Washington Redskins: 8 Bold Predictions for the Second Half of the Season
Buffalo technically played host on Sunday, but the game did not take place at Ralph Wilson Stadium, one of the NFL's oldest venues and one that compensates for what it lacks in cutting edge technology by providing an authentic viewing experience best suited for people with sizable attention spans (I'd rather watch 10 games at Ralph Wilson than one game at the new Cowboys Stadium, but I'm unapologetically nostalgic and don't need access to Wi-Fi when I attend a football game). The game was played at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, and the atmosphere was decidedly lame.
I don't want to be the type of football writer who waxes poetic about the glory of the frozen tundra at Lambeau Field or dedicates entire columns to the weather conditions of conference championship games, but there is something fundamentally legitimate about grown men playing football outdoors. Sundays in fall provide the ultimate setting for America's new pastime, and on Sunday I felt cheated of what should have been a more authentic pro football experience.
If football can be played outdoors in Green Bay, where conditions often resemble those in the arctic circle; or in Seattle where mist hangs in the air like tinsel on a Christmas tree; or in Miami where 90-degree heat and 90 percent humidity often last well into November, than it can be played outdoors anywhere. From this moment forth, I shall vehemently root against any team that plays indoors and in doing so robs fans of the satisfaction that comes from watching grown men knock each other senseless in the orange glow of autumn.
And if the NFL relocates the Bills to Toronto, arguably the lamest sports city in North America, I will take the commissioner's name in vain many times over.
I mention this because the game that took place at the Rogers Centre was a bore, an absolute snoozer in which the Redskins proved that, like many of the NFL's perennial bottom-feeders, they are one franchise quarterback away from being a playoff team.
At the beginning of the season, I picked the Redskins to go 11-5 and win the NFC East, so I obviously have little credibility when it comes to making predictions—I also picked the Cowboys to upset the Patriots back in Week 6 (whoops!).
Nevertheless, here are eight bold predictions for the second half of the Redskins season.
Rex Grossman Will Get Another Shot as the Redskins Starting Quarterback
After Rex Grossman's four-interception performance against the Philadelphia Eagles, I took a straw poll of all the Redskins fans I know to see whether they thought John Beck or Grossman should be the starting quarterback.
The results came back unanimously in favor of Beck.
This surprised me because—and I don't want to sound too arrogant here—anyone who has followed professional football for a substantial amount of time should know that Beck, aka a homeless man's Jake Plummer, is not a legitimate NFL quarterback. He just isn't.
He doesn't have the accuracy or the arm strength or the secret mojo that guys like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers have at their disposable. Beck is in a category with guys like Matt Moore and Charlie Whitehurst, quarterbacks who can have a legitimate career holding clipboards on NFL sidelines but who cause fans to cringe if their numbers ever get called. When your team puts in a player of this caliber, you intrinsically know, even if you spend all your energy denying it, that the season is over.
I'm not defending Grossman or advocating for his place in Canton, but Grossman at least shows occasional flashes of legitimacy. The good Rex/bad Rex label would not work if Grossman never had good games, if he never threw for over 300 yards or posted a quarterback rating over 100, two plateaus to which Beck has yet to ascend. Say what you will about Grossman, but at least the Redskins have never been shut out when he started a game.
At some point in the next nine games, the Shanahans will realize that Beck is not the second coming of John Elway and that his notable work ethic—which has impressed the two of them to seemingly no end—cannot make up for a severe lack of talent. At that point they will reinstate Grossman back into the lineup and hope good Rex rears his boyish head.
Quarterback controversies have been Washington's modus operandi since Heath Shuler and Gus Ferotte walked into RFK in 1994, and predicting which Redskins quarterback will start/finish a season is often more entertaining then the team's play.
Why should that stop now?
London Fletcher Will Retire Midway Through the Season
I don't actually believe this is going to happen. I just wish it would.
London Fletcher is 36 years old. He has not missed a single game in his career. Considering that Fletcher plays middle linebacker, a position that puts him in the midst of the bone crunching melee that is professional football, that is by far the most impressive football statistic of which I know.
For years, the media slobbered over the fact that Brett Favre never missed a start until well into his last year with the Minnesota Vikings. But Favre was never tasked with tackling opposing team's running backs play after play. Fletcher's feat makes Favre's streak look paltry in comparison.
