In MEDIA SOUND BITES Leonard Shapiro on December 12, 2011 at 7:55 pm
   As the Washington Redskins stagger to the finish line of another dreadful season, there is little reason to believe their fortunes will improve much unless all manner of circumstances change for the better.
   Firing the coach, by the way, is not one of them. Though Mike Shanahan has made his share of blunders over the course of his first two seasons, owner Daniel Snyder would be wise not to once again bring in a whole new staff, a whole new system, a whole different philosophy. We’ve seen that result before—goodbye Marty Schottenheimer, hello Steve Spurrier—and a repeat performance would be nothing less than a disaster.
   Shanahan, once known as “The Mastermind” when he had John Elway on his side for two Super Bowl championship teams, has been nothing of the sort since moving east to Washington.
   One could make the case that his first major mistake was giving up immediately on Jason Campbell two years ago, only to watch him start to come into his own with the Oakland Raiders earlier this season before he busted up his shoulder and became inactive.
   The decision to go with Donovan McNabb was another huge error in football judgment. Does anyone really think Eagles head coach Andy Reid would have given up on one of his all-time favorite players if he thought he had anything left?
    This year, the Vikings made the same mistake Shanahan did a year ago, but at least it looks as if Minnesota may have a quarterback of the future in Christian Ponder. The Redskins future looks mighty bleak if Shanahan and his offensive coordinator son, Kyle, still believe that Rex Grossman or John Beck is the long-term answer to a position that remains The Major Weakness on this football team.
    The best case scenario team would be to lose out and possibly get in the mix for a first rate college quarterback in the draft. Wouldn’t Andrew Luck of Stanford, who’s father Oliver once had a cup of coffee with the Redskins back in the 1970s, look wonderful in burgundy and gold? That seems like an unlikely prospect, but we can dream, can’t we?
    Quarterback may be the biggest weakness on this team, but there are other obvious problems as well, and please don’t play the injury card, quite yet. Yes the Redskins have been decimated by the loss of key personnel, particularly on offense, but the talent level—starters or backups–wasn’t anything close to a team that had enough high quality players to make a serious run at the playoffs, even if they had all been healthy.
     The offensive line has been a disaster for most of the year, though in recent weeks it seems to have figured out a way to spring rookie running back Roy Helu for three straight 100-yard rushing games. But now, with knucklehead offensive tackle Trent Williams out for the rest of the season after failing his third drug test of the year, that unit will be hard-pressed to have many more repeat performances, let alone keep a quarterback upright.
   Helu has been a breath of fresh air recently, perhaps even a running back of the future. But the fact that he saw such limited action earlier in the year simply gives us another reason to wonder what took so long for Shanahan to realize what he had all along.
   As for the receiving corps, there was good news/bad news in the fact that tight end Fred Davis finally began to blossom in his fourth season with the team, a legitimate threat to catch a lot of footballs. He’s also a legitimate threat to himself after he, too, failed a third drug test this season, forcing him to be suspended for the final four games.
    Davis will be a free agent following the 2011 season, and Shanahan said very publicly this week that Davis’s drug problem will weigh heavily in any decision on re-signing him to a new contract. The guess here is that Davis is enough of a talent to take that chance, and he’ll be back in 2012 on a very short leash.
    It will also help to get Chris Cooley healthy and back in uniform, but the popular tight end has been injury prone the last two seasons and clearly seems heading toward the downhill portion of his career. The same goes for wide receiver Santana Moss, who’s production has been way off this year and may not improve until the Redskins find themselves enough offensive linemen to give anyone who plays the quarterback position time to throw.
   The defense has held up remarkably well considering how much time it has to spend on the field. But there are looming problems, as well. As much as you have to admire 36-year-old middle linebacker London Fletcher, there’s not much tread left on those tires. How long he can play at such a high level remains to be seen.
   Safety Laron Landry has also suffered through an injury plagued season and hardly seems the same player we saw two years ago. But for the most part, this unit has performed fairly well for most of the season.
   It’s been a very long season since that 3-1 start, and the only other good news seems to be that Snyder seems to be holding true to his word to Shanahan that he will not meddle in football affairs. But when is The Danny going to start getting fed up with what he’s seeing on the field, just like the rest of us?
   I suspect there are already rumblings coming out of his Redskins Park office and jJudging from the owner’s past performances, it’s only a question of when.

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