Braves on the Warpath,
Although I can thankfully say I've never been addicted to narcotics in my life, if I were trying to make an analogy to following the Redskins, it would have to be like a junky's deep addiction to drugs. Case and point: this week. After breaking off from the Skins cold turkey Saturday night (except for reading's Jason's blog and watching Coach Joe's post-game presser), I figured I needed an extended break (healthy, right?). Don't think about the loss, don't talk about the loss, and maybe send the Betty Ford Clinic Volume 2, Issue 21 of Skins Serv - could that be qualified as ODing?
I would give myself a week to recuperate - no football, no burgundy and gold, just some HBO and American Gladiators (which is amazing, btw). Well, like the good ole' addict I am, I decided to put on Monday's Coach Joe Presser while counting down the final minutes of work - something that has become a weekly tradition for me this season. After about five minutes of watching Coach Joe deflect talk about his future and give more muddled answers than a White House press conference, I knew another chapter was closing. Coach Joe was done. And just like that, in classic Redskins style, the off-season break was over. Time to go full throttle with the B & G...again.
I had given myself a week (maybe two) to not research draft boards, prospective free agents, and potential road trips for next year, and instead I got a whole 41 hours of off-season. Unfortunately for many of us, this wasn't the typical start to a Skins Summer of big free-agent splashes and restructured contracts, but instead was another sad goodbye to this franchise's patriarch. So now with the future so uncertain, us poor Redskins fans are left to not only pick up the pieces from 2007, but also left to agonize over what will come in 2008. Redskins Nation has been left an orphan in a mean NFL world.
I hope a good ending will come from all this.
1) Limited Analysis - Before I discuss the game, let me say that my knowledge about it is very limited. I didn't read anything about the game or watch any highlights or game film. I just couldn't bare it.
2) So Close (This Paragraph is painful) - When Anthony Mix (who we have on lockdown for another 2 years) recovered that fumble, I thought it was over. The change of possession rule is perplexing and ended up being the start of our demise. The biggest play might have been Chris Cooley's dropped ball on the sideline near the 3 yard line on first and ten of the ensuing drive. If Cooley hauls it in, the Skins probably score and game over. Instead the Skins go 3 and out, Suisham does what spineless, vulnerable kickers do, and the rest is painful history. I'd venture to say that even if he makes that FG the Skins probably win - the air only came out of the tires because the ball sailed left. There was no recovering after that.
3) Todd - Collins was fantastic in December and nearly pulled off a monumental comeback - we owe him the world. Unfortunately for us, it wasn't meant to be and unfortunately for him, he was exposed a bit as well. Collins, who thrives on timing routes, got burned by corners who were getting more accustomed to his timing and jumping those routes. Collins tendency to throw to spots killed him on the deep Moss INT - the final backbreaker of the game. Collins lack of arm strength was also exposed for the first time. On many critical third and fourth down situations the Skins went for the sideline out play and Collins was just not strong enough to get the ball to his receivers on those patterns, enabling the Seattle corners to break up those plays.
I think the Skins need to re-sign Collins (as long as Saunders stays) - his ability to step in was remarkable this year and he gives the Skins a great edge in terms of having a serviceable number two. That being said, Jason Campbell just has too many physical qualities to let him sit on the bench any more. The Skins need to continue growing with Campbell, need to develop his offensive mind, and, most importantly, need to develop his confidence. That can only come if he's in the game.
4) Why the Loss was Healthy - You know that whole Super Bowl hangover theory? I surmise that a lot of that stuff happens because teams who don't belong in the big game end up getting there, and then don't try to revamp their mediocre team in the off-season. Teams go on magical runs and are fooled into thinking their roster is set for the future. Thankfully the Skins were exposed against Seattle and will now fill some critical holes for next year. I'm not saying the Skins need an entire overhaul (they don't) but Saturday made it obvious that they need more depth at certain positions. Hopefully whatever regime takes over in Ashburn will analyze that film, understand what needs to be bolstered and then go about making those changes in the most mature way possible (mature being a word for using the draft and not overpaying for less talent). Which leads me too...
