Sunday, December 29, 2013
Giants 20, Redskins 6: Ten observations
By John Keim
1. If the Redskins asked me -- and for many, many years they have not -- I’d tell them to bump Bruce Allen to team president, hire a young general manager, let him hire the coach and proceed with building your organization. It’s a strategy the Redskins have not tried under Dan Snyder. Allen is a negotiator/contract guy, not a talent evaluator. That’s not a knock, it’s who he is. But I’m not a fan of a head coach having all the power. You need to have checks and balances when it comes to acquiring talent; GMs have an eye on the future whereas coaches are worried about right now.
2. I don’t know who the next coach will be, but it would be good for the organization to have a young guy with energy as a head coach, someone who wants to prove how good he is -- not how good he used to be. And someone who isn’t just giving jobs to some of his buddies. That’s not to say Mike Shanahan’s staff was only filled by coaches like that. Nor is it always a bad thing. But there are definitely coaches you bring with you when you’ve coached that long. Even Joe Gibbs had coaches on his staff who were only in the NFL at that time because of their ties to him. Again: bring in some energy.
3. That is something the offensive staff had a little more of because they did have a younger group, from offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to several of his assistants. Of that group, I could see tight ends coach Sean McVay returning with a new regime. That’s not a definite of course, but he is well regarded and, as WJFK’s Grant Paulsen tweeted earlier, he has closer ties to general manager Bruce Allen. If anyone from the Gruden family comes, McVay almost definitely would stay. Not only do they have a connection, they share the same agent.
Having two promising young quarterbacks under contract like Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins makes the Redskins' head-coaching job an attractive one.
4. The top two jobs available: Detroit followed by Houston and then the Redskins. That was also the ranking of one league source. The Redskins will be enticing because they have two young quarterbacks -- with Robert Griffin III still their future -- and lots of salary-cap space. But there’s a history of losing here and there is a lot of work required to rebuild the defense. And owner Dan Snyder must keep his distance from quarterback Griffin. It’s a look that could turn off some prospective coaches. That doesn’t mean Snyder must ignore him, but it would definitely be a turnoff for some coaches if they appear to have a close relationship.
5. The Redskins’ locker room was more noisy and filled with laughter than you would usually expect after a 14-point loss. But I can’t say I blame them. Even before the game I was told that the players were rather loose and clearly ready for the season to be over compared to the coaches who understood the gravity of their situation and reacted accordingly. It’s been a long season, but the locker room was a loose one. Was it too loose? At times I wondered, but it also was this loose last year and was one reason, perhaps, that they could overcome a 3-6 start. One note: Griffin sat in front of his locker with headphones on checking out his iPad.
6. Players will almost always publicly support a coach in the situation that Mike Shanahan is in. So you have to take that into account when you read players’ quotes. But I thought more players privately said good things about him as well, more so than for other about-to-be-fired coaches that I’ve covered like a Jim Zorn. Still, for some they know a coaching change also means they could be out of a job. And whether or not they like him doesn’t matter. The job is to build a winner, the Redskins didn’t and the veterans especially understand that notion.
7. Linebacker Brian Orakpo says he wants to return. He also looked and sounded like a guy who’s ready to test the free-agent market. If he re-signs, Orakpo would be playing for his third head coach since being drafted by Washington in 2009. Of course, if he goes elsewhere he’d also be playing for a new team, coach and, possibly, system. And money always plays a factor. So, too, will be whoever the next coach is in Washington and what defensive scheme they’ll implement. “I would love to finish my career as a Redskin,” Orakpo said. “We have unfinished business here. At the same time I want to have the best interests of myself as well. There aren’t too many times you can be an unrestricted free agent. You have to take advantage of that.”
8. A little housecleaning: Washington’s last 2014 opponent was finalized Sunday. Based on Tampa Bay’s last-place finish, the Bucs will play at Washington. The Redskins' other game based on a common finish already was determined; they will play at Minnesota.
9. Quarterback Kirk Cousins did not have a strong finish, playing against the best defense he’s faced in his four NFL starts. The weather conditions didn’t help and on too many shorter routes, receivers weren't winning. But if he had gone out and played well then it would have said a lot about him, that he could play well against a good defense in dreary conditions. But his throws were off target all day and he could have been intercepted several more times than he was -- and he was picked off twice. He was just inaccurate and forced some passes trying to make plays.
10. But the idea that he lowered his trade value assumes that he already had a certain value. I’m not sure that’s the case. I think people speculated based on what they thought Cousins would continue to do (and most teams would have wanted to see more anyway before unloading a high pick). Cousins still needs time to develop and perhaps in time he could fetch something of substance. For now though he’s looked like a fourth-round pick with upside. I wonder how many teams would have changed their opinion on him based on his four starts -- two good, two not so good. But he just didn’t make enough plays the past two games after having a strong outing against Atlanta. Nobody will work harder; nobody will study more. It would have been good for the franchise if Cousins had played well, but it also will remove a potential storyline next summer. Griffin remains the future. I’d rather keep Cousins anyway than trading him this spring (even for a second-rounder). You can trade him next year, but he still acts as insurance if Griffin doesn’t develop the way they’d like.