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The Antwaan Randle El mystery

There might only be one thing to complain about from the Redskins' win over the Raiders, if you give the offensive line a pass: the punt returning of Antwaan Randle El. He had two returns, zero yards, one fumble, and one awful moment when he let a punt roll for like 307 yards. Here are three points of view on the lingering mystery of why he keeps that particular job.

Brian Mitchell

"See, I have to go to Jim Zorn," B-Mitch said on Comcast SportsNet's Postgame Live. " "Because Jim Zorn has stated many times, Randle El is back there because of his sure hands. We've watched him drop one off the face mask, one off the chest, and he let numerous balls hit the ground. The first sin as a punt returner is to let the ball hit the ground. Pete Rodriguez--one of the greatest [coaches] I've ever had, Wayne Sevier, all those guys would lose their minds."

The stats

Randle El's 3.9 yards-per-return average is 62nd in NFL.

And sure, there are people in front of him whose averages are inflated by having just one or two returns, so let's install a five-return minimum.

Now Randle El ranks 49th in the league.

Also, his three fumbles on punt returns are tied for second in the NFL, though most of the people he's tied with have significantly more returns.

Also, his 18 fair catches are second in the NFL. The one guy with more, Indianapolis's T.J. Rushing, has 19 fair catches, but is averaging 6.2 yards per return and hasn't yet fumbled.

If you combine these stats, I think it's pretty easy to argue that he's the least effective regular punt returner in the league.

Joe Theismann

"In every sunny day there's usually one little cloud that sits out there, and for us, it's Antwaan Randle El returning punts," Theismann said on his Monday morning ESPN 980 show. "He averages 3.9 yards a punt return. I will say this in all humility: I could do that. Ok? As a matter of fact, I have done it. And I've done it better. I catch the football. This isn't an I thing, this is an I don't know what's going on in management, when it comes to putting Antwaan Randle El back returning punts. He dropped a second-down pass, hit him right in the hands. Muffed a punt again. You know, in a game that was close, we would all be clamoring about what Antwaan did. Now it just sort of gets overlooked....It's amazing to me, you cut Shaun Suisham because he misses two field goals, and yet you insist on allowing someone that has no production whatsoever to do a job returning punts."

That was in the first segment. He came back to the theme at least two more times.

"This is a complete football team, except for one element in special teams," Theismann said at one point.

"My God, how bad is Antwaan Randle El returning punts," he said another time. "Just FYI, in 1974 I returned punts and averaged 10.4 yards. Here's Antwaan Randle El the last two years: 6.5 in 08, 3.9 in 09. He's at 10.4 [combined]. I would never say that I could do something better than someone, but I can. Or I could, let's put it that way. And again, that to me is the biggest mystery that the Redskins have, that they're faced with. Why do you continue to make this decision? As a coaching staff, when you make this decision, what you're doing is you are sending a message to the other players that you are not putting the best people out there to do their job. And that is not the job of a coaching staff. And again, this is not personal. This has nothing to do with him. Terrific player, hard-working guy, great team guy. It's just that as a punt returner, Antwaan Randle El is not getting the job done. My golly, you cut Shaun Suisham for not getting the job done, the least you can do is find somebody back there who can make an impact on special teams."

My own addition to this onslaught of hate: yeah. Agreed.

By Dan Steinberg  |  December 14, 2009; 10:13 AM ET
 
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Comments

DRAFT CJ SPILLER

Posted by: wis193 | December 14, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

We should be developing Marko Mitchell right now with the roster spot that ARE occupies.

Not that Mitchell should be playing slot all the time, but just being active and throwing him in on some plays would be nice. I want to see what he's got before next year - now is a perfect time.

Posted by: REXskins | December 14, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Why does ARE keep returning punts...? Could it have something to do with sheep, a digital camera and somebody named Zorn?

