Weren't Mike Shanahan and Donovan McNabb brought to D.C. to restore order and stability? Weren't they the answers to Washington's recent head coach and quarterback woes? Wasn't Washington supposed to return to prominence or at least respectability?
They were.... it just didn't happen.
The 2010 Washington Redskins season was the biggest bungled mess to date in a decade's worth of underachieving flops.
A quick glance at our sister blog hogshaven.com and you get the idea. Disappointment reigns. Stories are posted under the despondent headings 'Do Redskins Fans have a Breaking Point? and the more matter-of-fact but equally painful "Redskings 2011-2 Super Bowl Odds Twice as Bad as Last Year." Ouch.
Whether it was the Mike Shanahan vs. Albert Haynesworth year long saga or Mike and his son Kyle's bizarre and unprofessional treatment of star quarterback Donovan McNabb, the Redskins were the butts of frequent jokes and a general embarrassment to a storied franchise.
In fact, it got so ugly, that at one point in early December it was rumored that Owner Daniel Sydner, who is by no means a source of pride to Redskins fans either, considered making coaching changes yet again.
Having cleared significant cap room, the Washington Redskins are once again in rebuilding mode. The promise for a better tomorrow is there, whether or not Shanahan can make it happens remains to be seen.
Season in Review: An Embarrassing Year
Even with all the excitement surrounding the arrivals of Donovan McNabb and Mike Shanahan, there were ominous signs that not everybody was buying the hype. Albert Haynesworth's displeasure over being used as a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense instead of his traditional defensive tackle position in the 4-3 base d was the first of numerous headaches and distractions for the team.
Although not as sharp on offense as many predicted, the Redskins stole a week one win from Dallas and managed to keep themselves firmly in the playoff chase with quality wins over Philadelphia, Green Bay and Chicago.
In fact heading into week 8 the Redskins were 4-3 with their 3 losses decided by a total of 10 points.
As Colts fans, we know how tough the Redskins were as we barely squeaked by with a 27-24 week six win. (The game proved to be very damaging as it cost us Joe Addai for half the season).
Week 8 however, is were everything began to spin out of control for Washington. In what should have been a winnable game that could have boosted their playoff standing, the Redskins were blown out by the lowly Lions.
Shanahan foolishly created a quarterback controversy by pulling McNabb in the closing minutes, squashing any hopes for a late Washington comeback. Why Shanahan entrusted a late rally to Sexy Rexy Grossman, who was completely cold at the time, is beyond reason. Many Washington fans are still wondering and shaking their heads.
To make it worse, Shanahan offered up variety of bungled explanations including Grossman understood the two-minute offense better than McNabb (really Mike?) before reversing course and blaming McNabb's cardiovascular endurance (really really Mike?)
The move, would come back to haunt them and torn apart the locker room.
With the bye week following the game, the distraction festered and going forward, it was obvious the team had lost the respect and faith in their coach. The Redskins went on to lose 6-8 tumbling out of the respectability and crashing to the bottom of the NFC East.
The disaster off the field was nearly as bad on it (Usually its the other way around right?)
The Redskins finished 31rst in the league against the pass and 26th against the run. The defense gave up more than 30 points 6 times including a whopping 59 points to McNabb's former team the Eagles.
Offensively, the running game ranked 30th in the league, even finishing behind the Colts (UNBELIEVABLE!!!).
The only bright spot was the passing game, which finished 6th... Hmm. Somehow, his lowest touchdowns since his rookie season notwithstanding, I think Donovan McNabb is more responsible for the limited success rather than Rex Grossman. Maybe Shanahan disagrees.
Either way, a 6-10 record is not acceptable in D.C. and going forward, especially with all the available cap room, expect Washington to overhaul the roster.
Offseason Momentum: Lots of cap room helps... for the long term future.
Mike Shanahan has taken a lot of heat in his first year on the job, but in fairness it was never his team. The Broncos were. Shanahan was so successful in Denver partly because he was able to choose the players he wanted, who he felt could fit his season.
Now one year later, Shanahan finally has a chance to put his stamp on the roster. Here is a
great article on the Redskins cap situation which I will quickly summarize/recap:
It has not been negotiated so we cannot know for sure what the cap will be next year or beyond (assuming there is a next year) but given the 2009 cap was positioned at around 127 million, its a safe bet that the next cap (whenever that may be) will be set somewhere around 135 million dollars per team.
For Colts' fans the worst scenario would be an uncapped year because Daniel Synder would probably go buck wild and buy up the entire free agent pool. Next thing you know, the Redskins would have a 300 man roster...
