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Here's how Bill Callahan justified the Redskins starting Montae Nicholson against the Jets

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Here's how Bill Callahan justified the Redskins starting Montae Nicholson against the Jets

The Redskins chose to start Montae Nicholson at safety in Week 11 against the Jets, a game that took place just a few days after Nicholson's reported girlfriend, Julia Crabbe, died of an apparent drug overdose at his house early last Thursday morning.

On Monday, Bill Callahan was asked multiple times to justify that decision.

His first answer focused solely on the process of physically clearing Nicholson to play and didn't address Crabbe's death or how Nicholson was handling it emotionally. The defender had been dealing with an ankle injury that kept him out of Washington's previous two contests.

"I don't think there was a huge decision relative to his health," Callahan said. "We had worked him out prior to the game and he was OK to go, and we monitor that pretty closely and felt pretty positive about inserting him and starting him in the game."

A follow-up was then posed in an effort to get an answer about Nicholson's mindset and ability to play football when he was still processing the recent death of his reported girlfriend. 

Callahan explained he "didn't get into all of that" with Nicholson, but others within the franchise did.

"He spoke to a lot of other people in the organization relative to that situation," the interim coach told reporters. "From my perspective, in terms of playing him and the decision of playing him was strictly based on coaching gathered with all of the other information I had."

Callahan was then pressed one last time on the matter of how Nicholson was feeling mentally and whether he should've been allowed to suit up. According to the coach, the Redskins were content with letting Nicholson make the call.

"There was a discussion. He was prepared to play," Callahan said. "Those questions were put forth and it was ultimately his decision to play. That's why, when you work out a player before a game and you go out and you take him through any type of pregame conditioning, pregame test or standard drill for that matter, it's always a player's decision whether they're ready to play or not. He was physically ready to play and he wanted to play, so that was strictly his decision and he had the freedom to make that decision."

All in all, Callahan's comments felt callous, and his first answer — in which he acted as if the only thing to take into consideration was whether Nicholson's ankle was stable enough — bordered on preposterous.

A member of the Redskins public relations staff later came to the media to clarify that Callahan wasn't trying to gloss over the tragedy. All he was looking to do, per the official, was walk through the gameday process of getting a player ready to go. 

Of course, this is a very difficult thing to talk about. A 21-year-old died and it's important that everyone discussing it keeps that in mind. Perhaps Callahan hoped his first response would suffice and he wouldn't have to delve into anything more. It didn't suffice, however, and neither did his other quotes.

Unfortunately, the overall justification to play Nicholson wasn't nearly enough, in what was another misstep for the Redskins in a season full of them.

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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.  

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