If you like to follow the Washington Redskins, and old friends Case Keenum and Adrian Peterson, Hogs Haven, the SB Nation site dedicated to that team, is probably the place you should head to if you aren’t already. It’s a good site, run by good folks, having to suffer through some bad times. They do it with solid analysis and a good sense of humor about things, and we’re happy to welcome Andrew York over here to do our Five Good Questions segment this week. But if you’re not familiar with this week’s opponent outside of ‘lol Bruce Allen’, ‘lol Dan Snyder’, and the former Vikings players, well, get to know them as Andrew takes my five terrible questions and gives some really great answers. I returned the favor over there, so go check out that piece if you get a chance.
DN: At 1-6, the Washington Redskins are going through another miserable year, with the Jay Gruden firing and the QB carousel. Interim coach Bill Callahan has now come out and said that old friend Case Keenum is now the guy moving forward. Is that the right move for the rest of this year, and is Dwayne Haskins still the QBOTF? Any regrets moving on from Kirk Cousins, or was it a good move?
HH: Fans are very divided about whether or not Haskins should be starting right now. There are quite a few who think he should be getting that game experience in a lost season, but there are also quite a few who think starting him too early would be detrimental to his development. However, almost every coach, player, and former player who is asked about it seems to think Haskins isn’t ready to start, and I tend to think they know what they’re talking about more than fans do. I’d rather the football people make that decision based on what they see in practice, and clearly what they see isn’t good enough yet. Ever since the Redskins drafted Haskins, they have been preaching patience with him, so I think they knew from the start that he was a very raw prospect (only started one year in college) with tremendous talent who would require time to develop.
However, Callahan recently implied in an interview that he’s targeting a week 11 start for Haskins (vs the Jets, and right after our bye), so we should get to see him this year. Given that we will probably have a top 3 pick in the draft this year, it’s important to get enough of a look at Haskins to know if we should be considering another QB next year, now that the Cardinals have made such things fashionable. I still think Haskins is the QBOTF for now, he has a lot of arm talent and talks a good game in interviews, but at a certain point we need to see it on the field.
Regarding Kirk, I wouldn’t say the Redskins chose to move on from Kirk Cousins so much as Kirk chose to move on from the Redskins, though the team was never going to give him the fully-guaranteed contract he wanted from the beginning. I think it was for the best for both parties. Although I think Kirk is an okay NFL QB and slightly above the Dalton Line, I think the Redskins need more than an okay QB to take them to a championship, so they may as well start that search as soon as possible. The Redskins would probably have a much better win-loss record if they had retained Kirk (even under his current contract), but they wouldn’t be a Super Bowl contender.
DN: Whether Haskins is or isn’t the guy for the future, there still seems to be some talent on both sides of the ball that the next coach can build around. Who are a couple guys you like that you think will be a core part of the future Redskins? Will Trent Williams be a part of that rebuild, or is he going to get moved before the trade deadline?
HH: Trent Williams will not be a part of the rebuild. The team has indicated that it will trade him, but not until the offseason, when the value of draft picks will be known exactly. I think they could probably get a better offer right now from a team that thinks it’s a playoff contender, but I don’t know what offers the team has been receiving.
In terms of the future, I think rookie WR Terry McLaurin [ED Note, in Chris Berman voice: FROM...OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY] would be the first name most Redskins fans talk about. He may be the best WR of this past draft class, combining 4.3 speed with excellent route running and surprising physicality. On the other side of the ball, Matt Ioannidis, Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, and Tim Settle form the core of our defensive line, and all have been very good players so far. OLB Montez Sweat is also a SPARQ freak whom many compared to Danielle Hunter before the draft. Although Sweat is still developing and hasn’t made a huge impact so far, his potential is very high. Landon Collins is also a very good strong safety and a tackling machine near the line of scrimmage, and Quinton Dunbar has quietly been one of PFF’s highest graded cornerbacks this year.
DN: What do the Redskins do well on offense and defense, and who do the Vikes need to stop on offense and account for on defense?
HH: Right now, the Redskins don’t do a lot well on offense. Put 3 DBs on Terry McLaurin, and you will probably shut down our passing game. We have been running the ball much better ever since Bill Callahan took over and committed to feeding Adrian Peterson the ball, but now it’s questionable if Peterson will be able to play on Thursday (ankle sprain). We’ve had a lot of injuries on the offense, and things might be different if Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, and Derrius Guice were able to play.
I actually think our defense has been getting better over the course of the season, but it looks bad statistically because it keeps getting put in bad situations by the offense and the offense can’t stay on the field. The defense was built to stop the run with the defensive linemen mentioned above, and watching them in the first half of games, they are generally good at doing so, but get gassed in the 2nd half from being on the field all the time. We are much weaker at stopping the pass, especially pass catching RBs, as our LBs are terrible in coverage. Although CB Quinton Dunbar has played well, highly-paid veteran Josh Norman has been terrible this year, so targeting him (especially on deep passes) might be a good idea.