Posted by: atidwell | December 14, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse

why was Joey Sunshine returning punts in 1974? Is that the wierdest thing ever? A qb returning punts?

Posted by: jpfterps | December 14, 2009 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Spiller is a good player, but he isn't a great player. He can be shut down. Aren't the Skins supposed to already have a Spiller type on the roster? His type isn't always effective at the next level. Look at Reggie Bush.

Posted by: sitruc | December 14, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

hate to say this and I am dating myself, but Joey T did a pretty good job returning punts and in his hey day a very effective scrambler...keep in mind Sonny played defensive back in his college days!!

Posted by: bigdummy1 | December 14, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

I think that last punt Antwaan let roll is STILL rolling...

Posted by: RichinVA | December 14, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

This is the most frustrating thing about the Redskins the past couple years. We have plenty of other guys who can get the job done, but they keep putting El back there. We're limited in who can play O-line or FG kicker, for example, but literally any defensive back, WR, or RB can return punts - which is about 15 guys on the roster other than #82.

Posted by: Section104 | December 14, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Theismann was returning punts because back in the day you only had 40 people on a roster and folks back then did EVERYTHING they could do play and did EVERYTHING they could do for the TEAM. Yes Joe loves himself some him. Yes he may talk alot about not much. But he was a hell of a scrappy football player. I think he could still average 6 yards per return with the single bar facemask!

Posted by: sanantonioredskin | December 14, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Joey T was returning punts because once he came back down from Canada, they had to handcuff him to the bench to keep him off the field...

Posted by: JohnDinHouston | December 14, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

hate to say this and I am dating myself, but Joey T did a pretty good job returning punts and in his hey day a very effective scrambler...keep in mind Sonny played defensive back in his college days!!

Posted by: bigdummy1 | December 14, 2009 12:54 PM |

Kilmer was a star running back (until he blew out his knee). That guy could barely waddle when the skins picked him up.

...and Joey T was a pretty good Punt Returner - even if he does say so himself.

Posted by: edvar | December 14, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Spiller couldn't even beat the Terps this year - please.....

Posted by: putnam23 | December 14, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

I don't get it. It's obvious Randle El wants no part of returning punts. So why does the Redskins keep putting him back there? Unless this is their attempt to embarrass him like they did Zorn with the public announcement of reduction in his duties.

Posted by: tundey | December 14, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

CJ Spiller won't be a Reggie Bush. What people overlook about Bush is that he played on a great team. Spiller did not. Because Spiller got snubbed on the Heisman he will also play with a chip on his shoulder.

Posted by: SCSkinsFan | December 14, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Are you a Clemson fan, SCSkinsFan? Is the SC, South Carolina? Spiller was a good college player who put up record numbers, but his production wasn't as impressive as his numbers. I'm not sure how much I buy into him not getting enough hype or attention other the years. He was part of "Thunder & Lightning" that pretty much just fizzled when facing real tests. He shouldn't have been ACC Offensive POTY. He's a good utility player. He's not a pure receiver or running back. He was nowhere near the top receiver in the ACC and he would be lucky to be considered the fourth best running back in the conference(being a finalist for the Doak Walker was a joke). Also, he sometimes racked up return yards because Clemson had to so much. Also, people never overlooked how great those SoCal teams were that Bush was on. That was one of the criticisms of him when he was coming out. He was an option in a very powerful offense that went up against weak defenses.

Posted by: sitruc | December 14, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

"It's obvious Randle El wants no part of returning punts"
===
I agree completely. That's what seems so weird about it. IMO it's like if your boss asks you to do something you really don't want to do. You can't say no, so you do it...but not really well, because that way you won't get asked to do it again.

Not that I've ever done that.

At this point all that's left for ARE is to catch a kick, then hand the ball to the other team while yelling "I don't want to do this any more!"

Posted by: hubcap | December 14, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to see Albert Haynesworth return punts - he can't possibly be worse than Randle-El.

