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The Folsom Point: Beginning of the End

<strong>Hey guise, the playoffs are the other way</strong>
Hey guise, the playoffs are the other way

I will be sure to disclaim that anything could happen, and other teams could fail out and help the Redskins, or there could be another miracle run to end the season.  Disclaimer up front, no fine print here.

Really though, the Vikings game was it.  The end of the productive season.  Playoff hopes all but extinguished, starting positions still in flux, injuries and poor planning along the roster and new systems on both sides of the ball.  Everything has come together in a conspiracy to keep the Redskins out of the playoffs, we will be at best an also ran, the guys over on the right side of the Sunday graphics in the Still Alive column for another couple of weeks until mathematically we are eliminated.

At worst, Redskins finish the season on a disappointing loss heavy run while all the people that talk and write about football, professionally and otherwise, start the process of offseason scrutiny a few weeks early.

How do I know?  My gut.  As a Redskins fan.

We have seen this before, 1996, the Redskins open 7-1 before forgetting how to run the ball, finish 2-6, our moral victory was beating the Cowboys in the final game at RFK, Dallas sat most of their starters as they headed into the playoffs.  1997, the Redskins are 6-4 heading into week 12, Gus Frerotte headbutts Giants the brand new Redskins Stadium (hat tip to Kevin E for the correction. -Ben) and the team fades behind an ancient Jeff Hostetler.  2000, new owner Dan Snyder fires head coach Norv Turner with the team at 7-6 and still in the playoff hunt, interim coach what's his name goes 1-2 and out.  2008, the team starts (a surprising) 6-2 with new coach Jim Zorn before fading in a blaze of incompetence and 8-8.

And I have already heard the one about 2005 and 2007, hopeful journalists trying to retain readers as fan enthusiasm wanes telling stories about miracle runs, it is only Tuesday and I have already read about the parallels to those seasons and how the team gutted out wins under adversity.  Optimistic players, Santana Moss and London Fletcher, staying positive even as you can see the headshakes and the shoulder shrugs in the written quotes.  The flagship newspaper, printing on the front page of the Sports section each remaining opponent and the weakness the Redskins need to exploit in order to win.

These guys are done, they do not have a quick path to getting better, that story will have to resume next season, if there is a next season.  I am no hater, and I will continue to watch, root, write and comment, I just do not see playoffs in the future.

Remember though that only the most optimistic voices were predicting a big year for the Redskins, of course we wanted everyone to be wrong, and maybe everyone that predicted 8-8 or worse for the Redskins will be right, and maybe they will be right for the wrong reasons.  A .500 season would represent a one hundred percent improvement over 2009, it is just that it sucks to go through that, even if it is an improvement, winning just makes you want to win more, even if it is just to shut those fucking Cowboys fans the hell up.

So let us start a dialogue about what went wrong in 2010, I will start:

New systems:  Installing a 3-4 defense is arguably the biggest challenge the Redskins faced all season.  It benefited LaRon Landry and DeAngelo Hall at the expense of losing Andre Carter and Albert Haynesworth.  Mike Shanahan and Jim Haslett took an elite NFL defense and turned it into the worst in the league.  In hindsight a good plan would have been to leave the defense alone and focus on the offense.

While the offense is also new, I do not attribute the bulk of the Redskins woes to the new system itself, but rather...

Hits, misses and blind spots in personnel:  Donovan McNabb is inarguably the big hit, even for me, the last Jason Campbell guy left in town.  Donovan's struggles are legitimate to be sure, he is having a bad year statistically, still we will not regret the team bringing him to town.  Anthony Armstrong has also been a hit out of nowhere, it will be interesting to see if the team sticks with Anthony as Santana Moss becomes a free agent and maybe leaves, or if management succumbs to the temptation to draft a college hotshot and shelve Anthony.  And for sure no argument on Trent Williams' upside, the team finally used a high first round pick wisely, to address the team's most dire need.

The team missed on personnel restock, Jammal Brown is not recovered from his hip and is no better at right tackle than Stephon Heyer, a guy we all know too much about.  Looks like there was a reason Artis Hicks lost his starting job with the Eagles, then later the Vikings.  Kory Lichtensteiger may be better than Derrick Dockery at five thousand feet, down here at sea level it looks like a wash.  Joey Galloway was not only not a factor, he was a detriment.

In building the roster the team did not check blind spots.  I go back to the release of Ladell Betts, but even if you think Ladell and his fumbling problems would not have helped the team in the backfield then you will agree the tailback position has been completely botched this season.  Clinton Portis' injury was not inevitable but was forseeable, he is an old 29 with city miles.  Mike Shanahan's project Ryan Torain, the guy that missed his entire second year in the NFL due to injuries his rookie year, has now missed three straight games and does not look like he is ready to go this week.  Keiland Williams is a big strong guy but he looks more like a fullback and I think my eight year old sons could catch him from behind in the open field:  Mike Shanahan, the guru of the running game, forced to put his money where his mouth is and see if tailbacks really are fungible and it turns out, at least with this offensive line, that they are not.

Not enough free safeties, Kareem Moore is better back there this year than LaRon was last year, the team still somehow managed to come out of training camp with three strong safeties and one free safety.  No legitimate backup to Kareem and Chris Horton, who is on injured reserve for the second year in a row, and Reed Doughty are on the bottom end of quote serviceable unquote.

Coaching intransigence:  We all, or at least I did, thought Mike Shanahan was in the right to be tough with Albert Haynesworth in the beginning, then it turned into a circus and it wound up costing the team a potentially dominant player, now relegated to spot duty, the team caved in the worst possible way, which was to keep Albert and then play him only occasionally.  Love him or hate him, Albert is wasted on this team.

Messing with Donovan McNabb's footwork?  Really?  And benching him?  Sorry gang, like Donovan or not, even a Donovan McNabb at fifty percent of his potential is still cover for you to focus on the real problems in the team, like stabilizing the roster and developing young players with intensive coaching, by focusing on Donovan you just look like you are fussing over the lawn of a condemned house.

Ok so this was a little deeper than I planned to go, it should be obvious that this stuff is on my mind.  Please weigh in and tell me why I am right/wrong.


Ben Folsom thinks The Walking Dead is a metaphor and is the editor of The Curly R, a blog covering the Redskins and NFL since 2006.  The Folsom Point appears Tuesdays at Hogs Haven.