What Can the Redskins Actually Take Away from Brutally Disappointing Season?
The 2013 season will be one to forget for the Washington Redskins and their fans. There's no doubting that.
After a magical run from 3-6 to the NFC East title in 2012, Robert Griffin III appeared to have recovered from the torn knee ligaments he suffered in the playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks, but he and his team just haven't been the same this year.
Defenses have given RG3 fits, and the talent around him has been noticeably lacking.
With their focus potentially shifting soon toward 2014, what can the Redskins take away from their brutally disappointing campaign?
Robert Griffin III Must Protect Himself
We knew this at the outset of the 2013 season as Griffin III triumphantly returned from offseason reconstructive knee surgery.
He led the NFL with a 6.8 yards-per-carry average on 120 carries as a rookie. And his 13-carry, 138-yard, two-touchdown eruption against the Minnesota Vikings that included a 76-yard score to put the game away late in the fourth quarter gave us a glimpse of RG3's transcendent talent.
But during those 120 carries, Griffin III was hit...often.
After a well-documented rehabilitation process, it was obvious that RG3 needed to be smarter in the open field and do everything possible to avoid overtly violent tackles in the open field.
While a more conservative approach to the running aspect of his game has limited his big-play potential, it has kept him off the injury list this season.
And that's a good thing.
For the remainder of his NFL career, Griffin III will have to control his desire to get the extra yard after he leaves the pocket.
The Offensive Guards Have Become Liabilities
The Washington Redskins offensive line is fresh off its most disappointing performance of the season against the San Francisco 49ers.
Griffin III was sacked four times, and the Redskins averaged just 3.7 yards per carry, well below their season average.
The thing is, they're fine at the tackle spots. Trent Williams is a franchise blindside protector. Even after his poor game against Justin Smith and Co., he's the No. 7-rated tackle in the league, according Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Right tackle Tyler Polumbus, who's much more of a finesse player, is currently PFF's No. 8-rated tackle.
However, left guard Kory Lichtensteiger's overall PFF grade of 0.8 has him as the 29th-rated guard. Right guard Chris Chester's grade is -8.2, good for 51st at his position.
With modern-day defenses featuring interior pass-rushers more than in the past, Washington must come to the realization that their guard spot needs an upgrade.
They Need More Offensive Weapons
RG3 needs receiving weapons.
Outside of Pierre Garcon, the Redskins' wideouts are far from intimidating.
Santana Moss was once a viable, well-rounded pass-catcher—he has four 1,000-yard campaigns on his resume—but at 34, the former University of Miami star just doesn't have the speed he once did. Without that speed, Moss can't produce consistently. He's on pace for 38 receptions, 461 yards and one touchdown, all of which would be his lowest totals since 2002.
Josh Morgan's never had more than 52 receptions or 698 yards in a given season in his NFL career, and Aldrick Robinson, though fast, is tremendously boom or bust.
Washington could have something with Leonard Hankerson, the 6'2'' receiver drafted out of Miami in the third round of the 2011 draft, but he tore his ACL and LCL in the Week 11 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Rookie tight end Jordan Reed showed plenty of promise in his first professional campaign and will likely be a major part of the team's future, although he's currently dealing with a concussion.
Overall, though, Griffin III has one underwhelming group of pass-catchers at his disposal.
That has to change if the Redskins want their quarterback's development to continue.
The Secondary Is in Desperate Need of Talent
For those who think Washington's receiving corp is lackluster...check out Washington's secondary.
Washington's dead last in yards-per-attempt surrendered at 8.6.
PFF currently has Josh Wilson as the 86th-best cornerback in the NFL, and rookie David Amerson is 105th. At No. 69, veteran DeAngelo Hall, who just turned 30, is the top-ranked corner on the Redskins' roster.
At safety, Reed Doughty, E.J. Biggers, Bacarri Rambo and Brandon Meriweather all rank worse than No. 66 at their positions in PFF's rankings.
As a unit, Washington's defensive backfield has intercepted only 10 passes this season and has allowed 271 passing yards per game. Though there's some youth in the Washington secondary, Jim Haslett's group absolutely needs more consistent corners and impactful safeties.
Wilson isn't a viable starter, and Amerson isn't off to a good start as a pro. Hall's closer to the twilight of his career than his prime.
And no, a big, illegal hit every so often from Meriweather doesn't count as "impactful."
The Linebacking Corps Needs to Be Upgraded
London Fletcher has had an incredible run in the NFL.
From Division III John Carroll, the "too small and too slow" 1998 undrafted free agent has been a pillar of linebacking longevity over the past 15 years.
Per Pro Football Reference, he's amassed over 2,000 career tackles in 251 career games.
But his time is nearly up.
PFF has him as No. 53 out of 53 qualifying candidates in its inside linebacker rankings. Fletcher will be 39 next May, so regardless of how he played in 2013, the Redskins need to start looking for his future replacement anyway.
What's scary is that PFF has Fletcher's linebacker mate, Perry Riley, as the No. 48 inside linebacker this season.
With the NFL in a passing renaissance that doesn't appear to be ending anytime soon, Washington needs a pair of young, speedy, sideline-to-sideline inside linebackers in the worst way.
Is Mike Shanahan the Right Head Coach for Robert Griffin III?
Mike Shanahan has a wealth of experience as an NFL head coach, and for the most part, he's been successful.
He currently has a 170-133 record, is 8-6 in the playoffs and won two Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos in the late 1990s.
But are his somewhat antiquated philosophies the right "fit" for Robert Griffin III and the future of the Redskins franchise?
Remember, he did hire his son, Kyle, as the offensive coordinator and retread Jim Haslett as the defensive coordinator when he took the Washington job in 2010.
With the offense and defense struggling mightily, Redskins owner Dan Snyder will now have a tough decision to make—let Shanahan finish the five-year contract he signed or cut ties with him during the 2014 offseason.
Was the Trade with the St. Louis Rams to Select RG3 the Right Decision?
Last year, no one in creation would have questioned the Redskins' decision to trade their first-round picks in 2012, 2013 and 2014 along with a second-round pick in 2012 to the St. Louis Rams for Robert Griffin III.
After this disastrous season, one in which the lack of talent around RG3 has been extremely noticeable, it's not so crazy to question the trade anymore.
While Washington shouldn't give up on its franchise quarterback after a season-and-a-half in the NFL, it'd almost certainly love to have back those picks.
The Rams turned those picks into defensive lineman Michael Brockers, cornerback Janoris Jenkins, linebacker Alec Ogletree, wideout Stedman Bailey and running back Zac Stacy. And remember, they'll get at least one more prospect out of the RG3 deal—the Redskins' 2014 first-rounder.
Nothing is more vital to a team than a franchise quarterback, but that's quite a haul for St. Louis.
It's also important that Washington's brass felt it needed to sell the farm for Griffin III when Ryan Tannehill and Russell Wilson would have been available later in Round 1.
Regardless of how the Redskins feel now, they can't turn back time.
But they very well could realize their blockbuster trade is hindering the team's ability to provide RG3 with complementary pieces.