The Washington Redskins did the right thing when they sat RGIII against Cleveland, the week after the Baltimore game in which he injured his right knee. They did the right thing in the weeks that followed by altering their offensive game plan to fit RGIII’s new and temporary limitations. Now Coach Mike Shanahan is getting buried in criticism for not having pulled the kid in Sunday’s playoff loss to Seattle despite being obviously injured. I think some understanding of both men is in order.
What if the kid had been able to rally the Skins to a game-tying touchdown? Would the critics still be piling on Shanahan? Doubtful- which says to me a lot of this outrage is less about RGIII and more about a decision that may have cost the Redskins the game. And the outrage comes chock-full of hindsight. Who knew a bad snap from center would cause Griffin to awkwardly hyperextend the knee again on the god-forsaken mud hole that passes for turf at FedEx Field?
From a competitive standpoint, I think most will agree RGIII should have been pulled in the 2nd half after a 9-yard run out of bounds in which he basically dragged his right leg along like it was hanging by a thread. That looked alarming. But Shanahan is nothing if not loyal. The most compelling argument RGIII made at half-time to convince the coach he should keep playing was his insistence that he had earned the right to stay in there and give it his best shot. To me that’s indisputable. The kid, through most of 15 games did everything humanly possible to earn the right to stay in there.
But was it misplaced loyalty? Does the Head Coach have an obligation to overrule a competitive player who will always say he’s healthy enough to play whether he is or not? Yes and Shanahan admits it. He says he trusted his gut on this but that his gut isn’t always right and that he would, indeed, second-guess himself over the decision.
Even RGIII admits he endangered himself when he continued playing after having tweaked the knee just before his 2nd TD pass in the 1st quarter. But this was the playoffs. You think RGIII was the only player out there playing hurt? When Kirk Gibson came in to pinch-hit for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the bottom of the 9th inning of a World Series game when Gibson could barely stand, much less walk, did people think that was abusing the athlete? Of course not. Because he hit a homerun that won the game.
It turns out RGIII is not indestructible but is, in fact, all too human. Both in his stubbornness and his physical health. Mike Shanahan is human too. I would argue, if anything, he put his loyalty to his QB above the strategic dynamics needed to win that game. And in retrospect- yes- he made the wrong decision. But I don’t think he deserves to be vilified or fired for it.
Everyone will learn from this and especially RGIII and Mike Shanahan, There is a point where steely determination and sheer grit begin to provide diminishing returns. RGIII will learn to be a little less reckless. Coach Shanahan now knows there will be times where he’ll have to stop RG from being his own worst enemy.
What I can’t stop thinking about, is the cruelty of fate and the vulnerability of even the most talented and ferocious of athletes. I will never forget the Skins game against the Minnesota Vikings this year when Griffin scored on a 78 yard touchdown run. His Olympic-class speed was breathtaking to behold. It was the longest scoring run by an NFL quarterback in 16 years. Griffin piled up 138 yards rushing that day.
And then I picture the botched snap from center on Sunday when the same gifted athlete could not bend down and pick up a dropped football without collapsing in a heap on the muddy turf.
Because of his work ethic and desire, however bad this knee injury turns out to be- it will be overcome. He may never be able to run again like we saw with astonishment this season- but he will be back and 80% of Robert Griffin III is way better than 100% of most others.
But painful lesson, indeed, for both he and his coach. None of it should take away from the amazing, ridiculously unexpected result of this Redskins season when a 22-year-old man/child led a 3-6 team to a divisional title through guts, leadership, and, yes, ironically, the kind of unflinching toughness that ultimately cost them in the end.
The Redskins remind me of a 3-year old with a shiny new toy who plays with it so obsessively, the thing is broken and doesn’t work anymore after a few weeks.
It could be worst, though. If they could figure out how to do it, RGIII would also catch passes, block and play in the secondary.
Unfortunately for the kid, he ended up with the Washington Redskins; a team that is proof that no matter what apparent good fortune has landed in their laps, crap still travels downhill, directly from owner, Daniel Snyder and the Father-Son Shanahan coaching duo. The Rebuilding Century continues. Except, of course, these are the Redskins. They have nothing to rebuild with til the year after next with no 1st round draft picks next season (traded for RGIII). They will continue to be in the 2nd year of an $18 million reduction in their salary cap for violating the NFL’s rules on signing free agents during the lock-out last year.