Second: What the Skins Need
1) O-Line Depth - The Skins patchwork o-line, which was stout for their 4-game run, fell to pieces against a faster, more athletic Seahawks defense. I know the o-line didn't get help with the crazy crowd noise, but that still shouldn't be an excuse for their lack of protection of Collins and their inability to open up any holes for Portis. Jason Fabini is not a starter in the NFL. He's mediocre in passing situations and even worse opening holes for the run. Stephon Heyer is coming along nicely, but I don't think he'll be ready to start next year. His footwork is still clumsy and has trouble with speed rushers. Lorenzo Alexander, who will probably end up playing full-time guard next year, will also boost the line - but he is also not ready to be a starter.
The Skins are hopeful Jansen and Thomas will be 100% in September but with their history, you never know. The Skins need to spend a first day pick on both a guard and a tackle to develop next year. If they do that than they'll have Alexander and Heyer, along with two high draft picks, to develop on the bench while Thomas, Jansen and Kendall give whatever they have left.
2) Defensive End - The Skins 4-man pass rush, which also was effective against some poor offensive lines earlier this year, did not get it done on Saturday. Matt Hasslebeck had way too much time to pick apart the Skins coverage-heavy defense as the front four couldn't get a hand on him. I believe Golston and Montgomery are a solid foundation in the middle and they'll only get better with time, and if the Skins can get some run out of Griffin next year than the middle is taken care of.
The outside is where the problem lies. Andre Carter had a great season but cannot be effective if he gets double teamed or chipped by tight ends. Because Philip Daniels doesn't inspire fear as a pass rusher, teams were able to load up on Carter's side - which left the Skins getting no pressure from either ends. The Skins must upgrade Daniels in the off-season and they must do so by not dropping dough on an aging, over-priced DE. Instead they should do it with their first round draft pick. According to what I've read about the draft, there should be a quality DE available midway through the first round and the Skins should pounce on whoever it is. A young speed rusher will not only generate pressure from the weak side but will also take away the double teams from Carter - making him that much more effective.
Don't ask me what to do if the Skins end up playing a 3-4 next year (I pray they won't).
3) Safety - As I feared would be the case, the Skins secondary showed how thin it was on Saturday. Leigh Torrence is developing nicely and might be a good fit for 4th CB or even Nickel corner (if Carlos isn't ready in time). If Shawn Spring doesn't return, the Skins might have to waste some salary cap money on a replacement. But for now, they must focus on bringing in another safety.
Pierson Prielou is old and ineffective. DJ Hackett ran by him easily for the go ahead score on Saturday - Prielou should never have been in a man-to-man situation like that. Hopefully the Skins can draft a safety, but more likely will sign someone to play along with Landry. I think Doughty's solid against the run but is too slow to play in coverage. Ideally, the Skins bring in a solid #2 safety and have Doughty off the bench.
4) WR - The Skins are one receiver away from the perfect corps. They have the deep threat in Moss, they have the possession receiver in Caldwell, they have the gimmick/slot receiver in ARE. All they need now is a tall red zone and over-the-middle receiving threat. Ideally the Skins work some magic and bring in Larry Fitzgerald, but they more likely will have to settle for someone less talented. Regardless, the Skins must bring in a tall target for Campbell - someone who can run the fade inside the five and someone who will be able can take the pressure off Moss, who, I believe, is more suited to be a number 1a or number 2 receiver.
Like many of you, I was pretty broken up about Gibbs leaving. I know many felt he was washed up and couldn't handle the young man's game, but I have pretty much been a big Gibbs guy throughout and am very sorry to see him go. Let's face the simple fact: in 11 years that Gibbs wasn't the coach, the Skins made the playoffs once. In last the four years he was coach, they made the playoffs twice.
Gibbs provided the organization exactly what it needed: stability. Until Gibbs took over, the Redskins were the laughing stock of the league. They couldn't hang onto a coach, they couldn't build a core group of players, they couldn't build any momentum from year to year. In four years here, Gibbs brought a sense of calmness back to the organization - Snyder was invisible, they began developing young talent and mixed in respectable, affordable veterans. Of course, mistakes were made and Gibbs' aged showed in some situation, but if you put up this stretch of seasons against most others throughout recent Skins history, it was definitely a success.
On a personal level, I found Gibbs almost saint-like. Before he came back I considered him a phantom legend, as I barely remember his glory years. To those who do remember the 80's well, he is considered godly. Gibbs is the face and personality of this organization and when he came back it was if the messiah was resurrected to save the Skins.
