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Behind the Scenes: Red Flags

My state of the Redskins off season scouting report


I have a '94 Jeep that has nearly 250,000 miles on it. That's a lot of miles, but yet, the Jeep is still three years younger than the last time the Redskins hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy. My front license plate reads, "Redskins #1 Fan" and I have a Redskins sticker that's peeling off my back window due to the heat here in Arizona. I love the Redskins. I was a little eight year old kid in Minnesota watching Super Bowl XVII with my little Riggins t-shirt over the top of my blue pajammas with feet in them. I've never had a second favorite team. I loved the Redskins so much, I cheered for them every weekend during my entire time working with the Jets, even when the Jets played the Redskins. I belonged to a Redskins fan club on Long Island and watched all the games with them. I never sold out for a paycheck. I tried desperately to get in with the Redskins during my time with the Jets, came close a couple times, but just missed it. My dream picked me, I didn't pick it. Redskins football is in my blood. I can't begin to share with you all how much it has hurt me to see what's become of our team in recent years. It's been extremely disillusioning for me to say the least. My wife thinks I'm chasing a ghost, but I still have the Sunday Ticket. I'm not against you. I love all of you. I truly do. Redskins fans are the best fans in all the world. No matter how the team plays and how screwed up things are, they will always have that special place in my heart. I've told my wife, I want to be laid to rest someday in my Redskins Champ Bailey jersey. I'd pick my Riggins one, only my little girl Bailey Hope who passed away from cancer was named after him. To this day, I can walk into any giftshop and there can be a thousand things in there, but if there's even one Redskins logo anywhere in sight, my eye goes right to it, even if it's a keychain. I am truly sorry I can't write a more optimistic team scouting report at this point. I really wish I could and I even hope that I'm wrong. However, that's not the job of a scout.

The off-season is always a time for optimism amongst NFL fan bases every year. Every team is 0-0, the PR machines are pumping out positive propaganda to stoke season ticket sales and it's almost time for the draft. Winter is almost gone and hopes are high for the fall. Such is the case as it is every year it seems for the burgundy and gold, but there haven't been any happy endings for a long, long, long time.

In this column there are just three red flags that nobody can avoid. I think back to all the people I used to tell that LaRon Landry should be cut and he was a horrible safety for the Redskins when he was the starter. People thought I was nuts, but my eyes did not deceive me. Landry would absolutely kill a defenseless receiver if they didn't see it coming, but he would run way like a bully when he was confronted. Whether it was a big punishing runner like Steven Jackson, who had thighs like tree trunks or a little something like DeSean Jackson, Landry would purposely take bad angles to avoid contact when it was coming right at him. Cheesy bad acting looked good by comparison. It really was a let down for anybody who had ever seen any of the greats. It was like going to a premiere steak house and being served a Bologna sandwich without any mayo and being charged sixty dollars for the privilege. I could hardly stomach watching him pretend to play safety. His pass coverage skills were just as bad. People thought I was insane about my evaluation of LaRon Landry. Even my scouting mentor, who was Bill Belichick's top talent evaluator on staff during those three Super Bowl victories questioned what I was saying. The bottom line was Landry and his big guns were shooting mostly only blanks and it wasn't too long after that he officially fizzled out like two Alka-Seltzers in a cup of water. I went down the same painful road with Jason Campbell. He never was nor would he ever be the second coming of Doug Williams despite wearing #17. Campbell had no life in his eyes and that told me everything I needed to know. Granted, to his defense, he was tough as nails. However, he just showed absolutely no passion for the game whatsoever. It was tough for me to watch. I knew there was no possible way in the world the Redskins would ever do anything as long as they kept fooling around with him under center. I remember one year right before kickoff of the season opener against the Giants, the cameras caught Campbell snoozing on the bench. There wasn't a snowballs chance. Yet, I kept paying for the Sunday Ticket, I kept watching out of my loyalty to the team, but I mostly just walked away disappointed. Deep down, I knew the answers before I ever watched a game, just like I did with Shane Matthews, Jeff George, Danny Wuerffel and Rex Grossman. Here are the three red flags that will visit us all and foreshadow the events of the future.