Last week, receiver, Josh Morgan, drew a personal foul to end the Skins chances at a comeback in St. Louis. And this past Sunday…a late personal foul cost them again…this one apparently incurred by Redskins offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan. Unlike Morgan who at least faced the music after the game and talked to reporters, the Redskins did not make Kyle Shanahan available to the press after the contest. Here’s the message this sends to the team. The players are accountable. The coaching staff is not.
Starting at his own 2-yard line, RGIII had driven the Skins to the Bengals 19 yard line with enough time left for several shots at the end zone. They ended up losing 36 yards. How do you accomplish such a thing? Here’s how: a 15-yard sack, a 5-yard off-sides penalty and young Kyle’s personal foul. On their last play of the game, RG faced a 3rd and 45.
Contemplate that for a moment. 3rd and 45.
“Daddy, please don’t make me go out there and talk to those mean reporters.”
There is no doubt the Redskins picked up a franchise player in RGIII. If he physically survives the beatings he will be taking week after week, he will have been worth every one of those #1 draft picks. The Skins are now averaging over 30 points on offense every game. At quarterback- mission accomplished.
I do find it striking how differently the Redskins treat their star player than, say, how the Washington Nationals protect Stephen Strasburg. The Nationals are guarding their investment by ending his season early, convinced their long-range planning will yield a bounty of future stellar seasons from Strasburg. The Redskins? With the Shanahan family clinging to dear life for their jobs if they have another abysmal season- Sunday showed how much they care about RGIII. They will keep running him out there until he ends up in the ER.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the difference between long range and short range planning, between Ted Lerner and Daniel Snyder- between class and crass.
The Washington Post had something like ten reporters covering the Redskins training camp this year. And on the eve of the pre-season debut of RGIII, you had to work pretty hard to find any Nationals story above the fold on the Post’s sports page.
These things happen because the Redskins won a few Super Bowls a generation ago.
Meantime, on the banks of the Anacostia River, there is a baseball stadium now hosting a minimum of 30,000 fans a night and a team that is no longer a flash-in-the-pan or a charming curiosity. It is, in fact, the most dominant team in the sport.
You see, there are three basic elements in the game of baseball; hitting, pitching and fielding. The Washington Nationals, as homegrown a team as I can remember, have led both the American and National leagues in pitching all season. It’s now well over a month after the All-Star break, and since the mid-season classic, no team has scored more runs than the Nationals. So, we have offense and defense covered. As for fielding, they rank 3rd in the NL right now.
It is expected that in a couple of weeks, the Nats will get their All-Star shortstop, Ian Desmond, back (poor things have gone 17-5 in his absence) and for the first time all year, the Nats will have their intended line-up in place. It does not seem to matter that a dozen players have hit the disabled list this year. They are 28 games above .500. They are on pace to win 100 games. They have an embarrassment of riches.
Take the San Francisco Giants, for example. They lead the NL Western division and are not exactly chumps. Sure, the Nats swept them in Washington earlier in the season, but it was so long ago. According to Bay area media, there has been great anticipation about this week’s visit by the Nationals- a test of what the playoffs may hold in store.
The Nationals led 14 to 0 after five innings of the series opener. They ended up winning 14-2. Next up, the Giants face Jordan Zimmermann, who has been so dominant on the mound that his last performance triggered considerable Cy Young award talk around the league. He now has the lowest ERA in all of baseball. He can thank his teammates for that. The San Francisco pitcher his teammates roughed up last night was the only hurler ahead of Zimmermann in ERA. And then Wednesday, the Giants get to face Stephen Strasburg.
All of which offers some perspective on Washington’s heretofore favorite sports franchise- the Washington Redskins. The contrast of how these two teams have been built is startling. Over in football world, Redskins owner, Dan Snyder, has spent well over a decade bringing in a revolving door of coaches, buying splashy free agents past their prime and, until recently, ignoring the more traditional and boring aspects of team development, like stockpiling draft choices and sprinkling in a few non-splashy free agents.
Over in Nats land, they got really bad over the years in order to get really good. They played a patient game that emphasized the basics; scouting, drafting and developing young talent. They did sign one huge contract when they went for Phillies outfielder, Jason Werth, two years ago, but it was meant as a statement to the rest of the league. Every now and again, in addition to developing what is now widely considered the best farm team in baseball, they showed they were willing to open their wallets and spend.
