Three straight losses for the Washington Redskins after an uninspired performance north of the border against the Buffalo Bills have some wondering if Mike Shanahan is truly the Redskins' savoir or just another overpaid free agent bust. The doubters have some ammunition.
In Shanahan's first 23 games (9-14 record), the Redskins' offense still remains a rumor. They have scored 20 points or more only eight times. They just faced a Bills defense that allowed 400 yards or more in five straight games before Sunday. The Redskins' offense had 178 total net yards, surrendered nine sacks and scored zero points.
The Shanahan supporters will remind you that Dan Snyder and Vinny Cerrato ran this organization into the ground for more than a decade and fixing those mistakes will take some time. They will also remind you he has two Super Bowl rings (albeit that happened in another town and 12 years ago). Those are silver linings. Are you too depressed and need more. OK, here it goes: at least you are not Randy Edsall and the Maryland Terrapins.
In this week's edition of Chain Reactions, we look at the Redskins' ongoing offensive woes, whether a new play caller needed, where the blame should lie and Bruce Boudreau's major-league onions.
Struggles Start with the Shanahans
In Monday's press conference (via Redskins.com live stream), a reporter asked Shanahan if he was comfortable with the play calling. He responded as follows:
"Yeah I'm pretty comfortable with the play calling, I'm heavily involved with the offense so..."
Maybe Mike was just being a protective father, or maybe he fell asleep watching the film. The lack of offensive adjustments Sunday was embarrassing, and this is not a new story. John Beck was getting killed, and yes mainly because he held the ball too long.
Beck can move some, so why not roll him out more? Why not go to shorter drops? Why not run more (I know old story)? I hate the wildcat but it revived an anemic Dolphins offense a few years ago, so why not give it a shot? Empty the damn playbook until you find something that works, or get a new playbook.
The lack of urgency was alarming. Down 20-0 with 10:56 left in the game, the Redskins were walking to the line of scrimmage and still huddling. That's on Kyle Shanahan. When asked about it Monday, dad muttered something about needing to get first downs. Truth is, they did and they still huddled up wasting precise time.
Clearly the odds were against the Redskins making an amazing comeback, which is commonplace in the NFL this season, just not in D.C. where the offense is still MIA. However, you have to at least try, make it look good, put on a brave face, anything except tap out, which they clearly did by taking their time.
New Play-Caller Needed?
The offense has scored a grand total of three points on opening drives this season when the plays are scripted and worked on all week. So the script clearly needs some revisions. The team ranks 26th in points per game at 16. This is clearly not what Dan Snyder paid for when he hired Mike Shanahan, who then hired his son to run the offense. So why not change play callers for a game or two and see what happens?
The guy who is making $7 million a year used to be really good at it in the day. Steve Spurrier let Hue Jackson take the duties and then took then back because he was bored. Eagles Coach Andy Reid handed over the play calling a few years ago to Marty Morningweg when he thought the offense needed a spark.
In the case of the Redskins, they need more than a spark. Granted, this is touchy territory because it is father and son. I'm sure Mike Shanahan, like most men, does not like sleeping on the couch. Following the Carolina game the coach made a point of saying he needed to spend more time with the defense. Well he already spends time with the offense. Maybe he just needs to the play sheet for a week or two.
Player Personnel Still Biggest Problem
But almost halfway through year two of the Mike Shanahan regime, player personnel remains the biggest issue for the Redskins' struggles. Injuries to the offensive line, Santana Moss and Chris Cooley are a part of the offenses problems. I would point out the team was hardly an offensive juggernaut with those guys. Plus, injuries are part of the game and the Bills were playing with their third left tackle Sunday -- a guy named Chad Rinehart, sound familiar? Mike Shanahan can't blame his general manager since it's him.
The lack of offensive line depth was questioned by anyone and everyone during training camp. The loss of Kory Lichtensteiger and Trent Williams made filling holes on the left side necessary. However, because of the Redskins' lack of depth and a trustworthy guard replacement, a three-position change was needed. Will Montgomery was playing well at center and now seems to be struggling at guard.
As bad as the offensive line was, the wide receivers were not much better. They struggled to get separation from the Bills defensive backs. The best offense weapon remains tight end Fred Davis, but who else is there Donte Stallworth, for example, can no longer stretch the field, so what's the point of playing him, let alone having him on the roster? Then there is the 900 pound gorilla: the quarterbacks that he staked his reputation on are not NFL starters. I know that was Mike just telling a Shanahan.
Let me be clear Mike Shanahan needs to see this thing through and should get that opportunity to do it. Dan Snyder moved out his racquet ball partner and opened up the check book for Shanahan. Despite his history of a quick trigger, I don't see it happening here.
Shanahan needs to find his quarterback this offseason. For the here and now, he just needs to find a win. If the Redskins do snap the three-game skid Sunday, I hope Shanahan give Jim Harbaugh a Jim Harbaugh handshake.
Boudreau has Big Onions
We are only 10 games into the NHL season and Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau is clearly sending a message to his Capitals in the early going. The status quo is not going to cut it.
On Monday, he demoted veteran Mike Knuble to the fourth line, which really was child's play in hindsight. Tuesday night, in front of a national television audience, he kept Alex Ovechkin off the ice for the final 62 seconds of regulation with the Capitals down 4-3. The best goal scorer on the planet was on the bench, he needed a goal and it worked as Nicklas Backstrom scored the tying goal. Ovechkin was back on the ice for the game winner in OT.
ESPN'S Sports Center had it as their second story in the 11 p.m. show. The NHL is clearly the biggest winner of the NBA lockout.
So why would BB bench the game's most prolific goal scorer when he needed a goal?
"I thought other guys were better than him and I thought there was just a chance that other guys might score the goal," Boudreau said. "I've got to put out the guys that I think are going to score the goal and 99 percent of the time Alex is the guy I think is going to score the goal. I just didn't think Alex was going to score the goal at that time tonight. You go with your gut feeling, thinking that line is going pretty good and I got lucky."
Boudreau is right that he got lucky, because if it did not work, the conversation would be about them not having the best guys on the ice. However, it is just game 10 of 82. Two points are nice, but it is hardly life or death for a Caps team that is clearly as talented as anyone in the NHL. The regular season has been too easy for this team in the past. It is all about toughening the group up for the playoffs.
Ovechkin downplayed the incident on Versus after the game and complimented the move.
"Brooks Laich line play unbelievable. They dominate them. Again they deserved to be there when important moments coming."
The Great 8 did not put on such a brave face for the local media, passing on the opportunity to talk. He also got ripped after the game by Hall of Fame Coach Mike Keenan, who also praised Boudreau. Good to know the guy whose name always comes up when Boudreau's job security is questioned agreed with the decision.
Big picture, the incident is not a big deal if Ovechkin gets the message, moves forward and allows his coach to do his job.