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The future of the Redskins put on notice after Vikings loss

5:38 AM, Nov 8, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- The Washington Redskins 34-27 loss to the Minnesota Vikings (now 2-7 on the season) was a hazy blur. Watching the second half demise from my desk at WUSA-9 felt like sitting in inevitable traffic on route 66 -- unbearable, hard to explain and yet all too typical for a Mike Shanahan coached team.

Even though it isn't the largest issue with this franchise, lets do what everyone in Washington D.C. does after a Redskins loss: spread blame pie amongst the players.

The critically acclaimed Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel sliced and diced the defense. Basic issues like tackling and exploiting linebackers Perry Riley and London Fletcher in coverage are not secrets amongst coaching staffs in the league. Those who have defended Jim Haslett throughout his reign as defensive coordinator are starting to dwindle.

Obviously the offensive line was punctured, allowing four untimely sacks. Griffin found himself knocked violently on the turf, enough times to sound some alarm bells. The further along the season drags, the more it looks like o-line will need some financial upgrades or even, gulp, a high draft pick.

Do we have to address the nightmare that has become every single snap on special teams? A stamp collectors convention has more enthusiasm than this entire unit. Not one guy takes pride of being a special teamer. I hope somewhere Lorenzo Alexander and Brandon Banks are laughing. I'll offer a suggestion: give Brian Mitchell a headset. Why the hell not?

It's a shame one of RGIII's sharpest throwing performances (3 TD's, 281 pass yards) is all for not. Yeah, maybe he's been inconsistent in his second season. And he surely needs to get better at making reads on passing plays, especially when games are on the line -- get ready for the 'Luck and Wilson are more clutch ESPN debates'.

This much is clear about RGIII: he's going to be good enough to keep you in 11-12 games in an NFL season. Sophomore slump or not, quarterbacks like Griffin don't pop out of vending machines. Just ask the Minnesota Vikings, who were going to trade the moon for the Baylor prospect if they could've.

So now we've established Griffin runs the show in Washington. And as in run the show I mean his influence is everywhere. Even though it was over analyzed by media, RGIII clearly asserted his power over Shanahan following the knee injury and reentry back onto the field. And that leverage has never left the 23-year-old's side. Griffin is more important to the long term of the Redskins organization than their current head coach. They both know that.

Now all of a sudden the 3-6 Redskins immediate future is up in the air. You better believe Griffin will at a very minimum have a say about a coaching change. It's becoming public knowledge owner Dan Snyder adores RGIII -- shocking, I know.

If losses keep piling up the collaboration of Snyder, Griffin and Bruce Allen must answer the question that will hover lightly around the team the rest of the season: should the Mike Shanahan era come to an end? And the answer isn't as easy as yes or no.

A reformed loose cannon, Snyder seems to have a decent relationship with his head coach, a first for the Redskins owner. If you are Snyder, you don't exactly want to fire a Super Bowl winning guy if you aren't 100 percent sold you can make a substantial upgrade. No more Jim Zorn hires. A plan must be concocted.

Here's the biggest issue: following the season Shanahan will be entering the final year of his five-year contract. The elder Shanahan is smart enough to know he needs an extension to be successful. No established coach would agree to a one-year lameduck deal. So either Snyder will have to extend him for under performing or force him to step down.  

The case to keep Shanahan isn't hard to find. He's responsible for completely repairing the roster and returning the NFC East crown to the nation's capital. Ryan Kerrigan, Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris and Pierre Garcon all give this team a chance to win on Sunday's. All will likely be fixtures on the roster for years to come. All are Shanahan's doing.

But the celebrations in the locker room following the week 17 win over Dallas seem like distant memories. Shanahan is running out of answers. Or more bluntly, he, unlike Joe Gibbs, isn't taking blame for repeated miscues. 

"Same thing as a year ago. You've got to take it game by game," Shanahan told reporters in Minnesota.

Except nothing is the same as a year ago. The read option isn't sexy. Griffin's aura of leadership isn't exactly a breath of fresh air anymore. Josh Morgan isn't picking up fumble recoveries and scoring them for touchdowns against the Giants.

Looking backwards in sports to try and find answers usually is a flawed approach. The Nats were guilty of that during their struggles and now the Redskins are too. You have to be innovative as a head coach, or you'll become prey. Can Mike Shanahan keep adapting his coaching style and game plans?

Three years from now RGIII will be 26. Does he want three more years of Shanahan's run first system? Does he want more receivers and more spread looks, ala the Packers and Patriots? Griffin may not even exactly know. But he'll get to toss more than two cents.

And that's the revelation that came from the loss to the Vikings. Mike Shanahan's job security is being legitimately challenged for the second straight year. His fantastic job on the personnel side worked. His coaching hasn't. He's lost too many games he should've won.

Make it to a 7-9 record and Shanahan is probably okay. And even then, that would be going 4-3 the rest of the way. Anything worse might come with stipulations. As stubborn as he is, Shanahan could probably justify letting Haslett go if it was demanded from Snyder. But he would and could never fire his son, Kyle. He'd walk out with him.

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