One of the nations most prominent figures made a move that would shape his upcoming year. With a smoke and mirrors approach, he was able to hide vast shortcomings from his loyal followers. That is…until now.
It all started last April. The Washington Redskins traded down in the opening round of the NFL draft and took Purdue All-American linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. For a team starved of a franchise quarterback for over two decades, Mike Shanahan and co. showed restraint and did what they needed to build a team.
Bolstering the defense was the Redskins number one goal heading into that draft and the shortened off-season. After one of the worst statistical defenses in franchise history, the ‘Skins brass spent their time and energy fixing their greatness weakness.
With the defense improved, Mike Shanahan went into this season admittedly having done little to improve the offense. The head coach upgraded the right side of the offensive line a bit (signed Chris Chester and re-signed Jamal Brown), and acquired receiver Jabar Gaffney & running back Tim Hightower. Other than that, however, they stayed away from their offense. Shanny proceeded by putting his ‘reputation’ on the line when he openly endorsed both John Beck and Rex Grossman because of his own belief in his system.
What happened next is why I am writing this post: they won 3 of their first 4 games.
Heading into the Philadelphia game, The Redskins had high aspirations and were rising quickly through the NFL ranks. It seemed Rex Grossman was leading a resurgence in the Nations Capital. Being the eternal optimist, I too believed in the Redskins. I liked the way the defense attacked, and the balance on offense was encouraging. The Burgundy & Gold were finally showing true signs of improvement. But, as the Dennis Green quote goes, ‘They are, who we thought they were’.
The Eagles game was the beginning of a harsh reminder. This is a team with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at quarterback, zero offensive line depth, and a limited number of playmakers. Redskins fans, myself included, called for Beck (Jekyll) as Grossman (Hyde) forced turnover after turnover. Shanahan finally gave into the fans pleas and inserted Beck after a fourth turnover from Grossman. Beck responded with a somewhat encouraging performance and earned the chance to start. Since than, however, Beck has performed remarkably poorly, but has given ‘Skins fan exactly what they wanted: fewer turnovers.
It is no secret at this point that the offense in Washington is inept. Their lack of depth is frustrating and their last franchise quarterback was over two decades ago. However, there are plenty of reasons for DC to stay positive in these difficult times. Just look at what the man in charge has done:
After years of costly mistakes under Ceratto, Mike and Bruce Allan inherited a roster that not only needed retooling, it needed an overhaul:
Step 1: In his first year in DC, he immediately changed the attitude inside the locker room and made it clear he was in charge.
Step 2: Knowing he needed a defense to win in a physical division, he than went and strengthened the underachieving unit. Using the draft and some crafty maneuvers in the shortened off-season, Haslet now has a defense that is stout and improving. They are not dominant yet, but they are using a blueprint that will get them there.
Step 3: With the inevitable drafting of a franchise quarterback only months away, Shanahan is now an off-season away from a roster that he is completely comfortable with. His smoke and mirrors approach, coupled with his outward confidence in Beck and Grossman, had Washington believing they could win with this group. Lo and behold, the ‘Skins quickly found out they are still a year or two away.
Offenses take time to build and the poor performances cannot be blamed on Kyle Shanahan. He has implemented a system that will work if he has the talent needed. We would all like to see him call more running plays, but their run game lacks because defenses can stack the line of scrimmage Grossman can’t make the deep throws due to arm strength and Beck is simply too afraid.
It pains me to hear Redskins fans boo their team when we all knew what had to be done. Fans seem to forget that the best option at quarterback was what we had because of the lockout. We were in no position to draft Cam Newton, and Blaine Gabbert has not done anything to raise my eyebrows. Andy Dalton has played well, but he had a defense already in place and would have been the next David Carr in Washington. Think about it: with Dalton, we would not have an improved defense and would have to outscore people. Further, with the current lack of depth at offensive line, Dalton would have been pummeled.
The Redskins were never a playoff team and fooled many experts with their surprising start. After a few rough games, fans are jumping ship because they simply do not believe in Washington. However, for a team many predicted to win only 3 games all year, they remain a head of schedule. With the next off-season dedicated towards the offense, the Burgundy and Gold will continue to improve under Shanahan’s guidance.
In a town full of politicians, fans should never believe everything they hear.
Never give up faith. Hail!