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The Girl Mopping the Floors

The Girl Mopping the Floors

Cinderella stories are great. Tales of an individual or, in the case of the 2007 Washington Redskins, a team overcoming adversity and long odds are uplifting and inspiring. The Skins' run to the playoffs is one that will resound forever in team lore.

That's all well and good, but there's one problem here. In the NFL, you don't want to be the girl at home mopping the floors while the evil stepsisters are off at the ball. You want to be the stepsisters in the story, the ones who are taking what they want. Or, better yet, you want to be the handsome prince in the palace, in a position of power and dictating what others are to do.

Instead, the Redskins have had to rely on their Fairy Godmother in two of the last three years in order to make their way into the NFL playoffs. The '05 and '07 seasons were remarkably similar in how they flowed. Both featured a hot start and a midseason swoon that featured some heartbreaking losses (Tampa Bay and San Diego two years ago, Philly and Dallas this year). In both cases, Joe Gibbs and company were able to turn pumpkins into coaches and rats into horses and were able to make it to the ball.

If Cinderella was around today, we might have a social worker examining the life choices that had her performing such menial tasks to eke out a bare existence. Evidently, she had some things going for her. Once she was cleaned up she was quite a looker and she had the charm to captivate a prince. So why was she mopping the floors to begin with? What paths taken or not taken led her to making a living with a mop and bucket?

The Redskins have a lot going for them. The business end of the team is a cash generating machine. That gives the team resources to spend on coaches, scouting, facilities, and signing bonuses. They have a good core of talent and, as we saw this year, some decent depth. The biggest stadium in the NFL should give them a huge home field advantage and would if the team would consistently give the 90,000+ who fill he place something to cheer about.

Despite all of this, for the past four years—actually for most of the last 16 years—the Redskins have found themselves in late November with the mop in their hands, wishing wistfully that they could be mingling with royalty. Two of the past three years they have made it to the palace only to find themselves ejected and sent back to working the mop well before midnight.

Like the social worker who might look at Cinderella's life choices, what the Redskins need to do to be in charge of the palace is study the choices they have made that have left them with a losing record in late November every year. What led them to think that committing large chunks of cap money to Adam Archuleta and Brandon Lloyd was a good idea? Were the issues that led to blowing numerous halftime leads more related to play calling or to execution? When the issues are identified, how do they go about fixing them? Can the offense be truly effective with all of its receivers standing under six feet or do they need a big body in the mix? What needs to be done to ensure better choices regarding in-game management such as using timeouts? Has the choice not to employ a general manager served the team well? And, even if the answer to that last question is "yes", considering that Gibbs likely has a maximum of three years left as coach, will the present structure be effective going into the future?

If the Redskins are to live up to the expectations that followed the hiring of Joe Gibbs, expectations that are reasonable for a team with the Skins' resources and tradition, they can't continue to be Cinderella. They need to make the choices that will lead to someone else trying on the slipper while they hold the keys to the palace and watch from on high.

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Enemy Intel: Yes, Redskins fans, you need to root for the Cowboys again

Enemy Intel: Yes, Redskins fans, you need to root for the Cowboys again

Here is my weekly Redskins-centric spin around the NFL:

Before we get going, let’s line up the NFL wild card contenders by current seed and their remaining four games.

Giants (8-4): Cowboys, Lions, @Eagles, @Redskins
Bucs (7-5): Saints, @Cowboys, @Saints, Panthers
Redskins (6-5-1): @Eagles, Panthers, @Bears, Giants
Vikings (6-6): @Jaguars, Colts, @Packers, Bears
Packers (6-6): Seahawks, @Bears, Vikings, @Lions
Cardinals (5-6-1): @Dolphins, Saints, @Seahawks, @Rams
Saints (5-7): @Bucs, @Cardinals, Bucs, @Falcons
Eagles (5-7): Redskins, @Ravens, Giants, Cowboys

—The Redskins can knock the Eagles out of any practical chance of making the playoffs with a win on Sunday. An Eagles loss would mean they could finish no better than 8-8 and that is highly unlikely to get it done this year.

—For a second straight week, Redskins fans need to root for Cowboys to win. Or for their opponent to lose. Some wanted to make that distinction last week when Cowboys played the Vikings and the optimal outcome for the Redskins was a Dallas win. However you want to look at it, a Giants loss to Dallas could move the Redskins to within a half game of the No. 5 seed.