DN: With such a quick turnaround, what’s the injury outlook for Thursday? Are there any key players that won’t play, and how will that affect what Washington can do on both sides of the ball?
HH: The biggest injury this year is to TE Jordan Reed. He got targeted on a dirty hit by Falcons safety Keanu Neal in a preseason game and has been in the concussion protocol ever since, recently being placed on IR. He is a game-changer when healthy (although he is rarely healthy). Backup TE Vernon Davis is also in the concussion protocol, and has been a solid number 2 when healthy (he hasn’t lost his speed yet, despite his age, though he’s a terrible blocker). RB Derrius Guice got injured week 1 and is on IR.
Although Adrian Peterson has been a good runner between the tackles, Guice added a lot of versatility in the passing game. Pass catching RB Chris Thompson is also injured, and he can be a dynamic playmaker in space when healthy. If Peterson can’t play, we will be starting 4th string RB Wendell Smallwood (not good!). On defense, we may be starting our 3rd string free safety due to injuries above him. Josh Norman is questionable to play, but it’s also questionable if that will make the defense any worse.
DN: Andrew, congratulations! The NFL owners have approved your bid to buy the Washington Redskins, the paperwork has been signed, and Dan Snyder has left the facility for the last time. Tell me your plan to bring them back to prominence.
HH: (Blows dust off 500 page manifesto) It all starts with finding good football people to run the operation and letting them run it without interference. The Redskins front office actually has some very capable people in it right now (as indicated by player agents), but they are constantly held back by the people at the top. VP of Football Operations Eric Schaffer has been good at managing the cap and negotiating contracts and is very respected in league circles from what I’ve read (also one of only a handful of people to record a perfect score on the exam player agents take to get certified). VP of Player Personnel Doug Williams recently reorganized the front office, adding more scouts and shifting responsibilities in a way that has really improved our scouting.
Director of Pro Personnel Alex Santos has mostly done a good job with FA acquisitions and (as the linked article above indicates) is generally held in high regard around the league. Director of College Personnel Kyle Smith has done a great job in the draft the last 2 years of finding starters in the mid to late rounds. Kyle Smith is also the son of respected former GM AJ Smith and is someone many Redskins fans would like promoted to fill our vacant GM role. All of these people have only risen to prominence recently, but there are two major problems preventing them from succeeding: lack of accountability and bad management (by owner Dan Snyder and President Bruce Allen).
In terms of accountability, the Redskins seem to employ a committee approach to most personnel decisions that confuses responsibility and allows Team President Bruce Allen to avoid blame for major mistakes that should ultimately be laid at his feet. Seriously, what other team leaves the GM position vacant? In terms of management, Dan Snyder and Bruce Allen (it’s hard to tell which of them is responsible for what) have meddled detrimentally in football operations for years now. Most famously trading away a king’s ransom to draft Robert Griffin III, empowering RG3 to defy his coach Mike Shanahan and effectively hamstringing the coach, refusing to trade Kirk Cousins when it was clear they wouldn’t extend him, refusing to trade Trent Williams now, and overriding the scouts in the most recent draft to take Dwayne Haskins at 15 (reportedly the scouts wanted to go with an edge rusher and didn’t have first round grades on any of the remaining QBs). There are a litany of other mistakes Redskins fans will point to as well, but those are the lowlights.
At any rate, that comes back to the point about finding good football people to run the operation and letting them run it without interference. I think we already have a lot of good football people, we just need to empower them and more clearly define their responsibilities. I’d start with firing Bruce Allen and trying to get Joe Gibbs to come on board as Team President. His coaching days are past, but he has proven to be an effective CEO in NASCAR (recently entering NASCAR Hall of Fame), he still understands football, and he would help reconnect with the fan base.
If not him, I’d open it up to interviews, but would strongly consider promoting Eric Schaffer to Team President, as he has the legal, scouting, and contracts experience to handle those aspects of the job. After that, I’d tell him that his job is to appoint the GM and the GM’s job is to build the team. No more committees, no more meddling, the GM will be in charge of all personnel decisions and will be held accountable if we are still losing in 5 years. I’d still want to be kept appraised of football decisions, but I’d let the football people run things without interference. I think Colts Assistant GM Ed Dodds, Cowboys Director of Pro Personnel Will McClay, and our own Kyle Smith would all make excellent GM candidates, but I’d leave that decision up to the Team President. I also think Colts DC Matt Eberflus, 49ers DC Robert Saleh, and Cowboys Defensive Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard would make good head coach candidates (focusing on what I see as the strength of our team, the defense), but I’d leave that decision to the GM.
Thanks again Andrew! Here’s to a good game with no injuries.