Photo by Garrett M Campbell, Redskins.com
With the Washington Redskins 2016 campaign officially ended at the hands of Eli Manning and the New York Giants, the RedskinsCapitalConnection.com staff took a couple of days to go through the seven stages of grief. Now that the grieving process is over, it’s time for some healing, and that cannot begin until we dissect just what exactly happened throughout this rollicking and, at times, tumultuous season.
With that in mind, the RedskinsCapitalConnection.com staff (minus our draft guru Justin Byram, who is probably diving deep into college game-tape) sat down together to cast our minds back over the past five and a half months of football, from training camp to the end of the regular season. Presented here for you are the collected thoughts and observations that arose from this exercise.
Redskins Capital Connection – Redskins Season Wrap Up
Rating the Season
Chad Ryan: Alright, the Redskins finished 8-7-1. How would we all rate that result for the season?
Robbie Duncan: Major disappointment. After the year they had last year to build off of, they turn around and have a very average season when it should’ve been much better. They had way too many blown opportunities (Detroit, Cincinnati, Arizona, Carolina, Giants Week 17 to name a few) that should’ve gone the other way and been in the playoffs this weekend.
Barry Cohen: It was a step backward in a year that I was expecting them to build off of momentum from last year. In Kirk Cousins first year with a full offseason as the starter, and Josh Norman brought into help the defense, it was disappointing to see them go backward.
Chad Ryan: I agree that 8-7-1 is a disappointment, especially when you consider that they had multiple chances to punch their ticket into the postseason, but came up short against Carolina, Arizona, and finally New York.
Anthony Raposa: Anything short of the playoffs is a disappointment, however when being realistic with ourselves and putting things into perspective, things aren’t as bad as some might think. Last year the Redskins won their division after a poor season from the NFC East, and fans got a bit spoiled. This season the NFC East is easily the best in the league. This year’s roster is better than last year’s, however the first place schedule was tough, and filled with some disappointing games that now in hindsight hurt the team *cough* London *cough*.
Robert Henson: The Redskins organization is heading in the right direction, but they are clearly a few defensive key positions away from being a legit title contender.
Mark Phillips: There was improvement in that the Redskins beat two teams with winning records after beating none the year before. That said there is no excusing losing three times in the final five games when you had control of your own fate.
Anthony Raposa: Fans should feel excited knowing that since Scot McCloughan has taken over that the team has not had a losing season, and is 100% trending in the right direction. Kirk Cousins and Jay Gruden are also key figures in that equation, and for this team to have success continuity needs to be at the forefront (for once!). If we are rating the 2016 Redskins on a scale of 1-10, I’m rating them a 7.
The question of Kirk Cousins
Ryan: Kirk Cousins is once again a free-agent. Would you bring him back to the Redskins, and if so, how would you do it? Is there a ceiling on how much you’d pay him? Would you franchise him again?
Raposa: It’s no secret that I am the conductor of the Kirk Cousins train.
Ryan: You’re the conductor, the driver, the engineer and the ticket-booth attendant!
Raposa: People need to understand that you can have a franchise quarterback and he not be Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees or Ben Roethlisberger, because nobody is those guys! A franchise quarterback is a guy that consistently win you games, and keep your team competitive as the captain of the ship. Kirk Cousins has never had a losing season as a starter in this league, and has broke franchise records along the way. He’s a top 15 quarterback, and has an argument for a top 10 guy. He’s only going to get better over time, and should be looked at as a franchise quarterback in more ways than one. Try and argue with me, but it’s the truth.
Duncan: I would bring back Kirk. He’s the best quarterback that this team has had in a while. He does have a great supporting cast on offense, although the running game still is way too inconsistent. The problem is, because the Redskins low-balled Kirk last offseason and eventually had to tag him, he’s now going to be much more expensive. Reports saying $26 million plus a year with $90 million guaranteed is his open market value. Sheesh. I don’t know if I would fork over that much money for Kirk and I don’t think the Redskins will either.
Phillips: If he is back here in Washington, then Redskins fans better get used to the idea that he will be the highest paid QB in the NFL.
Henson: I would bring Kirk back for 22 million per season, but my ceiling on the offer would be 24 million. I would also remind Kirk of the impact players he has here that the organization re-signed to continue working with and growing with him. Any higher than that I would use the transition tag on him.
