1. Did not fire Jim Haslett
We must have a very serious discussion about Redskins DC Jim Haslett at the end of the season, because that's the right time to make off-season moves. Whatever frustrated fans think of Haslett for the surprising disappearance of Washington's pass rush, releasing him now would doom the entire defense. Haslett knows more about the defensive scheme than anyone on the staff, or any outsider they could hire mid-season.
New people bring new ideas about scheme and use of players. It takes a full off-season and regular season to perfect it. That's why off-seasons exist. There's a transition cost to changing coaches that must be paid.
Many fans who mouthed off about firing Haslett saw Raheem Morris as his ready-made replacement. Indeed, local media speculated that Morris was brought in as a future replacement. Well, slow down, cowboy. There are many questions about Morris.
What's the worst performing part of Washington's defense? You are correct, the secondary. Who coaches the secondary? Coach Morris. Why was Morris available for hire? Because he could not guide his Buccaneers team out of a 10-game slump at the end of 2011. A former college coach is doing better.
Hog Heaven isn't calling Morris a bad hire, but the jury is out. Washington is paying the transition cost for hiring Morris to replace Stephen Jackson. There is scant evidence, so far, that Morris can cure what ails the defense.
2. Did not move DeAngelo Hall to safety
Hog Heaven does not consider D.Hall a bust. Indeed, he does many things well when used properly. One could say the same of Rex Grossman. We just think Hall is over paid for the value he brings.
One of the advantages of moving Hall to nickel-back is reducing his exposure in coverage. He can make the jams near the line, a theoretical strength. Moving Hall to free safety would be bad on two counts.
First, it would expose weaknesses in his coverage skills. Opposing quarterbacks already target him wherever he's playing. They know that challenging Hall is a high risk, high reward thing. He might jump the play and force a turnover. He is just as likely to be badly burned by a speedy deep threat. QBs do not take such a chance with Ed Reed. They would drool over Hall.
Second, changing positions is not easy. Two words – Niles Paul. Paul is struggling to convert to tight end from wide receiver. Talent may be a question, but he had a full off-season to prepare and remains on the learning curve well into the regular season. Yes, it's that transition cost bugaboo rearing its head again.
Ronde Barber plays free safety for the Buccaneers. But, Barber is both more talented and football smarter than Hall, and he is making a change the Buccaneers have thought about for two years. Off-season moves are best made in the off-season.
The late, great Sean Taylor struggled at free safety until 2007 when he showed Pro Bowl form. The right answer for the Redskins is for safeties on the roster to both play better and get healthier (Looking at you, Brandon Meriweather).
3. Did not revert to the 4-3 defense
Ah, fans and owners, always expecting instant results. The noise level about a return to Washington's traditional 4-3 defense reached a peak after the stupid performance against Carolina. The Redskins have the opposite problem now than in 2010 when they converted to the 3-4. Then, they didn't have all the pieces to run the 3-4. Now, they don't have the parts to run the 4-3.
The 4-3 defensive alignment is so 1980ish when the NFL was playing "old man football." I love old man football, but then, I'm an old man. That old school, run oriented, snot-knocking style is real football, and I remember walking in my bare feet from my log cabin to the stadium to watch Nagurski, Brown and Riggins play.
Teams that ran the ball and stopped the run won titles in those golden olden days. The Jacksonville Jaguars ran the ball last year. I didn't see them in the Super Bowl. I saw the Giants and Patriots in the Super Bowl. Both teams ran poorly but passed well.
21st Century football is all about passing the ball in more creative ways. The quarterbacks that are changing the game are young players who entered the league since Sam Bradford. They are big. They are mobile. Some of them might run on designed plays. They throw to multiple set receivers in spread formations. The 3-4 is best suited to counter that.
Albert Haynesworth could have made the 4-3 work, if he wanted to. He's the D-lineman you need. Haynesworth doesn't live here anymore. That's the point. We don't have 4-3 players.
4. Did not fire Bruce Allen for a "real personnel guy"
Fans are not impressed with the depth they see on the current roster and voiced that with calls to replace Allen with somebody, anybody, to be a counterweight to Mike Shanahan on roster calls. Hog Heaven is pleased with Shanahan's front office moves since his arrival in 2010 – um, except for that whole quarterback thing. Robert Griffin III is Shanahan's fourth quarterback, but he is the first who is better than Jason Campbell is.
Shanahan and Allen avoid overpaying free agents. Most of their draft picks are developing into contributors, if not starters. We really need more from Leonard Hankerson, with Pierre Garcon's injury, but Hank was a third-round Draft pick whose flaws were known. I expected little from Josh Morgan. He plays well for a guy who was signed for depth. Washington is playing a lot of depth guys. You can't blame Shanahan for Pierre Garcon's toe injury.
General Managers arise through scouting ranks or as contract guys. Bruce Allen is a contract guy. The Redskins always had competent talent evaluators. We know this based on the number of ex-Redskins who play in the Super Bowl for other teams.
In a famous TV rant against Daniel Snyder, Jimmy Johnson told us the Redskins have good scouts, but "nobody listens to them." I really wished the professional media class pursued that when it was said. If nothing else, Shanahan seems to listen to Morocco Brown and Scott Campbell, both are directors of pro personnel, than the prior regime.
In the cases where GMs are counterweights to head coaches on roster decisions, you find football smart owners capable of breaking the tie. "Football smart" and "owner" is an oxy-moron in 25 of 32 cases. It does make the point that, for the Redskins to be a Super Bowl contender, Daniel Snyder must become a Super Bowl caliber owner.
Yes, he helped the team by backing away from management. But that's a do-no-harm approach. It's not enough to win titles. Snyder has to be the counter to his head coach whoever he is. That means he has to know enough about building a team to own the strategy to get it done, and smart enough to stay out of the way of competent executives who are doing it.
It takes real GMs 15 years to navigate that career path. (Coaching does not build those skills). Mr. Snyder is in his 13th year of ownership. He should be getting close by now.
5. Did not call the Eagles game a "must win" game
Coach Mike done gone and temporarily lost his mind after that beatdown by the Steelers. Coaches never call any, ordinary, everyday, regular season game must win, because they are all must win. Are there any optional win games? No sir. Where are you if you lose a must win game against a one-win team? In Washington, of course, where the Redskins have a habit of losing to bottom-feeders.
The point is that the Redskins could lose to the Panthers and make up ground on division rivals who lose their own must win games. Of course, you should beat the beatable teams on your schedule, and kick teams when they are down.
The Philadelphia Eagles are down. They are starting a rookie quarterback. Their O-line is decimated. Their coach is on the short-list of potential future Redskins head coach. Their defense is underperforming. This is a
must win, should win, ought to win, game against a desperate team fighting to stay out of division fourth-place. I like our chances.
Jim Haslett – December 7, 2008 - Source: Donald Miralle/Getty Images North America.
DeAngelo Hall – October 27, 2012 - Source: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images North America.
Neal Olkewicz – Redskins.com.
Daniel Snyder, Mike Shanahan, Bruce Allen – January 5, 2010 - Source: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images North America.
London Fletcher, Jeremy Maclin – November 28, 2009 - Source: Al Bello/Getty Images North America.
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