Coach Killers, Week 6: Redskins' problems extend beyond RG3
Coach Killers is your weekly look around the league at those performances, decisions and 'Wait, what did he just do?!' moments that put the guy in charge squarely on the ol' hot seat.
Coach Killers is your weekly look around the league at those performances, decisions and "Wait, what did he just do?!" moments that put the guy in charge squarely on the ol' hot seat. Questions, comments, casserole ideas? Hit us up on Twitter at @ryanwilson_07.
Robert Griffin III, QB - Redskins
This isn't so much about Robert Griffin III as the series of events that find the Redskins in their current predicament. A quick history lesson: In March 2012, the Redskins traded their 2012 first- and second-round picks, as well as first-rounders in 2013 and 2014, to the Rams to move up six spots in the draft to take Griffin.
It was a bold decision, that came with plenty of risks -- both in the short and long term -- but one that looked brilliant as RG3 put the team on his shoulders after a 3-6 start and led them to the division title and a playoff appearance.
But a serious knee injury in the January wild-card loss against the Seahawks meant that Griffin would spend the offseason rehabbing. The offseason turned into training camp and then preseason, and it wasn't until Week 1 of the regular season that Griffin finally saw the field. And as you might expect, he looked rusty, slow and unsure of himself.
This isn't all on him; we wrote following the Week 1 beatdown at the hands of the Eagles that the "BENCH RG3, BRING IN KIRK COUSINS NOW!" overreactions were just that. The only way Griffin was going to get better was to play.
We still feel that way. Unfortunately, this team's issues extend well beyond the play of the quarterback. The defense is among the league's worst, just as incompetent against the run as the pass, and the special teams actually has people saying, "You know, Danny Smith wasn't that bad."
For as good as left tackle Trent Williams has been, right guard Chris Chester has been just as bad, and replacing him in the offseason should be a priority. On defense, Brian Orakpko and Ryan Kerrigan are the two bright spots on an otherwise dismal unit. Yes, there's the usual mix of old players on the way out and young players finding their footing, and it's reasonable to think London Fletcher won't be back and rookie David Amerson will be much better in Year 2.
But here's the thing: The Redskins gave up a lot for the chance to take RG3. And that came at the expense of addressing other needs, not just with the 2012 first-round pick (quarterback was the need there), but with the 2012 second-rounder, and the two additional first-rounders in 2013 and 2014.
"We understand it was a heavy price but when you bought your home you probably wanted to pay a little less too," Washington general manager Bruce Allen said at the time of the trade. "But you like your home once you live in it."
The analogy doesn't quite work.
And now that the RG3 honeymoon has disappeared in the rear view, it's worth revisiting a statistical analysis of the trade by Kevin Meers of the Harvard College Sports Analysis Collective. In March 2012, weeks before Washington drafted Griffin, Meers found that "for the Redskins to get the equivalent value from RG3 as they spent acquiring him, he must produce at least as much as Tom Brady."
Meers' conclusion: "Regardless of the rationale behind this move, the Redskins lost a tremendous amount of value in this trade, potentially setting the team back for years. If RG3 does not pan out -- whether because of talent or injury -- Washington would be left with no quarterback and no first round draft picks for the next two years. ...
"If RGIII merely lives up to his (Career Approximate Value Over Average as measured by Pro-Football-Focus.com), he’ll finish his career having slightly outperformed David Garrard. Because all-time-great quarterbacks are rare commodities, the Redskins likely lost value both on paper and in reality."
It's not quite that dire, at least not yet. The Redskins still have a quarterback, and a pretty damn good one when he's healthy. But now the problem is that there are holes elsewhere on the roster that can't be easily addressed because those high-round draft picks belong to the Rams.
It doesn't help that Russell Wilson, taken 73 picks after RG3, is flourishing in Seattle. Or as we wrote at the time of the Harvard study, "This makes us wonder if, three or four years from now, we'll look back and wonder why Washington just didn't sit tight and take Ryan Tannehill (drafted No. 8 overall). Then again, maybe in four years' time, other teams -- like the Browns -- will lament their inability to move up and get RG3 when they had the chance."
