The Redskins got to where they were this season by being aggressive. They were aggressive in trading away three 1st round picks and a 2nd round pick for Robert Griffin and then making him the week 1 starter immediately after. They were aggressive building their entire offense around him, creating one of the NFL’s several new innovative read option offenses. You could also say they were aggressive (though unconventional might be the better word), when they took Kirk Cousins in 4th round to be Griffin’s backup. Cousins played a key role in their playoff run, winning one game and leading a comeback in another after Griffin got hurt. They were also aggressive playing Griffin less than 100% down the stretch.
However, aggressiveness was ironically their eventual downfall. Up 14-0 in the wild card round, Robert Griffin tweaked that previous knee injury and the Redskins chose to leave him in the game. They didn’t score the rest of the way, losing 24-14, as Griffin did not look right. Worst of all, his leg gave out late in the 4th quarter and he had to be taken out. Doctors determined that he partially tore his ACL, LCL, and meniscus and that surgery would be needed. Griffin is a fantastic athlete, but he’s suffered the same ligament damage before and the Redskins are privately worried about not just his week 1 availability, but his long term outlook.
Obviously, in hindsight, taking Griffin out of the game before he reinjured himself would have been the right move, especially if they had done it at 14-0. Kirk Cousins would have been coming off the bench cold and seeing his first ever playoff action as a rookie, but he should have been able to preserve the win and, more importantly, preserve Robert Griffin.
However, I don’t disagree with the move the Redskins made. If it had worked out, Robert Griffin would have been seen as a tougher than nails hero and Mike Shanahan would have looked like a genius. Likewise, if Shanahan had pulled Griffin for Cousins and Cousins had blown the game, Shanahan would be ridiculed and Robert Griffin’s toughness could have been questioned.
We live in a results based hindsight news cycle. Most of the same people who said that Griffin should have been pulled also ridiculed Jay Cutler for sitting on the bench during the NFC Championship game a few years ago. You can’t have it both ways. Personally, I believe in toughing it out, which is why I support Shanahan’s decision. Cousins couldn’t have been trusted in that situation and you pulling your star in the middle of the biggest game of the season could have a demotivational effect on your team.
As for the Redskins in 2013, I believe they’ll privately prepare for Kirk Cousins to start at least the first few games of the season. Robert Griffin could begin the year on the PUP, which would cost him the first 6 weeks. Cousins has shown he’s capable on occasion, but he’s no sure thing. The Redskins will be getting several other key players back from injury, pass rusher Brian Orakpo and starter Adam Carriker will return on defense, while they should get more out of top receiver Pierre Garcon. However, not having Griffin out there or not having him 100% will hurt. The Redskins’ tremendous fumble luck won’t carry over in 2013 either (they recovered 20 of 29 fumbles in the regular season and scored 3 times off them). Given that, it’ll be tough for them to make the playoffs again in 2013.
Jammal Brown missed the entire season with a hip injury. He hasn’t been the same since injuring that hip in 2009. Even when he has been on the field, he’s been terrible. Owed 3.5 million next season, he’s an obvious candidate for release. Tyler Polumbus, who played on the right side in Brown’s absence this year, was among the worst offensive tackles in the league. Out of 80 eligible offensive tackles, Polumbus ranked 77th on ProFootbalFocus last season.
Brandon Meriweather is their top safety, but he tore his ACL in November and was having trouble staying healthy even before that. He can’t be counted on. Neither can any of their other safeties. Madieu Williams, Reed Doughty, and DeJon Gomes aren’t very good and Williams is also a free agent. They need to add at least one new starter at safety this off-season.
Nickel cornerback Cedric Griffin is a free agent, while DeAngelo Hall might not be back either. He’s owed 7.5 million next season and is a rumored candidate for release, though he’s said he’d restructure to stay with the team. If either one of those two aren’t back, they’ll need to find a replacement because their in house options aren’t very good.
Age appears to have finally caught up with London Fletcher, who graded out as ProFootballFocus’ 51st ranked middle linebacker out of 53. Owed 5.5 million in an age 38 contract year in 2013, he’s considering retirement and that might be the best thing for the Redskins because he’s not worth that money if he keeps playing like this, but I don’t know if they can really cut him either because he’s been there so long. If he’s not back, 2012 4th round pick Keenan Robinson is a potential successor, but they might want some more competition.
Fred Davis tore his ACL mid-season and he’s a free agent this off-season anyway, as he was playing on the franchise tag in 2012. If he’s not brought back, they need another pass catching tight end. Replacement Logan Paulsen blocks well, but doesn’t do much in the passing game.
Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo are a great duo when healthy, but Orakpo will be coming off a torn pectoral that cost him most of this season. Rob Jackson and Lorenzo Alexander split snaps in his absence, but both are free agents this off-season. They really need some depth and insurance for Orakpo.
Sav Rocca is a solid punter, but he’s coming off a torn MCL and he’s a free agent this off-season. The Redskins will either need to re-sign him or replace him.