And they made a trade last year, giving up some of their hard-earned prospects for a young, proven pitcher named Gio Gonzalez who’s turning out to be having a career year and gives Washington the absolute rarity of three frontline-, #1 aces on the mound.
There is no doubt there is a sense of excitement about Robert Griffin III. His limited play in the Washington pre-season opener showed he has great presence and patience and real talent that was only made more obvious after back-up quarterback, Rex Grossman, got into the game and stunk up the joint. And the Skins seem to have a pretty powerful defense. But numerous injuries along the offensive line spark questions as to how much RGIII will have to be running for his life in his rookie season.
Anyway, in this town, it’s the Redskins that have something to prove. They come off a 5-11 season and two decades of futility since their last NFL title. They do have a real talent at quarterback for the first time in a long, long while- but it’s early and they have accomplished nothing.
Meantime, the now universally recognized best team in baseball, keeps chugging along piling up the most wins of any team in the sport, the highest run differential, the best pitching the game has seen in decades, and led by Davey Johnson, one of the best managers in the business.
Longtime WRC-TV anchorman, Jim Vance, did a wonderful on-air commentary on this Nationals vs. Redskins business a few weeks ago. And one of his closing lines simply cannot be improved upon. “The ‘Skins promise. The Nationals deliver.”
I have just awakened from my shrimp, buffalo-wing, pizza and guacamole food-coma and it all seems like a blur. Is it true we just fed twenty people? No. We fed six and now have enough leftovers to last until next Super Bowl.
She’s 52, o.k.? She needs a little help with her cart-wheels and doesn’t move around like she used to. She doesn’t even pretend she’s not lip-syncing but overall, I liked the halftime show. “Honey, honey,” I said to my girlfriend, “remember thigh-high stiletto boots and pom-poms.” Breaking News: Some singing sensation named MIA flipped off the camera. That building with the lights on past midnight here in the nation’s capital is the headquarters of the Federal Communications Commission.
Bull Dogs in Sneakers, Fiat, Big Daddy, Clint Eastwood and Mike Bloomberg
I liked the bull dog in sneakers beating out the greyhounds. I also have a new appreciation for Fiat automobiles and the Italian language, in particular. I am officially ashamed that I got my domain name from Big Daddy.com. And as for Clint Eastwood and “halftime in America,” I will never say anything the least bit negative about Chrysler or Detroit ever again. I also have no issues with the Mayors of Boston and New York making an appeal for gun control- but what am I going to use from now on to shoot my TV with?
Wait- I’ve Seen These All Somewhere Before
It’s actually passé now to write about Super Bowl commercials because they’ve all been shown over the past week on You Tube. But there’s solace in the fact it’s once again o.k. to get up and go to the bathroom during the commercials.
Still, every year, the ads get continuously interrupted by men in colorful uniforms chasing an oblong leather ball. I understand a baby-faced gentleman named Eli Manning became one of the greatest comeback quarterbacks in NFL history and more accomplished than his brother Peyton. Giants coach, Tom Coughlan, is now just as good as Bill Parcells. And at 9-7 this season, the New York Giants have somehow managed to become a dynasty winning two of the last four of these things.
All good. Can we all agree to stop using Roman numerals to identify these Super Bowls, though? I get the analogy already. But the Roman empire is gone now, dead and buried under the weight of its own excesses with coliseums, armored gladiators, sex and decadence. We’re better than that.
We poor saps in the Nation’s Capital suffered over three decades before we could get a professional baseball team. After a decades-long wait, we now anxiously hope for a professional football team. Until then, though….we have the Redskins.
Many fans of the burgundy and gold could have been forgiven if they thought there might be a shot at an 8-8 season. After their 3-1 start, some foolishly dreamed about making the playoffs. After watching the 23-0 drubbing at the hands of the Buffalo Bills, coupled with the two previous losses that preceded that debacle- it is time to reassess our goals for the season.
Many knowledgeable fans look at the schedule and can’t find more than maybe three additional victories, max. I, for one, have given up on the concept of wins and losses. In all seriousness, I am wondering if they will ever score again. If I took a shot of whiskey for every 1st down they get, I couldn’t even get tipsy.
After recording 4 QB sacks though the entire season, the Bills notched 9 against the Skins Sunday. At this point, I’m even feeling differently about interceptions. I find myself being grateful whenever a Redskin quarterback remains upright, period. And even if it’s to the other team, hey- a completion is a completion. You take your small victories where you can get them.
