There is no argument against, in my estimation, the fact that the Redskins offense operated at a level which was disappointing in 2010.
So lets start right there. What made the Redskins offense disappointing. Was it the passing game? I say yes, because of the expectations placed on it based on what the team had already built under Sherm Lewis in 2009, and what they added to it in terms of bringing in Jammal Brown and Donovan McNabb. I don't think our passing offense was bad, necessarily, but our offensive tackle and quarterback play left a lot to be desired last season. The Redskins got good seasons from receivers Santana Moss and Anthony Armstrong and tight end Fred Davis.
On the whole, you could characterize Donovan's McNabb's performance as "okay." It was certainly disappointing based on where the expectations were set in 2010. It was a worse quarterback season than Mark Brunell in 2005 and 2006. It was a worse quarterback season than Jason Campbell in 2007, 2008, and 2009. That's not what the Redskins thought they had acquired when they picked up McNabb on Easter 2010. But it wasn't the worst QB season by a Redskin in recent memory. Problem was, it seemed to be the worst QB season ever by a Kyle Shanahan quarterback
. And THAT is where the true problem with the 2010 season lies.
In a particularly bad situation for the both of them, there was no way to describe the Kyle Shanahan-Donovan McNabb relationship other than it simply did not work for either side
. More than anything, the Redskins should have avoided acquiring McNabb in the first place because of the high probability of such an outcome where both sides aren't happy with the help they are getting from the other. McNabb was unquestionably a declining player. Kyle was leaving a Houston offense with all of the pieces in place for 2010 and went to a situation where the last meaningful impact piece the Redskins had added came during the 2005 season. The amount of time the Redskins organization went without adding an offensive player in a defined immediate impact role was staggering. And to his credit, Kyle Shanahan helped snap that streak as the Redskins found positive offensive contributors in 2010 for the first time in five years.
So while it wasn't all bad, the reasoning for the Redskins major moves with their offensive leadership has been specious ever since Dan Snyder made the decision (alledgedly) to hire Mike Shanahan in September in 2009. Snyder making a questionable hiring or firing is nothing new, but Mike Shanahan comes in, hires his son as offensive coordinator, trades for an aging quarterback, trades for an aging right tackle, signs two non-contributors at running back, brings in Joey Galloway and Roydell Williams at the recommendation of Bruce Allen, and made a bunch of really questionable roster decisions that could have easily cost the Redskins either Brandon Banks or Terrence Austin or both, and none of that mentions the Haynesworth saga (because really, this is a post about the offense).
The point of bringing that up is not to nitpick everything that went wrong over the last two years, its to suggest that any offensive expectations which, by the way the Shanahan's both contributed to the belief that they had it right, at last
, were completely unreasonable, above and beyond what could have reasonably been accomplished. If you throw out the expectations, there were both positives and negatives that came out of the 2010 season. But in re-adjusting those expectations for 2010 in an offensive that is unlikely to feature McNabb, and definately won't feature longtime Redskins RB Clinton Portis, the expectations have to reflect gains made in 2010 at face value. And on its face, the situation isn't really any better than it was in the years leading up to Mike Shanahan being hired.
I say this because if we examine the three year historical totals of the Washington Redskins offense and of Kyle Shanahan's work with both the Texans and the Redskins, there's not much of a record to look back on in terms of improvement being made over the years. Kyle Shanahan's record with the Texans and his role in constructing their offense is a major selling point to defend his hire with the Redskins. But here's what the Texans actually accomplished in the last three seasons vs. what the Redskins accomplished.2008
The Texans averaged significantly more points per game, though the Redskins probably had the better offense. The Texans defense necessitated a lot of playing from behind, resulting in more plays per game and more points per game. The Redskins played from ahead or from within a score pretty much the whole season. So they didn't have incentive to score as frequently as the Texans to win games. Both teams went 8-8.
- Redskins Offensive DVOA: 13.1%
- Texans Offensive DVOA: 11.0%
The Texans finished the year a far better offense than the Redskins, rattling off 4 straight at the end of the year behind a hot playcaller and healthy, effective quarterback. Perhaps, though, if the offense had been better earlier, before Schaub got hurt, the playoffs were well within reach. 11 wins was required for the wild card, so they would have had to win at least three more games to make the postseason in Kyle's first year as an offensive coordinator. That was a tough field, and they finished up well, so aside from some early season offensive struggles and losing the team's staring QB for three games, the Texans offense proved to be more good than bad in 2008.
So did the Redskins offense, but because of the low PPG totals and end of season failures, no one remembers that.2009
The Redskins offense proved to be no good at all in 2009, but that's not directly fair because there were three or four different offenses this season. There was the all yards, no points, too many turnovers offense from the first four games, followed by the inept guessing game that Jim Zorn played for two games trying to mix up his personnel where the Redskins were a legitimately horrible offensive team because they were trying to solve problems that didn't exist (so D'Anthony Batiste and Todd Collins featured prominantly). Bringing in Sherm Lewis solved the problem of Jim Zorn being a megalomanic, and the Redskins offense was very good for seven consecutive weeks. But by the final three weeks of the season, they were terrible again because they had simply run out of horses to compete in the NFC East. Those weeks featured lots of Stephon Heyer, William Robinson, Todd Yoder, Marcus Mason, Quinton Ganther, etc.
