John: Since Shanny is looking ahead to next year, so am I. DHall seems intent on playing and talking himself out of town, which is fine with me. The salary cap problems are well documented, as is the lack of a first round pick. I was surprised, however, to learn that the Skins still have 8 picks in next year’s draft. The 2nd rounder should be in the 40-45 range, maybe high enough to get a starting S or CB. Any clue of who they’re looking at? Also, how is Chase Minniefield progressing? His injuries have been severe, so we probably shouldn’t count on him, but the coaches were high on him before his latest setback.
Mark: The Redskins have done a good job of adding draft picks since their arrival and I’m sure they’ll try to maneuver again in April. At this point it’s impossible to know who they’re scouting. For starters I have my hands full covering the daily aspects of the on-field stuff. But it’s way too early in the process; we don’t even know who is coming out early, etc. As for what positions they’ll target, a lot will depend on what they can, or can’t, do in free agency. They should be able to find a starter in the second round and a contributor in the third. As for Minnifield, I haven’t heard how he’s doing. But I do know that when you have microfracture surgery the odds increase greatly that you will hurt it again. And then when you do? You can’t be counted on. I liked what I saw from Minnifield last year, but it would be tough to count on him for next season. If he ever returns it’s a bonus.
John: In what arguably was the biggest game in Mike Shanahan’s tenure as head coach, with the exception of RGIII and Alfred Morris, his players were totally unmotivated and showed no urgency. To play like that at home is unacceptable! It is my belief that Mike Shanahan has been a miserable failure as coach of the Redskins and needs to be replaced. Without RGIII this team would be 1-7 or possibly 0-8. Mike Shanahan’s post-game press conferences make him look and sound like an arrogant Norv Turner. I have a hunch that if you take away the two John Elway Super Bowl runs with Denver that Norv Turner and Mike Shanahan have close to the same career winning percentage. A lot of people say that Shanahan has been terrific at developing RGIII and firing him would hurt his growth, but I believe that RGIII is so exceptional that he is actually making Shanahan look better than what he is. Vince Lombardi came to Washington because he wanted to coach Sunny Jurgensen, maybe we will get a great coach who wants to coach RGIII. Thanks for letting me rant and rave, I feel much better now!
JKC: I will send you a bill for the therapy session. … As for Norv/Mike, first of all, it’s hard to take away part of anyone’s record. His teams did win those games. But, here goes: Taking away the two Super Bowl seasons, Shanahan has a career record of 134-119. Turner’s career mark is 111-117. So there’s still a difference. In Shanahan’s last five-plus seasons, however, he’s posted a 38-51 record. I do think RG3 makes everyone look better, including the coaches, but you could say that about Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning (and, yes, John Elway back in the day with Shanahan), too. That’s what great players do.
John: Enjoy following your ask John column at Washington Examiner and the other insightful articles – Thanks for your regular insight. An unusual question. I am a UK based fan in Northern Ireland and have been a Redskins fan since watching Superbowl XXII & Doug Williams virtuoso performance to beat the Broncos. We have enjoyed a few NFL teams visiting the UK in the international series – the Redskins have yet to. I know the skins have already a well-established fan base but is it likely the Skins would ever consider a home or away game in UK or will I just going to have to ‘pony up’ and travel to FedEx field?
Dermot: Thank you for reading. For now you’ll probably have to pony up. I know Shanahan is not fond of playing a game overseas, but there’s no doubt having a game with RG3 in London would be something the NFL would eventually consider. Wouldn’t you want an exciting player to market the game there? I have not talked to Dan Snyder about this topic, but my sense would be that if he has a coach who is firmly against this, then he’ll go along with their wishes. And there’s no way Snyder would ever give up a home game to play overseas (nor should he). So, for now, I’d say no. But that could change in a couple years.
John: Seeing as though we’ve dropped our last 3 games and our offense isn’t as nearly efficient as it was early on, it’s easy to assume defenses are adjusting to our offense or our QB is starting to regress. I beg to differ. It’s obvious our offense stalled out after Garçon has been held out and again I ask why not bring in another down field weapon?? Clearly our offense was designed with a deep threat playmaker in mind. Not just RG3. With Garçon being held out defenses have honed in on RG3 and Morris and as a result, they have limited our scoring and overall productivity on offense. So again I ask, why not bring in a free agent WR like Plaxico? Sure he may not put up the numbers as he did early on in his career but at least the threat would be there and at the very least, opposing defenses would at the very least account for him.