RGIII is not the same player the Redskins drafted and he is not the same player he was during his rookie season. There is a very strong chance that he never will be again. If I was the GM of the Redskins, I would trade him right now while there's still a hung jury. Take the plea bargain and live to see another day. There are good bets and then there are egotistical bets when we think we are just going to plain outsmart everybody. This is not one of those good bets. I would get what I could to recoup what Shanahan gave to his buddy Jeff Fisher and move forward. As they say in Texas, "Now them are some fightin' words," but it's like boxing the wind. It changes nothing. In his rookie season, RGIII was super confident and he had so much swagger. He absolutely excluded confidence. I haven't seen anything like it since Jay Schroeder. Ironically, also #10. The way RGIII used to come up to the line of scrimmage was special, licking his hands, looking edgy, excited and chomping at the bit. It was fun to watch again. I felt like I'd been snapped out of a twenty year coma. RGIII was super charismatic. He was that once in a decade rookie phenom that captured the heart, mind and imagination of our Nation's Capital. I loved him and found myself getting excited again to watch Redskins football, which hasn't happened much since I was a kid. I felt like we finally had a quarterback and we finally had a chance again. Then came the Baltimore game and that gruesome knee injury. That human wall, Haloti Ngata, hit RGIII and RGIII's leg did things a human leg isn't supposed to do (RG3 leg gets snapped!!! - YouTube). Next came the organization's exceptionally poor decision to keep playing an obviously hurting player and ride him into the playoffs. They gave him a knee brace, kept their eyes closed and crossed their fingers. Nobody even hit him when his leg buckled, which absolutely proves he should not have been out there in the first place Watch RG3's gruesome knee injury - YouTube. It was the saddest thing I've ever seen as a Redskins fan. It was way sadder than Theismann's broken leg, because Cooke, Beathard and Gibbs never would have had Theismann out there had he already had a serious pre-existing leg injury. Sure, we can all play pin the tail on Shanahan as therapy, but a decision of that magnitude involving the face of the franchise doesn't have wings without the stamp of the signet ring from the king. I'm in the no spin zone. This is straight talk. No way does that happen and no amount of damage control or PR can throw me off course. Mike Shanahan was not the Lone Ranger. The organization clearly threw caution to the wind and by doing so not only put RGIII's career in jeopardy, but also his long term ability to walk normally. I don't care if he wanted to go or not. RGIII does not run the team. It is the club's responsibility to make the call. Instead, the hierarchy decided to play Russian Roulette with him and he's never been the same since. Chances are, he never will be again. Historically in the National Football League, once a first round quarterback loses his confidence, he's done. It's just a matter of time. There's a laundry list of names that pop into our minds that we all know. Quarterbacks who probably can still pick up a football and riffle it threw an old tire, but they are done from the neck up and they are either backups or they're out of the league.

Nobody who's livelihood depends on a press credential will dare say this, but I will. The real problem is not the knee. The real problem is the trust has been fractured between RGIII and the Redskins organization. There's no trust brace on the market that can hold this in place either. That is the real issue and the real reason RGIII's attitude soured faster than a glass of milk left out on the counter. When teammates stop helping their captain, their leader and their quarterback up off the ground, it's as good as over. The Internet is chuck full of articles that support what I am saying. They all speak volume's about RGIII's negativity that came out very plainly in the wash according to the media last season. That's what they call in scouting, "losing a locker-room." When you manage to get guys like Santana Moss and Pierre Garcon to that point he got them to, that's like punching the gas after driving past the dead end sign. A good friend of mine who really likes RGIII, always has, pointed out to me that everyone naturally sours when the season does. True, but the way I see this, this runs far deeper than that. It goes way beyond the "Sophomore slump." It goes way beyond the knee injury. In my now thirty plus years of being around the game, I have never once seen a young franchise quarterback lose his composure to this degree, lose the team in the process and then bounce back again like nothing ever happened.  I have never before seen any of the greats go bad like this even during the worst of times. Frustration, yes, that, never. Granted, I give RGIII credit in one area, he visibly showed tremendous courage and resolve by trying to gut it out and will it to happen, but "it" was gone. He'd lost that loving feeling. I could see it and I know he could feel it. He didn't come right out and verbalize it and I'm not quite sure he could pinpoint the problem, but his body language did his talking for him. RGIII was a shell of his old self last season and to magically expect him to pop out of a phone booth in this upcoming season is not only a far stretch, it's downright unrealistic.

