7 Reasons Why 2014 Will Be a Better Season for the Washington Redskins
Things couldn't get much worse for the Washington Redskins. Their maligned head coach benched the franchise quarterback, their record is a pitiful 3-12 and the whole ship is taking on water.
On the bright side, all of the things that have gone wrong this season make for a bright, if morbidly so, 2014 season.
There will be a rash of changes coming to Washington once the season ends and rightfully so. However, things aren't nearly as bleak as they seem, nor does the awful 2013 season spell disaster for the next decade.
Here are some of the reasons why the 2014 season will be better for the Redskins.
No Expectations of Success
The 2012 Washington Redskins ruined things for the 2013 team. The seven-game winning streak to clinch the NFC East and a playoff berth gave fans the idea that the 'Skins would be the team to beat in the division and a legitimate contender the following season.
Fans failed to account for Robert Griffin III's injury, the awful defense and Kyle Shanahan's inexperience in addition to overlooking the improbability of the run that landed the team in the playoffs.
Good teams make winning a habit and hit their stride down the stretch in preparation for the playoffs. The Redskins got hot out of the bye week and played a soft second-half schedule en route to the playoffs.
Now that the Redskins are headed for a 3-13 season, there will be no expectations for success in 2014. It may be a bleak approach to things, but sometimes it is better to hope for the best but expect the worst.
There will be no pressure to make the playoffs or run the table in the division. Whatever happens happens, and any signs of life will be viewed as positives.
Whether it is Mike Shanahan, Kyle Shanahan, Jim Haslett, Keith Burns, one of them or all of them, changes are going to be made to the Redskins coaching staff.
If Mike Shanahan is given a reprieve, things will be different on offense and Griffin is likely to have a great season.
If Shanahan's presence is erased, expect the next head coach or offensive coordinator to build a system around Griffin. Either way, the Redskins will have different coaches next season, and it will be for the better.
Things will be simpler whether Shanahan stays or a new coach is brought in to turn things around.
Imagine Shanahan getting the recently fired Gary Kubiak as his offensive coordinator just like in Denver. Even better, imagine no Shanahans in 2014 and someone like Jay Gruden or Darrell Bevell comes in and has an immediate impact on the team and the bright young stars on offense.
It is always darkest before the dawn, and perhaps this abysmal season is just a prelude to a brighter future with a new coach running the show.
New Offensive Philosophy
With Kyle Shanahan likely out of the picture, the Redskins offense is going to change in 2014. If Mike Shanahan is fired at the end of this season, the offense will be that much more different.
Either way, things are going to be different for RGIII and the offense no matter who is calling the plays.
If Mike Shanahan takes over, or shares, play-calling duties, the offense will be simplified, returning emphasis to the ground game. Alfred Morris is still having a great season, but poor offensive balance hurt his overall productive.
Shanahan would put the ball in his hands the same way he did with Terrell Davis with the Broncos.
If all traces of Shanahan are removed, the next head coach is most likely going to be an offensive mind who will adapt his offense to the talents of RGIII in a way that Kyle Shanahan failed to do.
While there will be an adjustment period to whatever changes are made, the offense will be simpler, less reliant on complex reads and long-developing plays. Speed will be the name of the game for the Redskins offense, and if the team fails to improve its offensive line, it will be a necessity to quicken the pace on offense.
New Defensive Scheme
In all likelihood, Jim Haslett is finished as defensive coordinator for the Redskins. He got a pass for the abysmal defensive play during the 2012, but injuries didn't play much of a factor this season.
Haslett's approach to the 3-4 scheme failed to get the most out of talented pass-rushers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan. The ineffectiveness of the pass rush left the so-so secondary exposed and has the 'Skins ranked 22nd in pass defense, a middling 35 sacks and 23 turnovers.
It remains to be seen if Washington keeps the 3-4, but the solid collection of talent on its defense should give the next coach plenty to work with.
Kerrigan and Orakpo, assuming he is re-signed, may get their hands back in the dirt as pass-rushing defensive ends in a return to the 4-3 scheme. But if the 3-4 hangs around, expect whoever is running the show to be more aggressive with his assets.
No More Cap Penalties
Funny what two offseasons with limited spending room can do to a franchise, but the $36 million in cap penalties held the Redskins out of the free-agency fray. It hurt their ability to not only retain their own players but also add key pieces in free agency.
Instead of signing receiver Eddie Royal in 2012 and tackle Sebastian Vollmer in 2013, they settled for Josh Morgan and re-signing Tyler Polumbus, respectively. The results have been less-than-spectacular.
In 2014, there will be no such cap restrictions to contend with. They could actively pursue free safety Jairus Byrd, assuming Buffalo doesn't use their franchise tag on him for a second straight year.
Brian Orakpo is the Redskins' biggest free agent, and while he hasn't had his breakthrough season, he stands to earn a pretty penny. Regardless, now the Redskins don't have to settle for their second or third options. They have the ability to retain Orakpo and keep a position of strength from becoming a need.
The Redskins will be without a first-round pick in the 2014 draft, which is shaping up to be a top-three pick based on their record. Their needs are many, but the biggest advantage would have been their ability to trade back in the first round, acquire more picks and fill more needs.
As it stands, they may be able to get a second-round pick for quarterback Kirk Cousins, but that isn't certain.
Still, whether they get an entirely new staff or just a few new faces for coordinators, they'll be able to draft solid players to strengthen their roster.
They can replace the retiring London Fletcher by drafting Stanford's Shayne Skov in the second round, upgrade their receiving corps with Oregon's Josh Huff in the third round and improve the center of their offensive line with Colorado State's Weston Richburg in the fourth round.
Even without the pick, or picks, trading Cousins may net, the Redskins are set up to have a productive draft as the 2014 class features plenty of talent at positions of need.
Robert Griffin III Will Be Healthy
Whether you choose to believe it or not, Robert Griffin III was not 100 percent this season. Early on, he was visibly uncomfortable planting and driving on throws, breaking the pocket and taking off to run.
The bulky brace may explain a change in his gait but not an outright shift in mentality.
He showed flashes of the electric player he was as a rookie, making a nice throw here and there or breaking off a 20-yard run, but it never came together. Media pressure and supposed tensions with his coaches made RGIII a bit of scapegoat in 2013.
It remains to be seen if Mike Shanahan and his staff will be cleaned out, but it shouldn't affect Griffin negatively. Griffin will be fully recovered from his knee injury and have a major chip on his shoulder following his benching to close out this season.
The offense, whether it be Mike Shanahan's or someone else's, will be more uptempo and favor play action passing to take advantage of the threat Alfred Morris poses on the ground.
Coaching change or not, everything points to Griffin having an excellent season in 2014.