Redskins mailbag: Shanahan’s future, Cousins’s potential and more

Kirk Cousins, Mike Shanahan

Where will Kirk Cousins and Mike Shanahan find themselves next year? (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

We’re in our final week of the regular season and one game remains, but the focus has already shifted to the offseason, which should feature a lot of interesting decisions and moves, to say the least.

In today’s mailbag, we tackle questions on Mike Shanahan’s future, Kirk Cousins’s potential, and how things could shake out in the front office.

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

Merry Christmas, and happy holidays to you and yours!

With all the questions surrounding Shanahan’s future, is there any chance that Washington could trade the coach to another team, à la Jon Gruden in 2002? Seems on the surface at least to be similar situations: Gruden had a year left on his contract and serious conflicts with Al Davis, but the Raiders still were able to get a couple of draft picks for him. I know Gruden was coming off of a winning season and Shanny is most definitely not. But it seems to me he’d be an attractive candidate elsewhere based on previous seasons. Is there any chance of this?

 Don Johnson

No, I really don’t see this as a realistic possibility. If Mike Shanahan is indeed out as head coach of the Redskins, which seems likely, I’d almost be surprised to see him coach again at all. I don’t see him as having that strong an appeal that a team would want to give up draft picks to acquire his services. He’s coming off of double-digit loss seasons in three of the past four years. And since his back-to-back Super Bowl victories, his teams have made the playoffs just five times in 14 seasons, and of those five appearances, he has won only once (2005).

Some of your colleagues (Boswell, Reid) seem, in my opinion, to have been quite critical of Cousins, who of course has only started three games. I’d still hope that RG3 is the quarterback next year, but it seems at least four to five teams would find Cousins an upgrade.  There’s a lot of talk about the importance of game-day experience relative to practice. So my question for you is: how do Cousins’ game-day stats compare with other QBs over their first three starts? It seems we’ve had quite an impressive intake of QBs over the last two years, so if possible, it would be good to go back some years.

— Mark in D.C.

It’s far too early to know exactly what Cousins really will be in this league, but in two starts this season, he has completed 62 percent of his passes for 578 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. For his career (seven games) he has completed 61.7 percent of his passes for 1,151 yards, eight touchdowns and eight interceptions. Taking a look at two other young quarterbacks who have shined as backups and earned their way onto other teams via trade in recent years, I checked out Kevin Kolb and Matt Flynn. In Kolb’s first two starts, he completed 64.7 percent of his passes for 718 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. Flynn completed 68 percent of his passes for 731 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions. If you look at Andrew Luck, in his first two starts, he completed 57 percent of his passes for 533 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. In Robert Griffin III’s first two starts, he completed 71 percent of his passes for 526 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. So, does this show us anything? Not really. Cousins has more interceptions than any of those passers we just looked at, but his completion percentage and touchdown totals are in the same neighborhood. I think he can be a capable quarterback as a full-time starter. He gets the ball out quickly, scans the field and has decent mobility. I don’t think he’s a game-changer, though. Prior to his opportunity this season, I thought the Redskins could get a third-round pick for him. So far, I don’t think he’s really done anything to increase or decrease his value.

My question to you is: How can you blame Mike Shanahan for a bad defensive play caller? You have seen it all year. Third and long, they go into a four- or five-man rush, and never get to the quarterback. Sunday on fourth and 10 with only 20 yards of field, they do it again. Four-man rush, give Romo time, BINGO. I think Haslett gets a pass for the first two or three years because of changing to a 3-4 system, but he has to man up for how bad this defense is playing.

   Jerry Foglia

Mike Shanahan deserves some blame for the defense as well, because he hired Jim Haslett and required him to run the 3-4 defense when Haslett had previously run a 4-3 system. Shanahan also added his former Denver assistants, Jacob Burney and Bob Slowik (as well as Slowik’s son, Bobby) to Haslett’s staff. Haslett didn’t pick his own assistants. Shanahan has final personnel say, so if players haven’t worked out on the system, he’s partially to blame for that as well. Additionally, Shanahan has say in the meetings involving the defensive game plan for each week. He also makes some in-game defensive calls. So he does deserve some blame.

What are the chances of the Redskins hiring a real general manager next year to be in charge of player personnel? Current general manager Bruce Allen seems to be more of a figure head, and Mike has his hands full as the head coach. Is there a chance Morocco Brown or Scott Campbell would be promoted?  Maybe bring in a Scott Pioli?

  Nick Ditchey

A lot of that will hinge on what direction the Redskins go regarding the head coaching position. Will Daniel Snyder hire a big-name coach who wants full control? Or, will they go the up-and-coming coordinator or college coach that is only concerned with coaching? Brown, Washington’s director of pro personnel, has drawn interest in years past from several teams as a candidate for general manager, but has yet to get his big break. He’s a smart guy that has worked his way up and learned the ropes. I don’t think he’d be a bad choice, if they decided to promote from within. Campbell, the director of player personnel, is more college-geared. He and his department have done a good job of finding talent in the college ranks as the Redskins have shifted their focus back to building through the draft. But I don’t see him as a likely candidate for GM. Meanwhile, A.J. Smith  former general manager of the San Diego Chargers  is on staff as a “senior executive.” It’s not clear exactly what his role entails, although it’s been asked a number of times. But he does have a track record of success. But ownership could opt to go out of house for this move. We’ll soon find out.

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.

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