1) As the night wore on, and the loss sunk in, what became more and more distressing to me was the thought of how much our defense was able to accomplish against Denver...in a loss. As much as I have been ready to lay the blame for a lot of what has transpired at the feet of Jim Haslett, the truth is that his unit played well enough yesterday to stake most teams to a solid chance of winning. To think we could make as many stops as we did, create as many turnovers as we did, and put the ball in the end zone on defense, yet still lose is a bitter pill to swallow. We might not be in "evaluation mode" at this point in the season, but there aren't many people out there who are uncertain as to whether or not this team is currently a contender.
2) It is true that my phone is not ringing off the hook with offers to become an offensive coordinator in the league. (Shocking, I know.) Despite my shortcomings in this department, I could not have been the only one that questioned--out loud--the play-calling decisions in the second half. Aren't we racking our brains just a little today? (According to multiple sources, both "rack" and "wrack" are acceptable there.) It's not like we weren't able to run the ball. Alfred Morris was getting yards in chunks. We were getting first downs. Peyton Manning was sticking to the sideline, but in crucial situations late in the game when it seemed like a sustained drive would be enough to keep us in the driver's seat, Kyle Shanahan seemed to go away from the run. It is pretty easy to second-guess from my recliner (I think that is what I like about it the most--how easy it is) but we have exhibited more patience with our running game in worse situations this season. Not since George Costanza trampled elderly women and small children on his way out of a burning building has someone so blatantly and objectionably abandoned ship. Whatever he thought was there clearly was not.
3) Can we all agree on how much responsibility our offensive line bears for the...unevenness...of our passing game yesterday? I had this debate with the guys I was watching the game with and it seems like I was the one ready to dole out the harshest criticism of the guys up front. The truth is that our offensive line can--and HAS BEEN--much worse than it is now. Perhaps I give Robert Griffin too much credit. I don't think he is a one-look quarterback, meaning I don't think he locks in on one receiver. I think he is both smart enough and savvy enough to move his eyes around and survey what he has in front of him. Yesterday, however, Griffin did not seem to progress to open receivers. There were guys that we could see on TV that were wide open. In fact, on some plays--like the one where Josh Morgan crossed behind the line and then ran wide open around the right side--you could argue that he didn't find the guy the play may have been designed for in the first place. He held onto the ball for a second too long with Darrel Young available in the flat. On top of all of that, he took risks with the ball that are better associated with guys like Ryan Leaf. There are likely multiple reasons for all of this, but chief among them in my opinion is that our offensive line is in our own quarterback's head. On an unrelated blocking note, I got a big kick out of seeing us run behind Aldrick Robinson on the outside a couple times.
4) We have a decent amount of money to spend this upcoming offseason. I firmly believe some of it should be used on locking up in-house talent, but we really need to target and acquire two free agent offensive linemen, and then draft one in either the second or third round. You can't convince me there won't be two upgrades available in free agency, and Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan have proven an ability to find starting caliber players in the second and third rounds (wow...Vinny really set a low bar). Griffin could be doing a bit more to help himself, but until we invest meaningfully in our offensive line, he may not be able to take the next step in his evolution as a pocket passer. I watched the Green Bay game last night and saw an offensive line that features some undrafted no-namers that are getting it done. Our situation is a little bit different. I think we need to significantly upgrade the talent level on our offensive line so that Griffin has a chance to grow. He is not currently able to manage his situation the way Aaron Rodgers does, and likely won't get there behind this line. It is only fair to mention that the salary cap penalty and the lack of first rounders last year and this year has hurt our ability to invest in our line--especially since you would have to have given them passing marks in 2012. Bottom line: I don't think there is a single position group that we could upgrade that would make a bigger impact in the Win/Loss column than the offensive line. And yes, I have seen our secondary.
5) The question I get more than just about any other these days (aside from Kevin asking me "Where do babies come from?") is: "How long until the Redskins are a legitimate contender?" In addition to signalling a general belief out there that we are not currently a "legit" contender, there also seems to be a great deal of curiosity about how many YEARS it is going to take...still. If I don my rosiest pair of glasses and gaze into the future, I can see how two or three new offensive linemen could combine with the growth of our young secondary to put us in that legitimate category as soon as 2014. Assuming guys like Griffin, Morris, Garcon and Reed remain healthy, it is not crazy to think our offense could be a top 5 unit, and that our defense could do at least enough to make their efforts stand up. That said, it is a rather sizable gap between where we are and where the truly elite teams in this league are right now. You can always make the argument, "If everything breaks our way, we'll be much, much better." Unfortunately, we can't--and shouldn't--count on that. There are enough young, talented players on this roster to form the core of a very good team that can be very good for a long time, but the truth is that it could be another two years before you could credibly compare us to elite franchises. I think that even assumes that a lot of things break our way. One thing you can't assume is that the NFC East will be this terrible every year. The failure to defend our divisional title when the best team in the NFC East right now is .500 is a real sac tap. We're better than we were just a few short years ago, but nobody is confusing us with teams like Seattle, San Francisco or New Orleans (to name just a few NFC squads). Stay tuned--this debate is going to start to bubble, but my hope is that we can have a constructive conversation. It stinks to dig this kind of hole--again. It stinks to have zero margin for error--again. It is fair to suggest we are better than our record indicates, but our record indicates we are terrible, so there is really no consolation there.
6) This brings us all the way back to the beginning. On a night when we made the kinds of plays that should secure victory, we navigated away from that and instead locked up another loss. The Washington Redskins have not been great for a long time. This feeling on Monday that we all must have today has become all too common over the years. Mediocrity is the warm blanket that this fanbase has grown accustomed to clutching tightly during the fall and winter months around here. Nobody is suggesting that we are done, or that we are waving a white hanky, but the air around our favorite team is once again infused with that familiar taste of hopelessness. I can say I live for every second of Redskins football I am given. Win or lose, these are my guys and I know many of you feel the same way. In fact, there is a certain sense of camaraderie amongst diehard Redskins fans that probably wouldn't even exist if we all hadn't gone through these years together. I do believe that for us, the taste of victory will be sweetest because of it. Until then, we'll just have to continue our Andy Dufresne-esque face-down crawl through the excrement-filled sewer pipes that we can only pray leads us to the promised land.