Rich Tandler is the author of Gut Check, The Complete History of Coach Joe Gibbs’ Washington Redskins. Get details and order at http://GutCheckBook.com
So what’s wrong with the Redskins?
Continuity or, more specifically, the lack thereof.
I’m sure that most of you reading this are well aware of the revolving door of head coaches, coordinators, and players that have gone into and out of Redskins Park since 1999. There’s no need to recount the four head coaches (I don’t count Robiskie, he was an interim), the six defensive coordinators, the six starting quarterbacks, and so on.
To be sure, some changing was needed. The Turner era was one of remarkable stability that got the team a total of one playoff appearance in seven seasons. Stable mediocrity is not what Redskins fans expect.
At the time, it was not hard to justify—or rationalize, at least--throwing Marty overboard when Spurrier became available. He was the next great NFL coach in the eyes of many, not all of them named Daniel Snyder.
Of course, the change to Gibbs was a gift from the gods. But, still, it was a change. And it meant adjustments and relearning. The addition of Clinton Portis appears to have been a good one, but he has to get used to his blockers, they have to get used to him, the coaches have to figure out how to use him. The members of that line, with a new center and the need to replace Jon Jansen at right tackle, have to get used to each other. Tight ends and H-backs are learning new roles.
To be sure, the defense is playing at a high level of effectiveness and they have a whole new coaching staff, new faces, and injuries as well. But at the risk of oversimplifying, playing defense is much more instinctive than playing offense. Even after a subpar half yesterday, the unit should still be ranked first or second in the NFL and that is much to Gregg Williams' credit, especially since he hasn’t had all three of his starting linebackers on the field at all this year.
And now, there’s a new starting quarterback. Fortunately, most of the receiving corps has played with Ramsey and should be able to adjust to the harder-thrown, right-handed passes he’ll be dealing out (this is pending Gibbs’ formal announcement of Ramsey as the new starter at his 6:00 presser, but it appears to be just that, a formality). Still, it’s another change in the system and another setback.
The old rule of thumb is that an offense needs to run 1,000 snaps—real, live, game action snaps, not practice or even preseason--together before it’s going to reach its maximum effectiveness. Without going back and adding them up, I’d say that the Redskins have run about 600 snaps this year. Each change in the offense doesn’t necessarily reset the count to zero—you have to deal with injuries and benchings—but a major change like one at quarterback certainly needs at least two or three game’s worth of snaps to recoup.