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Posted at 2:00 PM ET, 12/22/2010

When did it all go wrong?

By Washington Post editors

The Washington Post's Barry Svrluga, Rick Maese, Dan Steinberg and Jonathan Forsythe discuss the moment when the season began to unravel for Mike Shanahan and the Redskins.

By Washington Post editors  | December 22, 2010; 2:00 PM ET
Categories:  Mike Shanahan  
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Next: LaRon Landry tops fans' Pro Bowl vote for strong safety

Comments

Posted by: ifthethunderdontgetya | December 22, 2010 2:06 PM | Report abuse

After the bye week. Next question...

Posted by: Alan4 | December 22, 2010 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: ifthethunderdontgetya | December 22, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

"When did it all go wrong?"


May, 1999

Posted by: 4-12 | December 22, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

"When did it all go wrong?"


May, 1999

Posted by: 4-12 | December 22, 2010 2:10 PM

Yes. This.

Posted by: hobbes9 | December 22, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Truth be told, there really isn't a good time to change defenses. You make the change and work towards making it work. Shanahan screwed a lot up this year...IMO, switching to the 3-4 wasn't one of 'em.

Posted by: brownwood26 | December 22, 2010 12:37 PM |

No, there is a good time to change the defense: When you acquire the players first to do so. See Green Bay

And by switching to the 3-4, you've automatically made more holes on the team that need to be filled, thereby taking away attention to the holes on offense that needed to be filled whether through FA or the draft. And you've also devalued some of your better players in the process to the point where Carter nor Haynsworth will fetch much if you trade them.

Posted by: ga8085 | December 22, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Dan,

You have a voice for newspaper

Posted by: goose33 | December 22, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Scoonie97 | December 22, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

I'm not watching this. Next.

Posted by: PlayAction | December 22, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Don't draft Ryan Mallett.

That is all.

Posted by: 4thFloor | December 22, 2010 1:53 PM

Interesting read. Thanks for sharing. I soured on the guy when I saw him being interviewed by Erin Andrews on College Gameday. When she asked him how far he can throw he responded: "C'mon Erin. I gotta leave some mystery to the 'Legend of Ryan Mallett'".

Posted by: MColeman51 | December 22, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Rinse and Repeat.

It went wrong?! Who was thinking we would be ANY better than we were this season?!

Everything according to plan pretty much, ain't it?!

Soooooo sick of media holes writing their own scripts. I haven't (also can't) even watch this. Tell me - is it what it seems like?

If they're talking long term when it went wrong - I believe it was when they re-structured the rosters so you couldn't stack 'em up anymore. That's when JG went out 'cause he couldn't 'do how he do' anymore...

That's it.

Posted by: DikShuttle | December 22, 2010 2:25 PM | Report abuse

"When did it all go wrong?"


May, 1999


Posted by: 4-12 | December 22, 2010 2:10 PM


But the offseasons have been GREAT since then. One big name after the other.

Hey, we got Shanahan, Allen, and McNabb last offseason.

Can't wait to see who's next.

Posted by: Alan4 | December 22, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

REDSKINS DISTRIBUTE CHRISTMAS BONUSES

It looks like the Washington Redskin players and coaching staff will be getting frozen turkeys again this year for the 10th consecutive football season -- as team owner Dan Snyder will continue his tradition of giving annual holiday bonuses out on the Thursday before Christmas.

According to a front office insider, Snyder had been considering saving a few dollars and enrolling his players and staff in a “Jello Flavor of the Month” package subscription, but then decided to stick with the annual turkey giveaway.

“While we still need to cut costs and thus will be handing out somewhat smaller turkeys this year, we also felt the need to give our people something they could count on -- particularly in this period of uncertainty as we near the start of some potentially heated discussions on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NFL Players Union."

He continued, "Besides, when people think of Dan, it’s almost automatic that they should also think of a hard frozen and undersized turkey.”


Posted by: Vic1 | December 22, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: zcezcest1 | December 22, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

I have a theory that you should want to use the formation that is used by the least amount of teams. If everyone is using a 3-4 then you should use a 4-3 because the 4-3 players will be more plentiful and be much cheaper to obtain. In addition, the teams you face will have spent the majority of their preparation time preparing to face 3-4 teams.

