- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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Is this Mike Shanahan’s last game as the Redskins' coach? Yes. Though technically his status remains undecided, it’s hard to see owner Dan Snyder continuing this regime after a disastrous season and way too many leaked stories over the past three weeks. The rift between Shanahan and quarterback Robert Griffin III grew during this time – especially, and perhaps mostly, from the players’ point of view -- to the point that it’s difficult to see it being repaired and then working. Had the Redskins even finished 6-10 minus the stories, then Snyder could justify continuing this regime. Makes you wonder why some of these stories were leaked. And, once again, I’ll say this: Snyder will not be caught unprepared for a head coaching search.
Will Shanahan go out a winner? They can beat the New York Giants. But all season the Redskins have played losing football, committing too many penalties, not making plays on special teams, allowing big plays at bad times on defense and turning the ball over on offense. They were not an unlucky team; they’ve been a bad team all season from the opener through the next 14 games. Why will it change now? The only reason for hope all year was what they had shown a year ago; there was never any legitimate hope based on what they did in 2013. And I think we’re past the point of players trying to send guys out a winner. If it was that simple to flip a switch and win, they’d have done it long ago.
What’s left to decide this weekend? The Redskins' final opponent for the 2014 season. The first 14 opponents were known before the season, but the final two are based on the standings. They’ll play at the NFC North last-place finisher (Minnesota clinched this spot) and will host the NFC South last-place finisher (Atlanta and Tampa Bay are currently tied for last). The Falcons host Carolina while the Bucs play at New Orleans. Talk about intrigue.
Why watch Sunday? Tough one to answer because it’s been a wash-rinse-repeat type of disaster every week. So here goes: To see whether or not quarterback Kirk Cousins makes any progress. He looked solid in his first start, though the two interceptions definitely hurt. Against Dallas he was rather ordinary and did not do well throwing the ball beyond 10 yards. Dallas did a good job defending the bootleg action. Now that he has two games on film, how do the Giants defend him? Based on his play so far, it would take a major leap of faith to think he could yield a high draft choice in return. It would not be bad at all for him to return; if Griffin is bothered by the competition, then he’s not the player many thought he was.
How many players are in their last week with Washington? Quite a few. Even if Shanahan returned there would be change, especially on defense. And in any change there will be roster turnover – especially in an offseason where the Redskins have more cap room. A new coaching change will bring new schemes on both sides of the ball. A new coach could change three or four spots on the offensive line depending on his blocking scheme. And if they prefer a 4-3, that means more changes both. The dynamics of the locker room, which have been good, will change. There are seven pending free agents who have been with Washington for at least five seasons: corner DeAngelo Hall, safety Reed Doughty, receiver Santana Moss, tight end Fred Davis, linebacker London Fletcher, linebacker Brian Orakpo and linebacker Rob Jackson. Fletcher already is done, having announced his “99 percent” retirement. It’s not a stretch to think that just a couple of this group will return, but that will depend on numerous factors.