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Should Mike Shanahan stay or go?

Should Mike Shanahan stay or go?

If you are reading this post you probably know that Mike Shanahan is very much in danger of being fired soon after tomorrow’s game against the Giants. The conventional wisdom is that his departure is inevitable.

But is it the right move for owner Daniel Snyder to make?

There certainly are people who want Shanahan back to coach next year including most of the players. There may be some who would rather see a change at the top but no player has gone on the record saying that they would prefer that. In fact, there aren’t even any anonymous sources in the locker room who would rather see Shanahan and company move on. Many have cited the need for continuity as the main argument in favor of Shanahan staying on.

His four years in Washington have not been without accomplishment. After taking over a franchise in disarray with Vinny Cerrato and Jim Zorn in charge, he restored order. He drafted cornerstone tackle Trent Williams, found running back Alfred Morris in the sixth round, signed receiver Pierre Garçon and made a bold trade for Robert Griffin III that may have solved the Redskins’ decades-old problem at the most important position on the field. Along with Bruce Allen he navigated the team through a two-year salary cap penalty without blowing up the cap in future seasons. Of course the signature accomplishment was the NFC East title the team won in 2012.

But if you go by the adage that you are what your record says you are, you have to say that the Shanahan Redskins have not been successful. They go into what could be the final game of that era with a record of 24-40, counting the playoff loss to the Seahawks last January.

Yes, they did have to deal with the cap penalty, as Shanahan has mentioned repeatedly and both Kyle Shanahan and Jim Haslett noted during their press conferences this week. But they managed to win the NFC East in the first year of it. And in their second year they were remarkably injury free for most of the season, suffering no major injuries while they were in realistic playoff contention. The presence of all of their starters on the field should have mitigated the cap penalty to some extent.

Shanahan was supposed to rid the franchise of the off-field drama that has plagued the team for years. But it has not stopped. We had the theatrics of Albert Haynesworth and his conditioning test, refusal to play nose tackle and eventual four-game suspension to end the season.

To be fair, Shanahan inherited the Albert problem. But he traded for Donovan McNabb himself, giving up picks in the second and fourth rounds for the Eagles’ QB. It never was a good fit and troubles bubbled to the surface when McNabb was pulled out in the late going of a midseason game in Detroit because, as Shanahan explained later, he didn’t have the “cardiovascular endurance” to keep up with the two-minute drill. McNabb was dealt after one season for a sixth-rounder.

You probably don’t need your memory refreshed about the saga of Griffin and his offseason recovering from his knee injury and the recent leaks that have made the Sunday morning pregame shows must-see TV.

Bottom line, so much for no drama.

But how well has Shanahan done actually coaching the team?

That calls for a very subjective answer. One rap against Shanahan’s coaching that is unfair is that his teams have drawn too many penalty flags. In his four years in Washington, the Redskins have been in the top half of the league in terms of penalty yards just once. They have ranked 28th, 17th, 4th, and 18th. Their worst year was 2012, when they had the most success in the wins column.

But you can question the timing of some of the penalties. One of the most notable came in the second game of 2012 when Josh Morgan lost his cool in the closing minute, costing the Redskins 15 yards and pushing them out of field goal range in a game they lost by three.

Are infractions like that the coach’s fault or does the blame lie with the player? Certainly the player deserves some of it but has the head coach created an atmosphere where such mistakes are tolerated? Earlier this month against the Giants, three veteran players committed dumb penalties. In his news conference the next day, Shanahan gave Santana Moss (arguing with an official), Pierre Garçon (kicking a ball on the ground), and DeAngelo Hall (personal foul for retaliating) passes for their penalties (see item 4 in this post).

At a key point last Sunday against the Cowboys, the 15th game of the fourth season under Shanahan, the Redskins committed two sloppy, dumb penalties and then had to burn a timeout. That turned a golden opportunity for a touchdown into a field goal in a game the Redskins lost by one. Is a sequence like that a hallmark of a well-coached team?

Going into this season, the Redskins were 13-16 in games decided by seven points or less. That’s not particularly good but it’s not awful. But in 2013 they have gone 2-6 in such games.

Close games are one thing and can be a matter of getting the right bounce of the ball, but the Redskins are getting blown out with alarming frequency. This year they have lost games by 18, 15, 24, 21, and 35 points. In 2010, Shanahan’s first year here, they lost just two games by 15 or more points. With Rex Grossman and John Beck at QB in 2011 they lost three such games. Is this a sign of a program moving in the right direction?

They have been outscored by 130 points this year. Jim Zorn was fired after a four-win season during which the team was outscored by 70.

Did the Redskins face some headwinds this year? Certainly there was that cap penalty and the injury to Griffin, who was able to be the RG3 of 2012 only here and there. They didn’t have a first-round draft pick due to the Griffin trade. Under such circumstances, a slide back towards the middle of the pack would have been understandable.

But a total collapse? No. Not when you have 21 of 22 starters back from your 2012 division champion. Not in a very weak division. Not when you had to make only a handful of changes to your lineup before Thanksgiving due to injury. Not when your offense has the ball in the late going with a chance to tie or win the game in five of your last seven games (the Redskins went 0-5 in those situations).

Even given the on-field failure, Snyder might have been inclined to let Shanahan finish the final year of his contract. But it’s hard to see how things can continue after a string of media reports that have damaged the coach’s relationship with Griffin beyond repair. Even if Shanahan is not responsible for the leaks as many suspect, he has done little to refute the substance of them.

If Snyder does do the expected and ends the Shanahan era sometime early next week, it will be difficult to apply the popular impatient and impulsive label to the move. The case against Mike Shanahan continuing to coach the team is just too strong.

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Need to Know: How many starters are left from the Redskins' last playoff game?