Posted by: nativedc | December 14, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Amen, brothers. Amen.

Posted by: kalo_rama | December 14, 2009 7:35 PM | Report abuse

jpfterps: "why was Joey Sunshine returning punts in 1974? Is that the wierdest thing ever? A qb returning punts?"

Why? Two words: Sonny and Billy.

Posted by: ExPatYankee | December 15, 2009 5:43 AM | Report abuse

Joey the T also filled in at punter when needed. He was a great athlete. In his heyday he could dunk with two hands at a c&nt hair under 6'.

Posted by: MColeman51 | December 15, 2009 8:06 AM | Report abuse

I think Randle-El is finished in Washington after this season. He also drops balls as a receiver. When is the last time he broke one? Been years. Kick-off returning is weak on this team also. When is the last time kick-off returners broke a big one for us? I thnk Rock Cartwright may be through in Washington also though he is valuable as a back up running back.

Posted by: dandyhuffman | December 15, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Why does ARE keep returning punts...? Could it have something to do with sheep, a digital camera and somebody named Zorn?

Posted by: atidwell | December 14, 2009 11:53 AM | Report abuse
-------------------------------------

Sure, if by sheep you mean Cerrato and by somebody named Zorn you actually mean somebody named Snyder

Posted by: mattsoundworld | December 15, 2009 9:39 AM | Report abuse

I recall Snyder making punt returns part of ARL's contract when he signed him. It was how we got such a "great" player.

Posted by: mgood_69 | December 15, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Somebody made a good point the other day, which to me makes total sense. Instead of having #82 recieving punts, have 11 guys rush the punter for the block everytime for the rest of the year. Genius!

Posted by: bhoang888 | December 15, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Thats why ZORN wont be the coach next year cause he is soft and slow. RE is washed up, he doesnt help the team in returning punts he hurts the team and already cost the skins games.....its the coach job to evaluate talent, and Zorn stinks at that, he sucked at calling plays also....Vinny Hired Him, Fire him too.

Posted by: unknownsouljah | December 15, 2009 12:53 PM | Report abuse

I saw Santana Moss back there on a punt after Mr.Facemask let that one roll to Richmond, so I have to ask, "If you know there's cause enough to use Santana once, why not continue to put him back there?" What happened? Did the Danny call down from on-high and tell Vinny to tell Sherm to tell one of the cheerleaders to tell Zorn to put him back in? Dysfunctional doesn't begin to cover it.

Posted by: jpd721 | December 15, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

I like ARE, classy guy, has made a bazillion big catches for us . . . but his heads not right.

Need to take him off punt returns for a while. Let him focus on route running in the slot.

Posted by: BrooklynSkins | December 15, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

...but literally any defensive back, WR, or RB can return punts - which is about 15 guys on the roster other than #82.

Posted by: Section104
==================================

you obviously never returned punts in little league, high school, or college. if anyone could do it a guy like Brian Mitchell wouldn't have lasted as a special teams specialist for so many years when they could have used that roster spot for someone else.

judging the coverage, deciding on whether to catch the ball and run, fair catch, or let the ball roll is a hard job. Randle El no longer has the stomach for the job. A person lasting for very long in that role is rare.

Posted by: ProfessorWrightBSU | December 15, 2009 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Randle El came to Washington to be semi-retired at full pay. Another bad Snyderratto acquisition.

Posted by: hz9604 | December 15, 2009 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Whoever is responsible for thinking Randle El is probably the way to go on Punt Returns next week should be beheaded at halftime next week... Taliban style.

This is inexcusable. Randle El is a nice guy. So what? So Chief Zee. Why not put him back to field punts?

Put Thomas, Cartwright, Ganther, Mason, Sellers - ANYBODY - but Randle El.

Moss? Davis? Kelly?

NOT Randle El.

He's shown what he can do.

Posted by: Thinker_ | December 15, 2009 9:23 PM | Report abuse

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