As RG3 progressed through his rookie season, it was easy to overlook another looming issue: Coach Mike Shanahan was firmly on the hot seat heading into the 2012 season. He was hired in 2010 and Washington won six games with Donovan McNabb and Rex Grossman (don't forget, it was Shanahan's son, Kyle, the 'Skins' offensive coordinator, who wanted Grossman in Washington). The team managed just fives wins in 2011 with Grossman and John Beck.
Then RG3 happened, everyone conveniently forgot about Shanahan's struggles, and all was right in the world … right up till the moment Griffin blew out his knee.
Put another way: If you take out the Redskins' seven-game winning streak to end the 2012 season (which, incidentally, took place after Shanahan gave up on the season following that 3-6 start), his record in Washington is 15-31. Even Matt Millen thinks that's embarrassing.
The takeaway: This isn't about Griffin, per se. He's a young quarterback, recovering from a serious injury, and still growing as a player.
This is about the consequences of betting the farm that he'll magically mask all the team's other problems. And from the perspective of Week 6, the Redskins look like they're a lot closer to rebuilding than reloading -- except that they're already out of ammunition.
Of course, Shanahan can just announce that the season's over and sit back while the team goes on another late-season run. Alternatively, they could just trade RG3 (this is a joke). Short of that, there aren't any quick fixes for this mess.
Texans owner, front office, coaches, players, fans
This makes the third time in three weeks that Matt Schaub has made his way into this space and for good reason: He's been awful. But the Texans have institutional issues that extend beyond one player.
This isn't about a few sociopaths cheering for injuries, but an organization that was supposedly in its prime suddenly looking like the window on a championship run had slam shut before it ever really opened. The worst part is that while the national media (us included) blindly penciled in the Texans as a playoff team, locals -- both fans and media -- knew the perception didn't match reality.
Let's start with Schaub, the face of the franchise who's not a franchise quarterback. While he seems perfectly equipped to run Gary Kubiak's west coast scheme, things break down when Schaub is forced to go off-script. He also seems to get consumed in big moments.
The pick-six against the Seahawks is the one of the recent examples, but some of the blame has to fall to Kubiak and his predictable play-calling. Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman said before the Week 4 game that he and his teammates would be sitting on the bootleg play-action that has long been a staple of the Texans' offense. That's exactly what he did. And 58 yards later, he scored a touchdown.
And it's not just savvy veterans who are onto what Houston's offense is trying to do. Against the 49ers a week later, seldom-used cornerback Tramaine Brock intercepted Schaub's first pass of the night (and returned it for a touchdown, naturally) after sitting on a route that everybody in the stadium knew was coming.
But shrinking when the lights are brightest extends beyond Schaub to the entire team.
Going back to 2009, here's how the Texans have fared in nationally televised regular-season games:
- 2009, Week 11 loss to the Titans, 20-17
- 2010, Week 8 loss to the Colts, 30-17
- 2010, Week 13 loss to the Eagles, 34-24
- 2010, Week 14 loss to the Ravens, 34-28 (OT)*
- 2011, Week 16 loss to the Colts, 19-16
- 2012, Week 5 win over the Jets, 23-17
- 2012, Week 6 loss to the Packers, 42-24
- 2012, Week 11 win over the Bears, 13-6
- 2012, Week 14 loss to the Patriots, 42-14
- 2013, Week 1 win over the Chargers, 31-28
- 2013, Week 5 loss to the 49ers, 34-3
* The loss to Ravens in 2010 ended on -- you guessed it -- a Schaub pick-six.
That works out to a 3-8 record. The Texans still have two national games left on the schedule this season: A Sunday night matchup against the Colts in Week 9, and a Thursday night get-together with the Jaguars in Week 14.
