The Washington Redskins could be on the verge of finishing with their lowest win total in 19 years, which would be amazing when you consider that they're less than a year removed from their first NFC East title this early century.
In a short amount of time, things have become intolerably bad in D.C. The Redskins have lost five straight games and aren't even coming close to competing right now. Considering the amount of talent on that roster and their general good fortune in the health department, it's impossible to believe that this team hasn't simply quit on the coaching staff.
With that in mind, we'll start our list of who should be shown the exit with the coaches before getting into the players themselves.
Who Should Go?
The Entire Coaching Staff
Of course, this isn't merely about what's happening on the field. ESPN.com's Dan Graziano reported Sunday morning that head coach Mike Shanahan was prepared to quit last year—when things were actually going a lot better—based on the preferential treatment Shanahan perceived quarterback Robert Griffin III was getting from owner Dan Snyder.
Shanahan wouldn't deny that Sunday evening, which is tough to come back from. It's just the latest development in what has been a very trying year for that Shanahan-Griffin tandem. By all indications, they don't have a good relationship. And when you combine that with all of the on-field struggles, the writing is on the wall.
|Mike Shanahan's career at a glance|
|Winning %||Playoff app.||Playoff wins||Super Bowls|
|First 11 years||.648||7||8||2|
|Last 7 years||.444||1||0||0|
|Pro Football Reference|
Of course, if Shanahan goes, so does his son, Kyle, who runs the offense. And you'd be silly to keep defensive coordinator Jim Haslett or special teams coach Keith Burns around, considering that they've given up an NFL-high 31.3 points per game and that the special teams have been the worst in the NFL.
You don't keep position coaches around for new regimes, so the best strategy right now would be for the 'Skins to completely clean house and start the process of finding a coach who can put together a quality staff while establishing a high-quality working relationship with Griffin.
The Redskins' hands have been tied by league-imposed salary-cap sanctions in free agency the last couple of years, which is a big reason why that defense lacks depth and overall skill. Now, it's time to upgrade and replace some heavily used parts.
Sadly, that starts with the 38-year-old Fletcher, who has lost more than a step the last 15 months. This has been the worst year of his career, so I think both he and the team realize that fresh blood is needed.
|NFL's oldest position players, 2013|
|1. London Fletcher||Redskins||38 years, 7 months|
|2. Matt Hasselbeck||Colts||38 years, 2 months|
|3. Tony Gonzalez||Falcons||37 years, 10 months|
|Pro Football Reference|
Actually, you could probably put together a convincing case for two new inside linebackers next season. But that might not be necessary if the new defensive coordinator decides to implement a 4-3. Anyway, the point is that Fletcher's partner in the middle, Perry Riley, has been nearly as ineffective.
The key to that front seven is the triangle that consists of Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan and Barry Cofield, but it's time to get those three some more support in the starting lineup. Fletcher and Riley, who have missed a combined 28 tackles and have a combined Pro Football Focus (subscription required) grade of minus-34.4, aren't cutting it.
80 Percent of the Starting Offensive Line
The thing about Shanahan's system is it's very unique and requires a specific type of offensive lineman. That's why Shanahan basically started the current line from scratch, handpicking undersized but nimble linemen with zone-blocking experience (or at least the right ingredients to become good zone-blockers).
Two problems: First, that won't likely translate to whatever offense is put in place by whomever is hired to replace Shanahan. And second, Shanahan's system wasn't working anyway.
Young left tackle Trent Williams has begun to live up to expectations in a big way this year. He is a legitimate Pro Bowl-caliber blind-side protector. But beyond that, there's nobody on this line worth keeping.
|NFL's top-rated offensive tackles, 2013|
|1. Joe Thomas||Browns||28.8|
|2. Trent Williams||Redskins||27.6|
|3. Joe Staley||49ers||25.5|
|Pro Football Focus|
Sure, Tyler Polumbus is having a surprisingly decent season on the right side, but he's had some help, and a lot of his success has come merely because opposing defenses have smartly been overloading the middle in order to overwhelm those smallish interior offensive linemen.
And I know, Kory Lichtensteiger, Chris Chester and Will Montgomery are strong run-blockers. And none are older than 30. But the fact is RGIII is the biggest investment in the history of this franchise and it can no longer take the protection risk associated with having those three in the starting lineup.
