1. Is it smart for this team to lock McNabb up long term?
It was smart for them to do it the way they did it. It turned out that the initial reports of a $40 million guarantee were highly misleading; that money only is guaranteed in case of a catastrophic, career-ending injury. The way they deal is structured the Redskins could cut McNabb loose at any time with minimal salary cap consequences. The deal keep McNabb off of the free agent market in 2011, preventing him from being by far the cream of the quarterback crop, which now will be headlined by Derrick Anderson.
Although the Redskins can get out of the deal next spring and be out only the $3.75 million signing bonus they just paid him, it seems likely that the contract will keep McNabb around through 2012. Look for the Redskins to hedge their bets by drafting a quarterback and giving him some time to develop behind McNabb.
2. Snyder has always been a guy that loves to bring in the big names. It doesn't seem to be working. Do you think it is time for the Redskins to blow it up and re-build? Why or why not?
I would call it retooling, which may need to go to the point of blowing it up, so we’re really talking about the same thing. They do need to get away from the mentality that they are one player away, i. e. Albert Haynesworth, from breaking through. Also, they need to learn when to let players go and to stop redoing contracts to create some more cap space, a process that has created golden handcuffs that have made it it prohibitively expensive to release players who are past their primes, or even usefulness, such as Clinton Portis.
At the same time, they need an injection of youth and, as the recent Eagles game demonstrated, speed. They had the oldest roster in the league going into the 2009 season and despite Mike Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen talking about getting younger, they were the oldest team in the league going into this season. The Redskins do have some good young players—LB Brian Orakpo, OT Trent Williams, SS LaRon Landry to name a few—but they need several more like them, including a few on the offensive line, if they are going to consistently be in the playoff mix in the NFC.
3. Who is more to blame in the way the Haynesworth thing has played out- Albert or Shanahan?
Albert, hands down. It was one thing deciding to work out with his own trainer. Shanahan made a big deal out of that but it doesn’t really matter where you pump iron. But Haynesworth’s decision to skip all of the OTA’s and minicamps, including the mandatory activities, was unwise to say the least. It put him behind the eight ball when it came to learning the new defense. He said that he didn’t want to play in a 3-4 but he never bothered to catch a flight to Redskins Park to find out what the defense was all about. And then his trainer failed him by not having him ready for the conditioning test that he should have known was coming at the start of camp.
Shanahan certainly came across as looking like he was on a power trip through the whole thing but you have to realize the situation he walked into when he took the job. For the past couple of years, there was a star system and certain players, Haynesworth included, would be able to walk into Dan Snyder’s office whenever they didn’t like what the coaches were doing. Snyder’s door now is closed and has a sign on it that says, "If you have a problem with Mike Shanahan, go talk to Shanahan about it". It was important for Shanahan to show that he, not Snyder, is the ultimate authority on the team when it came to football matters. Haynesworth was the first test case for that and he took the full force of Shanahan’s wrath.
4. The Redskins spent two pretty high draft choices on Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly a few years ago. Thomas is now a Panther and Kelly is on IR. What went wrong with those guys?
Let’s start with what happened to that entire 2008 draft class which, after all of Vinny Cerrato’s wheeling and dealing ended up being 10 players "strong". Left from that group are Kelly, tight end Fred Davis, who capably filled in for the injured Chris Cooley last year, safety Chris Horton, who is on IR, practice squad linebacker Rob Jackson, and starting free safety Kareem Moore, who is playing OK but not well enough to call him an established starter. A big chance to inject some of the needed youth noted above was lost.
Thomas and Kelly (the two are almost always mentioned together, as though they were a vaudeville act) both reported to their rookie training camps out of shape and never really caught up. They seemed to be better conditioned going into last year and had a few shining moments last year but consistent productivity eluded both of them. Then Shanahan came along and, in his eyes, the work ethic of Thomas wasn’t up to NFL standards. That put Devin’s Redskins career on a rapid downward spiral that ended with his release. The 1-8 Panthers picked him up but he has yet to be active. Kelly never could get a hamstring that he pulled just before training camp healthy. The year on IR might buy him another season to make it and for his sake he had better have learned from Thomas’ mistake.
5. Will Clinton Portis or Ryan Torain be ready to go in this game? If not, what can you tell us about Keiland Williams?
It would be shocking if Torain could play and only very surprising if Portis can go. It looked like the bye week was enough time for Torain to recover from a hamstring pull he suffered against Detroit but he aggravated the injury just before the Eagles game and he couldn’t go. He didn’t practice this week and although he will be listed as questionable on the injury report (that’s how Shanahan lists everyone), it’s doubtful that he will be able to go.
Portis’ separated groin (all together now—OUCH!) happened in Week 4 and it was originally estimated that he would be out 4-6 weeks. This game would make seven weeks and although he has made progress he has been limited in practice. He "hopes" to be able to go but since "hopeful" is not a designation on the injury report I’d say he’s somewhere between doubtful and questionable, or less than a 50-50 chance that he will play.
Williams is one of those backs who does just about everything well but isn’t outstanding in any one particular are. He has an average of 4.9 yards a carry but he hasn’t been quite that good as he has picked up some cheap yardage on third and long draw plays. But he does know where to find the cutback lanes and he has decent speed. Before Torain was injured he saw most of his time on third downs and was decent in blitz pickups, although he occasionally whiffs. If he ends up starting he won’t lay Chris Johnson type numbers on you but he can be very productive rushing, receiving, blocking and getting into the end zone (he leads the team in touchdowns with five).
Thanks to Rich for giving us the insight. You can see his questions for me with my answers here.
[UPDATE]- Shanahan has announced today that Portis will play and Torrain will not.