Washington Redskins: Is Poor Play-Calling the Problem in Washington?

Mike Ploger@@PlogerContributor IIOctober 29, 2013

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 30:  Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan of the Washington Redskins looks on prior to the start of their game against the Dallas Cowboys at FedExField on December 30, 2012 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

The Washington Redskins are off to their worst start to a season since Mike and Kyle Shanahan took the reins in 2010. While Robert Griffin III's inconsistency, the defense's poor tackling or even penalties could be to blame for a third straight season below .500 after seven games, a bigger problem could lie behind the mic.

Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan claims duty to calling the plays for this team. He has done it all four years in Washington, and before that, he was the youngest coach in NFL history to call plays, for the Houston Texans in 2008 (age 26).

On Sunday against the Denver Broncos, it was as if Shanahan panicked once Peyton Manning pulled the game close late in the third and fourth quarters. The Washington Redskins had a two-touchdown lead at one point.

Star running back Alfred Morris' presence disappeared when the game was still in hand. The team did run the ball on six of its eight third-quarter plays, but after that didn't work and Denver tied the game on the first play of the fourth quarter, everything changed.

On the Washington Redskins' next drive, Griffin threw downfield on three straight plays. Griffin was indecisive and inaccurate throughout the day, and the strikes didn't connect. The team was forced to punt.

There are a couple of ways to look at this. After running the ball stopped working in the third quarter when Denver stacked the box, Shanahan decided to take the air out of Mile High with big plays. Had Griffin connected with Josh Morgan on that drive, there's a possibility we're calling Shanahan brilliant right now.

The more desirable way to lead that drive would have been to stick with the ground game.  Earlier in the game, the Redskins had pulled off their longest scoring drive of the season. With 16 plays taking up 7:03 of the clock and 95 yards of green grass, the Redskins marched with nine passes and seven running plays.

Morris is averaging more yards per carry than any running back in the NFL, yet he hasn't seen a game with 20 or more carries once this season. He had 30 more carries last season through seven games.

The Redskins are tied with the Philadelphia Eagles with 5.0 rushing yards per contest, tops in the NFL. However, the unit is ranked 17th in total carries.

Of the seven drives in the fourth quarter, just one consisted of more than four plays. The longest of those drives was just over two minutes in duration, but the game was already out of reach and ended in an interception.

Members of the team and media are feeling differently about how the play-calling went down. Despite not getting carries to run the clock out, Morris said he had no problem not touching the ball, according to CSN Washington.

Up 21-7 you want to put the game away. All you had to do was put the pedal to the medal. But we weren’t able to do that.

Ironically, wide receiver Pierre Garcon was heard by Mike Wise of The Washington Post mumbling, "Run, pass, pass, punt" to his teammates in frustration following the game.

Here's the deal. The Washington Redskins are a running team; everybody and their mother knows that. The Denver Broncos loaded the box, daring the Redskins and Griffin to throw the ball once the game was close. After Robinson and Morgan dropped two big-time throws, it was all downhill from there. Even after trailing by 10 with more than 11 minutes remaining, the Redskins went with three straight passes. That's the question mark.

Kyle Shanahan doesn't have a problem calling plays. He has put together a playbook that defenses have struggled to stop for the past two years; it just comes down to execution. In a perfect world, Morris and Roy Helu Jr. power the running game to 35 or more carries a game, opening up the play-action pass.

San Diego will provide an opportunity for this offense to look as it did against Chicago. The Chargers are middle of the pack in the league allowing just over 100 yards rushing per game. The opportunity will come through the air, as just six teams give up more passing yards on a weekly basis. One of those teams is the Washington Redskins.