If you made a list of the 10 most underappreciated football players of the last decade, Fletcher would have to be at the top of that list. He's not as outspoken as Ray Lewis and doesn't look the part like Brian Uralcher does—and to be fair he's never been quite as good as those two—but Fletcher has been elite middle linebacker throughout his career. He is also, by all accounts, a consummate teammate.
Yet he consistently fails to garner the recognition his play warrants.
Late in the second quarter of Sunday's game, Fletcher made a brilliant interception in the red zone, preventing Buffalo from coming away with a late field goal. The Redskins offense subsequently went three-and-out, failing to take any significant chunk of time off the clock in the process, and gave the ball back to Buffalo's offense, which promptly marched down the field and kicked a field goal as time expired.
That sequence broke my heart, because it shows how Fletcher and the defensive unit he leads gets no support from the Redskins offense.
I see no need for Fletcher to put his middle-aged body in jeopardy if the Redskins' continued offensive ineptitude once again relegates the team to last place in the NFC East.
Please retire, London. The smart fans won't hold it against you, and you can take your place among the franchise's greatest players.
The Press Will Turn Against Kyle Shanahan
In youth sports, it's always a little awkward when the coach's son gets a lot of playing time. It's hard to tell whether it's well-earned or just a blatant case of nepotism.
With the Redskins, it's hard to tell if Kyle Shanahan deserves to be calling the plays, or if his dad is showing some paternal favoritism and using his influence to groom Kyle for future head coaching duties.
Either way, the Redskins' offense is putrid, and Kyle deserves to shoulder some of the blame. I know he can't help the fact that the unit has been decimated by injuries, but at some point he has to make the necessary adjustments and catalyze more production.
At some point, the local press will realize that and start ripping Kyle on a regular basis.
Chris Cooley Will Finish the Season as a Sideline Reporter Intern
Chris Cooley is incredibly popular in Washington, and it will be difficult for many Redskins fans to accept the fact that age and injuries are conspiring to cut short his once a promising NFL career.
That being said, I cannot imagine Cooley playing for another franchise. He is so ingrained in the Washington sports community—he is a regular interviewee on many local radio stations and also married to an ex-Redskins cheerleader—that it would just seem wrong if he donned another uniform.
Since Cooley is naturally comfortable in front of a camera and good looking in an unconventional way, I predict that he will spend the duration of the 2011 season interning for a local TV affiliate as a way to grease the wheels for a future career as a sideline reporter for Redskins.
Godspeed, Chris. Reporting is significantly less stressful on the knees.
The Redskins Will Not Win Another Conference Game
That prediction may seem a bit dire, but at this point the team looks like it has no fight left in the tank. They were just shut out by the league's 24th-best defense. That is pretty sad.
The Redskins best chance for another divisional win will come when they host the Cowboys, who currently look equally inept and have quarterback problems of their own.
The Giants and Eagles have rebounded from shaky starts and should finish strong down the stretch—I still think the Eagles will miss the playoffs. I don't expect Washington to be able to compete with either of those teams.
I also don't expect them to be able to beat the Cowboys, but that game will give them their best shot to notch another win within the division.
Ryan Kerrigan Will Make the Pro Bowl
Kerrigan may only be a rookie, but he is already one of the NFL's premier outside linebackers.
He's a good pass rusher, solid tackler and a stellar addition to a defense that thrives on pressuring the quarterback.
Both he and Brian Orakpo should expect to end up in Honolulu at the end of the year. Don't be surprised when it happens.
Trent Williams Will Go on Injured Reserve
Trent Williams is an integral part of the Redskins' future.
All great NFL teams have good offensive and defensive lines, and when Williams is healthy he is one of the game's more formidable offensive tackles.
But high ankle sprains can be very tricky. Playing on an injured ankle can set a player up for a future of chronic foot problems.
I predict Williams will go on injured reserve rather than risk further damaging the already banged up ankle that has kept him out of the lineup the past two weeks.
MIke Shanahan Will End Up on the Coaching Hot Seat
Let me be clear: Mike Shanahan has a strong track record and should not be fired, regardless of how poorly the team finishes.
It takes a long time to turn around a losing culture, and it is unrealistic to expect massive changes in just two seasons.
But Dan Snyder is impatient if he is anything, and he loves to replace coaches even more than he loves to court high-profile free agents.
So, don't be surprised if Shanahan starts hearing rumors about his lack of job security come December.