Bryan: First off, I agree that defenses have not necessarily caught up with this offense. The Redskins have had plenty of chances the past two games, some botched by drops but other times Griffin has hesitated with his decision-making. But when you watch the games again, the potential plays are available. I do think some defenses – a good 3-4 for example – are better suited to stop Washington’s option attack with the speed on the edges. However, keep in mind that after holding the Redskins to 255 yards the Steelers held the Giants to 182 yards. Sometimes it’s just that they faced a great defense. As for Plaxico, he’s 35 and really not a downfield threat anymore (but in the red zone? Yes, he would be. He’s also considered a good blocker). A problem last season, from what I heard, was his ability to get separation. To me it’s very telling that nobody is willing to give this guy a shot and experience has taught me that receivers just don’t get better as they reach a certain age, not to mention decline in production. I also have a hard time believing he’d come in here and learn this offense enough to seriously contribute. At some point the Redskins must have their young receivers develop. That’s the answer. If you keep having to find answers elsewhere, you’re in trouble.
John: Do you think the Redskins have more injuries than most NFL teams? Sure seems that way. Thanks.
John: Without doing heavy research that’s tough to know. I do know that the Giants had a lot of injuries last year and Green Bay the previous year. Both won Super Bowls. Both also had established franchise quarterbacks in place, as well as defensive fronts that could pressure. My family is from Cleveland and I swear that franchise gets pounded by injuries every year, much like the Redskins. Some obviously hurt more than others. Losing Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker was huge. The Redskins have been unable to replace Orakpo with one guy. That’s a problem. Losing Fred Davis and Pierre Garcon on offense is tough, too, because of their speed. The Redskins have other fast guys on offense, but none of them are consistent. The problem is that when you have a thin roster, or young depth, the injuries take a bigger toll. In the past the injuries hurt them bad because they lacked depth and had zero margin for error.
John: In my opinion, one of Shanahan’s failings with personal is (with the exception of RG 3, and perhaps Alfred Morris), failing to bring in or develop major difference makers – very good to great players. He’s found some above average players, some good players. But for example the Giants develop great players like Pierre-Paul, Victor Cruz, etc. The Redskins simply don’t have game breaking players in any position aside from the two I mentioned. To use a baseball analogy, the Redskins under Shanny are adept at collecting #3 type starting pitchers but not aces. When the game is on the line, there isn’t a go to WR who is a game breaker, when they need a stop there isn’t a shutdown corner, ball hawk safety, or unstoppable pass rusher. It’s to me part of the reason why they can’t finish and win close games – the opponent for the most part has those guys, the Redskins don’t. Ironically, I do think Shanahan has been good at building depth at certain positions and finding average to above average players but where he has failed in my opinion is signing and or developing impact front line difference makers.
Mike: Tough to disagree. But I will point out: They found Alfred Morris in the sixth round. However, your point is valid about not having others come through. It’s much too early to have final judgment on the 2011 and ’12 drafts, but I don’t know that the ’11 group will yield the results some hoped for or anticipated. Leonard Hankerson is capable of more as is Jarvis Jenkins. I wonder if Jenkins would be better in a 4-3, but he’s still new to a 3-4 and shows flashes. Josh LeRibeus looked lost this past summer, but you have to give players a chance to grow. But overall I think they have a lot of nice pieces and only one legitimate elite player (Robert Griffin III, who happens to play the most important position). Morris is a very good back who should help for a few years. Defensively they have nobody I’d consider elite; that was true even before injuries hit. I think they overstated how good some players could become; I think they do that a lot.
John: Enjoy your work. Always insightful and on target. I haven’t heard much from anyone about the length of RG3’s contract. It leads to a larger question: Why would a quarterback as talented as RG3 want to re-sign with the Redskins? There will probably be 31 other teams interested, many much closer to Super Bowls, or more solidly building to championship contention. Why stay in Washington? The premise is that the Redskins can now build a team around a franchise quarterback. But the Redskins, it seems to me, have a poor scouting and player personnel/development department. We are assuming that they will draft wisely (with what picks they have left) and sign good-value free agents. The Redskins have a spotty record, at best, in these areas. The Ravens, Patriots, Giants and others know how to sign free agents, and draft wisely. The Redskins don’t do well in these areas, so where are the players coming from. I fear that in another 5 or 6 years, RG3 is going to say to himself: Who needs this?
Matt: Thank you. Griffin’s rookie contract is for four years (maximum length allowed). In most cases if teams want to keep a QB, they do. I wouldn’t worry about what things might be like by the end of the deal just yet. By the way, I don’t blame their scouting and personnel departments alone for any issues with the draft. Their job is to bring guys in and by and large the past two drafts have been applauded. It’s then up to the coaches to develop these players. But your point is valid: the organization is not getting it done in this area. It could be by the end Griffin says exactly what you fear (it’s what Champ Bailey was saying). But there’s a long ways to go. And this is not like basketball or baseball where players routinely bolt. I’d have a tough time seeing Dan Snyder let Griffin get away. This is a good market for Griffin: a major city with a national spotlight. I think the Redskins have some legitimate concerns right now; what Griffin might do in four years is not one of them.