Redskins mailbag: Cousins’s value, Shanahan’s to blame and future coach candidates

December 17, 2013

Mike Shanahan, shown here walking off the field after his team’s 11th loss of the season, remains on the hot seat. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

The quarterback change gave a bit of a change in story lines, but the results were the same this past Sunday as the Redskins suffered their sixth straight loss.

Mike Shanahan’s future remains uncertain, and possibly rather bleak. But the drama has died down a little bit.

There are still plenty of questions about this team, however, and so we’re back with another installment of the mailbag.

Thanks as always for taking part, and for next week’s edition, send questions to me at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line of “Mailbag question.”

How high of a draft pick do you think we can get for Cousins if he continues to play the way he did against the Falcons? Maybe a second rounder? And do you think Matt Flynn’s failures will make teams wary of giving up a lot for Cousins?

  Eli Bookstaber

It’s really going to depend on how desperate teams are. Mike Shanahan has floated the idea of getting a first-round pick in exchange for Cousins, but I don’t think that’s realistic. He’s a fourth-round pick, who so far has played in six games while throwing seven touchdowns, seven interceptions and three fumbles. He’s on pace to finish the season with nine touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. But those projections are just off of one start and his two previous relief appearances. So, it’s still extremely early to call. Say Cousins goes out and lowers the turnover total and continues to put points on the board. Perhaps he can get the Redskins a second- or third-round pick. Matt Flynn and Kevin Kolb rank among a number of backup quarterbacks that have shined in limited action and then wind up never panning out. So teams could hesitate on pulling the trigger at an extremely high price. I will say this, though, Cousins is a hard worker, spends a lot of time studying the play book and has a desire to improve. Playing in a pro-style offense in college has helped his understanding. So I think he can improve, but I just don’t know that he has a first-round value.

I totally agree with the two-point try but here is the obvious question:  Having been successful on a two-point conversation earlier this season, why would anyone think that a play that resulted in two receivers and two defenders in the back corner of the end zone be successful?  One of the successful ones previously used (against Philadelphia) had trips stacked to the right with two of the three bolting to the left resulting in an uncovered receiver in the front corner of the end zone. So why not go back to something that worked before?

 Mickey Kendrick

Everyone will have a different opinion on the play that should’ve been called in that situation. I was thinking go to Cousins on the draw because he hadn’t attempted to run all game and I figured Atlanta wouldn’t have expected that. But the Redskins did actually have an opportunity on the play that was called. The window of opportunity was very brief, though. You can see it better on the coaches’ film. Cousins takes the snap and rolls to his left. For a brief moment, Josh Morgan was open in the front of the end zone. He had split out wide and Garcon was in the slot. They crossed  Morgan in and Garcon underneath and to the outside. But Cousins didn’t spot Morgan in time, and a defender then picked him up. Morgan then moved back to the outside underneath where Garcon ran, and Cousins couldn’t get the ball past Marcus Trufant, who broke up the pass intended for Garcon. Cousins knew that he had missed an opportunity.

According to all media sources, there is plenty of blame to go around in Washington, but in your opinion, where should the majority of blame fall? Head coach, owner, GM, offensive coordinator, RGIII, or other, and why?

 Amy McKay

I think the biggest blame has to go to Shanahan because he’s the guy with the most power. He’s the man that put this roster together (he tells Bruce Allen, ‘I want this, this and that. Make it happen.’), he’s also the one that made the decision to bring back a number of veterans who instead of maintaining last year’s levels of play have instead experienced drop-offs in production. Shanahan is the one that hired his son as his offensive coordinator, putting himself in a potentially tough spot. It’s debatable how much of an effort he made to ensure that he, Griffin and Kyle Shanahan maintained strong trust and confidence in one another. He’s the one that picked the 3-4 defense even though Jim Haslett would’ve preferred to run a 4-3. Shanahan is believed to be the guy at the center of the national media leaks last week that angered Daniel Snyder, and made an already shaky situation even more fragile. That doesn’t mean that Snyder, Kyle Shanahan and even Griffin are without fault. But this is largely Mike Shanahan’s team.

I suspect the Shanahans will not be back next season, so who is the most likely candidate for head coach?

 Donald L Rogers

We touched a little on this last week, and it’s still hard to say because no one knows what Snyder is thinking, or what he and Bruce Allen will want in a coach. Will they try to go after the biggest name available? Jon Gruden has said he plans to go back to Monday Night Football another year (although that doesn’t necessarily mean anything). Bill Cowher doesn’t sound like he has plans to come out of retirement. Tony Dungy has said he’d never coach for Snyder. Lovie Smith? Or, should/will they try to find the next great coach and pursue an up-and-coming coordinator? Two names that would seem like smart candidate choices are Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Both have had success with young, mobile quarterbacks, which would be good for Griffin. Both run offenses that are based on the rushing attack, which would be good for Alfred Morris. Both spread the ball around to multiple weapons. Both are in their early 40s. You wouldn’t think either would come in and demand full control, and that could pave the way for this team to finally hire a real general manager. Bruce Allen essentially could take over as team president, and a GM would handle the personnel decisions.

I know the coaching staff is getting blamed with a lot of stuff and most likely it is true they are the main reason to blame for the struggles and poor performances we as fans are experiencing. One thing I have not heard mention is the fact that injuries are also playing a role in this. I am thinking about: Crawford (special teams player) the rookie Phillip Thomas (help with safety) and now Darrel Young and Jordan Reed.

 Benjamin Fry

The Redskins actually have been rather fortunate this year in the injury department. Yes, they’ve lost players  fourth-round safety Phillip Thomas, second-year inside linebacker Keenan Robinson, third-year wide receiver Leonard Hankerson ranking among them. But most of the players lost for the season are contributors, not starters. Thomas would have played this year in that thin secondary, but it’s hard to say how much of an impact he would have had as a rookie. And Robinson would have spelled London Fletcher here and there. The unfortunate aspect for both of them involves next season. This was to be their development year, and then they possibly could have been primed for significant roles next season. But otherwise, the team has avoided injury to their top players. All five starting offensive linemen have remained healthy, so have Garcon, Morris and Griffin. On defense, Stephen Bowen went down, but he hadn’t had a significant impact this year. The rest of the starters have avoided injury. Reed’s absence has indeed hurt. He had started emerging into the team’s top threat on third downs. He was one of few players that created true mismatches. And Darrel Young’s absence has hurt some in the run game. But the Redskins generally only use their fullback for roughly a third of their offensive plays. Unlike previous years, Washington can’t really pin this year’s woes on injuries.

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesdays.

What’s ahead:

●  The Redskins resume practice on Wednesday.

More on the Redskins and NFL:

Shanahan says competition is a good thing | Reiterates that he won’t resign

Reid: Shanahan-Snyder showdown has to end with coach’s exit

Hamilton: Jordan Reed is the player who should be shut down

D.C. Sports Bog: Makeshift Kirk Cousins jerseys More

Follow: @MikeJonesWaPo | @MarkMaske | @Insider | Insider on Facebook

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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Mark Maske · December 16, 2013

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