Posted by: PAskinsfan17

'tis about 50/50 for 3-4 and 4-3.

But I'm totally on board with the basic theory. The Wildcat is the most recent example. When only 1 team ran it, most of the competition never prepared for it until the week they played Miami. So they had to rethink their defenses for 1 week.

I'm all in favor of finding approaches that make players react against their instincts. There's been plenty of innovation on that over the years -- WCO, shot gun, wildcat, unbalanced line are among them.

It usually takes a few years to adapt -- a lot of wins can pile up before teams know how to respond.

Posted by: zcezcest1 | December 22, 2010 2:34 PM | Report abuse

not resigning Pierce..

Posted by: BeantownGreg1 | December 22, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

It went wrong?! Who was thinking we would be ANY better than we were this season?!

Posted by: DikShuttle | December 22, 2010 2:25 PM

Note the gates in the McNabb trade. Iggles get the third rounder if any of these happen:

1. McNabb makes the Pro-Bowl
2. Skins wins 9 or more games
3. Skins make the playoffs

Considering McNabb made the Pro-Bowl last year, these are not outrageous outcomes to gun for.

For an alleged future HOF coach and a francise QB, a lot of people thought these were reasonable goals.

Disclaimer: I never bought into the idea the Zorn was a buffoon and Campbell was a loser, but people who did were convinced that the team would be a winner without them. So either those people were wrong, or both Shanahan and McNabb are grossly overrated.

Posted by: Alan4 | December 22, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: JohnnyRyde | December 22, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

will you guys stop thinking wins?! They don't count until we get to the playoffs anyway. If fact, if anything, they're a penalty.

Posted by: DikShuttle | December 22, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Disclaimer: I never bought into the idea the Zorn was a buffoon and Campbell was a loser, but people who did were convinced that the team would be a winner without them. So either those people were wrong, or both Shanahan and McNabb are grossly overrated.

Posted by: Alan4 | December 22, 2010 2:39 PM

I don't know if people thought Zorn was a moron (although a lot certainly did I'm sure) as much as they thought he was castrated by a much bigger moron (Cerrato.)

Posted by: TheScamp75 | December 22, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

This year it began to unravel when Shannahan deactivated Haynesworth for the Colts game. It became completely unravled when Shannahan benched McNabb for Grossman in the Detroit game. You could see the spirit leave the team as soon as Grossman was hit and fumbled the ball/season away.

Posted by: tomgill21 | December 22, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse

This year it began to unravel when Shannahan deactivated Haynesworth for the Colts game. It became completely unravled when Shannahan benched McNabb for Grossman in the Detroit game. You could see the spirit leave the team as soon as Grossman was hit and fumbled the ball/season away.

Posted by: tomgill21 | December 22, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse

I've mulled over what was wrong with the Redskins approach to the 3-4 and I have come up with this conclusion:

The team would have been better off doing a total house cleaning of 4-3 players rather than trying to make those guys into something they weren't. Carter, Haynesworth, Fletcher, McIntosh, Hall - just release or trade every last one of them and then fill the holes with young players through free agency, draft, or undrafted free agency that are bonafide 3-4 players. They might not win a lot, but at least you are day one committed to the scheme. If you look to this next season, you get an idea that there are a lot of guys that don't fit. If the team is going to be a 3-4 next year, there will be some painful cuts. For instance, look at a guy like London Fletcher who is getting old, is highly paid, and doesn't really fit the 3-4. The guy has something left, but why invest anymore in a guy that is not the future of the defense? Same is true with Carter. Hall is a gifted athlete but he is not the physical corner that this defense needs. He gets paid a lot and is probably not tradeable, but he does not fit. I can go on, but the point is the team would be in a better position today had they moved those guys in the preseason.

Posted by: RedSkinHead

somewhat on the same page. I'll take Andre Carter as the case study for this.

You know Carter isn't a great 3-4 piece. But in 2009, was tied for 7th in sacks (ahead of Peppers, Harrison and Clay Matthews, among others) and had 3 forced fumbles, which ranks him highly among DL.

Also on the plus side -- he has a great attitude, keeps himself in terrific shape and is the rare DE that can play almost every snap. Further, he can flip from left side to right side as a DE and has a small contract for a guy who was top 10 in sacks. He is a great locker room guy and leader.

