According to the NFL’s official stats, the offensive line ranked a cumulative 23rd in the league. It allowed 108 quarterback hits — third worst in the league. Only Minnesota and Seattle, which gave up 114 each, were more porous.
What all this means is that the Redskins need to have another very busy offseason. They need to add size and brawn — and they need to add it two and three layers deep, so that when they lose first- and second-stringers, as is inevitable in the NFL, they don’t cave. This will disappoint those who hoped Shanahan’s Redskins were a two-year project, and it clearly disappointed Shanahan himself. He continues to insist the team is improving under his stewardship despite an 11-21 record, and that, healthy, they might have won ten games.
But Shanahan didn’t shy away from the obvious conclusion, either. When he was asked in his year-ending news conference Monday how active he would be this offseason in changing personnel, he replied, “Very similar to last year.” It was a deadpan remark, but an important one: Last year, he added eight new starters.
“I know we’re not there yet,” he said. “I knew it wasn’t going to happen overnight. It’s not going to happen in one year, or two years. We need a good free agent class, and more depth. But I like what we’ve got.”
The next few months for Shanahan will be make or break. Owner Daniel Snyder has been patient for two years but there is nothing in his personal history that suggests he will be patient for three. The good news is, the last time Shanahan and General Manager Bruce Allen went shopping, they did well. They drafted well, judging by linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and running back Roy Helu, and they found good value in free agents such as Stephen Bowen.
Shanahan’s focus last offseason was primarily the defense — five of the new starters were on that side of the ball. One area where the Redskins were significantly big enough to impress the opponent was along the defensive front. The assumption is that this offseason he will focus on the offense, beginning with quarterback. He needs to find the big performer who can redeem his failed gambles on Donovan McNabb, Grossman and John Beck. It will be Shanahan’s signature offseason, for better or worse, a final referendum on his judgment.
“This year’s draft and free agency will be the most important of the last decade,” Theismann predicts, “and of the decade going forward.”