If all that wasn't enough, there's the whole issue of RGIII having trouble reading defenses. It's documented and it's nothing new. I could see it right away when both him and Kirk Cousins were rookies. Right out of the gates, Cousins looked far more polished, comfortable and pro ready when it came to reading defenses. RGIII had this God-given super athletic ability that was able to overcompensate for this deficiency in his game. Not anymore. The knee injury has handicapped him both mentally and physically to the point, that explosive gear is gone over the left field fence. Now, his deficiency of reading defenses has the spotlight on center stage. There is no reason to believe things will improve any time soon, no matter who's the coach. Opposing defensive coordinators are now circling like vultures and licking their chops. It's become the league wide advance scouting report on the Redskins. Exotic looking coverages are the key to victory when they see the Redskins on the schedule. Do it until RGIII proves he has become a master chess player, which takes years to develop. The writing is on the wall. Don't start making post season plans just yet. If there is one thing we've all been shown, Redskins Park is not the most patient of places. Bad combination. Plus, even if there was something there to work with and the hierarchy was willing to wait at the altar, reading defenses like Peyton Manning has never been RGIII's game. The Redskins are clearly shopping the wrong quarterback. Whether they are mandated by the league not to sign Tebow or they just plain don't want to, at the very least go with Kirk Cousins as the starting quarterback. It's the only real chance given what's currently on paper. As it is, even when they were both rookies, I thought Cousins had far more long term upside than RGIII.

RGIII's socks look good, but the future in Washington for him does not in the eyes of this scout. If the Redskins care as much about RGIII as Jerry Glanville did about Brett Favre, a change of venue may be the only thing that can resuscitate his career at this point. At least such a move will clear the mental obstacle of the trust that's been broken. It's like getting into a new relationship after a divorce. Some of the same issues exist, but it's a fresh start. That would give RGIII a good attitude again and with that, he at least has a chance of being what he could have been. I know we'd all sit back like they must have in Atlanta watching Favre all those years in Green Bay, but there comes a time when it's about more than just going for trophies and rings. Especially when you know in your heart it will not happen where he's currently at. If the Redskins refuse to trade RGIII, then the only other best option is to sit him for at least half the season if not the whole thing and prove they care about him and not just what they can get out of him. That would also give him more time to study and learn defenses. The knee is still not right. I can see it and so can one of the top scouts in the league who I spoke to on the phone about this. One more blown out knee, game over, and no amount of quarters will keep it going. If the Redskins truly care about RGIII those are the only effective moves left on the chess board. RGIII's knee was ruined. I was told it can take a year, possibly even two for something like that to heal. After watching the opener last season, I knew the season was over by halftime. RGIII was clearly not mentally or physically ready to play. Like a championship boxer, he still wanted to get in the ring, but he was not ready and it clearly showed. The next morning, I tweeted the 'Skins should sit RGIII for the season, start Cousins and sign Tebow. Some guy immediately forwarded my tweet to Chad Dukes and urged him to use it for the "Dummy of the Day" comment. LaRon Landry, Jason Campbell and now it's RGIII in recent history. Obviously, the way it played out, playing him accomplished nothing at best. The whole team also fed off of RGIII's energy. It pretty much was the same personnel on defense last year as it was during the playoff season and they went from looking like world beaters to looking like the worst defense I've ever seen in Washington. As their leader went, so went the team.

Either trade him or sit him, but whatever you do, don't put him under center in Washington. There is no upside right now. He might go somewhere else and become a star, but the alternative is him moving into the same neighborhood as David Carr, Mark Sanchez and JaMarcus Russell. But, what do I know, LaRon Landry is bouncing around the league as is Jason Campbell.

