Mike Shanahan has done it again. The head coach of the Washington football team has made his next chess move in an effort to get fired. Strangely though, this one may benefit the team in the long run.
It was announced yesterday morning, that Shanahan was going to bench RG3. There’s been a lot of debate about this and some fans are outraged. Be that as it may, I believe this is just another move, in a long standing terrible relationship between Dan Snyder and the coach.
This drama started well before I was a Washington Fan. Albert Haynesworth and Shanahan never saw eye to eye, and Haynesworth was run out of town. Since this is in the era before my ‘fandom’, I didn’t follow all the details, but I remember being struck by the fact that this should have been handled in-house, not in the media and while Haynesworth probably should have been run out of the locker room, Shanahan handled it poorly. Also, this is a running issue for Shanahan, from disputes with Elway, Dan Reeves, Al Davis and others.
Then came the news before the game last week “according to unnamed sources”, that Shanahan was ready to quit last year before they had made the playoffs, and had packed up his office. Then when RG3 hurt his knee, Shanahan had a change of heart. This news breaks, but where did it come from? Honestly, probably leaked by Mike Shanahan or one of his “people.” Because this season is getting out of control. Trying to get Snyder to fire him, so he can still collect $7M due him next season.
Then kickoff. Probably one of the most lopsided and terrible games I’ve ever laid my eyes on. Not because my team was getting throttled, but just the lack of preparation, and execution. The weather was bad, yes, but Kansas City was playing in that too. They were man handling the Washington squad (remember, I don’t use their mascot name anymore) mercilessly. 31-0 in the second quarter.
Monday comes… Shanahan still isn’t fired. Though the rumors tick up a bit more.
Shanahan’s record with the team, now stands at 24-37. The only good season, 2012, when they won the division and ran a read-option style offense. The best year previously, was his first, at 6-10 and it’s only gotten worse from there (minus last year and Rookie of the Year RG3 playing out of his mind). Mike’s last playoff win was 8 years ago. He’s only had two winning seasons since. When Denver won Super Bowl’s, Elways was the quarterback, and the ground game was key.
Sadly, those days are over. I love a little ground and pound football, but it’s a passing league now. When Washington runs the ball with Alfred Morris, they tend to do fairly well. But every game, they stop running the ball (generally because they are way way WAY behind) and it all falls apart.
Tuesday comes… rumors swirl that Shanahan is going to bench RG3. Dan Snyder loves RG3. They’ll never bench the franchise quarterback even though the season is lost. I even believe that won’t happen. I think it’s just another move to piss off Dan Snyder.
RG3 hasn’t played well this year. I’ll admit it. He’s the main reason I became a fan of the Washington football team. He’s exciting to watch. He has amazing potential. Having said that, he’s not been right all season. I’ve gone through my own knee issues more than once. I even had surgery about the same time he did on his last knee surgery. I know what it is to not trust your knee. I know what it is to have that little bit of doubt in the back of your mind when you do anything, much less play football. I expected his numbers to be down this year, but I expected them to get better as the year went along. They haven’t. In fact, they’ve probably gotten worse after going up for the first few weeks, the last few weeks have been terrible. But, his stats don’t necessarily lead me to believe that he deserves benching as your franchise quarterback. If you don’t know who your guy is, that’s one thing, but RG3 is the QB of the future for Washington.
Wednesday. RG3 gets benched. Surely this is the final straw for Snyder. He’ll fire Shanahan and un-do that particular maneuver. Still, Shanahan isn’t fired.
So I start thinking about it as the debate begins. Surely Shanahan is getting fired, either before the season is over, or the day after. A coach that can’t adjust to the new brand of football, and can’t make halftime adjustments, with an abysmal record and a trend of losing for longer than most of us have owned our cars. A career 55% win percentage. Someone that feuds with players publicly in the media, and one that’s known for having “his guys” and kicking players off teams that aren’t “his guys.”
