Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Five Questions Facing the Redskins
By John Keim
Are they tired of the drama? Well, yeah. They’ve answered questions all season on Robert Griffin III's knee, his recovery, his game, his relationship with the coaches, his leadership. It’s not all Griffin’s doing, mind you, and not every question is about him, nor is every player asked about him. It won’t just be about him now, though, as the final five weeks will be about the future: in some cases for the player, and in others for the coach. Makes for a tougher work environment. It’s the, uh, joys of losing.
Have they quit? I know they did not look good Monday night, and you can start to wonder. But they also aren’t in San Francisco’s class as a team and were outplayed in all categories. It was the best defense they’d faced all season, and they had zero answers or ability to make anything work. But there’s a difference between looking bad (or, rather, being bad) and quitting. A bigger test will be Sunday night against the New York Giants. This is a winnable game at home off a holiday week. Another ugly game and the answer changes. The players know the heat they’ll take in the next month if this play continues. It’ll be worse than they’re now getting.
Is Mike Shanahan’s job now in jeopardy? I don’t see how it isn’t. If the Redskins continue to play poorly down the stretch and finish with some sort of disastrous record, then would anyone be surprised if owner Dan Snyder makes a change? Would anyone say he acted impatiently if they go, say, 4-12 and he pulls the plug? The players I’ve spoken to say they still believe in Shanahan’s message. Of course, some of them would be gone if another coach is hired and, on the other side, there are always some who have a beef. Always. But actions will speak louder down the stretch than any words you hear. They need to do something they haven’t all season: Play well for a long stretch. Look like a team that has more going for it than simply lots of cap room in the offseason.
Do you think they should play quarterback Kirk Cousins? No, not unless Griffin gets hurt. I agree with Shanahan that what Griffin needs is more reps. Because of how his game has to change, Griffin needs more time developing as a pocket passer. In some ways he’s going through the rookie growing pains that he did not endure last year. I also think last season fooled him into thinking he was at a certain level as a passer that he clearly was not, unprepared for the adjustments defenses would make. Also, if you plan to coach here and still view Griffin as the future starter, and you sit him for any reason other than injury, good luck making it work going forward.
Are there any on-field issues? Of course. Will Jordan Reed play this week? Don’t know yet, but Shanahan said Monday that he was feeling better, a good sign after missing the previous game with a concussion. Still, there’s no guarantee but it was a good start to the week for Reed. If he doesn’t, then Fred Davis will get another chance. Shanahan would not deny that Davis was being punished Monday for some sort of transgression during the week or for how he handled the preparation. Davis spent the past few weeks talking about how he wanted to handle his situation like a professional. If that’s the case and he indeed was being punished, it’s an odd way to handle things. Also, what is the impact of Stephen Bowen's departure? It's not like he was having his best season, but there is always depth issues at this position. Kedric Golston can fill in and Chris Baker is capable of making plays. Bowen plays the run better than those two, but I don't think we're going to see some sort of big drop-off from an already-struggling unit.