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Should Mike Shanahan stay or go?

Should Mike Shanahan stay or go?

If you are reading this post you probably know that Mike Shanahan is very much in danger of being fired soon after tomorrow’s game against the Giants. The conventional wisdom is that his departure is inevitable.

But is it the right move for owner Daniel Snyder to make?

There certainly are people who want Shanahan back to coach next year including most of the players. There may be some who would rather see a change at the top but no player has gone on the record saying that they would prefer that. In fact, there aren’t even any anonymous sources in the locker room who would rather see Shanahan and company move on. Many have cited the need for continuity as the main argument in favor of Shanahan staying on.

His four years in Washington have not been without accomplishment. After taking over a franchise in disarray with Vinny Cerrato and Jim Zorn in charge, he restored order. He drafted cornerstone tackle Trent Williams, found running back Alfred Morris in the sixth round, signed receiver Pierre Garçon and made a bold trade for Robert Griffin III that may have solved the Redskins’ decades-old problem at the most important position on the field. Along with Bruce Allen he navigated the team through a two-year salary cap penalty without blowing up the cap in future seasons. Of course the signature accomplishment was the NFC East title the team won in 2012.

But if you go by the adage that you are what your record says you are, you have to say that the Shanahan Redskins have not been successful. They go into what could be the final game of that era with a record of 24-40, counting the playoff loss to the Seahawks last January.

Yes, they did have to deal with the cap penalty, as Shanahan has mentioned repeatedly and both Kyle Shanahan and Jim Haslett noted during their press conferences this week. But they managed to win the NFC East in the first year of it. And in their second year they were remarkably injury free for most of the season, suffering no major injuries while they were in realistic playoff contention. The presence of all of their starters on the field should have mitigated the cap penalty to some extent.

Shanahan was supposed to rid the franchise of the off-field drama that has plagued the team for years. But it has not stopped. We had the theatrics of Albert Haynesworth and his conditioning test, refusal to play nose tackle and eventual four-game suspension to end the season.

To be fair, Shanahan inherited the Albert problem. But he traded for Donovan McNabb himself, giving up picks in the second and fourth rounds for the Eagles’ QB. It never was a good fit and troubles bubbled to the surface when McNabb was pulled out in the late going of a midseason game in Detroit because, as Shanahan explained later, he didn’t have the “cardiovascular endurance” to keep up with the two-minute drill. McNabb was dealt after one season for a sixth-rounder.

You probably don’t need your memory refreshed about the saga of Griffin and his offseason recovering from his knee injury and the recent leaks that have made the Sunday morning pregame shows must-see TV.

Bottom line, so much for no drama.

But how well has Shanahan done actually coaching the team?

That calls for a very subjective answer. One rap against Shanahan’s coaching that is unfair is that his teams have drawn too many penalty flags. In his four years in Washington, the Redskins have been in the top half of the league in terms of penalty yards just once. They have ranked 28th, 17th, 4th, and 18th. Their worst year was 2012, when they had the most success in the wins column.

But you can question the timing of some of the penalties. One of the most notable came in the second game of 2012 when Josh Morgan lost his cool in the closing minute, costing the Redskins 15 yards and pushing them out of field goal range in a game they lost by three.

Are infractions like that the coach’s fault or does the blame lie with the player? Certainly the player deserves some of it but has the head coach created an atmosphere where such mistakes are tolerated? Earlier this month against the Giants, three veteran players committed dumb penalties. In his news conference the next day, Shanahan gave Santana Moss (arguing with an official), Pierre Garçon (kicking a ball on the ground), and DeAngelo Hall (personal foul for retaliating) passes for their penalties (see item 4 in this post).

At a key point last Sunday against the Cowboys, the 15th game of the fourth season under Shanahan, the Redskins committed two sloppy, dumb penalties and then had to burn a timeout. That turned a golden opportunity for a touchdown into a field goal in a game the Redskins lost by one. Is a sequence like that a hallmark of a well-coached team?

Going into this season, the Redskins were 13-16 in games decided by seven points or less. That’s not particularly good but it’s not awful. But in 2013 they have gone 2-6 in such games.

