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Group QB decision? Bill Callahan has complete control of Redskins roster, per source

Group QB decision? Bill Callahan has complete control of Redskins roster, per source

Whenever Bill Callahan names the Redskins starting quarterback for the Week 11 game against the Jets, know that Callahan is making his own call. 

Sources tell NBC Sports Washington that before Callahan accepted his role as interim head coach last month, he made clear he would only accept the role if he had complete control of the 53-man roster and what players he started. The Redskins agreed to Callahan's terms, partly out of necessity because the team had made clear former head coach Jay Gruden would be fired. 

Since Callahan took over as Redskins coach, the team has made a number of changes, including signing a fullback and turning over nearly the entire practice squad. The veteran coach knows what he wants, and has not hesitated to move towards his vision of a 53-man roster. 

Nowhere is that more apparent than his decisions at quarterback. 

In Gruden’s final game as head coach, he started Colt McCoy in a Week 5 loss to the Patriots. The next game, a Week 6 win in Miami, Callahan put Case Keenum back in the starting spot and moved McCoy to third string. 

Callahan made it very clear that Keenum was installed as the Redskins QB1, and the veteran started the next two games. In a loss to Minnesota in Week 8, Keenum suffered a concussion that forced him to miss the Week 9 contest against the Bills. 

In his absence, rookie QB Dwayne Haskins started, something that many fans and analysts had been demanding for some time. Haskins played reasonably well for his first start, and conventional wisdom expected the rookie to keep the starting job going forward. 

Only Callahan would not commit to Haskins as his quarterback, merely saying he would take his time during the team’s Week 10 bye to make his decision at quarterback. 

“I just want to gather all the information, I want to look at a lot of things on film, go back into the self-scout and I just want to take my time and decide where we’re going to go, the direction that we’re going to go,” Callahan said Monday. 

Think about it another way: How many interim head coaches would have the gall to eschew overwhelming public demand to play a rookie QB in an otherwise lost season? Only those with the assurance they get to make their own calls without front office interference.

There have been situations in the past where Gruden did not get to make his own decisions. One source explained that Gruden wanted to cut D.J. Swearinger early in the 2018 season, but the coach was told that releasing the popular safety was not an option. By Week 16, after Swearinger made repeated public comments disparaging the defensive coaching staff, Gruden finally got to make the cut. 

Callahan has been in the NFL for a long time and knows what can happen with interim head coaches. In Washington, Callahan made his presence known almost immediately when he got the job, and not just with roster choices. 

Practice changed. There was more contact, referees appeared, and the team installed scoreboards adjacent to both sets of training fields. 

For the first time this decade the Redskins will hold a Wednesday practice during the bye week, something that both previous head coaches Gruden and Mike Shanahan did not do. 

Of the bye week practice, Callahan simply explained that his 1-8 unit "needed the work."

Where many interim head coaches act as soon to be released pawns of the front office, Callahan is doing things his way. And that started as soon as he was offered the job. 

In that vein, don't be shocked if Callahan steps to the podium next week and names Keenum his starter. It might not make sense for the organization's plans in 2020 or beyond, but Callahan has been adamant that his goals are wins this season. 

Keenum or Haskins, whoever gets the call, the decision came from Callahan.


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Clinton Portis among group of NFL players charged by Justice Department with defrauding NFL health care program

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Clinton Portis among group of NFL players charged by Justice Department with defrauding NFL health care program

The Justice Department charged Clinton Portis and nine other former NFL players with defrauding a health care program for retired players.

The news broke Thursday morning when the Eastern District of Kentucky alleged that the retired players submitted fraudulent claims for medical equipment costing between $40,000-50,000 to the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan. 

Former Redskins cornerback and first-round pick Carlos Rogers is also charged along with Robert McCune, John Eubanks, Tamarick Vanover, Ceandris Brown, James Butler, Frederick Bennett, Correll Buckhalter and Etric Pruitt. Joe Horn and Reche Caldwell are also expected to be charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

Portis' attorney Mark Dycio said of the charges (via The Washington Post): "Clinton Portis had no knowledge that his participation in what he believed to be an NFL sanctioned medical reimbursement program was illegal. He is completely taken aback by this indictment and will move forward with the process of clearing his good name and those of his fellow NFL alumni."

According to the indictment, the claims filed between June 2017 and December 2018 totaled $3.9 million and the health care plan paid out more than $3.4 million.

Portis played seven years for the Redskins from 2004 to 2010, rushing for nearly 7,000 yards and 46 touchdowns. He remains a fan favorite and currently works for the Redskins Broadcast Network. 

A Redskins spokesperson was not immediately available for comment. 

Stay tuned as this is a developing story. 


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The Redskins' offense has been bad all year, but they're atrocious on opening drives

The Redskins' offense has been bad all year, but they're atrocious on opening drives

No matter how you break it down — by quarter, by month, by time of day, by location, by whether the opponent has an animal mascot or a human mascot — the numbers show that the Redskins have a really ineffective offense. Currently, they're last in the NFL in points per game and yards per game.

They're bad all the time, honestly.

However, they're downright atrocious when it comes to their opening drives.

In Week 1 against the Eagles, the Redskins scored a touchdown on their opening possession. It was fun. The players had fun. The fans had fun. Everybody had fun.

But since then, they haven't notched a single TD on a first drive. In fact, they haven't converted a field goal, either.

Overall, in their 13 game-opening possessions on the year, Washington has that single end zone trip to go along with a missed kick, seven punts, two fumbles and two interceptions (one of which was taken back for a score).

What's the opposite of coming out hot? The 2019 Redskins' offense.

"I'm tired of the slow starts, our guys are, too," Bill Callahan said Wednesday. "That's the goal of the first drive of the game — try to jump ahead, get ahead, find a way to get on the board early. We haven't succeeded at that." 

The issue is registering with Dwayne Haskins, too. So, what can they possibly do to try to improve?

"Just trying to figure out a way we can move the ball early, not getting behind the chains, finding lanes and getting the ball out fast," the quarterback said. "It helps our defense when we come off fast and move the ball down the field and not put them in a tough scenario with having a short field."

Many have complained about the offense's run-first approach being too predictable under Callahan, and that's something that could be plaguing them at the beginning of their contests. Since he took over as interim coach, for example, the offense has run the ball on their first snap in six-of-eight matchups, including four-out-of-five with Haskins under center.

Of course, this is an area where Jay Gruden struggled as well, but his tendencies weren't as obvious. Plus, and yes, this is minutiae now, he did call two play-action shots in Weeks 2 and 4 that schemed up wide-open receivers that Case Keenum simply missed. He was also in charge for that lone touchdown in Philly.

The most obvious explanation for the problem, however, is one that can explain a lot of things this season: an overall lack of talent. As mentioned at the start of the story, it's not like the offense gets into a rhythm at any point, so their numbers will be underwhelming in any situation or sample.

That said, even with an inexperienced and undermanned group, there should be more production than one TD in 13 chances. Callahan told the media that "we put a lot of thought, focus and concentration" into the early-game plan. Clearly, it's not paying off.

In many ways, the Redskins have fallen behind the rest of the NFL over the past few months. The stats above show that, at least in one way, that's literally very true.