Now, what would a team give up for a guy like that? Something significant.

But now Carter is a year older and he hasn't played well.

You give up a lot less.


I'm not going to suggest housecleaning was the right approach, but I do think looking at players that wouldn't fit the 3-4 well, and getting reasonable value for them was a much better approach than letting them flounder in a 3-4 and having to sell off damaged goods.

Posted by: zcezcest1 | December 22, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse

will you guys stop thinking wins?! They don't count until we get to the playoffs anyway. If fact, if anything, they're a penalty.

Posted by: DikShuttle | December 22, 2010 2:44 PM


I bet that's just what Zorn told Snyder last year...

Posted by: Alan4 | December 22, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse

not resigning Pierce..

Posted by: BeantownGreg1

the injury that never heals

Posted by: zcezcest1 | December 22, 2010 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Yeh Alan,

I heard no one legitimate saying this team would have more than 7 wins this year before the season started.

You can't just take a player, switch teams, and expect the same production.

Those trade stipulations we're to protect Philly in case something weird happened.

So if our big failure was a difference of two games - no big. And we still could win a couple here. Or loose 'em.

I do think Zoron was a total buffoon and Campbell is mediocre at best. I recognize McNabb's natural talent. But he really has never put it together, has he? We saw all of the problems he had in Philly, all at once. Ew.

This team will be a winner if they continue down a structured path and don't go jumping at every shiny object. I think we can agree on that.

Your absolutes are just not realistic.

Posted by: DikShuttle | December 22, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

LL beeps*


*last time I was hit with a double move, so...

Posted by: kerzon417 | December 22, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Where did it all go wrong this season?

When the Baltimore Ravens pulled off the fake punt in the Pre-season. And Jim Zorn was bathed in a Gatorade.

Posted by: gatorskinz2000 | December 22, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

I'm not going to suggest housecleaning was the right approach, but I do think looking at players that wouldn't fit the 3-4 well, and getting reasonable value for them was a much better approach than letting them flounder in a 3-4 and having to sell off damaged goods.

Posted by: zcezcest1 | December 22, 2010 2:48 PM

That is certainly one point of view...and one that I am not totally opposed to. Especially with Carter where we have film of him attempting to transfer to LB previously. Another viewpoint espouses the theory that we needed to see who could make the transition to a 3-4 especially considering how limited the free agency market was. In order to trade guys you have to be able to get some value in a trade in the form of picks or players that fit the new scheme. Trouble is how do you trade a 4-3 guy to a team running a 4-3 and expect to get a 3-4 guy in return? Doesn't work that way so you have to get picks.

Posted by: TheScamp75 | December 22, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

lol - that was funny, tho. I bet he did, too!

Posted by: DikShuttle | December 22, 2010 2:59 PM | Report abuse

No, there is a good time to change the defense: When you acquire the players first to do so. See Green Bay

Posted by: ga8085 | December 22, 2010 2:15 PM


I did see Green Bay...I saw them play awful the first half of last season and then turn it around a bit at the end. Even now, they still lack the ideal players for a 3-4 at LB. The Redskins have been worse because they didn't draft a young stud at NT (the foundation of a 3-4 D) and they don't have Dom Capers running it.

And did you think we were gonna get a full roster of 3-4 players in one offseason? Or did you think we'd gradually make the switch? Because if you do it gradually, it stands to reason you'd then run a 4-3 with a sprinkling of 3-4 guys...seems like 6 in one hand, half a dozen in the other to me...

Posted by: brownwood26 | December 22, 2010 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Well, our failures started with Snyder. More recently, with Shanny. He comes in as HC, sees we have a 5th place defense, hires Haslett and blows it up. We had a very solid 4-3 with Fat Al licking his chops ready to blow up the middle all year, and he goes to a 3-4, ruining everything. We're now LAST IN THE LEAGUE!!!
Next, Shanny wants McNabb. Reid knows he,s done, so he does a deal. Shortly, the Shannys realize Nabb can't pick up our system. Hence the benching in Detroit. Nabb couldn't run the two minute if he couldn't even run the offense during the game. Nabb had one system for 11 years and they never made it very complicated for him and, Nabb liked to do his own thing many times. That doesn't work with the Shannys. It was a horrible fit. In my opinion, Shanny was a huge mistake. He brought in Kyle and Haslett...both mistakes. If we had waited one more year, Gruden and Cowher are both listening to offers. Either one would work way better than what we have. Once again, thanks Danny......you're a rich idiot.

