Don't be distracted by Josh Norman, Taylor Lewan scuffle as real questions loom for Redskins


NASHVILLE -- The Redskins lost a heartbreaker on Saturday in Tennessee, and in turn, most logical playoff hopes crashed to the turf. 

Despite that, much of the focus from the game shifted from the actual play on the field, to an ugly, unfortunate incident on the sideline after the game. 

Don't fall for the distraction. 

Titans tackle Taylor Lewan unnecessarily taunted Redskins cornerback Josh Norman. It was classless and in poor taste. Norman was minding his own business, and Lewan marched across the field to try and bully a player that won't be bullied. Though over the top, Norman showed heart and passion in his retaliation, Lewan showed much less. 

In the big picture, however, the scene was irrelevant. 

The Redskins are now 7-8, with the playoffs likely lost for another season. That means in Jay Gruden's five seasons at the helm of the Burgundy and Gold, he will have made one playoff game. 

The questions start there, with the future of the coach. Gruden deserves to stay as head coach of the Redskins, as it's hard to truly know what this year's team could have been before injuries ravaged the team. For the second straight season. 

The questions don't end with Gruden though. 

Washington's defense started strong this season, but the unit had an awful six-week display in the middle of the year. Can defensive coordinator Greg Manusky survive that, especially as his own players vocally criticize the game plan? D.J. Swearinger laid out his case that the Redskins defense was far too simple in the second half against the Titans, and in turn, made his relationship with Manusky untenable. It will be hard for those two to coexist, at least with straight faces. 


Questions don't end with the coaching staff. 

Players will change too, that happens every offseason. For the 'Skins, however, there could be some major changes. 

Alex Smith won't be able to participate in offseason work. His contract is large but so is his recovery from a severely broken leg.

The Redskins need to add a quarterback and should look to in the NFL Draft. Colt McCoy will be back too.

But has Josh Johnson done enough to earn a spot at training camp? It's easy to argue he at least deserves that, but he's not under contract for 2019. Another team could be intrigued by the promise Johnson has shown during the last three games with the Redskins, and Washington simply can't afford to overpay to keep Johnson. Mark Sanchez will not be back. 

Elsewhere on offense, Brandon Scherff needs an extension and Jamison Crowder is a pending free agent. What to do with Adrian Peterson, who went over the 1,000-yard mark on Saturday? He's been very good for the Redskins, but the team should have Derrius Guice back next year after he lost his rookie season to a knee injury. 

Defensively, what happens with Norman? 2019 will be the first season of his Redskins contract without guaranteed money, and that gives the team an off-ramp if they decide to use it. Cutting Norman would require a dead money hit of $6 million, but the team would save $8.5 million against the salary cap. 

Before Norman goes anywhere, the team needs to figure out the status of Quinton Dunbar. His nerve injury cost him about half the season, and that hurt the 'Skins D. The Redskins also traded for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who will be a free agent after the year. And there's the whole Reuben Foster mess to get sorted out. And the Montae Nicholson mess. Zach Brown's deal has no guaranteed money for 2019, and neither does Mason Foster's.

For half the year, the Redskins defense looked on the cusp of greatness. For the other half of the year, it looked like the same old Redskins.

Something happened. There have been some signs of finger pointing, perhaps a growing feud between the front seven and the secondary. There have been some signs of unrest between player and coaches too. 

Whatever happened, the answers need to be figured out. And that time is coming rapidly. 

Viral videos are great, and fans are right to stick up for Josh Norman. From an actual football perspective, and for the Redskins organization, that scuffle is the latest off-field incident that matters little and won't help win games next season.

Before the Smith injury, the Redskins were 6-3. They looked like a playoff team. Was it fool's gold? Or can this team win, in a real, meaningful and consistent way?


That's the focus. Don't get lost in the fog. 


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