Pardon the digression... Anyway, as Greg Trippiedi mentions in his post, the Redskins have been able to position themselves well in the past year and have only 91 million dollars pledged to 31 players. That puts them in the range of roughly 40 million in available cash to go out and recruit big time free agents.
Who are they targeting? Well, Rex Grossman is not the future at quarterback so either the Redskins will have to bring in yet another overpriced, semi-washed up free agent quarterback or go out and get one in the draft.
There are a lot of question marks, but at least Shanahan is molding the team. After years of trying to plug a leak with overpriced free agents, there is no doubt its a rebuilding year in D.C. While that means a few more tortuous seasons over the next few years, the future should be brighter. As George Bush the Senior always said '1000 points of light, believe it, the light at the end of the tunnel is near.'
At least next year won't be so humiliating....
Offseason Anxiety: A rebuilding process will give anyone an ulcer
Like the feeling you get when spring finally rolls around, there is something cleansing and hopeful about a rebuilding process. Its a chance to start over and get it right.
The problem is the following few years are almost more painful because you know, baring miraculous luck, that the team has no chance of being successful. A youth movement, means kicking out and getting rid of the veterans who know the ropes and theoretically (this doesn't apply to the Lions) know what it takes to win.
If Santana Moss, Clinton Portis, McNabb and center Casey Rabach are all cut or traded as hogshaven.com and others are suggesting, the offense will literally have 2 players on which to build around: Left tackle Trent Williams and running back Ryan Torain. Williams is a blue chip prospect that should anchor the left side of the line for years to come, but Torain is a 5th round find that is still untested. After coming over from Denver, he has yet to go a whole year as the starting running back. Even Mike Shanahan's track record of turning castoffs into 1,000 yard backs, can't be too reassuring for Redskins fans.
Defensively it isn't too much more promising. They have 2 stud linebackers in Brian Orakpo and Rocky McIntosh. Corner Carlos Rogers was beat and picked on repeatedly but is still theoretically talented. DeAngelo Hall was probably their most effective player in the secondary.
The problem is, the two best defensive players and true unheralded stars in the league, Vonnie Holliday and London Fletcher, are each 35 and near the tail end of their careers. Besides maybe Orakpo, nobody seems able or willing to fill the role of leader for the unit. Given how already bad they were last year, that is a troubling.
The biggest offseason move will be solving the quarterback predicament. Unless Shanahan can find no one else, McNabb likely wont be back. You can only win so many games with Grossman and career backup John Beck is not the answer either.
Draft Desires: All over the board
If you take a peak at Hailredskins.com - an absolutely terrific site which compiles mock drafts from across the internet - you will find how all-over-the-place the expert's picks are. There is no consensus.
The team's most pressing needs are at QB, DE, RB, WR, OG and maybe ILB.
Rogers and Hall are good enough that they can wait on a corner. It seems Shanahan is high on Torrain and is willing to give him a shot, so no running back will be selected early. That leaves quarterback, defensive end and wide receiver.
Personally, and as I have said all along, you have to take a quarterback. Its a passing league. Jake Locker may be a good pro, but his value isn't high enough for this pick. Cameron Newton reminds me too much of another Auburn product and former Redskins Qb, Jason Campbell and Campbell 2.0 doesn't sound too appealing to hogs nation.
The only quarterback worthy of the pick seems to be Blaine Gabbert out of Missouri. Again, that doesn't mean that Locker or others won't turn out to be excellent pros, but right now the gamble is too high.
If not a qb, I think Washington would love receiver Julio Jones out of Alabama. He is a very coveted prospect and if still there would be very tempting. Ultimately though, it might be advisable to trade down, stockpile picks and go after Locker early second round...
The question is, is Daniel Synder patient enough. Highly doubtful.
Free Agency Farewells: Get your shopping carts ready its going to be a fire sale
McNabb, Portis, Haynesworth, Moss and Rabach are all either likely to be cut or traded or are still anxiously listening for rumors of the departures.
They will need to find a backup (or starter for that matter) because Grossman and Beck are both free agents and may or may not be retained (Grossman is more likely to stick around). They will have no depth at running back because the Redskins will probably let most of their back ups - including Larry Johnson and former Colt Chad Simpson - walk. Mike Sellers has had a long and productive career as a Redskin, but he is 35 and is unlikely to be resigned.
One player of interest for Colts fans is Will Montgomery. A true center, Montgomery filled in admirably at right guard and could be a useful utility backup.
Threat to the Stampede: Last year's game cost us dearly
As I mentioned above, the Colts lost Addai for 8 weeks and also Dallas Clark for the season in D.C. That was an expensive victory. Fortunately, we wont't play them again this year and Washington has almost no chance of reaching the super bowl let alone the playoffs.
They may prove a tough out down the road but next year the threat to the stampede is a lovely 0.