1. Something was missing yesterday as I made my way home after watching the Redskins lose to the Vikings. I was disappointed for sure, but I just wasn't as shocked as I expected to be--after all, didn't we all believe we were going to win that game? Going into Minnesota and playing a team that was struggling as much--if not more--than us sounded like a real good chance for the Redskins to help Robert Griffin III shake off the rust and get this train back on track. I wasn't disrespecting the Vikings at all. I knew they could beat us. More than that, I knew we could lose to them. In the end, two teams who are more evenly matched than we may care to admit battled it out until pretty much the last play.
2. The circus started early though, didn't it? The lead story all morning was the one about RG3 "alienating" himself from his teammates. Let's think about that for a second. Are some players in the NFL treated differently by organizations? Yep. Do top overall draft picks at the quarterback position find themselves in this category? Yep. Has Dan Snyder done anything to lead us to believe he would refrain from treating his celebrity quarterback differently than other players in the locker room? Nope. So let's not waste a lot of time and energy worrying about debunking this story. All the explanations offered by the team and players in the last 24 hours make perfect sense. It is completely plausible that this story is--at BEST--a stretch. Still, we have been hearing stuff like this for over a year now, so we might believe that there's a teeny bit of smoke there, and likely at least a little fire, but when you're 3-5 or 3-6, you have to expect there is going to be stuff like that going around. On one hand, winning is the cure-all for problems like these, so...not good news for the Redskins. On the other hand, the NFL is a "what have you done for me lately" business. Absence makes the heart forget. If you miss seven weeks of action and hold a press conference in the locker room about your return to a 3-5 team, maybe you shouldn't be surprised about a little boisterous activity. I suppose my main point is that we can't feign shock at the presence of some dysfunction in the locker room of a team that is falling well short of its own expectations--whether it exists or not. I hate to think that the best quarterback on our roster is "losing" his teammates' support, but he has the rest of this season and all offseason to work on that before we play in games that have playoff implications again (for us). Either way, it was not the kind of distraction this team needed before a game it so desperately had to win...and then the team bus crashed. For what it's worth, I'll accept that a few players in the locker room aren't the biggest fans of Griffin, but I am not ready to believe that the team is divided around him. After all, Kirk Cousins did not perform in a manner that would attract corners of the locker room into the "Play Kirk!" bucket.
3. This leads me to the actual play of Griffin: he played well enough for us to win, but with the game on the line, he failed to get the ball to an open receiver. After channeling his inner-Donovan McNabb and tossing a fine worm-burner, Griffin's face told the tale of the tape: we came up short. I thought that RG3 looked better than I had reason to believe he would look, but that last throw is what separates the good from the great. I am confident he can make that throw, but on his first day back to work with purple jerseys swarming him all day, he just didn't have it in his arsenal. The big debate of the day at the bar was whether or not we should have waited until after the bye week to play Griffin. My opinion is that he needs to play. If he was 100% and ready to go, our offense needed him to step back into the driver's seat. Both him and his teammates need reps together. I am past worrying about whether Griffin can stay healthy. Either he can or he can't, and the sooner we know, the better.
4. That's right...we're in "Evaluation Mode." For the rest of our lives, 3-6 will always be associated with this phrase, thanks to the venerable Mike Shanahan. Even with the developing situations at the quarterback position in both Dallas and Philadelphia, it is difficult to see the Redskins rattling off seven wins in a row to achieve a 10-6 record. Most of us are happy to just see progress in some form or another from this point forward. The Redskins can remain out of the NFL's basement by dispatching teams like Tampa Bay in the coming weeks, and a win against a Colts team or a 49ers team would also do wonders for the way we feel about ourselves.
5. Saying, "We're done!" seems foolish, given our most recent playoff appearance stemmed from none other than a 3-6 record. Is it possible for us to repeat that stretch of winning? Of course it is. Is it possible for other teams in the NFC--and the NFC East specifically--to fall on their face and open the door for us in December? Of course, that's what I'm rooting for, but realistically speaking, my biggest hope for the remainder of the season is for a few young players to emerge as long-term answers. I continue to demand that we figure out what we have in Spencer Long and Morgan Moses by the end of this season. They were both billed as guys out of the third round who could contribute in the near term. It is not that I don't like guys like Tom Compton or Josh LeRibeus, or that they are incapable of becoming reliable members of the offensive line, but my mind is on 2015 right now. It is hard to fathom Moses and/or Long would pose greater injury risks to the quarterback than Polumbus or others. Prior to both free agency and the 2015 draft, I want to know where Moses and Long fit into our offensive line rebuilding plans. I can't think of a bigger priority for this team and its future. I can live with seeing just enough out of Long or Moses to justify going into the 2015 season with them penciled in as starters. What I can't live with is penciling them in as starters in 2015 without them starting any games in 2014. We have seen that movie. It ends badly. I don't see myself wanting to use our first round pick on anything besides an offensive lineman regardless of how Long and Moses play, because...we have more than two holes there.
6. Bashaud Breeland and David Amerson are coming along, and that is a great development. Whether they turn into the league's top duo or not, there is reason to believe they will rank as a solid duo with plenty of years ahead of them. With two young, promising cornerbacks, the Redskins could consider bringing DeAngelo Hall back as a safety (or not at all). Even more tantalizing is the prospect of using either our first or second round draft pick on a top safety prospect. Imagine if we get that pick right...we would all of a sudden have three young players in our secondary that could grow up together. You could add a veteran corner or safety to fill out that group and not worry about needing an older player to have a career year for our defense to have a chance. Keenan Robinson continues to look good and Trent Murphy is growing up on the field. I have to tell you, I feel genuine excitement about the prospects for our defense in 2015--from a personnel standpoint. I am still not sold on continuing the Jim Haslett show, which is to say I am completely done with that show. Let me say it this way: We can't be accused of a knee-jerk firing on this one. We have gone the distance with Haslett and his defensive stylings. It would be perfectly acceptable for the Redskins to simply move on to something new at this point. That alone is growth for this franchise. Let's not go from firing people way too soon to holding onto coaches for WAY too long.