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Fassel in the lead?

Fassel in the lead?

According to multiple reports, former Giants coach Jim Fassel has emerged as "a leading candidate" for the Redskins' head coaching job. In fact, as I type this, Adam Schefter of the NFL Network is saying that the Redskins are "zeroing in" on Fassel as "the leading candidate" for the job.

This development has the message board community and talk show callers and other vocal Redskins fans in an uproar. Actually, that's an understatement; they're in a state of meltdown comparable to that after any Dallas loss. The objections to Fassel are many, but here is a summary of the main ones:

  • The hiring of Fassel would mean that any modicum of continuity would be out the window. Since Fassel is an offensive guy, Al Saunders would be out and Jason Campbell would be learning his seventh offensive system in eight years. And since it's doubtful that Gregg Williams would want to stick around after being passed over for the job, there would be a new defensive guru as well (Schefter reported that the Skins are interested in Rex Ryan, ex of the Ravens, for that job).
  • Fassel was fired as the Ravens' offensive coordinator by his best friend, Brian Billick, during the 2006 season. Billick didn't just take the play calling away from his buddy, he canned him in the middle of October.
  • It's been four years since anyone has expressed any serious interest in hiring Fassel as a head coach. That interest four years ago came from Dan Snyder, who reportedly was on the verge of having Fassel replace Steve Spurrier before he gave Joe Gibbs one more call just for the heck of it. Since then there have been over two dozen NFL head coach openings and the words "Jim Fassel is a leading candidate" has been used in conjunction with none of them.
  • In his final year in New York, the inmates were running the asylum. Fassel lost the locker room at some point and he was unable to find it.

These certainly are valid concerns and, in sum, the negatives may prove to be fatal to a potential Jim Fassel coaching stint. However, it's not all bad news when it comes to Fassel. Here are some pro's to go with the con's:

  • In 1997, his first year as head coach of the Giants, he took a team that the year before had gone 6-10 under Dan Reeves to the playoffs. As NFC East champs with a 10-5-1. With Danny Kannell and Dave Brown at quarterback. Let that sink in for a minute and tell me that the guy isn't capable of a pretty good coaching job.
  • In November of 2000 with his team's season hanging in the balance, he "guaranteed" that his team would make the playoffs. None of this "well, if we compete real hard and fight out there we might be able to get in" stuff. Nope he said they would make it. His players reacted very well to what was both a challenge and a statement of confidence. Not only did they make the playoffs the won the division, earning a first-round bye and home field throughout the playoffs. That is something that the Redskins have not accomplished in 16 years. And they got to the Super Bowl, something that the Redskins also haven't done since 1991.
  • He had a very good record, 54-41-1, until a 4-12 collapse in 2003, his final season in New York. Injuries played a pretty big role in that last ugly season—he had to start Jesse Palmer at QB for three games. Still, the season is on his record so it's a respectable 58-53-1.
  • This is a bit more abstract, but both of the coaches who took their teams to the Super Bowl this year were run out of previous NFL jobs in the same manner as was Fassel. Browns fans were offering to pack the moving van to get Bill Belichick gone and there were parties all over Jacksonville when Tom Coughlin left. That doesn't mean that Fassel will get the Skins to the Super Bowl, but it does mean that other coaches in similar circumstances have done so.

If anyone has any more pros or cons, please feel free to chime in with them.

What's my opinion? I'm not bothering to form one until things begin to firm up here (which means that I could be forming an opinion tomorrow morning, at the rate things are going). I will say that I'm not 100% aboard the continuity bandwagon. I have all the respect in the world for Joe Gibbs, but he's not leaving a juggernaut behind. It's a team that in four years had to put on odds-defying winning streaks to pull out two six seeds. Maybe they need a shake up to push them over to top so that words like "home field throughout" don't seem to have been spoken in a foreign language.

I also think that what the players want is of little relevance. Whenever the boss leaves, the workers in the office want his top aide to take over. It's only natural to want to know what you're getting into, to want to minimize the change. But if someone from the outside gets brought in, people don't quit their jobs or anything like that. They go along, adjust to the new way of doing things and get on with their lives.

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Redskins schedule preview: Week 16 vs. Titans

Redskins schedule preview: Week 16 vs. Titans

We’re previewing every game of the 2018 season with a look forward and a look back. Up today, it’s the game against the Titans. 

