I owe you all, and probably myself, an apology. I doubted that this organization-this team that I have loved so much-could turn things around. My Illegal Notion articles were wholly negative for multiple weeks in a row, lambasting the front office and other decision-makers involved with the Redskins. I was wrong. Miraculously, the Redskins have righted the ship. To go into Miami, where a vicious fan base awaited, and play a Dolphins team with their backs against the wall and get a win is -- in a word — impressive. I started my weekly article before the turn-around game began on Sunday, and I’d like to include my intro here so that I can fix it and set the record straight:
“I do firmly believe that Gruden kept a sinking ship above water as long as he possibly could, plugging the holes created by those above him and beside him as he himself threw bucket after bucket of water overboard. Since the day he arrived in Ashburn, this vessel’s hull was in bad shape and bow swung in no coherent direction. An able quartermaster in Kyle Smith and his grizzled sailing masters replaced yet another able man thrown overboard and keelhauled, a punishment he didn’t deserve. This marked one more change made on a whim; the third major organizational change decided upon by Captains Snyder and Allen. Still, from the helm, the two drunken captains spun the wheel merely to dodge oncoming threats, never in the direction of a unified objective. Such negligence, such malpractice, would only be allowed on a ship in which mutiny was impossible; where the captains held absolute power, and lucky for our captains, they possess such power. Gruden was simply a first-mate, offering advice as he could while trying to maintain the morale of his crew of malcontents, assembled by his captains without truly considering the advice of any of the experts of the sea they employed. Still, those two sail on, without direction, rhyme, or reason. With a deal for a shiny new ship being negotiated, there is no severing the ties between the two men that will inevitably drive their comrades into endless unnecessary hazard, pointing the finger back at their crew all the way.”
I was wrong. Gruden was the problem all along; Gruden was the one poisoning the grog, it was Gruden creating the poor culture, and it was Gruden, alone, that led the Redskins to their terrible 0-5 start. I don’t know how he did it, but Bruce Allen picked the right man for the head-coaching job, and this team might just have a bright future in his hands. Maybe it was luck, or maybe the aforementioned ‘drunken captain’ had a plan all along...but either way, he’s set the right things in motion.
Callahan preached structure all week, and many veteran players voiced their excitement over the changes, pointing to the idea that such a adjustments would pay immediate dividends. I, and many others, were certainly skeptical of sweeping change, but I, again, have been proved wrong. The Redskins were only penalized 5 times in the first half and only had three back-breaking penalties on special teams. Callahan’s disciplined mind led to the sneaky-good decision late in the second quarter, not calling a timeout after the Dolphins failed to get a first down with 1:45 left. He stated that he did this to just ‘get to halftime,’ which is just such a smart move with good field position and a timeout remaining before the half. Callahan also deserves praise for the changes he made with the media during the week, as he declined to comment on injuries, making sure to protect as much of a competitive advantage as he could. He, instead, made it clear that the offensive game-plan would be run-heavy, which gives far less away. Speaking of the run game...
Ground and Pound
Callahan’s very public plan of leaning on the run-game against Miami paid off, as the Redskins rushed for a season-high 145 yards on a whopping 4.4 ypc. The Dolphins came into the game last in the NFL against the run, allowing over 175 rushing yards per game, and the fact that the Redskins were only 30 yards shy of that mark shows just how far they’ve come under Callahan’s tutelage. Many believed the Redskins needed to have a better run/pass balance in 2019 than the team did in 2018, as the Redskins ran the ball on over 60% of first downs in 2018, averaging just over 2 ypc. So far this year, Gruden had a much more ‘healthy’ (or so we thought) run/pass ratio. Callahan, however, pointed out that more rushing attempts=winning games, and he proved it. The Redskins ran the ball on 83% (10 out of 12) of first downs, averaging 2.4 ypc. If you’re not a math person, that left the Redskins with a mere 7.6 yards to gain on 2nd down. Genius.
One of the biggest issues under Gruden’s reign was the lack of adjustments, especially second-half adjustments. The Redskins could enter the second half leading by as much as they wanted and fans still found themselves waiting for the team’s inevitable demise in the second half. This was especially the case on defense, as offenses changed looks/strategies in the second half and Washington stayed with their game-plan, getting regularly thrashed late in games. Well, not today. Whatever changes Callahan made led to the Redskins only giving up 13 points in the fourth quarter when Ryan Fitzpatrick entered the game. The team only allowed 149 yards along with those 13 points on Fitzpatrick’s four fourth-quarter drives. Those 13 points? The only second-half points the Dolphins have scored all year. Pure luck. The defense was fantastic. Where previous Redskins’ teams would’ve folded, the Redskins’ vaunted defense stood strong on the final possession of the game, allowing a stingy 6 points on a 75-yard Dolphins’ touchdown drive as the game expired.
The media-and fans alike-have clamored for rookie first-round pick Dwayne Haskins to start at QB in order to see what the kid’s got before holding what is likely to be a top-five pick (thank goodness we avoided the stench of the #1 overall pick) in a QB-heavy draft in April. Well, they…we...were wrong. There is just no chance Dwayne Haskins would be able to replicate what Case Keenum gives you on the field. 13/25 with 2 TDs and 166 yards, with only three wide-open receivers missed and only one ball thrown directly to a defender? No chance Dwayne Haskins gives you that. He’s just not ready. You know who is ready? Undrafted rookie QB Delvin Hodges. Dude clearly has all the requisite skills and experience to play against NFL-caliber talent. He started at quarterback AND punter for an FCS team that went 5-3 in the second-best league in college football! Jaguars’ QB Gardener Minshew is also more prepared than Haskins. Why? He was drafted in the sixth round of the NFL Draft because of his physical and mental gifts, making him the tenth highest QB taken! Callahan’s plan to hold Haskins back until he is ready is the right one. I’m sorry I ever doubted this.
Overall, it’s difficult to put into words just how surprised I am at the massive, sweeping changes that have been made in just one week’s time. I guess I had grown cynical about this organization, and for that, I want to apologize one last time; I am truly sorry. Bruce Allen has surprised us all and has this seemingly-rudderless ship pointed in the right direction. It may have taken a bit too long for my money, but hats off to Allen and the owner for finally making the right call so that this once-heralded franchise and its once-ravenous fan base can return to form. I also would like to thank YOU for reading and sticking with me during a time in which I had lost belief in our Burgundy and Gold. I am happy to report that my heart is full, my eyes wide, and my arms open to embrace the impending, inescapable success of this franchise.
Hahahahaha...that was fun.