As of the writing of this article, the Indianapolis Colts are 5-3.
Nobody in the world gave the Colts a chance to win at least five games all season.
Yet there they stand, quite a lot better than the 2-14 disaster from last year.
Quarterback Andrew Luck has been a major reason for Indy's "surprise" record. Another reason?
Why bring this up in an article about the Washington Redskins? I can't possibly be saying that...
No. I am absolutely NOT SAYING Washington's dismal 3-6 record is because of Robert Griffin III.
I am saying that in the case of the Redskins and their vast under-performance, the problem is the coaching. Specifically, head coach Mike Shanahan. Is he the ONLY reason for Washington's pile of losses so far in 2012?
Not directly, no. There have been an unholy amount of devastating injuries to the best, most crucial players on the Redskins. There has been an obscene number of points as well as offensive yards given up by the defense.
Shanahan has had Washington in a position to lose in each of his three seasons as head coach. His scheme does not work. He has thinned out and watered down the roster past the breaking point. And it is showing this year.
When Shanny took over the Redskins' head coaching duties in 2010, Washington had an effective defense. The defensive scheme, the "4-3", had been the standard defense used in Washington up to that point.
In 2009, Washington's defense was more "middle of the road", ranking 16th to 18th overall in most defensive team categories. In 2010, the Redskins plummeted. They sank to 31st of the 32 teams in the NFL.
Why the abrupt change? Because Shanahan wanted to have a "3-4" base defense. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett protested the change. He told Shanahan that Washington did not have the correct personnel to run a 3-4. But, Shanny's the boss, what he says goes, so the Redskins switched.
On came the Albert Haynesworth drama.
Then, he puts his son Kyle Shanahan in as offensive coordinator *cough* nepotism *cough*. This led to the elder Shanahan green-lighting the Easter Day 2010 trade with Philadelphia for Donovan McNabb. The son protested, saying McNabb could not execute his game plan. But again, Mike's the boss. Also the FATHER in this case, so the trade went through.
On came the Donovan McNabb drama.
Additionally, in the free agency period before the 2010 regular season, Shanahan made some, let's say, "unusual" signings. He picked up free agent running backs Larry Johnson and Willie Parker.
Wait, I thought the Skins had an elite back in Clinton Portis? Oh they did. The irony is that Portis was a Shanahan draft pick while he was still in Denver.
But as was made clear in a hurry, nobody is immune to the "Wrath of Shan".
On came the Clinton Portis drama.
The rest of the players he signed were backup quality, at best. Rex Grossman, Phillip Buchanon, Darrien Scott and Nick Sundberg are the remaining four (out of 21) on the current roster.
Well, in 2011, things are going to get better, I tell you. Shanahan will be able to really sort out the mess of a roster that Washington has. The lockout came and went, the official off-season was reduced to about a month and a half. At least everyone is on the same level, hurriedly scavenging the market, picking up any players they can find to bolster their team's depth chart.
Let's see how he did in his second offseason. You know, the one where the dead wood has mostly been discarded, the Shan's system has been in place for a year, these guys know what they're doing.
Thirteen new signings this time around, surely a focus was placed on key areas of need.
Problems like the offensive line, the defensive secondary, a lack of a play-maker on offense.
One of these guys had to be a flashy new wide receiver though, right?
The Redskins oh so desperately needed a wideout to stretch the field and consequently helping the running game. They got a wide receiver all right.
One. Single. Receiver. Donte Stallworth, known for his speed and diving catches. But hardly a player that give defenses nightmares.
In 2011, the Redskins finished 5-11. that is one game worse than 2010, when they went 6-10. This went completely against conventional wisdom, the understanding that the first season with a new head coach is usually expected to end with a poor record.
Year two is supposed to be a noticeable improvement, not a step backward.
This past offseason, a large Bunsen burner was placed under Shanahan's seat, and lit up. So when the 2012 Draft came along, Shanahan threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Rams in order to select quarterback Robert Griffin III. Then proceeded to do as little as he could to improve Washington's depth.
Pierre Garcon? Really, Mike? How's that working out for you? Tanard Jackson, now serving a one-year suspension, another offseason addition.
Drafting RG3 will ultimately be the ONE good personnel move by Shanahan. Griffin has been out of this world, he has inspired and re-invigorated an apathetic fan base. He has restored a sense of optimism and hope.
Yes, the Redskins are apparently 2012's "devastated by injury" team. They're struggling in a big way. At three wins, six losses, it's looking pretty bad. But a 10-6, 9-7 or even 8-8 record will likely win the NFC East.
The Redskins still have five division games left. They've had "miracle finishes" on two occasions in the 2000's, end-of-season winning streaks that led them into an improbable spot in the playoffs.
Don't give up, guys! It is still possible.
What's that you say, Shanahan essentially announced his concession in a post game speech last Sunday? Here's a direct quote, these are Shanahan's own words, following the loss to the Panthers:
“When you lose a game like that, now you’re playing to see who, obviously, is going to be on your football team for years to come,” Shanahan said after his team’s third straight loss and ninth in the past 10 games at FedEx Field.
“Now we get a chance to evaluate players and see where we’re at. Obviously we’re not out of it statistically. But now we find out what type of character we’ve got and how guys keep on fighting through the rest of the season.” (SOURCE: Mike Wise, Washington Post)
According to Shanahan's retraction the next day, everyone misinterpreted what he said. He isn't really giving up on the season, he's just saying that...he's just trying to say, for 'clarification'....
That will not work, Mike. The words were said, and they were as direct and blunt and frank as can be. This is your third year, the one typically leading to a playoff berth. The year that, following two off-seasons and two drafts, YOUR players are in place, as is YOUR SYSTEM.
Indeed, the team is chock full of Mike Shanahan's own players. His base 4-3 defensive system is in place, too. But neither are winning football games.
YOUR PLAYERS ARE INADEQUATE.
YOUR SYSTEM HAS FAILED.
YOU HAVE FAILED.
Mr. Snyder, please remove this scourge from the Washington Redskins, his time is up.