It is just sad that, fifteen years after his first retirement, Redskins fans are again left with an awful feeling of emptiness. Are the Skins going to be OK? Will we ever be in the playoffs again? When Joe was here, you kind of knew everything would be fine and now that he's gone nobody really knows for sure.
Fourth: The Replacement
Stability is the buzzword, people. The fans want it. Coach Joe wants it. The players want it. The only one who isn't so down with the idea is the big Danny. Despite being somewhat aloof to the fans eyes for so long, Snyder, at least by the looks of it, hasn't really learned much since Gibbs came back.
Just like after the 1999 playoff run, when the Danny ran Brad Johnson out of town and brought in a ton of overpriced vets, and just like after the 2001 season, when the Skins made great progress going 8-8 under Marty, the Danny ran him out in favor of Spurrier, it looks like in 2008 he's gonna run Williams out of town and blow the whole thing up again.
To me, it's a simple equation. Make Williams the coach, keep Saunders, and don't touch the rest of the coaching staff (maybe Buges and Beraux follow Gibbs out). The players love Williams, the offense seems to be growing in Saunders system, and the coaches know and want to keep the core group of players.
Here's where the problem lies. The Danny wants to run the show. Even though Gibbs made the final call on everything as President of Football operations, he made Danny an integral figure in the process. Danny was in on every call. Now, with Gibbs gone, Snyder wants that same level of power, if not more. He doesn't want a GM, but instead wants a coach who will confide in him, or, more likely, be a puppet figure to the final personnel calls Danny and his henchmen make.
Gregg Williams doesn't fit that mold - not one bit. He's a stubborn guy. He knows the type of players he wants and he will not cower to the pressure Snyder will obviously try to impose on him. Snyder knows this. Williams knows this. The marriage ain't happening.
So what is going to happen? Either Snyder can suck it up and realize it is in the team's better interest for him to hand the reigns to Williams, or he can bring in a weak-sister coach, someone who'll get the title of Team President, but won't really have any say in personnel decisions. In the latter case it will be Snyder, Vinny and Louis Riddick running the whole show. I get nauseous even thinking about it.
I don't think we're gonna see Bill Cowher here either. Cowher worked under the most likeable owner in the Steelers Dan Rooney, who many say is the polar opposite of Dan Snyder. Cowher understands that Snyder's meddling will make his job impossible, and Cowher is also close to Marty - the guy Snyder fired because Marty wanted more control. Cowher and Snyder won't happen either.
And as I write this, the Skins are interviewing Jim Schwartz - a former Gregg Williams assistant. Makes perfect sense, right? Go behind Williams back, hire the guy who knows his scheme but won't be a threat to Snyder's decision-making power, and then, of course, say farewell to Williams in the same way he said farewell to all the coaches pre-Gibbs. Schwartz fits the puppet mold perfectly. Remember Barry Switzer and Chan Gailey in Dallas? Same deal. If Snyder refuses to give over the team over to someone else, its gonna hurt them real bad.
Pray Snyder has a change of heart. Pray Gregg Williams turns down the title of President of Football operations and Snyder is forced to make someone from the outside a GM. Pray this team stays together next year.
What is more likely to happen? Williams walks, Saunders walks, the entire staff walks. The Skins have to learn a new offense and have to welcome in a bunch of new, overpriced talent because the good ole Danny is up to his old tricks. Oh yeah, we'll also probably have to say goodbye to many of the core players who comprised the Gibbs II roster. Could be goodbye to CP.
I'm sorry to be so down on the state of this franchise but unless we're delivered some miracle, it ain't looking too good.
I don't want to end the last Skins Serv on such a downer, because it has been a heck of a season. As has become tradition here, I want to express my sincere gratitude to Coach Joe, his staff and all the Skins players. Somehow they were able to take one of the darkest moments in this franchise's history and turn it into one of its brightest. I will have so many fond memories of this playoff run - one that might go down as greater than any other Skins run before it or after it. It truly has been special.
You won't be hearing from me until a new coach is signed on board. Until then...
HTTR and R.I.P #21
PS - if you liked Skins Serv this year, please donate money to the St. Baldricks foundation in its honor. St. Baldricks raises money for pediatric cancer research. Last year, St. Baldricks raised over $13 Million dollars for this great cause.https://www.stbaldricks.org/get_involved/donate.html?ParticipantKey=2008|21647