Officially out of postseason contention, the Washington Redskins begin the final quarter of the season Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs with seemingly nothing more to play for than pride.
“If you are eliminated, you still want to go out and play some good football,” coach Mike Shanahan said. “You’d sure like to win games. … People that aren’t motivated even though they’re out of it usually don’t last.”
Still, it seems as if the focus is on the future, and there will be plenty to watch for as the Redskins play out the string of games — moves that will affect the franchise going forward.
After Shanahan led the Redskins to the playoffs last year, it seemed all but certain that he would earn a contract extension from Dan Snyder, but if this season continues to spiral out of control, it would be difficult to bring Shanahan back for a fifth campaign. Shanahan’s stamp is all over this team, from the players on the roster to his son Kyle as offensive coordinator, and the systematic failure of the 2013 season rests on his shoulders. Would Snyder be willing to roll the dice that this season is merely a blip?
The RGIII Situation
Closely tied to Shanahan’s return is the relationship between coach and quarterback. Robert Griffin III’s image has taken a hit as he passive-aggressively throws shots at his boss about his injury last season and the team’s offense this season, while seemingly passing the buck. But Griffin has made strides since Week 1, and while he may never be the electric presence he was during his rookie season, his continued development will be paramount to the Redskins’ success. The question remains, will it be in a new system, under a new coach?
With much-needed relief from their salary cap penalty coming in the offseason, the Redskins will face some tough decisions on how to spend their money. A host of current players, including linebacker London Fletcher, wide receiver Santana Moss and cornerback DeAngelo Hall, have expiring contracts. Perhaps the biggest pending free agent is linebacker Brian Orakpo, who is seeking a large payday but has to prove to the Redskins — and outside suitors — that he’s worth the money when his production might suggest otherwise.
The Redskins aren’t going to turn the roster over to the kids — after all, Shanahan is coaching to keep his job — but it would behoove the team to find out a bit more about its younger players. Bacarri Rambo and David Amerson are learning on the fly in the secondary, which may pay off next year. However, the Redskins do have some offensive linemen worth checking out, including Josh LeRibeus and Tom Compton. The line is an area that may be in flux next season, and the Redskins can use this time to figure out how much needs to be rebuilt.