Posted by: Riggo2 | December 22, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

"When did it all go wrong?"


May, 1999

Posted by: 4-12 | December 22, 2010 2:10 PM

Yes. This.

Posted by: hobbes9 | December 22, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

------------------------------------------

Exacttly guys.

Posted by: avbanig | December 22, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Simple, when we got housed by the Rams.

Posted by: CarbonChauvinist | December 22, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

This season has turned into a train wreck. We actually had to invent ways to lose, but at least we were consistent. Games are seldomly won or lost based upon a single play (except maybe Jackson's punt return against the Giants) and season shouldn't hinge upon a single game. As we find ourselves afloat in the Shannahan Error - Oops that should be the Shannahan Era, it's hard to draw a line in the sand and pinpoint exactly when the home team turned south of expectations and has certainly gained momentum as this season has unfolded. Personally, I look forward to January and an opportunity to watch some "real football".

Posted by: bkline_99 | December 22, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

It went wrong when we brought in another salary cap contract monger as GM instead of an actual personnel specialist. Bruce Allen cannot evaluate talent. Mike Shannahan cannot evaluate talent. Dan Snyder sure as hell cannot evaluate talent. But they can all read football cards while they chew their bubblegum. So we get a new QB with a great football card stat sheet who looks great on a soup label for two draft picks. Because nobody needs draft picks, least of all aging teams trying to re-engineer their defense, right?

Joe Gibbs would never have been Joe Gibbs without Bobby Beathard. I think Joe Gibbs v2.0 proved that pretty effectively. Bill Belichik wouldn't have been Bill Belichik without Scott Pioli (though he seems to have downloaded Scott Pioli's scouting methods using The Matrix). Mike Holmgren needed Ron Wolf, and so on, and so on. Great franchises have a clear system that is established by the GM and run by the coaches. Certainly there is some give and take over time and coaches should have input on what positions they need to have filled. But they should then back the hell off and let the GM do his job.

Case Study 1: the San Diego Chargers. With Norv Freaking Turner as their head coach they have the number one offense and number one defense in the NFL (and would have a much better record if anyone bothered to coach their special teams). They don't lose in December and they took the Colts out of the playoffs two years in a row. Why haven't they won a Super Bowl? Because Turner is a mediocre head coach with no killer instinct. Why hasn't he been replaced? Because he doesn't argue with the GM over personnel issues. If a Cowher or a Gruden type could set their ego aside and stick to coaching, who knows how many championships they could win the the Chargers' talent.

Case Study 2: The Atlanta Falcons. Does anyone have any idea what Mike Smith does? Nothing fancy that's for sure. But he doesn't need to because his team is not weak at any position. And they are about to clinch home field in the NFC playoffs, which probably means they are going to the Super Bowl given Matt Ryan's record in the Georgia Dome.

Case Study 3: The Patriots, Colts & Eagles. What do these teams have in common? They have a habit of letting players go that have just reached their prime and replacing them with hungry unknowns. This way, their GM's don't have to worry about salary cap acrobatics, they can just find hardworking players who will fit their scheme and team chemistry. When you build through the lower rounds of the draft you save in signing bonuses and create a competitive camp environment full of guys WORKING to win a spot. The Eagles got away from this starting with the signing of TO, but this approach was a hallmark of their run of NFC title game appearances. And is anyone going to question the success of this approach in Indy or New England?

Fire Bruce Allen. Kidnap Scott Pioli or AJ Smith or Thomas Dimitroff. Clean house.

Posted by: nkeitt | December 22, 2010 5:49 PM | Report abuse

Why focus on when it began to unravel for the skins? I tend to agree with the commentor who responded that May 1999 was the clincher.

I'd rather be more upbeat. Like "when did it get better for Jason? When he was shuffled off Snyder' Folly!"

Posted by: 15of18 | December 22, 2010 9:59 PM | Report abuse

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