Washington Redskins: Season Wrap-Up and Looking Ahead
Well, to say that this season didn't quite turn out the way we all expected it would be an understatement.
With the Redskins finally hiring a general manager, Bruce Allen, the additions of new head coach Mike Shannahan and trading for franchise quarterback Donovan McNabb, things looked pretty bright in Washington D.C.
Visions of the postseason, even the possibility of playing in the Super Bowl didn't seem that unrealistic.
Mike even brought in his son, the genius behind the powerful and high scoring Houston Texans offense. He also brought in Jim Hasslet to install a 3-4 defense to mirror what they were doing up in Pittsburgh.
With a high-scoring offensive scheme and a punishing turnover driven defense, how could we not win at least 12 games?
Well, that's why we play the games, ladies and gentlemen.
You don't just crown a champion, you've got to play for and earn a championship.
I thought that last season's 4-12 Redskins sorely underperformed for lame duck head Coach Jim Zorn. I thought Zorn was too relaxed in his coaching style and the inmates ran the asylum.
After the loss to Detroit in 2009, I was pining for a coach that would whoop this team into shape. Someone like a Mike Shanahan, Bill Cowher or even former Hog Russ Grimm (though after Zorn I knew Snyder would only hire an established coach).
So, after Shanahan's hiring and the trade for McNabb, I thought the combination was good for at lease six to eight more wins, putting this team at 10-6 to possibly 12-4.
I was even joking with a friend of mine who is a Cowboy fan that it was going to be so sweet to see McNabb as a Redskin hoist the Lombardi trophy up over his head in Dallas.
It's safe to say that it won't happen in Dallas, and odds are McNabb probably won't hoist anything as a Redskin.
Between Shanahan's feuds with his former starting quarterback and his former nose tackle, Albert Haynesworth, as well as a 6-10 record, it's hard to see a bright future, let alone a silver lining.
Yet, somehow, I see it.
Listen, I fully admit I expected way too much out of the 2010 Washington Redskins, and that I bought into the Donovan McNabb hype (luckily I was smart enough not to buy his jersey).
However one thing I did take notice early on in the season is that Shanahan has changed the culture of this team.
There is no doubt in my mind and, more importantly, the players' minds that Shanahan is the boss.
Joe Gibbs and Jim Zorn allowed the players (especially the bigger stars) to kind of do what they wanted.
Do you think the franchise is heading in the right direction?
Clinton Portis would pull himself out of plays and not participate in training camp. Albert Haynesworth would do as he pleased and tried to hold the team hostage in the offseason. Gibbs even allowed an injured Sean Taylor to go home to Florida while he was hurt for two weeks.
Sorry to bring up Taylor, but even if the tragedy that occurred had not happened, he still should have been with the team.
Those are just some of the examples of a lack of discipline by this franchise.
I'm sure one of Shanahan's first goals was to establish discipline, and Albert Haynesworth was all too eager to oblige the coach.
Now, a lot of people have criticized the coach as well as general manager Bruce Allen for not trading Haynesworth and letting the distraction carry on for twelve games this season.
However, I think by the time the trade deadline came, I think Shanahan realized that the whole "The Future is Now" campaign by those who sell tickets was complete B.S. and that this team was in some serious need of rebuilding.
So instead of trading away Haynesworth for pennies on the dollar, the coach felt he was worth more as a teaching tool.
The lesson: Don't cross me or I'll bury you. It might seem a bit harsh, but this franchise needed something like that.
The NFL needed to know that Washington was no longer a place where players would come to get paid and then not be expected to play up to your contract.
Shanahan sent a message to everyone that this was his team and you either performed and left everything out on the field, or you wouldn't see the field.
This later extended to Donovan McNabb.
Regardless of how poorly it was executed, and believe me it was executed poorly, the benching of McNabb had to happen.
McNabb, with the exception of a couple of games, played poorly and in all honesty worse than ousted quarterback Jason Campbell.
He needed to be benched in favor of someone who could run the offense more smoothly.
That guy happened to be Rex Grossman.
Grossman is by no means a savior but the offense did run smoother under him. Sure he finished the season 1-2, but the loss to the Giants was hardly Rex's fault.
Don't get me wrong though, I'm not beating the drum for Sexy Rexy to be the future of this franchise, but a change had to be made and he was the only option.
So where do the Redskins go from here at quarterback?
I find it hard to believe that McNabb will be wearing burgundy and gold next season, but stranger things have happened.
