At the end of their latest embarrassing performance during another wasted season, the Washington Redskins were booed off the field Sunday by the small crowd that remained throughout a 24-0 loss to the St. Louis Rams. At least the team’s fans got it right.
Even by their poor standards, the Redskins appeared inept while losing their fifth straight and being shut out for the first time since 2011. And in addition to the Redskins’ recurring on-field problems, the ongoing drama of their unstable quarterback situation continued to cast a shadow over the franchise.
For the second consecutive season, the Redskins are 3-10 with three games remaining. It appears Washington has made no progress despite a coaching change, and it faces many difficult questions in the offseason.
It’s time to analyze this mess. Let’s start at the top.
In his 16th season as owner, Daniel Snyder still has failed to create a structure for sustained success. Alone in last place in the NFC East, the Redskins have finished last or tied for last in five of the past six seasons and seven of 10.
Snyder’s coziness with star players has helped derail the franchise. His chumminess with Robert Griffin III — Snyder and the quarterback shared high-dollar dinners and mingled with Hollywood stars — was a factor in former coach Mike Shanahan’s ouster following last season, and it could play a role in whether Griffin returns in 2015 despite his poor play and divisive presence in the locker room. Then there’s President and General Manager Bruce Allen.
Allen botched the offseason, failing to fill holes and opening more by making bad moves. Although Allen committed almost $22 million to outside linebacker Brian Orakpo and defensive lineman Jason Hatcher, Washington’s pass rush has been a major disappointment. Allen badly misevaluated the team’s depth at safety and did little to shore up a so-so offensive line.
Lacking the player-personnel chops to construct a sound roster, Allen should have made significant changes to an underfunded scouting staff that generally hasn’t performed well for a long time. Unless Snyder hires a top personnel man and gets out of his way, the Redskins will remain the Oakland Raiders of the East.
Remember how players and holdovers on the coaching staff once praised Jay Gruden for being the anti-Shanahan? Unlike Shanahan, Gruden didn’t micromanage, they said. Instead of fitting players into his system, Gruden tailored plans to players’ strengths. And Gruden was more easygoing than his predecessor. These days, no one is praising Gruden.
There’s no way to sugarcoat this: For weeks, Washington’s coaching staff often has appeared overmatched.
On Sunday, Rams receivers repeatedly ran uncovered. Same story from start to finish in last week’s 22-point loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
St. Louis exploited Washington’s glaring weaknesses in pass protection, sacking starter Colt McCoy, who was replaced by Griffin late after spraining his neck, six times and Griffin once. Gruden had no answers to energize an offense that produced only 138 yards through three quarters and did not have a snap inside the St. Louis 20-yard line during the game. Again, special teams were a disaster.
On fourth and five at their 33-yard line midway through the third quarter, the Redskins attempted a fake punt. With what appeared to be running room to the right, punter Tress Way ran up the middle and was tackled after a two-yard gain. Four plays later, St. Louis scored a touchdown and added a two-point conversion to break open the game 17-0.
After the Redskins went three-and-out on their next possession, Tavon Austin returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown. Offense, defense, special teams — the Redskins appeared in disarray. And if the Redskins were giving their best effort, it wasn’t close to being good enough. That’s on the coaches.
“They are pro football players,” Gruden said. “If I have to motivate a pro football player to play football, then we need to get new football players.”
Gruden could be on to something.
After moving on from Griffin and Kirk Cousins, McCoy was Gruden’s last hope. If McCoy played reasonably well down the stretch, Gruden figured, the Redskins could allocate most of their resources in the draft and free agency to address areas of concern other than quarterback. Well, so much for that strategy.
Although Washington had too many protection breakdowns, McCoy played poorly while finishing with two interceptions and an awful 54.0 passer rating. McCoy directed two of Washington’s three victories. He has shown some encouraging signs.
Clearly, though, the journeyman hasn’t inspired confidence he’s ready to open next season as the starter. McCoy’s medical status is unclear for Washington’s upcoming road game against the New York Giants. You know what’s probably coming: the return of Griffin.
The coaching staff has no confidence in Griffin. There’s little if any support for Griffin in the locker room, an unnamed Redskins player reportedly said. Snyder and Allen, however, haven’t given up on Griffin. Yep. Just like old times.
Regardless of the coaching staff’s deficiencies, players must look in the mirror as well. The Redskins are among the NFL leaders in mental gaffes that result in opponents’ highlight-worthy plays. Their problems on the field start off of it.
Washington’s locker room is way too loose. Gruden hasn’t identified many core players around whom to build, which shows.
Moving forward, a house cleaning is needed. The Redskins must acquire players capable of setting the right example. They need leaders who do more than talk a good game.
“That’s something we are working towards every day, [trying to] teach a sense of pride and work ethic to our players,” Gruden said. “We know this is not going to change overnight or tomorrow. We know this is going to be a process.”
After two road clunkers, the Redskins returned to FedEx Field with an abysmal performance that brought to mind The Last Days of Jim Zorn. Allen lacks the ability to help Gruden, who could use a hand, and the Griffin situation has paralyzed the organization. Somewhere, Mike Shanahan is laughing. A lot.
For more by Jason Reid, visit washingtonpost.com/reid.
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