Assigning Blame for Washington Redskins' 2013 Struggles

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistNovember 20, 2013

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Pretty soon, we'll be able to start looking ahead at the 2014 offseason for the Washington Redskins. Their 2013 season, which started with so much promise after their first division title this century, has been a bust, and now Washington is all alone in last place in the NFL's worst division.

Naturally, y'all want to start playing the blame game. So let's do it.

Robert Griffin III

The franchise quarterback has absolutely struggled to put together consistent performances from week to week and within games. The knee was certainly a factor early and remains at least a small reason for those struggles now, but that can't be his only excuse. 

Has his pass protection been good? No, but 11 other quarterbacks have been pressured more often than he has, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), and it's not as though he hasn't received a ton of help from surrounding weapons Alfred Morris, Jordan Reed and Pierre Garcon, all of whom have been solid. 

When the Redskins gave up three first-round picks and a second-rounder for Griffin, they probably expected more from him in Year 2. He has failed to make some very makeable plays and, according to PFF, is only the 14th most accurate passer in football. He isn't the problem, but he hasn't been the solution. 

RGIII's sophomore slump
2012 (rank)2013 (rank)
Comp. %65.6 (5th)59.7 (21st)
TD %5.1 (8th)3.8 (21st)
INT %1.3 (1st)2.7 (19th)
YPA8.1 (1st)7.3 (10th)
Rating102.1 (3rd)83.6 (19th)
QBR71.41 (5th)45.21 (23rd)
Rush YPA6.8 (1st)5.2 (3rd)
Rush YPG54.3 (1st)34.5 (4th)
Rush TD/GM0.5 (1st)0 (N/A)
Pro Football Reference/Focus

How much blame does he deserve? 5 percent

Griffin's ACL

Again, it factors in. The guy is only 10 months removed from major reconstructive knee surgery, and experts in that field indicate Adrian Peterson's case was an anomaly and that it usually takes an extra year for a patient to completely return to form in these scenarios. 

I think if you head back to September, the Redskins probably beat Detroit and maybe even Philadelphia with a completely healthy RGIII. He wasn't himself in either performance, and both were one-score losses. That two-game swing would be huge, of course, and who knows how much better the pass protection would look if Griffin's ability to escape was where it was in 2012.

How much blame does it deserve? 15 percent

Mike Shanahan 

In "the ultimate team sport," the head coach inevitably takes the brunt of the responsibility. It's his offense that is allowing Griffin to take far too many hits. That zone-blocking scheme is fun, but that undersized line he built has some structural issues. And the receiving corps that he basically put together has been a bust beyond the No. 1 spot belonging to Garcon.

Plus, bringing in Keith Burns to run what has been one of the worst special-teams units in NFL history now looks like a terrible move. 

I don't love the way Shanahan has handled his fragile but critically important quarterback, and I don't think he has done a good enough job adding depth in free agency or the draft. 

Yes, he was correct earlier this week when he implied that league-imposed salary cap sanctions have made life more difficult, but let's not forget that Shanahan was the man in charge when the 'Skins front-loaded those contracts in the first place.

How much blame does he deserve? 30 percent

Kyle Shanahan

The Shanahans had a near-perfect offensive approach last season, but the offensive game plans haven't been as crisp in 2013. Defensive coordinators league-wide spent their 2013 offseasons scheming ways to stop the read-option, and they've done a better job defending Griffin and the Washington offense this season.

Shanahan has done a poor job adjusting and finding new ways to put Griffin and Co. in good spots. He has also inexplicably gone away from his hottest and most reliable offensive player, Alfred Morris, in at least a pair of key periods—see: the fourth quarter in Denver and the final drive against Minnesotaand has probably put a little too much pressure on Griffin. 

How much blame does he deserve? 15 percent

Jim Haslett

You'd expect the defensive coordinator to get buried here, considering that Washington has given up 31.1 points per game, which is seven more than last year despite the return of Brian Orakpo. But I actually think he's a defense coordinator in a tough spot. He's aggressive, and he gets the most out of guys like Barry Cofield and DeAngelo Hall.

Still, Haslett has been far from perfect. He's had four years to get this defense on track and has failed to do so. In fact, it certainly looks as though the unit has regressed this season. Those sanctions haven't helped in terms of acquiring talent and depth, but it's not as though a core comprising of Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan, Cofield, London Fletcher and Hall is something to sneeze at.

I think Haslett has been a little too set in his ways, despite the fact that those ways don't seem to jibe with the personnel he has to work with, and that's at least a small reason why the 'Skins are 3-7.  

Most points per game allowed, 2013
PPG allowedRecord
Minnesota Vikings32.02-8
Jacksonville Jaguars31.81-9
Washington Redskins31.13-7
Atlanta Falcons29.22-8
Houston Texans27.62-8

How much blame does he deserve? 10 percent

The Secondary

Six specific units have been most responsible for Washington's problems this season, and it clearly starts with the secondary. The 'Skins have given up 8.5 yards per pass attempt this season, which is tied for the league high, and they rank in the bottom 10 in pretty much all of the regular pass-defense categories.