While Arian Foster had his best game of the season last Sunday in the latest blowout loss, this time at the hands of the Rams, the Texans' offensive line continues to struggle. Left tackle Duane Brown isn't playing nearly as well as he did a season ago. And if left guard Wade Smith had been bad, right tackle Derek Newton has been dreadful. Special teams ranks 31st in the league, according to FootballOutsiders.com, and the defense has been no better than average.
All together, and you're looking at a 2-4 team, losers of four straight, that could easily be 0-6. And things are probably going to get worse before they get better, and not just in 2013. This offseason, the Texans will likely part ways with left guard Wade Smith, running back Ben Tate, defensive end Antonio Smith and safety Ed Reed. The other safety, Danieal Manning, could also be gone, and Houston will need to find a new right tackle.
Oh, and they also need a quarterback. And who knows, if owner Bob McNair really gets crazy, he could be in the market for a new coach and general manager, too.
There may be no easy fix, either, at least not in the next 10 weeks. The good news is that the 2014 draft class is stacked with quarterbacks, and NFLDraftScout.com has the Texans taking one in the first round (Rob Rang like Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, while Dan Brugler is partial to LSU's Zach Mettenberger).
We don't think there's a Texans fan on the planet who is averse to the team drafting a quarterback early. One monkey wrench in that plan: What if Kubiak survives, returns to coach in 2014 and decides to go with either T.J. Yates, or hometown favorite Case Keenum?
Or worse: Trades, say, a second-rounder for Kirk Cousins, the Redskins' backup who is familiar with Kubiak's offense because he plays for Mike Shanahan, the man who was Kubiak's boss when both were in Denver? Then we'll be in full-on rebuilding mode a season after a lot of people thought this team could represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.
In more sobering terms, Houston fans -- who experienced the playoffs in 1993 with the Oilers before they skipped town, and had to wait 18 years for the 2011 Texans to return to the postseason -- could be on the verge of another long playoff drought.
Bill Sheridan, defensive coordinator - Buccaneers
The bad news: Why in god's name do the Bucs have the NFL's best cornerback playing in a zone scheme?
The screen shot below is from Sunday's game against the Eagles. Revis is lined up against DeSean Jackson but gives Jackson a 7-yard cushion. Jackson runs a crossing route in the back of the end zone, Revis is in a trailing position and Jackson has an easy touchdown catch. As soon as the play ends, Revis looks back at safety Mark Barron as if to say, "Hey, where the hell were you?"
Barron was occupied by two underneath routes and either blew his responsibilities or didn't communicate his intentions to Revis before the snap.
This series of events bothered one Hall of Fame cornerback very much.
"My problem is with the Buccaneers and Darrelle Revis right now," NFL Network analyst Deion Sanders said Sunday night. "You get a guy to help you get over the top, and you have this guy -- who is a shutdown corner -- playing off zone … when you have a guy like this that you paid a king's ransom and he's looking for safety help from the inside? That's a problem."
Sanders isn't alone. CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco was just as baffled. (Please allow ourselves to tweet … ourselves):
In the list of weird things, this is near the bottom for the Bucs. MT @PriscoCBS: Why do Bucs get Revis for a haul & then play zone? Weird.— ryan wilson (@ryanwilson_07) October 14, 2013
Not to worry, though: Coach Greg Schiano has announced that the Bucs are going to be good.
Brandon Weeden, QB - Browns
Don't worry, Brandon has a perfectly logical explanation.
“It was a boneheaded play,” he said. “It all happened so fast. Trying to make a play. You want to be smart and don’t take a sack. I just have to fall on it. Take a sack and move on.”
Running back Willis McGahee, unknowingly speaking for the rest of the football-watching public, offered this: “I have no answer for it. You have to ask him what he was thinking.”
It'd only be right to post this on this great American holiday!! Happy 4th of July to everyone!! pic.twitter.com/aYsorQB2Iq— Brandon Weeden (@bweeden3) July 4, 2013
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