armchairquarterblog

SPORTS LANDSCAPE Bill Sullivan

In THE SPORTS LANDSCAPE Bill Sullivan on November 2, 2011 at 7:31 am

Washington Redskins fans wonder why a coach fitted for two Super Bowl rings and a $5M salary can lose three straight games – twice to teams with just one win and another by way of shutout for the first time in his 267 games as a head coach or offensive coordinator.

During the Buffalo game, Thom Brennaman and Troy Aikman snickered, watching the Redskins’ offense fall apart and later criticized their offense for not calling two plays in a huddle while down by 20 in the fourth quarter.

At one point, Aikman said, “It’s beyond the head coach.” But this was a stretch. Before Dan Snyder hired Mike Shanahan, he fired deputy Vinny Cerrato and since, has stayed out of Shanahan’s way. There have been no more “sexy” player signings or meetings with the coach in the bowels of FedEx Field after games.

Point is, Aikman still is bitter toward Snyder for firing Norv Turner – Aikman’s offensive coordinator in Dallas during that dynasty’s trio of Super Bowls.

Back in the spring of 2010, how could Shanahan have been wrong on quarterback Donovan McNabb? He’d coached for 25 years and McNabb had played for 11. What didn’t he know about the Philly veteran? He was supposedly the expert on quarterbacks. Then, months after signing McNabb, son, Kyle tried to change McNabb’s drop-back style. Seems odd, a then 29-year-old assistant toying with the mechanics of a player who’d been to five NFC Championship games. It’s hard to fault McNabb, wondering why his footwork was – all of a sudden – being scrutinized, especially by an assistant coach five years his junior.

The next Shanahan gaffe was Rex Grossman, who “roomed” with Kyle while the two were with the Houston Texans in 2009. Rex was benched as the Redskins starter after a 4-interception game vs. Philly, less than a third the way through the season. The fact he roomed with a player he coached points to Kyle’s naivete. Knowing this, think John Beck was surprised when he wasn’t named the starter seven weeks ago?

In the Buffalo game, Leron Landry and DeAngelo Hall’s names were hardly heard until a blown coverage in the Skins secondary helped give the Bills a touchdown. London Fletcher played with a pulled hamstring but made 12 solo tackles and had an interception in the end zone. How many stops did the Skins safeties make? How many INT’s? How many times did the duo reach the quarterback on a safety blitz? Besides six combined solo tackles, “nada” are your answers.

We’ve been force-fed the “3-4” as if it’s a magic potion concocted by defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. Basically, the Skins have a four-man front, only Ryan Kerrigan isn’t bent over in a 3-point stance. Former defensive coordinator Greg Williams had a much better defense here but was bypassed for the head coaching job that went to Jim Zorn. A year later, Williams took over the defense in New Orleans and won a Super Bowl.

Barry Cofield is an upgrade over Haynesworth at nose guard but he doesn’t remind anyone of Bob Lily, Randy White or Merlin Olsen. How many times have we seen him break through the muck to reach the quarterback? Again, nada is your answer. When Bills running back Fred Jackson took a hand off , he usually ran untouched until he reached the second level on his way to 120 yards.

We know the Skins’ replacements are lean on the right side of the offensive line. So why weren’t there roll-outs designed to take Beck to the left? Why wasn’t an H-back planted in the backfield? Why didn’t the team have a tight end on the right side the entire game? Where were Beck’s hot reads? It’s up to the Shanahans to provide answers but there weren’t any versus Buffalo.

Snyder should be fuming. As one writer put it, he could have kept Jim Zorn around for these results at a much cheaper rate. The owner didn’t balk when Mike wanted to deputize his son to run the offense. But how much experience did Kyle have? A couple seasons with the Texans? He was the coordinator there because Texans Coach Gary Kubiak was an assistant on Mike’s staff in Denver for years. Snyder should have balked and said, “OK Mike, bring your son on board but as an ‘offensive assistant’ under a seasoned coordinator like Mike Martz or Kevin Gilbride”

Buffalo is 5-2 with Fitzpatrick running the offense. He’s the same age as Beck with equal experience. Yet against the Redskins, his passes were uncontested, like practice where receivers are “allowed” to catch the ball. Buffalo is Fitzpatrick’s third team. Before this year, he’d never played on a winner but now his team is tied with the Patriots for first place in the AFC East. Fitzpatrick was a seventh round pick, Beck a second-rounder. And Beck played at BYU, whose pro-style offense threw the ball a bit more than did “Fitz” at Harvard.

For years as a landscape designer, my customers ask, “Is it the soil? Do we need to take out the old and bring in all new for the plants?” To that, I always say, “That’s unnecessary.” But when I apply the axiom to the Skins, I’m unsure.

Why is Marty Shottenheimer fired after going 8-8 and the very next year goes 14-2 with San Diego? Why does Steve Spurrier “lose” his coaching acumen with the Skins but regains it in Columbia, S.C., transforming an anemic Gamecock program into a national contender? How does Turner go from being fired in D.C. to taking his Charger team to the playoffs every year? How does Marty’s son, Brian go from being clueless with the Redskin offense, to advancing to two straight AFC Championship games as the New York Jets coordinator? What about Hue Jackson, who was fired here as a Zorn assistant, yet has his Raider team tied for first place? And while I’m at it, Bills’ defensive coordinator George Edwards (who coordinated the Skins defense in 2003) designed a defense last week that held the Skins to 26 yards rushing and 4-of-14 on third-down conversions.

It’s yet another coaching regime at work in Washington, producing the same, lame results. No one has answers, not even those at the top.

 

 

 

 

 

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