Meanwhile, the Texans upped their PPG in 2009 while the Redskins' managed to hold steady despite trailing for much of the season and all the offensive injuries.
- Redskins Offensive DVOA: -4.7%
- Texans Offensive DVOA: 13.2%
There is no question that while the Redskins passing game varied in 2009 between highly effective and completely incompetent, the biggest difference between 2008 and 2009 from a stats perspective was that the Redskins went from one of the best running teams in football in 2008 to one of the worst in 2009. Funny that happened, because the same exact thing happened to the Texans, and you could actually say that when you consider the season that Matt Schaub had: 16 starts for the first time, 4,770 yards, etc, that the Texans inability to run the ball under Shanahan directly cost the Texans the playoffs. Unlike the promising 2008 season, the Texans had fortunes finally go in their favor in 2009, but the offense didn't take the next step.
The incredible decline in the running game from 2008 to 2009 is a bigger problem when you consider that the Texans had such an exceptional rebound in the running game that they had a player who won the rushing title in 2010.2010
So the Redskins hire Kyle Shanahan to run the teams offense this past season.
- Redskins Offensive DVOA: -7.5%
- Texans Offensive DVOA: 26.1%
Ooof. The Redskins offense didn't have a problem with month-to-month consistency in 2010: they were just pretty bad all the time. But the Texans went from one of the worst rushing teams in 2009 under Shanahan to arguably the very best in 2010. And it didn't hurt Matt Schaub's production at all: he remained one of the league's most productive passers for the second straight year, actually taking a small step forward under new offensive coordinator Rick Dennison.
The Texans were a very good offense under Kyle Shanahan, and you can't take that away from him. But now they are a complete offense. They have the top tier running game, and the top tier passing game. They've gotten the most out of their roster on that side of the ball. They haven't had to do it all on high draft picks. It was costly to acquire the top receiver and the quarterback, but the best offensive line in the NFL has on it a first round LT (Duane Brown), a pair of third rounders (Eric Winston, Antoine Caldwell), and a fourth round TE. But Arian Foster, Joel Dresseen, Wade Smith, Chris Myers, Mike Brisiel, and Vonta Leach all played really significant roles on the 2010 Texans.
Shanahan seemed to realize early on this year that there wasn't a whole lot that could give the Redskins a top rushing attack, and seemed to favor the passing game all year. Statistically, it was the correct decision. Realistically, it also defeated the Redskins chances of meeting their offensive expectations. Because the Redskins rarely ran the ball to attack defenses, the passing game didn't benefit from the runs they did use. Run action was still pretty effective because the Redskins could sell the defense on the run action itself, but the positioning of the safeties by the defense was unaffected by the rushing attack. A lot of Kyle Shanahan's playbook is based around making the linebackers guess wrong and neutralizing their effectiveness, but the Redskins didn't always find the weak spots of the opponents secondary.
In part, this was because the blocking was still subpar, and McNabb didn't always connect on those long ball opportunities, and Kyle Shanahan was absolutely convinced that he could win games by giving Joey Galloway and Mike Sellers more touches while not letting Keiland Williams or Fred Davis touch a football. The Redskins finally found a pass protection unit that worked, but it involved using tight ends and backs heavily in the protection scheme. Every solution limited the ultimate upside of the offense, because playing the teams best players never seemed to be a good option.
For the Texans this kind of adversity was foreign in 2010. They had plenty of that thanks to their defense proving unable to stop anyone. The Redskins defense won most of the 6 games the Redskins did. The offense chipped in minimally in every game this season. If the expectations had been realistic, there would have been positives to take from that. But even given some of the postives, the offense still declined in productivity from 2009 and made no group or unit improvement in 2010 (save only, perhaps charitably, the receivers). Finding point producers such as Brandon Banks, Keiland Williams, Anthony Armstrong, Logan Paulsen, and even DeAngelo Hall would have qualified as a big win had the players who had been acquired to produce actually done so.
The Texans proved that their offense was more dynamic and complete moving away from Kyle Shanahan as a playcaller. The Redskins offense got less dynamic and had less upside in 2010 than in either of the prior two seasons. Now, Kyle Shanahan gets a pass for the percentage of this fact that would have been inevitable based simply on the age of the players required. Not a lot of the principal pieces of the 2010 Redskins came in with a lot of upside. But 2011 is a different story. And if the offense continues to appear to lack a short and long term future, I think the reality is that the perception of Kyle Shanahan, Houston Texans offensive coordinator, will change.
Particularly if the Texans get to the playoffs in 2011, and the Redskins do not.