Week 16 December 22 or 23, Nissan Stadium (the date of the game will be determined no later than Week 8 in early November)

2017 Titans: 9-7, Second in AFC South, lost in the divisional round 

Projected 2018 wins per Westgate SuperBook: 8

Early line: Redskins +5.5

Key additions: CB Malcolm Butler, DT Bennie Logan, RB Dion Lewis

Key losses: DT Sylvester Williams, RB DeMarco Murray

Biggest questions: 

  • QB Marcus Mariota improved from his rookie year and had a solid 2016. But he regressed last season. In which direction is his career headed?
  • After head coach Mike Mularkey took the Titans to the second round of the playoffs he was summarily fired. Will they regret making to switch to Mike Vrabel?

Series history

The all-time series between the two teams is tied a 6-6; the teams split six games when the franchise was the Houston Oilers and they have gong 3-3 since the move to Tennessee. 

Series notables

The first time: October 10, 1971, RFK Stadium—The Redskins offense didn’t score a touchdown but that often didn’t matter when George Allen was the head coach as they still won 22-13. Washington’s scoring came on five Curt Knight field goals and on an 18-yard interception return by defensive end Ron McDole. That touchdown came on one of five takeaways by the Redskins defense. 

The last time: October 19, 2014, FedEx Field—Quarterback Kirk Cousins was struggling in the first half, losing a fumble and throwing a head-scratching interception. With the Redskins trailing the 2-4 Titans 10-6, Jay Gruden decided it was time for a change and Colt McCoy came in to play QB in the second half. 

Things clicked immediately as McCoy threw a short pass to Pierre Garçon, who turned upfield and rolled in for a 70-yard touchdown. It was back and forth in the second half and the Redskins were trailing 17-16 when they got the ball on their own 20 with 3:14 to play. McCoy led a 10-play drive that consumed all of the remaining time and culminated in a 22-yard Kai Forbath field goal to win it 19-17. 

The best time: November 3, 1991, RFK Stadium—To win nine straight NFL games to start out a season, you need solid blocking, accurate passing, hard-hitting tackling, inspired play calling, crisp execution and, as was the case today, a little bit of luck. Chip Lohmiller kicked a 41-yard field goal for Washington to give the Redskins a 16-13 overtime win over Houston. Darrell Green’s interception at the Houston 33 set up the kick. All of that, however, would not have happened if not for Oiler placekicker Ian Howfield. 

After Houston tied the game on a one-yard run by Lorenzo White with 1:42 left in the game, Brian Mitchell fumbled the ensuing kickoff, giving the Oilers prime field position. Howfield came in for a 33-yard field goal attempt with one second left. It appeared that the winning streak would end at eight. “You don’t exactly give up, but you’re not far from it,” said Andre Collins. 

The snap was perfect as was the hold, but Howfield’s kick was wide right. 

On Houston’s second offensive play of overtime, Oiler quarterback Warren Moon got bumped as he threw an out pass and Green picked it off. Three Ernest Byner runs preceded Lohmiller’s game-ending kick. 

The worst time: October 30, 1988, Astrodome—Washington entered the contest riding a three-game winning streak and appeared to be rounding into form to defend their Super Bowl title. Warren Moon threw three touchdown passes to Drew Hill, however, and the Redskins took a 41-17 whipping that wasn’t even as close as the final score would indicate.

Redskins schedule series

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  and on Instagram @RichTandler

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Inside the numbers: Will a 1,000-yard receiver make or break the 2018 Redskins?

Inside the numbers: Will a 1,000-yard receiver make or break the 2018 Redskins?

In 2017, the Redskins missed the playoffs while no receiver went over the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Jamison Crowder led the team with 789 receiving yards.

In 2016, the Redskins missed the playoffs while two receivers went over the 1,000-yard mark for the season. Pierre Garçon gained 1,041 yards that year while DeSean Jackson posted 1,005 receiving yards. 

In 2015, the Redskins did make the playoffs. That season the team had no receivers go for 1,000 yards, though Jordan Reed got close with 952 receiving yards. 

Is there a lesson here? Is there a takeaway that can help to predict the 2018 season?

Going into this season, no Redskins wideout has ever accounted for 1,000 yards in a single season. In their career.

Former first-round pick Josh Doctson accounted for just more than 500 receiving yards last season, catching 35 of the 78 balls thrown his way.  Crowder was mostly productive, but there was an expectation, fair or not, he would make more of a jump in 2018 than he did. Jordan Reed hardly played. 