The latest manuever going against all normal football logic and tradition. It will certainly end whatever love there is between him and Snyder. Sitting the franchise player without pegging it to performance or injury will get you gone really quickly. Owners don’t pay that kind of money for benchwarmers.
But, the receivers have done no favors for RG3. The defense has put the team in multiple binds that they have to try to dig out of. Some, they have gotten close to digging out of, others (like the KC game) they don’t ever even whiff victory. The special teams are a joke (when we finally do score against KC, the ensuing kickoff is returned for a touchdown). The offensive line… is well, offensive. That’s the biggest bunch of pathetic fat men I’ve ever seen. Alfred Morris can’t run when you’re down 31-0. Pierre Garcon has a sudden case of the dropsies, and your flashy tight end has been out a few games with a concussion.
So obviously, there are a lot more problems than just a QB that still isn’t “right”. Why should he go out there and get brutally hit multiple times every game. As the field conditions get worse and the season gets more into winter, you can have a Seattle playoff game position again. He’s been sacked already 38 times in 13 games (that’s almost three a game on the season). And it’s only getting worse. He’s been sacked, 24 times in the last 5 games (almost 5 a game). He was hit 18 times in the loss to Minnesota, and not in nice ways.
It’s becoming more and more obvious, if you watch the games, the “clock” in his head on when to get rid of the ball is in hyperdrive. Look to the first receiver and RUN!! Sometimes, it’s already too late. Sometimes on play action they run passed Alfred Morris and just sack RG3 before the handoff is completed. The O-line is giving him no protection. If he stays in the pocket he gets creamed.
Sadly, this is all one play… as RG3 gets pummeled and the linemen pile up on him.
At the beginning of the season, he wasn’t stepping into throws, as he was still consciously or subconciously still worried about the knee. At about game 5 or 6, he started stepping into the throws. His numbers went up. The team played a little better. But as the protection and drops got worse, and he was getting hit more and more, harder and harder, the mechanics started to break down. Throws went higher and the reads got shorter. Leading to him trying to run sooner, and therefore taking more hits. It’s a vicious cycle.
So why not let Cousins play. I think he’s got potential to be a very good quarterback in the NFL. We gave up too much for RG3 when we moved up to draft him (not a slam on RG3 at all, but 3 first round picks and a second round pick is too much for anyone). We can’t afford to let RG3 get hurt. If Cousins plays well, we could get a draft pick for him, and bolster our sad roster a bit, and we need draft picks!! And if he doesn’t play well or gets hurt himself, we already knew what we had, and he’s only the backup (not saying I want Kirk Cousins to get hurt).
So maybe Washington will get a draft pick for Cousins. Maybe, at the very least, they’ll have a healthy Franchise QB going into the offseason, and know more about the backup. Major League teams shut down pitchers all the time. They try to protect their investment. Washington is VERY invested in RG3, not just his salary, but the draft picks that will cripple the franchise for a decade or more if he doesn’t work out.
RG3 will then go into the offseason, relatively “healthy” (I still contend the knee isn’t 100%, hell, mine isn’t!). He will be able to heal up from the bumps and bruises of the season, “get his head right” with his knee, and take a few extra hits that are coming his way off the table. 152 hits last year is almost 10 a game. Assuming his rate is still approximately 10 a game, you’re saving him 30 hits (more than Peyton Manning takes in a season). But, without having to work on major rehab, he can work on his mechanics, a new playbook when the new coaching staff comes in, and stop the regression he’s started the last few weeks. He has the potential to be great. He needs to take the time to work on “offseason stuff” that he never got the chance to do like, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson did last year. He’s only 23, he still has a lot to learn.
The team also needs to work this offseason. Get some good blockers up front, a better defense and maybe one more reliable receiver. That and a new coaching staff and gameplan will go a long way in increasing the longevity and productivity of RG3. At this rate, he won’t be around long.
I don’t believe Shanahan is particularly concerned about the health or longevity of RG3. I think he’s just using him as a pawn in his game with Dan Snyder. Perhaps this last chess move to get canned by Shanahan, while unintended, is the best gift he could give Washington as he walks out the door.