Robert Griffin III needs additional playmakers on both sides of the ball for Washington to improve its record. Getty Images
I know the Redskins are still mathematically alive for the playoffs. I know they're not eliminated. At least not officially. But, any real chance of them being relevant this season was dropped -- like far too many of Robert Griffin III's passes this season.
Entering the bye week 4-5, Washington still would have been a long shot to reach the postseason tournament. They likely would have been required to finish the season 5-2 against what promises to be the toughest part of their schedule with 5 divisional games plus matchups with the Ravens and Browns. But with Sunday's desultory loss to a bad Carolina team, the Redskins just made the task insurmountably difficult.
For Skins fans, the loss Sunday left a pervasive feeling of gloom. The team's defensive woes have been well documented, and they were on display again -- no pass rush, poor coverage, and (lately) an inability to stop the run. With Brian Orakpo sidelined, Washington suddenly has no one on the defensive side of the ball who demands the offense's attention.
But that gloomy feeling really comes from the lackluster performance of the offense. They moved the ball here and there, but struggled in the passing game and still failed to convert on third downs. In watching the game live, I'd largely blamed the passing game woes on uncharacteristic inaccuracy from Griffin, as well as the quarterback hanging onto the ball too long.
Here's the thing though: Griffin wasn't holding the ball just for the heck of it. He was holding it because his receivers couldn't get open. Part of that was surely that Carolina was dropping 7 defenders into coverage while still generating pressure with a 4-man rush. But, a BIG part of it goes to the reality that with Pierre Garcon and Fred Davis out, Washington receivers don't have the speed to stretch the defense, nor the ability to consistently get separation from defenders.
So, to summarize, Washington is struggling this season because they (still) lack playmakers on offense and on defense. Then layer in their propensity for shooting themselves in the foot with their high penalty rate and poor discipline (see late game meltdowns from Josh Morgan, Kyle Shanahan, DeAngelo Hall, and then yesterday's near penalty on Josh Wilson who stayed on the field to argue a perfectly good pass interference call against him), and what you get is a 3-6 team going nowhere.
The bright side to the season, of course, is the promising play and extreme upside of Griffin. The downside: the heavy price they paid to acquire Griffin is going to make stocking the team with the talent to support him a more challenging proposition -- especially if they can't get from beneath the second half of their preposterous $36 million cap penalty.
Finally, the lack of depth, the continued high penalty rate, and the on-field discipline problems call into question the leadership of head coach Mike Shanahan. Shanahan, of course, is more than just the coach, he's also the chief talent selector -- GM Bruce Allen is more of a contracts and cap management guy. This is Shanahan's team, and it's continued failure two and a half seasons into his tenure casts serious doubt on the franchise's direction.