To help the group, the Redskins added Paul Richardson in free agency. Last year playing for the Seahawks, Richardson went for 703 yards on 44 catches. The speedster gives the Redskins a true downfield threat the team lacked in 2017, and that could help the whole offense. In fact, it better help the whole offense. 

Still, looking at a top three of Doctson, Crowder and Richardson, it's hard to confidently predict a 1,000-yard receiver from the bunch. 

Could it happen? Absolutely. Any of the three could pop to a four-digit total.

Would you put your own hard-earned cash on the line? That would take some guts. 

Though the Redskins have a new quarterback in Alex Smith, head coach Jay Gruden has been crystal clear the team is not in a rebuilding mode. Washington must win, now, this season, and a minimum goal should be a Wild Card playoff spot. 

How imperative is a 1,000-yard wide receiver to that goal? Let's look back at the past 12 NFC playoff teams. 

Only three of six NFL playoff teams in 2017 had a 1,000-yard wideout. The Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles did not, but the Vikings, Saints and Falcons all did. 

In 2016, however, five of six playoff teams had 1,000-yard receivers. The only team that didn't, the Cowboys, deployed a heavy run offense that resulted in Ezekiel Elliott going for more than 1,600 rush yards. 

Added together, in the past two seasons, eight of 12 NFC playoff teams had a receiver on their squad go at least four digits. 

One more note: the New England Patriots played in the last two Super Bowls, winning one and losing one. Both years they had at least one receiver get to 1,000 yards (Julian Edelman in 2016, Brandin Cooks in 2017). In 2017, tight end Rob Gronkowski broke the 1,000-yard mark too.

Again, what's the takeaway? Having a 1,000-yard receiver is certainly good, but it's not a must for a playoff berth or a deep playoff run. The Eagles proved that. 

On some teams, an elite wideout makes a huge difference. Watch Giants tape and it's clear what Odell Beckham does for the offense. Watch Falcons tape and Julio Jones does the same. 

On other teams, an elite quarterback makes a huge difference. Duh.  

Of the teams examined, the 2016 Packers came the closest to the 2017 Patriots with having two players go for over 1,000 yards.

2017 New England did it with Cooks (1,082) and Gronkowski (1,084), 2016 Green Bay almost got there with Jordy Nelson (1,257) and Davante Adams (997). 

While Gronkowski and Nelson are excellent players, the common denominator is obviously the elite play of Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. 

For the 2018 Redskins, what does it mean?

The Redskins don't have an elite wideout like Jones or Beckham. The Redskins don't have an elite quarterback like Brady or Rodgers. 

The best path for Washington's offense might be balance, and trying to emulate the Eagles model from 2017. Carson Wentz played most of the season at an elite level, but he spread the ball around to a number of targets and leaned heavily on his tight ends. It helped that the Eagles ran the ball very well too. 

Could the 'Skins do something similar? Alex Smith is known to spread the ball around, and if Jordan Reed and Derrius Guice can produce this fall, the offenses might be similar. 

The answer can't be force enough balls to one wideout to ensure a 1,000 yard season. That won't work. 

There might be another way to consider. Of the three NFC teams that made the 2017 playoffs without a 1,000-yard wideout, two found a lot of success throwing to a running back.

The Panthers leading WR was Devin Funchess with 840 receiving yards. Their second best receiver? Rookie running back Christian McCaffrey. 

The Rams leading WR was Cooper Kupp with 869 receiving yards. Their second best receiver? Running back Todd Gurley.

See a pattern?

Before breaking his leg in November, Chris Thompson had more than 500 receiving yards. He still finished as the team's fourth-leading receiver despite playing only 10 games. 

The offensive path to playoff success for Washington might not hinge on a true 1,000-yard wideout like it does for many teams. Full, healthy seasons from Jordan Reed or Chris Thompson could make up for deficiencies at other skill positions. It also remains possible Doctson, Crowder or Richardson make the four digit leap. 

Having a 1,000-yard receiver seems like a nice option for a good offense, and that's proven by nearly 70 percent of recent NFC playoff teams. Still, other paths remain to the postseason, and increased production at tight end and running back can go a long way. 

MORE REDSKINS NEWS:

— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions 

— Dead Money: Trades, misses and mistakes hurt Redskins salary cap

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