Other players who wouldn't be missed: Fred Davis (Jordan Reed will be a star), Josh Morgan, Santana Moss, Aldrick Robinson, Leonard Hankerson (the receiving corps needs fresh faces and more depth), Josh Wilson, Brandon Meriweather, Reed Doughty and E.J. Biggers (mediocre veterans in a terrible secondary).
Who Should Stay?
General manager Bruce Allen
If anyone deserves more time, it's Allen. Those cap sanctions were stifling, and Shanahan had the final say on all personnel decisions. You can't claim Allen screwed things up, simply because he didn't have the chance to.
If the 'Skins fire Shanahan and replace him with a big shot like Jon Gruden or Bill Cowher (very unlikely, from our perspective), then Allen will continue to act as a buffer between coach and owner while knowing his place.
But if they hire a newbie like Art Briles (much more likely, from our perspective), then Allen would finally get a chance to prove himself as the man in charge of personnel.
Either way, he deserves to stick around. The guy did some nice things with the Bucs and hasn't done anything to merit losing his job in Washington. Let's see what he can do in his first year post-sanctions. And for those who think that the proverbial house wouldn't be completely clean with Allen's office still intact at Redskins Park, consider Howie Roseman's situation within that new regime in Philadelphia.
You can't afford to give up on 20-something-year-old pass-rushers, especially when they're former first-round picks. Orakpo might not have turned into the superstar many expected him to be before injuries derailed his 2012 season, but he's still scraped together 8.5 sacks despite limited support in coverage.
|NFL sack leaders since Week 10|
|1. John Abraham||Cardinals||8|
|2. Justin Tuck||Giants||7|
|2. Olivier Vernon||Dolphins||7|
|4. Brian Orakpo||Redskins||5.5|
|4. Cameron Jordan||Saints||5.5|
|Pro Football Reference|
Orakpo's rookie contract expires in March, but the Redskins finally have money to spend again. Priority No. 1 this offseason, from a personnel standpoint, should be re-signing the outside linebacker. It's hard to believe, but this D would actually be a whole lot worse without him, and that Orakpo-Kerrigan duo still has a very good chance to become something special.
The Redskins might not owe him stupid money, because there are still some injury concerns and it's not as though he's become a sack machine. So they might get a minor break financially and they should probably avoid making a significantly long-term commitment, but they'd be stupid not to bring him back.
It's hard to believe, but Hall only turned 30 in November. He isn't always super reliable, but there's still plenty of gas left in the tank, and the 'Skins don't currently have the luxury of being picky regarding their defensive backs.
|NFL leaders: Defensive touchdowns|
|1. DeAngelo Hall||Redskins||3|
|1. Tamba Hali||Chiefs||3|
|3. Mason Foster||Bucs||2|
|Pro Football Reference|
Hall is a veteran leader, which is important as they try to hone soon-to-be-sophomore DBs Bacarri Rambo, David Amerson and Phillip Thomas. He's also versatile enough to move to safety when needed, and he's the best defensive playmaker this team has.
Even in a year in which this D has been torn apart and Hall himself has at times been unreliable in coverage, he is tied for the NFL lead with three defensive touchdowns.
The Redskins should keep looking to improve that secondary in free agency and the draft, but there's definitely room for a player like Hall. There has to be.
Players who aren't going anywhere: Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris, Roy Helu, Pierre Garcon, Jordan Reed, Ryan Kerrigan, Barry Cofield, Jarvis Jenkins, Bacarri Rambo, David Amerson, Phillip Thomas, Tom Compton, Chris Thompson and Kirk Cousins. These guys either make up the core of the team or were recent draft picks who deserve some time.
Players who we have no strong feelings either way on: Stephen Bowen, Adam Carriker (both good, but injury prone and make a lot of money), Logan Paulsen, Darrel Young, Josh LeRibeus, Adam Gettis, Brandon Jenkins, Maurice Hurt, Evan Royster, Jose Gumbs, Nick Barnett, Darryl Tapp, Kedric Golston, Chris Neild, Rob Jackson, Niles Paul, Rex Grossman and Lance Lewis.