That brings us to the second red flag, DeSean Jackson. I am far from the bandwagon on this one. Teams like the Eagles just don't let someone go like this for a song. No team does unless the player is arrested and put in jail. It's virtually unheard of to see a team cut a star player in his prime and then another team picks him up for big money?  That's not all folks, wait, there's more, don't touch that dial. You can not only have a player who's been cut for sixteen million dollars guaranteed, but we'll also throw in his documented bad attitude and the fact that he became insubordinate towards his head coach and if you call in the next three minutes, we'll throw in his documented hard core gang affiliations. Call now. Not available in stores. I know I'm an easier target and a better alternative than kicking the dog after having a bad day, but I'm not seeing the logic here. I just don't see how everyone can be so excited and act like we discovered the holy grail when the Eagles couldn't wait to run this guy out of town. A guy who by all rights fits perfectly into Chip Kelly's fast paced offense. Yes, he's coming off a big year. Yes, he has stats. Yes, he can flat out fly. Yes, he could be our best punt returner since Brian Mitchell. Yes, I remember that night when he made our secondary look silly when it was 35-0 in the first quarter. Yes, he's made three Pro Bowls. I get all that, but to sign a guy with this background to a fat contract is playing with fire. At the very least, sign him to a minimum base deal loaded with incentives and make him work for it. Don't just let him sit back with guaranteed money like that. Again, your shots are misdirected. No winning organization in football makes moves like this. You'd never in a hundred years see flagship organizations like the Giants, Ravens, Patriots or Packers act like this. Just because we consistently make deals that nobody else is willing to make, doesn't mean we are rocket scientists. It just means we have no idea what we are doing and our history over the past fifteen years pretty much proves that. The Redskins will not pick up the phone and touch a player with extremely high character and the player with the greatest leadership ability in football, but they can't wait to hit the game show buzzer and pull up the Brink's truck to sign someone presenting these types of issues? Wow. Now that should get the phone lines to light up like the Fourth of July, but instead we all sit back and drink the Kool-Aid like we're dying of thirst. Wait there's more. Adding another negative attitude to the negativity I've already described with RGIII is a potentially explosive formula. This is really the last thing RGIII needed if he has any real hope of coming back. Yes, if RGIII can somehow find a phone booth to change into his Superman custom again like he did as a rookie and DeSean Jackson becomes a modern day galloping ghost, it's party time in D.C. However from a pure psychology standpoint, nobody did the extra credit assignment on this one. Outside of the John Madden video game, the combination of RGIII and DeSean Jackson could easily and very quickly become Coach Gruden's biggest headache and the very lynch pin to his demise in Washington.

That brings us to the third and final red flag. There's a couple finalists for this red flag. I could easily pick the secondary, what secondary is more the question so that didn't get the third red flag. No team can get off the ground in a pass happy league without a functional secondary and re-signing DeAngelo Hall was not a step in the right direction. He's Deion Sanders without the natural instincts and without the recovery speed. Another words, it's not too pretty when he guesses wrong and jumps a double move route. For every pick six that makes the highlights, there are way too many going the other way. Here's just a sample of what I'm talking about from 2012 FOOTBALL OUTSIDERS: Innovative Statistics, Intelligent Analysis | Worst Cornerback Charting Stats 2012 and 2013 didn't look much better. Of course, that analysis doesn't tell any us anything we don't already know. We all see it every weekend. My last red flag I'm going to go with Jay Gruden. I am not going to say anything against the man or the coach, I actually get a good feeling about him. I think he's got something to him. My concern falls into a different realm. Early on when he first got hired he said he was going to stick with the zone blocking scheme that was already in place when it came to the running game. That was Shanahan's system. Gruden believes in the power running game. This is a very serious philosophical line in the sand. Now whether he was just saying that to keep a smile on everyone's face until he can acquire the personnel he really wants remains to be seen. However, if he was serious, this is going to become a major issue. How the Redskins running game might look under Jay Gruden. Jay Gruden can't show up every day wearing a Mike Shanahan Halloween mask to work. He must be himself if he wants to win.

I have seen articles that suggest the Redskins will win the NFC East by default, but we can't count our chickens before they hatch. With the problems this team has at quarterback, the offensive line not fitting Gruden's true belief system, a ticking time bomb lining up at receiver and a secondary with more holes than a spaghetti noodle strainer, I see more red flags than answers. I also think Brian Orakpo's best days are clearly behind him. Who will step into London Fletcher's big shoes is far from solved. The 3-4 defense never has fared that well in the NFC East. They retained Haslett. We haven't had a reliable big time kicker since Chip Lohmiller and the special teams are more of an afterthought than the left overs from last Tuesday. At least Rex Grossman is gone, maybe. That amazes me, they will hang on to that Florida quarterback for years who time and time again continued proving he couldn't play, but they refuse to even give Tim Tebow a shot. Instead, the 'Skins go and sign Colt McCoy, who if you compare his resume to Tebow's, McCoy couldn't even carry Tebow's water bottle. Odds are, Washington will make the worst quarterback move they've made since Stan Humphries and deal Cousins and draft a quarterback. That will be frightening. A disenfranchised and not completely healthy RGIII, McCoy and some rookie. That's why I said Grossman is gone, maybe.

My job is to write what I see and what I've been shown and the way I'm seeing it, red flags are all over our field.

Daniel spent four years working in pro scouting with the New York Jets and he's the author of the book, "Whatever it Takes," the true story of a fan making it into the NFL. Go to to see and hear more of his amazing story of growing up as a die-hard Redskins fan who got hired out of nowhere to work on one of the best staffs in NFL history.