Washington Redskins: Why Everyone Should Have Expected a Season of Failure
The Washington Redskins finished the 2013 season with a 3-13 record, fired their entire coaching staff and are in store for a serious roster overhaul. They say hindsight is 20-20, but seeing all of the problems after the fact is different from ignoring them as they present themselves.
As disappointing as the horrible season has been, it stings a little more knowing that everyone should have seen it coming.
Call it a perfect storm of problems, call it what you will, but there was never any reason to expect the Redskins to become contenders overnight. Mike Shanahan and his staff will get the blame for the failures of this team, but it doesn't change the fact that it shouldn't have come as a shock.
Here are a few of the reasons why Washington's 2013 collapse was inevitable and should have been expected.
$36 Million in Cap Penalties over the Last Two Years
Glossing over the whole collusion aspect of things, the Redskins incurred $36 million in cap penalties over the last two years for front-loading contracts during the uncapped year in 2010. As a result, they were unable to make many moves in free agency and had difficulty retaining their own players.
Names like Eddie Royal, Antoine Cason, Ben Grubbs, Carl Nicks, Brandon Carr and Curtis Lofton became pipe dreams for the Redskins.
Instead, they were forced to retain the likes of Tyler Polumbus, who has been a magnificent turnstile at right tackle, Will Montgomery, who is average at best at center, and Josh Wilson, who has never proven himself reliable as the second corner.
The Redskins couldn't even give special teams ace Lorenzo Alexander a suitable contract, and it isn't as though he was asking for an outlandish sum. He signed with the Arizona Cardinals for three years, $4.62 million.
Washington's roster became stagnant, with no substantial additions or upgrades to progress from year to year.
The Defense Never Stopped Being Terrible
Washington's defense finished this season ranked 18th in the NFL, which is substantially better than their early-season performances showed. In the four years with Jim Haslett as defensive coordinator, the unit routinely gave up big plays through the air and were gouged on the ground.
Many were willing to give Haslett a pass last season because of the injuries to Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker, but there are no excuses this season.
If you look at the numbers, it looks like the 2011 season was a good year for the 'Skins defense. They finished 13th overall in defense, but a closer look at the team will show that they finished minus-14 in turnover ratio, which means opposing offenses never had to pile up yards to beat the Redskins.
The offense gave up the ball so many times that the defense played with its back against the wall.
They yielded 22.9 points per game, which isn't terrible, but the 339.8 yards per game allowed is deceptive. The 2011 defense had a poor secondary, the 2012 defense had injuries.
The 2013 defense had no such injuries, trusted the wrong people with their secondary and was poorly coached in terms of discipline and scheme.
The Offensive Line Was Just as Bad Last Season
Last season's offensive success was a result of the excellent run-blocking, quick passing and the threat of RGIII taking off to run. The extra second that defenders needed to diagnose a run, pass or quarterback keeper was enough to negate the undersized offensive linemen the zone-blocking scheme favors.
With Griffin's mobility hindered this season, he became more of a dropback passer, which forced him to sit in a pocket that was never stable.
Minnesota's Kevin Williams blew through Chris Chester and Will Montgomery to the tune of 2.5 sacks. Right tackle Tyler Polumbus was terrible last season, and since they didn't upgrade in the offseason or the draft, he gave up six sacks to New York's Justin Tuck this season.
In 2011, with almost the exact same offensive line, the Redskins yielded 41 sacks between Rex Grossman and John Beck. That number was the third-most in the NFL in 2011.
Contrary to popular belief, the line didn't suddenly fall apart in 2013.
Special Teams Have Been an Ongoing Problem
Since 2010, the Redskins have had four different punters and three different kickers. In that same span, they have scored just one special teams touchdown, have allowed five blocked punts, 10 blocked kicks and five return touchdowns.
Danny Smith was the face of the problem, having been the special teams coach since 2008, and he left at the end of last season. Keith Burns, with his virtually nonexistent coaching of this year's special teams, has managed to make fans yearn for Smith's familiar face and wad of gum on the sidelines.
Sav Rocca was on the decline last season, and there has never been a credible or capable threat in the return game. Only Kai Forbath was a bright spot last season, but there was too much commotion made over the 18 field goals he attempted in his first season.
No one could have expected things to be as bad as they have been on special teams this season, but it should not have come as such a shock.
The purpose of the NFL draft is to bring youth and talent to your roster. Aging veterans are moved out, rookies are groomed and teams are strengthened.
Washington has not had tremendously successful drafts under Mike Shanahan and have blundered more than a time or two with their selections.
They traded away their second-round pick in 2010 for Donovan McNabb and missed out on Rob Gronkowski and Zane Beadles. Hindsight is 20-20, but even more than some of the players they passed over, the players they missed on should have been alarming.
They were: Josh LeRibeus, Adam Gettis, Tom Compton, Dennis Morris, Leonard Hankerson, DeJon Gomes, Evan Royster, Aldrick Robinson, Maurice Hurt, Markus White, Keenan Robinson, Brandyn Thompson and Jordan Bernstine.
Aside from Ryan Kerrigan, Trent Williams, Perry Riley and Alfred Morris, there aren't many draftees you can point to and say unequivocally that they made the team better or are valuable to keep long-term.
Mike and Kyle Shanahan Have Conflicting Offensive Philosophies
The trademark of a Mike Shanahan team, whether it be the Denver Broncos or the Washington Redskins, has always been the ground game. His zone-blocking scheme has churned out 1,000-yard backs with great success.
Kyle Shanahan's offensive system was built to stretch the field and succeeded, in part, because of the watchful eye of head coach Gary Kubiak.
Kubiak—who made a name for himself as offensive coordinator for Mike Shanahan's Denver Broncos.
So what happens when a head coach favoring the run has an offensive coordinator with a system that heavily favors the pass?
Well, you get an offense that ignores Alfred Morris for long stretches, as well as a mismatched scheme that leads to predictable formations. Kyle wanted to stretch the field with no one outside of Pierre Garçon to throw to and an undersized offensive line favoring Mike's ground attack.
The Myth of the Seven-Game Winning Streak from 2012
Washington's seven-game winning streak to close out the 2012 season was improbable. After the miserable loss to the one-win Carolina Panthers, sporting a 3-6 record, all appeared to be lost for the Redskins.
Apparently it didn't matter that the Eagles and Browns finished with a combined record of 9-23, or that the Cowboys and Giants both were both fighting just to finish with a .500 record.
The only victory that mattered during that run was the shocker over the Ravens, which was a result of a wonderful final drive and special teams play from the Redskins. It feeds into the "any given Sunday" adage, but it should not be considered a barometer for their ability to sustain winning ways.
For those keeping score, the Redskins have regular-season victories over five of the last seven Super Bowl champions. Does it matter? No.