More than likely McNabb will be traded for, probably a third-round pick to either Arizona, Minnesota, Carolina or San Fransisco.
So what about Grossman?
Well he's yet to be signed to an extension, which makes me think that the elder Shanahan didn't like a lot of what he saw out of No. 8 and will more than like wait until after the draft and the opening of free agency before he decides to bring Grossman back.
That puts a big question mark at quarterback, but whether it's Grossman, a rookie or a serviceable stop-gap for 2011, I'd expect the same production out quarterback as we got this season.
That means that the Skins are going to have to depend on their running game and offensive line next season.
The good news there is Ryan Torain has emerged as pretty good running back (when healthy) and the offensive line has played better the last few weeks.
Both are good signs since Torain is as well as the majority of the line are young.
If the team adds a couple of pieces to the line and a good change of pace running back to spell Torain. That would take a lot of the pressure off of whoever is playing quarterback for the team next season.
At wide receiver, Santana Moss returned to form and had a career year in number of catches, and also rookie Anthony Armstrong emerged as a (sometimes inconsistent) deep threat.
For the first time since 1992, the Redskins had three pass catchers go over the 800-yard mark (Moss, Armstrong and Cooley).
However the Redskins still like the big tall receiver that can go up over everyone and catch the jump balls.
This can easily be addressed in free agency or in later rounds of the draft.
At tight end, the Redskins have an embarrassment of wealth.
Chris Cooley is an established stud, Fred Davis seems to improve every week and Logan Paulsen also contributed in a positive manner.
Honestly, if need be, the Skins could move any of the three in a trade for a draft pick or two.
A lot of fans seem to think Cooley would garner the highest value, but honestly I don't think so. With his age and upside I think our best trade bait at tight end is Davis.
If the team is going to move a tight end (which I wouldn't unless a team made a deal you couldn't refuse), I'd trade Davis.
The defense is of greater concern to me than almost anything on the offense.
Though they played better in the last four or five weeks, they did rank last in almost every category except points allowed.
With all of the yardage this team gave up, they gave up surprisingly few points per game.
In spite of all that, there are a few positives to take away from the defense.
First the line started to click more in the last couple of games. The team wasn't getting gashed for a lot of big runs like they were in the beginning of the season.
Much like the offensive line they finished the year stronger than they started and may improve greatly with only one or two pieces added in the offseason.
The secondary needs some addressing, mainly at safety.
LaRon Landry is a stud and probably our best player, but the team needs someone who can cover the pass standing next to him.
When the Skins dropped back into a zone, their safeties looked lost and it created a lot of soft spots that many teams exploited.
As good as Landry is at run stuffing and rushing the passer, his revolving door of counterparts were just terrible in pass coverage.
If that is addressed in the offseason, I predict few big pass plays against the Skins.
All in all, I'm pleased with the cornerbacks and linebackers.
The team needs to focus on resigning Carlos Rogers. Say what you want about his hands; he has the ability to shut down receivers.
DeAngelo Hall got burned on a couple of plays while going for the ball, but with an upgrade at safety, he'll be able to go for more balls without having to worry about giving up a big play. Hopefully that will generate more turnovers for the team.
Because there are so many holes on this team the only thing I'd worry about with the linebackers is getting someone young and quick to line up opposite of Brian Orakpo.
If the Skins can get pressure of both ends than that will alleviate some of the pressure in the secondary. Bottom line is that the Redskins need to get more sacks next season.
Special teams, with the exception of Brandon Banks, I'm not too hopeful about. For that aspect of the team, I advise them to sign the best punter and kicker available in free agency.
In spite of the dismal 6-10 record, I do have hopes for the 2011 Washington Redskins.
They started 2010 as the oldest team in the league, but as the season progressed, they got considerably younger and those younger players showed a lot of fire.
Some rough areas, namely both lines, improved over the course of the season and weren't the complete disasters we thought they were.
Both lines need work, but don't appear to need complete overhauls to compete next year.
There is still questions at quarterback, and by questions, I mean who?
But the biggest thing that gives me hope for 2011 is the change in culture over the course of this season. It was a painful transition but one this team needed to go through sooner than later and I'm glad to have it over with.
However, I'm not foolish enough to think that there won't be other conflicts that pop up in the future, but this season Shanahan established that the buck stops with him.
I'm glad to see that the Redskins finally have a set of rules that govern all the players and not just the ones that sell jerseys.
Discipline alone doesn't win Super Bowls, but it's the first step towards one.
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