A productive running back can be one of a quarterback’s best friends, and Griffin and rookie Alfred Morris are getting along great. Morris is Shanahan’s latest late-round find at running back (Terrell Davis was his best). To say the sixth-rounder runs hard is like commenting that Griffin is fast: It’s accurate but doesn’t tell the whole story.
Morris’s hard-charging approach has proved to be a perfect complement to Griffin’s graceful running style. Griffin and Morris are racking up rushing yards like no other rookies at their position in league history. Shanahan also made the correct calls in free agency on defensive linemen Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen, who are among few bright spots on the NFL’s 28th-ranked (out 32 teams) defense.
Don’t get me wrong. Shanahan should not receive high marks on all of his player-personnel decisions. The second-to-last secondary couldn’t be worse if it tried. The Redskins’ starting safeties would be far down the depth chart on most good teams, and their first-string cornerbacks are below average on their best days.
Shanahan’s handpicked roster — just 12 players remain on the team from the season before Shanahan arrived — again appears incapable of producing a break-even record, let alone competing for a playoff spot. In the most important area, the win-loss record, he is a disappointing 14-27.
Still, remember: Shanahan inherited one of the league’s worst rosters. His predecessor, Jim Zorn, went 12-20. In the past 20 seasons, the Redskins have missed the playoffs 17 times. That’s a run of futility that can’t be forgotten or ignored. After years of poor drafts and ridiculous free-agent signings, it was unreasonable to think Shanahan could repair the lion’s share of the damage in one, two or even three years. This is a heavy-lifting task that can be solved only by trial and error.
Soon, Shanahan’s experiments will have to produce great results. Shanahan has no doubt about the path he has charted for the team (“I know I’m going in the right direction,” he says confidently), so it had better lead to the playoffs next season. We’re just not there yet.
Before the season began, I figured the Redskins would be a five- or six-win team. Then Griffin stormed into the league like some video-game cross between Joe Montana and Gale Sayers, and anything seemed possible for a moment. Reality has set in again.
In hiring Shanahan, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder wagered that the two-time Super Bowl winner could reverse the direction of the franchise. Clearly, that hasn’t happened yet. But in Griffin, the team finally has a foundation. Changing builders now is a gamble Snyder can’t afford to take.
For previous columns by Jason Reid, visit washingtonpost.com/reid.