Watching Robert Griffin III struggle with the most basic elements of quarterbacking on a national stage against the 49ers while under heavy national scrutiny for his leadership skills would have been the last straw for any engaged football fan on their season. But for the 2013 Washington Redskins, I think we need to be honest with ourselves and admit that the camel's back was broken many weeks ago. This is not a good team. It's a team that started 0-3, and won 3 of it's first 10 games against a schedule filled with homecoming opponents, and overall a very favorable injury report.
This team has won comfortably just once this season, which happened after overcoming nearly three full quarters of jitters against Matt Flynn and the Oakland Raiders. The offense has regressed severely. The defense is problematic. The special teams is worse. This is the worst Redskins team that has been fielded at any point in the last 20 years. Yes, that timeframe pre-dates Vinny Cerrato and Dan Snyder.
We can also try to frame Mike Shanahan's career in Washington in its proper context now that the full results are in. Shanahan's teams performed very poorly in his first two seasons, amassing a combined record of 11-21. There had only been one retread coach to get a team to the playoffs after starting that poorly in his first 32 games in the prior 15 years: Dick Vermiel's 1999 Rams. At the conclusion of the 2011, it sure looked like Shanahan era was too far off the rails to be saved.
So if you're coaching for your job, and you have the kind of reputation Mike Shanahan does, are you the kind of person who goes down without a fight? No, you aren't, because I just asked you a rhetorical question. Shanahan paid the absured premium to move up four draft picks for Griffin because he had no choice: he had not built a foundation, expectations were building, and he had to put a winning product on the field at all costs.
It was very costly, and the trade looked really rough nine games into the 2012 season when Shanahan's record in Washington stood at 14-27 (!) in spite of some solid play from the rookie quarterback. But then, lightning struck, the Redskins went on the 7 game run run, and Shanahan became the first retread coach since Dick Vermeil in to make the postseason after struggling through the first two years.
That run made everything rosy in Washington, but a 21-27 coaching record means that a coach is losing 4 out of every 7 games still, and the imperative was on Shanahan to help his team take the next step. Because of the way the team was built, the Redskins weren't going to be able to do that without Griffin's development. This was a defense that was built to play with a lead, and a special teams unit that was hardly built at all. The Redskins expected their passing game to take a step forward in 2013.
And its at this point that the Redskins failure to develop a passing attack AFTER trading four top 40 picks to move up and select Griffin means that they have no choice but to try something else. This team isn't close to where it needs to be or where it expected to be. Griffin looks raw, and unprepared to play football. He looks poorly coached. That may be because of a lack of quality coaching. Or it may be that he is resistant to the kind of coaching that is being offered. Either way, the Redskins have to make a move. They can't bring Griffin and Mike Shanahan back in 2013.
And knowing that, there is simply no reason to play out the string the way with the way this team has been playing. There is no high first round draft pick to lose for — we can call that a Shanahan tax — there is little young talent to be developed beyond Griffin. Amazingly, this Redskins team isn't just bad, it's the second oldest team in football after Detroit. As long as Griffin, David Amerson, and Jordan Reed (all starters by merit) are playing, the "youth movement" has been in effect. Leonard Hankerson is out, injured. Josh Leribus and Adam Gettis may be too unprepared to log minutes. This team hasn't developed its late round picks.
So what can the Redskins possibly do to produce meaningful evaluation in the final five games? They can do just one thing: they can fire head coach Mike Shanahan and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, and promote Raheem Morris to interim head coach. The Redskins can give Morris five full weeks to turn the organization around, with an eye on the team's de-facto super bowl: Week 16 against Dallas against Fed Ex Field. The Redskins are on pace right now to get trounced in that game.
Maybe Morris can come in and get the players believing in themselves again. Or maybe he'll fail to do so. Either way, the last time we saw Morris as a head man on a coaching sideline, the 2011 Tampa Bay Bucs were doing a pretty good imitation of this Redskins team. These next couple weeks would be a nice referendum on Morris' development as a coach.
Most of all, a coaching change would give Redskins fans a reason to watch, a reason to come out to the games the rest of the season. Sure, it's a lost season. But that doesn't necessarily mean this has to turn into a lost decade. Positive change can start, effective immediately, with the termination of Mike Shanahan as Redskins HC. Raheem Morris is the best coaching option for this team going forward into December.