Close games are one thing and can be a matter of getting the right bounce of the ball, but the Redskins are getting blown out with alarming frequency. This year they have lost games by 18, 15, 24, 21, and 35 points. In 2010, Shanahan’s first year here, they lost just two games by 15 or more points. With Rex Grossman and John Beck at QB in 2011 they lost three such games. Is this a sign of a program moving in the right direction?

They have been outscored by 130 points this year. Jim Zorn was fired after a four-win season during which the team was outscored by 70.

Did the Redskins face some headwinds this year? Certainly there was that cap penalty and the injury to Griffin, who was able to be the RG3 of 2012 only here and there. They didn’t have a first-round draft pick due to the Griffin trade. Under such circumstances, a slide back towards the middle of the pack would have been understandable.

But a total collapse? No. Not when you have 21 of 22 starters back from your 2012 division champion. Not in a very weak division. Not when you had to make only a handful of changes to your lineup before Thanksgiving due to injury. Not when your offense has the ball in the late going with a chance to tie or win the game in five of your last seven games (the Redskins went 0-5 in those situations).

Even given the on-field failure, Snyder might have been inclined to let Shanahan finish the final year of his contract. But it’s hard to see how things can continue after a string of media reports that have damaged the coach’s relationship with Griffin beyond repair. Even if Shanahan is not responsible for the leaks as many suspect, he has done little to refute the substance of them.

If Snyder does do the expected and ends the Shanahan era sometime early next week, it will be difficult to apply the popular impatient and impulsive label to the move. The case against Mike Shanahan continuing to coach the team is just too strong.

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Over/under: Redskins pass catchers in 2017

Over/under: Redskins pass catchers in 2017

Our offseason over/under predictions for the Redskins rumbles on.

Today we are predicting the numbers involving the Redskins pass-catchers.

Redskins receivers/tight ends over-under

The Redskins’ receiving corps was forced to undergo some changes after top wideouts DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon departed via free agency.

How will their replacements do?

How will the talented holdovers perform? Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and JP Finlay go over-under on some Redskins pass catchers stats.  

RELATED: OVER/UNDER - KIRK COUSINS

WR Terrelle Pryor, 1,000 receiving yards

Tandler: I know that a lot of people, including Finlay, are looking for a huge year out of Pryor. I think he’ll do well, but a thousand yards is going to elusive. He did go over 1K last year with the Browns with terrible QBs throwing to him. But Pryor also had the benefit of being one of few viable receivers in Cleveland. That’s not the case here. He won’t get anywhere near the 140 targets he got last year. Under

Finlay: Not sure when I said a huge year for Pyror, that seems like Tandler throwing shade, but I do think he is capable of 1,000 yards. The quantity of targets will certainly drop, but the quality should be much greater. In today's NFL, 1,000 yards is no longer the benchmark it once was. The bulk of the league deploys a pass-first offense, and the Redskins definitely do. 25 wideouts went over 1,000 yards last season, including two on the Redskins. Over 

RELATED: WHO IS NEXT AT QB FOR THE REDSKINS?

WR Josh Doctson, 6.5 touchdown receptions

Tandler: When Kirk Cousins sees how well the 2016 first-round pick can get up and high-point the ball Doctson will immediately become the favorite red zone target. I’ve predicted as many as 10 TDs for him this year. That’s bold, perhaps crazy, but I feel safe going with at least seven. Over

Finlay: 10 TDs for basically a rookie wideout is nuts. You're talking Odell Beckham/Randy Moss production. Doctson does have great size and potential for the red zone, but I need to see before I believe. Only Jamison Crowder got to seven touchdowns in 2016, and that was with Kirk Cousins throwing for nearly 5,000 yards. Under

RELATED: OFF-FIELD MISTAKES WON'T IMPACT ON-FIELD RESULTS

WR Jamison Crowder, 1,000 receiving yards

Tandler: This is the safest bet on the board. His familiarity with Cousins will make him a security blanket when the quarterback gets in trouble. He’s learning and getting better; he ticked up almost 250 yards and 2.5 yards per catch between his rookie and second seasons. And Crowder is durable. Over

Finlay: I like this one. Crowder went for about 850 yards last season, a jump of about 250 yards from his rookie season. Another year with that improvement gets him past 1,000 yards with room to spare. Early last season, Crowder was the 'Skins best receiver. He posted more than 500 yards before the Redskins bye week. In the second half of the year, the focus shifted to DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon, which probably wasn't a coincidence as both players demanded the ball knowing they were headed for free agency. I expect Crowder to steadily produce all season in 2017. Over

