Frank Doyle looks at Washington’s prospects for the coming NFL season and finds head coach Mike Shanahan a man under pressure.
In the eighteen years since Joe Gibbs retired from his first stint as head coach of the Washington Redskins, Washington has recorded five winning seasons. Two of those were under Gibbs’ second coming, and the other three were under Norv Tuner, now in San Diego – 9-7 in 1996, 8-7-1 in 1997 and 10-6 in 1999.
Under Gibbs, the Redskins had ten winning seasons in twelve years, and won three Super Bowls with three different starting quarterbacks. If you want to know what the mighty having fallen looks like, make your way to FedEx Field to watch the Redskins sometime. You’ll see it in all its glory.
Mike Shanahan took over from the hapless Jim Zorn last year, returning to football three years after leaving Denver, and in his first year back Shanahan failed to cover himself in glory.
Shanahan’s big move of last year was to bring Donovan McNabb to Washington from Philly, a move that turned out to be an abject disaster and ended with McNabb being benched for the final three games of the season. Now McNabb has moved on to Minnesota and Shanahan’s choice at starting quarterback is between two journeymen, John Beck and Rex Grossman. Beck is the favored choice, but Grossman has more experience and has played better in pre-season. It’s not a good place to be when you’re choosing the most important position on the field.
The backfield is better, with the signing of Tim Hightower from Arizona to join the talented but injury prone Ryan Torain. The Redskins have a talented receiver corps but the quarterback has to get the ball to them before they can do any damage.
On defense, the key man is Barry Cofield, whom the Redskins signed from the Giants to play nose tackle in Shanahan’s favored 3-4 scheme. It’s a big ask, as if things aren’t working at nose tackle the entire defense falls with him in that particular scheme. The secondary is sold but worryingly prone to giving up the big play.
Sports Interaction has set the NFL betting over/under for total games won by Washington this season at 6.5, which shows how far the Redskins still are from contending again. Washington is a +1200 longshot to win the competitive NFC East, +4000 to win the Conference and +10000 to win the Super Bowl. Those hog glory years of Theismann, Riggins, Grimm and the rest look better and better as the years go by.