they could not win if Morris had a strong game. They rotated their safeties and messed up blocking assignments on outside zones. "It affects what the target is," tight end Logan Paulsen said. Their line also slanted in ways the Redskins did not always handle. It's why Morris had a subpar game. Amazingly, he had more yards receiving (27) than rushing (26). Let that sink in.
6. I thought this was interesting stuff from Paulsen. I'll just let him have the stage, but I'll also make it clear: He wasn't blaming anyone in particular, just pointing out where the offense is at right now. "Last year we were able to keep it pretty simple and a lot of basic stuff was very effective for us. This year teams have had a year to look at us and look at that seven-game run and say, ‘This is what they're doing and this is what we need to do to stop them.' So the counter punches to their counter punches are things we have not been able to execute as well."
7. There's more from Paulsen: "We sit in meetings and see it on tape and say these are the plays we need to get to and these are the plays we need to execute to counteract. We haven't been able to nail that home. It's hard to explain. We rep something all week and we expect a certain coverage and sometimes that look isn't there and we have to get to other things in the progression and other routes have to win that aren't the primary route." In other words, the Redskins have not successfully evolved as an offense for whatever reason.
8. The Redskins opened with their no-huddle on the first drive and it worked well, as did the play action (even off zone read). So why not use it more? The no-huddle works great, but for an inconsistent offense it can also lead to quick three-and-outs, which is the fear (they were 5-of-16 on third down). It then puts a struggling defense in bad spots. Also, they did use it later in the game, but a holding penalty on a first down put them in a bad place and they returned to huddling. Denver and New England can use this strategy all game because they operate at a much higher efficiency. They make the no huddle; it's not the other way around.
9. Robert Griffin III completed his first 12 passes and looked calm and poised in the pocket early. He did a better job hitting checkdowns in the first half. On his touchdown pass to Paulsen, Griffin did an excellent job holding the safety by looking to his left, then throwing back to the middle to an open Paulsen. You can't blame Griffin for the failed last drive, not when he had three passes dropped and a fourth one was stripped. Yes, he missed on some throws (by the way I don't think Aldrick Robinson was open in the first half deep down the field. I want to see it again, but my recollection is that the safety came up as the ball was being dumped off to the right flat). I'll have a better feel for his game after re-watching the coach's film.
10. It's clear the Redskins missed tight end Jordan Reed and fullback Darrel Young, both out with injuries. The Redskins used Evan Royster as a fullback in short yardage situations; not his strength and he was stopped twice for no yards. Young has hurt New York in the past on such plays. The Redskins' offense had terrific field position (average starting yard line was their own 32). But they started four drives from their own 41 or better and managed just 10 points.