MORE REDSKINS: Assessing the four remainig opponents

—There should be no hesitation about pulling for the Saints to beat the Bucs. A Washington win and a Tampa Bay loss puts the Redskins back into playoff position with the No. 6 seed. The Bucs are 2.5-point favorites at home. They are the hot team, coming in with four straight wins while New Orleans has lost three of four. The Saints are on the fringe of contention but Redskins fans need to pull for the teams ahead of Washington in the standings.

—The Redskins can’t look for much help when it comes to the team immediately behind them in the standings. The Vikings visit the Jaguars, who are locked in to yet another season of double-digit losses. You might be tempted to look for the home underdog to put up a fight and they might. But Blake Bortles has thrown three pick sixes this year and the Vikings have returned two interceptions for TDs this year. Look for such a play to be decisive and for the Vikings to remain tight with Washington in the standings.

—The other team a half game behind the Redskins is the Packers. They host the Seahawks in what could be very snowy conditions in Green Bay. Seattle is a three-point favorite but if the weather gets crazy anything could happen. Redskins fans need to root for the Seahawks, for obvious reasons.

RELATED: Three Redskins out on Sunday, Reed questionable

—The Cardinals creeped back into contention with their win over the Redskins. That win and the fact that they have a tie on their ledger means that the Redskins do not want to finish with the same record as Arizona. This is one of the few situations where a tiebreaker would matter. It’s an easy call to pull for them to fall to the AFC Dolphins.

—I went 2-1 last week, winning with the Patriots over the Rams and the Seahawks over the Panthers. I have four NFL picks this week, all of them road favorites: the Redskins -1 on the road over the Eagles, the Cowboys -3 at the Giants, the Falcons -6 over the Rams in L.A., and the Seahawks giving three to the Packers.

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Need to Know: Assessing the Redskins' four remaining opponents

Need to Know: Assessing the Redskins' four remaining opponents

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, December 10, one day before the Washington Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles.

Timeline

Today's schedule: No media availability

Days until: Panthers @ Redskins 9; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 14; Giants @ Redskins, New Year’s Day 22

Injuries of note:
Out:
G Long (concussion), S Blackmon (concussion), DE Lanier
Limited: TE Reed (shoulder), G Scherff (ankle), DE Jean Francois (knee/foot), DE Baker (ankle), G Shawn Lauvao (groin)
Final injury report

Around Redskins Park

The Redskins have four games remaining on their schedule. Three wins would give them a record of 9-6-1 and a very good shot at the playoffs. Four will almost certainly get them a ticket to keep playing; two wins or fewer will have them needing a whole lot of help to make the postseason

Let’s take a look at the Redskins’ remaining four opponents and revisit the confidence level on the Redskins’ chances of beating each one of them. (I first did this exercise a few weeks ago).

@Eagles, 5-7, weighted DVOA via Football Outsiders, 15.3% (ranked 5th)
The Eagles looked like playoff contenders for about half of the season but they have taken a tumble back to earth, losing five of their last six. Right now the Redskins are the better team, although their long injury list is an area for concern. The Eagles appear to be in some degree of disarray after their coach accused some unnamed players of giving less than full effort. Confidence that the Redskins will win: High

Panthers, 4-8, DVOA -7.5% (25th)
They won’t be able to defend their NFC championship much longer. By the time this game comes around they could be either eliminated or on the verge of being mathematically out of the playoffs. Their problems are numerous including big issues at cornerback (too bad they didn’t have a guy who could have helped franchise tagged) and an offensive line that has been injury-wracked all year. Still, Cam Newton is a scary quarterback and he still has tight end Greg Olsen and receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Ted Ginn Jr. If the Redskins get into a shootout they could be in trouble. Confidence: Moderately high

@Bears, 3-9, DVOA -3.0%, (24th)
Matt Barkley is the Bears’ third starting QB this season and in most statistical categories he’s the worst of the three. The Bears have been hit by injuries as hard as any NFL team with multiple starters on injured reserve. They probably would have struggled even with those players healthy; without them they are one of the five worst teams in the NFL. The one thing to beware of is the late December weather in Chicago, which could randomize the outcome to an extent. Confidence: Very high

Giants, 8-4, DVOA 5.0%, (12th)
The new players on the Giants’ defense were just starting to gel when end Jason Pierre-Paul’s season ended after sports hernia surgery. Their defense, with the No. 7 DVOA (-9.6%), won’t collapse but it won’t be as strong. Eli Manning’s stats are down a tick from last year but as long as he has Odell Beckham to throw to the Giants won’t be totally stymied on offense. This one is hard to get a good feel for this far out, not knowing what might be at stake for either team. Confidence: Moderate

For comparison purposes, the 6-5-1 Redskins have a DVOA of 9.8% (10th)

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