You do have to admire how the players are taking their team’s collapse though- with complete and utter selfishness. I like the way our newly fabulous tight end, Fred Davis, celebrates late-game, garbage touchdowns against prevent defenses; like he just made a game-winning catch in the Super Bowl. But then again, that was back when we used to score points. We don’t have to worry about that anymore.
And LaRon Landry celebrated after tackling a Buffalo Bills player who had just gotten a first down. Apparently he thoroughly impressed himself with the vicious hit he put on the opponent.
But what about the injuries? Oh, that’s right. I forgot for a moment that the Washington Redskins, curiously enough, are the only team in the NFL to have suffered injuries this season.
You know what? Winning is overrated. When you root for a team this bad, this shallow, this steeped in total incompetence from owner, to coaches to players, one must take a twisted, macabre joy in watching the weekly car accident that is the Washington Redskins. How bad can they get? Can they set a new franchise record for sacks allowed? Can they set new standards for fewest offensive yards? How many consecutive games can they run the ball ten times or less? What more wonders will we behold from the results of the “Shanahan System?”
So near term, what do the Skins work on this week ahead of the 6-1 San Francisco 49ers? I mean besides tackling, pass defense, blocking, running, throwing, attempting field goals without getting them blocked and kick returns that go beyond the 15 year-yard line?
I would work on their celebrations more. There should be complete unit-wide, choreographed strutting and kick-dancing like the Rockettes. After every single tackle, no matter how mundane, no matter how many yards have just been given up, all the Redskins should take LaRon Landry’s lead and put on a friggin’Christmas show after every play.
The offensive players should all work on the Santana Moss football-spin move. This is where after you make a catch, you spin the football on the turf like a top or a gyroscope. This should happen after every play, regardless of its outcome.
And as long as we’re paying that expensive NFL entertainment dollar, I want to see Mike and Kyle Shanahan dressed in pink, polka-dot dresses with bright red heels on to match their lipstick. And Dan Snyder should come out of the owner’s booth schmoozing with his high-fallutin’ celebrity guests and sit on the bench with the team instead- wearing a clown nose and gigantic Bozo the Clown shoes. At the start of every game, Snyder can drive a tiny burgundy and gold clown car to the 50-yard line as player after player emerges from the circus vehicle wearing bright orange wigs.
As long as you’re going to be a laughingstock, dear Redskins, at the very least, make us, you know- laugh.
It’s not about the Redskins. We know they’re a fair to middling team. It’s about the Eagles. As long as Michael Vick is healthy, they have constructed an offense that cannot be defended, period. It wasn’t as lopsided, but they did the same thing to the Indianapolis Colts the week before.
And they’re going to pick apart the NY Giants next week too. The only caveat there is that the Giants do have a reputation this year of physically injuring many a quarterback and key player this season. But short of that, they’re history too.
What has happened is that you have one of the most gifted athletes in the history of the sport who fixed the one flaw in his game.; his lack of discipline. Under control, and methodically considering each of his 4 or 5 options on every play- with his speed, his arm, his legs and now his brain- he is like a machine. Vick is like some sort of cyborg that is undefeatable and nearly indestructible.
And he has many tools. The fastest wide receivers in football. A set of running backs, either one of which can break off a long run. To protect against 60 and 70 yard bombs that he throws with the flick of a wrist, defensive backs were lining up 50 yards from the line of scrimmage last night. That means you can’t use them if there’s a running play and it leaves 20 and 30 yard patterns out there for the asking. Pitch and catch.
If you have the audacity to catch up with him, he’s almost unsackable. A 5-yard loss turns into a 20 yard gain.
The Eagles could have scored 80 points against the Redskins last night. If they score less than 40 a game the rest of the season, it will be a shock.
There was a moment last night, when the ESPN commentators mentioned that the NFL has a problem on its hands. I think they were referring to the fact that with this offense and this quarterback, the way the very game is played has been changed. This is Babe Ruth hitting 60 homers when the next closest guy was hitting 15.
Poor Skins owner, Daniel Snyder. He thought he had set up the perfect evening for a Redskins resurgence. Sign McNabb to the long-term deal, erase the memories of Detroit and the 2-minute benching, stoke up the crowd and ride the emotion to a key win in the division.
He had no idea his soft, mediocre, little team, with as much heart as it has- and they did fight back bravely if impotently- was about to take on the Green and White speed machine/tank from Philadelphia. As long as this Vick cyborg remains upright, no one else is going to beat them either.