Here at Shutdown Corner, we want to help. So once a week, we'll go in and examine a team coming off a bad week, bad month, maybe a bad decade (you're in luck, Cleveland), and see what fixes can be made to turn around the season. So step aside, we've got this. Next under the microscope: The Washington Redskins.
What's right: Well ... no one on the team has burst into flames. That's something, right? And when the game's out of reach, they actually can score touchdowns, so, you know, they're not allergic to the end zone or anything. And Robert Griffin III's knee hasn't yet collapsed into pudding. Other than that? Yeah, their losses to the Eagles and the Packers were uglier than a dolled-up Hogette from days of yore.
What's wrong, offensive division: Look, two games in and you've already got clowns screaming about replacing RG3 with Kirk Cousins. That's insane. Griffin is, in effect, still playing his preseason. And on one knee he's still more effective than half the two-kneed quarterbacks in the game. The problem is that he's not getting time to read defenses and change options on the fly. (See above photo.) The O-line has shown little flexibility and willingness to adapt to changing game circumstances — I know, that's NEVER happened with a Mike Shanahan-coached team before — and the end result has been an ineffective running game and a quarterback that spends more time on the turf than the groundskeeper.
What's wrong, defensive division: If the Redskins defense were a building, that building would be a tunnel. Or a runway. That metaphor doesn't exactly make sense, but neither does the Washington D, which has gone from strength and stability to worst in the league. No team has surrendered more yards in the first two games than Washington's 1,023, and only one team has given up more than Washington's 35.5 points per game. (Glimmer of good news: it's the division-rival Giants!) Granted, the Redskins were going against an offense (Philadelphia) in Week 1 that nobody in the NFL could comprehend, and against a quarterback (Aaron Rodgers) in Week 2 that couldn't be brought down with a cattle prod. But the Redskins had difficulty in reacting quickly and changing plans midgame; the old Mike Tyson line about everybody having a plan until they get punched in the mouth comes to mind. Linebacker Brian Orakpo has the potential to get back to his game-altering self, and DeAngelo Hall can play well as long as he forgets that he's DeAngelo Hall, but the DC defense has plenty of work to do and little time to adjust.
About that name: Look, it's going to change. Maybe in five years, maybe in 10, maybe in 20. But Redskins fans, you have to accept the fact that sometime in the near future, you're going to be rooting for the Redtails or the Pigskins or the Gridlock or whatever focus-grouped name comes next. You can scream "tradition"; you can blame Obama or political correctness or the media you like just fine when we're dogging the Cowboys; you can trot out some Native American or "this guy at work, Rakesh, who's Indian but not that kind of Indian but still" who's not offended by the name; and none of it's going to change the fact that "Redskins" is at best a racially-tinged name, and at worst a flat-out racist one. No, this is not the America you grew up in. This is also not the Internet you grew up using. Things change. So why not make the most of it? Hoard Redskins gear, and sell it for a tidy profit on ebay once the change comes down.
The road ahead: The schedule is not Washington's friend. In addition to the NFC East gauntlet, the Redskins have the 49ers, Broncos and Falcons all in waiting, along with surprisingly surgent (we can't call them "resurgent") teams like Kansas City, Detroit and San Diego. Even Oakland, which most teams usually spell with a W, isn't a gimme this year. Hoping you catch every team on an off week is not a recipe for quality performance.
What we'd fix: The offensive line and the quarterback aren't just on different pages, they're in different books in different languages. The O-line is rigid in its approach, while Griffin is the very definition of improvisational possibility; it's like laying freestyle rap on top of an elementary-school chorus. The line needs to adjust to Griffin rather than forcing him into the reverse. Meanwhile, the defense needs to recognize shifting game patterns and adjust accordingly; what works in the first quarter might not work in the second. Basically, use Griffin's on-the-fly decisionmaking, not Shanahan's this-is-how-we-do-it-because-this-is-how-we've-always-done-it mandates as a template for the entire team's philosophy. Oh, and the fans need to shut up about benching RG3.
Can Washington turn this thing around? Of course, mainly because they're playing in the NFC East. Everybody in that division steps on their own tongues at least once a month, so 9-7 will absolutely be in the mix to win the whole thing. Griffin has the possibility to be an explosive quarterback, as he's shown by mounting sortabacks (that's when you sort-of come back in garbage time) in both games. Provided the D doesn't allow five touchdowns a game and the offensive line stops playing matador, Griffin can recapture the mojo that had him walking on the Potomac River in the eyes of the Redskins faithful. A playoff berth isn't unreasonable, but this team needs dramatic improvement on both sides of the ball immediately, and there's no margin for error.