Mike Shanahan's first two years with the Redskins saw them go a combined 11-21. A win total they almost equaled in their first year with Robert Griffin III at the helm.
From the first moment Griffin stepped onto the field in New Orleans, everything seemed different.
The Redskins offense was, in a word, electrifying. The innovative pistol formation combined with the zone-read scheme took the NFL by storm. After throwing for 320 yards with two touchdowns and rushing for an additional 42, Griffin led the Redskins to 40 points for the first time since 2005.
After an improbable seven-game win streak to win the NFC East, the Redskins were heading into the playoffs knowing that no matter the score, the season was a success. With Griffin's knee injury late in the game, it seemed as if all those wins were nothing more than a distant memory.
Mike and Kyle Shanahan have had the entire offseason to rethink their offensive game plan.
Can a quarterback be asked to run over 100 times in a season and remain healthy? Will Griffin be able to recover from his injury to the extent that he still gives defensive players nightmares? What will be the offense's counter to defensive coordinators who have been devising ways to stop the read-option all offseason?
When Mike Shanahan was asked about the read-option and its long-term viability, here's what he had to say, via Redskins.com:
You don’t really know what defenses are going to do. You can anticipate what they are going to do. People don’t know when we are going to run the read option but they are going to have to prepare for it all the time. If they can spend half of their practice time preparing for something we may do [or] we may not do, it gives us an advantage. The playaction passes, the running game, I think you can see last year that it really worked out well. Will it work out well this year? Time will tell. Anytime we are in the Pistol, we can run our whole offense from the Pistol so we don’t give it away from a formation set.
All four Redskins quarterbacks have been running zone-read plays during practice, including Rex Grossman. It's important to note that all of Griffin's injuries occurred on traditional pass plays where he scrambled outside the pocket and not as a result of the read-option.
The read-option opened up both the run and pass game for Washington, and this year the Redskins look to improve on their offense by keeping some of their more dynamic playmakers on the field.
The Redskins' 2013 offense will most likely greatly resemble that of 2012 , as the Redskins return all 11 of their starters.
Alfred Morris is the clear starting running back, but Roy Helu Jr. has proven in both practice and preseason that he can provide a different element to the run game. Helu's speed and pass-catching ability could prove a great asset on third down, an area the Redskins struggled in last year.
Fred Davis and Pierre Garcon look to be fully healthy and are considered the two most athletic receiving weapons. Garcon and Davis are back from toe and Achilles injuries respectively. A once depleted receiving corps now appears full of viable options for Griffin to employ in the passing game.
In addition to Garcon, the rest of the wide receivers look to improve going into 2013.
Josh Morgan was suffering from hand and ankle issues all last season, which have since been taken care of through multiple surgeries. Leonard Hankerson and Aldrick Robinson are young talents who can both contribute if they prove that they have learned the finer points of the position.
One reason for the offense's stellar production last year was due to the sustained health of its offensive line. Returning all five starting linemen gives the Redskins confidence that their run and pass blocking will continue to remain effective as Griffin and company work toward installing a more sophisticated and devastating offense.
Trent Williams did suffer a wrist sprain that has kept his hand heavily wrapped, but that hasn't stopped him from practicing. You can be sure that even if Williams has not fully recovered by Week 1, look to find him clubbing defensive ends as Robert Griffin and Alfred Morris execute the game plan.
While there may be slight variations and new wrinkles to the offense, it appears the pistol and read-option are here to stay. Come Week 1, expect a dynamic, productive attack that will provide sustained drives, big plays and plenty of touchdowns.