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USA Today Sports Images

Need to Know: How many starters are left from the Redskins' last playoff game?

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, January 19, 54 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL franchise tag deadline (3/6) 46
—NFL Draft (4/26) 97
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 233

Things change quickly

Two years ago today, the Redskins were in the process of picking up the pieces after their 35-18 home loss to the Packers in the wild-card round of the 2015 season playoffs. How many of the 22 players who started that game for Washington are still with the team? You may be surprised to find out just how few are likely to be with the Redskins when the season opens in September.

Offense:

WR DeSean Jackson—Signed with the Bucs as a free agent last year.
WR Pierre Garçon—Signed with 49ers as a free agent last year.
WR Jamison Crowder—Still with the Redskins
TE Jordan Reed—Still with the Redskins
LT Trent Williams—Still with the Redskins
LG Spencer Long—Set to be an unrestricted free agent
C Kory Lichtensteiger—Retired following the 2016 season
RG Brandon Scherff—Still with the Redskins
RT Morgan Moses—Still with the Redskins
RB Alfred Morris—Signed with the Cowboys as a free agent in 2016
QB Kirk Cousins—Set to be a UFA, you know the story here

Of the 11 offensive starters, five are still with the team, one has retired, three are employed by other teams, and two are headed into free agency. The chances of either Long or Cousins returning currently hover under 50 percent, although things can change.

Defense:

DE Chris Baker—Signed with the Bucs as a free agent last year.
DE Jason Hatcher—Retired following the 2015 season
NT Terrance Knighton—Signed with the Patriots following the 2015 season but was cut and he hasn’t played and subsequently retired
ILB Will Compton—Set to be an unrestricted free agent
ILB Mason Foster—Set to be an unrestricted free agent
OLB Ryan Kerrigan—Still with the Redskins
OLB Trent Murphy—Spent 2017 in injured reserve, set to be an unrestricted free agent
CB Bashaud Breeland—Set to be an unrestricted free agent
CB Will Blackmon—Released last September, currently unsigned
S DeAngelo Hall—Set to be an unrestricted free agent, likely to retire
S Dashon Goldson—Released after 2015 season, currently unsigned

Only one starter, Ryan Kerrigan, is under contract for 2018. Of the free agents, Breeland is likely to depart and things are up in the air regarding Foster, Compton, and Murphy.

To sum it up, out of 22 starters in that game played 740 days ago, only six are certain to be with the team in 2018 while nine have either signed elsewhere, spent 2017 out of football, or have retired (10 if you count Hall).

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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Looking at cheap, reasonable and expensive wide receiver scenarios for Redskins

Looking at cheap, reasonable and expensive wide receiver scenarios for Redskins

Most NFL teams usually carry at least six wide receivers, but going into the 2018 season, only Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, Maurice Harris and Robert Davis hold signed contracts with the Redskins.

That means Washington must consider adding receiver help via free agency, especially considering Harris and Davis rarely played in 2017. Terrelle Pryor and Ryan Grant both played with the Burgundy and Gold in 2017, and while Grant has a solid chance to return, it would seem Pryor will head elsewhere after a disappointing season in D.C. 

Like every year, a number of receivers will be available via free agency, but what guys make sense for Jay Gruden's team? Let's take a look at three different scenarios, knowing Washington likely needs to add at least one free agent wideout. 

RELATED: MOCK DRAFTS LINKING 'SKINS TO BAKER MAYFIELD

  • Expensive: Jags WR Allen Robinson - A second-round pick in 2014, Robinson posted a 1,400-yard season in 2015 and has shown the ability to be a true No. 1 wideout in the NFL. He's 6-foot-3 with speed and leaping ability. In 2016, his numbers dipped to less than 900 yards receiving, but that season the Jacksonville QB Blake Bortles struggled significantly. Here's the thing: Robinson blew out his knee in the NFL opener in 2017, and that might make his price tag drop a bit. Word is the former Penn State star should be fully cleared by early March from the injury, and just 24 years old, he will be intriguing. Washington showed they would spend for a wideout in 2017 with the Pryor signing, but they did so on a one-year deal. If Robinson finds the free agent market not as robust as he wants, maybe a similar short-term deal could be reached?
  • Reasonable: Colts WR Donte Moncrief - A third-round pick in 2014, Moncrief also had a big sophomore season in 2015. He grabbed 64 catches for 733 yards and six touchdowns. That was his only full 16-game season, as injuries have continued to be an issue for the 6-foot-2, 220 lbs. wideout out of Ole Miss. In 2016, only playing in nine games, he still contributed with seven touchdowns. In 2017, his numbers slipped big-time, and he posted less than 400 yards receiving in 12 games. Moncrief's problem isn't talent, it's health. That means he could be relatively cheap, and at just 24 years old, that contract might bring a strong return. 
  • Wild Card: Jets WR Eric Decker -  The Redskins have lacked a true veteran wideout since DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon left the team following the 2016 season. Decker will turn 31 in March and would give Washington a different presence in the WR meeting room. He posted two 1,000 yard seasons playing with Peyton Manning in Denver and went to the Super Bowl in 2013. In 2015, while teamed up with Ryan Fitzpatrick playing for the Jets, Decker again hit the 1,000-yard mark and hit the end zone 12 times. Throughout his career, Decker has been a solid red zone threat and has shown the ability to win on tough routes. He will need to take a big pay cut from the $4.5 million, one-year deal he signed in Tennessee in 2017, but that has to be expected considering his paltry production. In 16 games with the Titans, Decker logged 563 yards and only one TD. Decker might make sense, though the cost would need to be low. 

There are plenty of other names to watch, guys like Seattle's Paul Richardson or Buffalo's Jordan Matthews. Free agency opens in mid-March, and some connections between the Redskins and wideouts will start prior to that.

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