RELATED: OFFER TO COUSINS NOT NEARLY ENOUGH

TE Jordan Reed, 12.5 games played

Tandler: Although we’re hesitant to make predictions about a player’s health, the fact is that this is the only variable for Reed going into the season. If he is on the field he will produce receiving yards and touchdowns by the bushel. Injuries, not defenses, are what slows him down. He skipped OTAs to spend more time strengthening his body and the results should show. But bad luck happens so this is a tough call. He’s due for some good fortune. Over

Finlay: Tandler is setting these totals with Vegas-like precision. This one is tough. In the last two seasons, Reed has played in 26 games, making 17 starts. I would argue the more important stat is starts, because that's when Reed is actually healthy. Last season, after separating his shoulder against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, Reed tried to gut out a few performances against the Panthers and the Eagles. He was ineffective in both, yet those count for games played. In nine starts in 2015, Reed was a monster, putting up nearly 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns. Starts are what matter, and the Redskins should hope for at least nine of them. Under

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FINLAY: Redskins' statement was a mistake, but won't impact on field results

FINLAY: Redskins' statement was a mistake, but won't impact on field results

The Redskins made a mistake issuing a statement about their failed long-term contract negotiations with Kirk Cousins. The team offered too much specific information.

On the field, however, starting next week in training camp, the statement will make zero impact.

Centered around the roller coaster that occurred between Bruce Allen’s statement on Monday afternoon and Kirk Cousins’ Tuesday interview with Grant and Danny on 106.7 the Fan, some Redskins fans think that hopes for the Burgundy and Gold are buried this fall. 

Was Allen’s statement a wise move? No. There was no reason to publicly put out the team’s offer, or more importantly, tell the world that Cousins never countered. It seemed like an attempt to control the conversation, and a lame attempt at that.

But here’s the thing: A deal was never happening

Cousins knew that. The Redskins knew that.

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

And the zaniness of Monday and Tuesday should not have any impact on the 2017 season.

If Cousins can do anything, it’s compartmentalize. 

Last season, he dealt with almost the exact same public mess of a contract squabble. The team never offered him remotely close to market value, and the QB still came out and threw for nearly 5,000 yards. 

Cousins will again block out the noise, and deliver his best possible performance for the Redskins. The team should be better too. An improved defense should help immediately (even if that jump goes from bad to average), and a rebuilt receiving group should give Cousins the weapons to again run Jay Gruden’s potent offense. 

There are fan theories that the team might implode, and eventually, go to Colt McCoy or Nate Sudfeld at quarterback. I don’t see that happening. 

Cousins is under contract for 2017. The coaching staff, and the players, know what he can do. Personally, I don’t think the season unravels. Cousins is a good player. He's established a baseline for his performance over the past two years. 

The time since the franchise tag deadline doesn’t change that. The time since the franchise tag doesn’t change Jordan Reed’s ability to get open. It doesn’t change Jamison Crowder’s quickness on the inside or Trent Williams power on the outside.

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

I don’t expect the Redskins to run off 13 wins. I’ve already written that I don’t even think the team will make the playoffs. To be clear, however, I don’t think Bruce Allen’s statement will make a difference once the players take the field in real games. 

On Wednesday, Chad Dukes of the Fan asked me if it’s possible that the Redskins season unravels, and things go sideways with Cousins. I don't expect that, and Dukes wondered if I was being overly optimistic. 

Could things fall apart? Sure. Anything is possible in the NFL, and especially with the Redskins. 

For me, however, Cousins' talent in the Redskins offensive system will mitigate the local penchant for crazy. Cousins has thrown for 9,000 yards and completed more than 68 percent of his passes in the last two seasons. He also bet on himself, again, to produce at a high level in 2017.

I think Cousins is smart. I think Gruden's offense will work. I think the Redskins defense will be improved. 

I don’t think this team makes the playoffs, but they should be close. I also don’t think this team implodes. 

Looking at the big picture, I definitely don’t consider myself an optimist. A realist, perhaps, but only time will tell. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! 

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