David Amerson has struggled for much of his rookie season. Brandon Meriweather is hardly ever healthy, but he's been a disappointment on the field anyway. Opposing quarterbacks have posted a 113.6 passer rating against supposed No. 1 corner Josh Wilson, per PFF. DeAngelo Hall has missed a league-high 14 tackles.

Then again, Hall has scored three times, and Amerson also has a pick-six. This is a group that has been generally pretty terrible in coverage, but they do possess a knack for making big plays. That helps. 

How much blame do they deserve? 5 percent

The Pass Rush

The pass rush is sort of like Griffin: not the problem, but also not the solution. The 'Skins rank 20th in the league with 25 sacks and have a sack percentage of 6.8, which is exactly the league average. That's not terrible considering how vulnerable they are on the back end, but still pretty weak considering that they used back-to-back first-round picks on Orakpo and Kerrigan, who are supposed to be in their prime. 

Those two have a combined 12 sacks and 78 pressures, which just isn't enough. 

How much blame do they deserve? 1 percent

The Inside Linebackers

LANDOVER, MD - JANUARY 06:   London Fletcher #59 and  Perry Riley #56 of the Washington Redskins react during their NFC Wild Card Playoff Game against the Seattle Seahawks at FedExField on January 6, 2013 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Gett
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Fletcher is no longer the player he used to be. Not close, actually. The 38-year-old has really hit a wall the last two years and now grades out at PFF as the worst inside linebacker in the game by a wide margin. His partner inside, Perry Riley, is ranked only four spots ahead. 

Those two have missed a combined 19 tackles, which is a big reason why opposing offenses have averaged a solid 4.3 yards per carry against this D in 2013.

How much blame do they deserve? 2 percent

The Interior Offensive Line

I'm keeping bookend tackles Trent Williams and Tyler Polumbus out of this. Combined, those two are giving up less than 0.5 sacks and just over 4.0 pressures per game. They both rank in the top 10 at that position, according to PFF.

But it's hard to believe how much pressure Griffin has faced on pushes up the middle. That entire line has done a great job paving the way for Morris on the ground, but Chris Chester and Will Montgomery have been a nightmare when pass blocking, and Kory Lichtensteiger hasn't fared much better. 

How much blame do they deserve? 4 percent

The Receiving Corps

Garcon saves this unit, which has also had help from Reed at tight end. But a lot of defenses have been taking away RGIII's first read, and I'm not sure how much he trusts the rest of that receiving corps. 

Veteran Santana Moss hasn't been as reliable as usual, having caught just 50 percent of the 46 passes thrown his way, according to PFF. Five of those 23 incomplete passes were dropped. Mistakes have also sent Josh Morgan to the bench, but Aldrick Robinson and Leonard Hankerson have failed to rise up. 

Only Detroit and New England have more dropped passes than the 'Skins this season.

How much blame do they deserve? 2 percent

The Special Teams

It's a misconception that special teams are a third of the game, but Burns' unit has been so damn bad this year that their play should be considered a game-changer. According to Football Outsiders, the 'Skins have the third-worst special teams of all time through 11 weeks. 

They've given up three returns of 80 yards or more—two for touchdowns—and they allowed the Raiders to score on a blocked punt in Week 4. The offense is the only one in football that has been forced to start its drives, on average, inside its own 23-yard line, and they're ranked second-to-last in the league in terms of both punt and kick return average. 

Worst average offensive start position, 2013
Avg. start pos.Record
Washington Redskins22.53-7
Atlanta Falcons24.72-8
San Diego Chargers25.44-6
Pro Football Reference

How much blame do they deserve? 10 percent


This, of course, is in regard to those damn sanctions.

A few things. 

First, don't tell me that those restrictions severely handcuffed the 'Skins in 2012, when they spent big bucks on Garcon, Morgan and three new safeties (two of whom are already off the roster). 

Second, we all know free agency is overrated. Plenty of very successful teams don't spend to the cap. 

Finally, the 'Skins had the ability to get creative in order to make any non-blockbuster move they desired. And based on their experience with Albert Haynesworth only a few years ago, I'm guessing they wouldn't have made any blockbuster moves anyway. 

Without that $36 million penalty, this team might be slightly deeper and a tiny bit more talented. Might be. Enough to make a seismic difference? I don't think so.

How much blame does the NFL deserve? 1 percent


It truly has been a "team effort," if you will. Williams, Morris and Cofield are the only three players that come to mind who really can't be lassoed with even a small share of the blame. Here's the final tally:

Brad Gagnon/Bleacher Report

What does it all mean? Well, quite simply, the 'Skins have a ton of work to do. Fortunately, they'll be relieved of those cap sanctions this offseason, but that means 99 percent of their issues will still be left on the table.

Griffin's ACL might take care of itself, too, but that leaves the coaching staff (if they survive) to plug a ton of holes and build on several weak spots. The entire defense needs a makeover, and the offense and special teams can't be left untouched, either.

It's almost time to get to work. Back to the drawing board.


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