Cohen: It’s very tough to find a good starting quarterback in this league, and it’s also very important to develop consistency. I think all $100 million+ contracts are a little silly, considering none of them get finished all the way through – even Tom Brady has restructured. I also don’t think any player under the current salary cap is worth $20 million+/year, but I guess that’s what it takes to keep a quarterback, so I’ll say $22 million/year is my max. I would franchise him if need be, but I don’t think he would be inclined to stay next year then.
Espinoza: Put it this way; lets say Cousins played on another team this year and had the same stats. He would be so coveted by Redskins fans they would weep with joy at the thought of him coming here to be the new QB. For once the Redskins played it safe with a big term deal and watched him grow and helped in developing him in house. It is a great accomplishment for a franchise who very rarely succeeds in this endeavor. He will end up getting $23 million a year for six years. If the front office was extremely wise and understand his health and potential over the long term, Cousins should get paid 200 Million over 10 years. he’d never see those last two or three years of his contract but it would be a softer hit on the salary cap to keep pursuing other quality players. Cousins has all the leverage.
Ryan: I’ve gotten a bit of a reputation on Redskins Twitter as a Cousins hater, which always amuses me because I really like him. But I’m also realistic with him; is Kirk Cousins really worth the moniker of “biggest ever Quarterback contract in the history of the NFL”? I’m not so certain. There’s also the question of whether or not Cousins even wants to be here in Washington. All the things he has said, such as ‘wanting to get the biggest deal so it’s not unfair to other Quarterbacks around the league’… well, they are precisely the kind of things a player who was looking for an excuse to leave might say. Interesting times ahead. For the record, I’d happily offer him a four or five year deal averaging $23 million a year. If he still wants more, I’d let him walk.
The Coaching Staff
Ryan: What changes, if any, would you make to the coaching staff if you were Bruce Allen and Scot McCloughan?
Henson: I would definitely have to move on from Defensive Coordinator Joe Barry. My list of possible replacements, in order, would be; Wade Phillips, Rex Ryan (w / no input on defensive personnel), and Perry Fewell. If Perry Fewell takes over then I would switch the defense back to a base attacking 4-3 scheme.
Phillips: Joe Barry isn’t getting it done and needs to go. I know he doesn’t have the horses, but the horses he does have kept coming up lame. Even an average defense this year gets the Redskins to the playoffs.
Cohen: I’m big on consistency, so I’m alright with keeping everything as is. I think Joe Barry was a terrible hire, and don’t really like sharing a name with him. But it is true that he hasn’t really had much talent on defense to work with, so I’m alright with giving him one more shot. If we could get someone like Rex Ryan, then I’m all in, but I don’t see that happening. Of course the big issue is that McVay could definitely be hired elsewhere, so that will cause necessary changes.
Ryan: For what it’s worth, I think if a team like San Francisco decides to jump on Sean McVay early before another team snaps him up in a year or two, then it will be Tight End coach Wes Phillips who takes over as Offensive Coordinator.
Espinoza: Changes are always part of life and especially the NFL. That being said, I don’t know if firing Joe Barry is the answer. Continuity seems to make this team better, not worse. If they keep Barry for one more season and give him some reliable parts at the safety position and some depth at LB and some quality run-stuffers he might have a chance to make a good defense.
Duncan: Obviously Joe Barry has got to go. Surely he didn’t have a lot of talent to work with but I look at coordinators like Rod Marinelli for the Cowboys. Their defense doesn’t have a lot of talent either but he gets the most out of them, and has them playing hard. I don’t think Joe Barry is that kind of coordinator. I think bringing in Wade Phillips over Barry would be an instant upgrade. Phillips knows how to mix and match his scheme to fit the players that he has. I think Phillips could work wonders with the mix of Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Trent Murphy, and a healthy Junior Galette.
Raposa: This team is much closer than some might think, and are trending up. The good teams build off of what they have, instead of going into panic mode and rebooting every single year when things don’t go as planned. Most changes will happen on the defensive side of the ball. Almost every position can be upgraded minus the core players. Joe Barry is gone and I am brining in Wade Phillips to become my new DC.
The High Point of season 2016
Ryan: Alright, let’s focus on some positives – what was everyone’s high point of season 2016?
Raposa: The highest point of the season was the win over the Packers on primetime on November 20th. It was a game in which the Redskins had their most complete performance, and gave us many memorable moments from the deep touchdown passes to the “how do you like me now?!” at the end of the game. This was a glimpse of what this team can be when they are clicking on all cylinders and something we all hope this team can be in the long run on a more consistent level.
Duncan: Agreed. The Green Bay game. Kirk and the team put together a dominant game on a national stage and brought a glimmer of hope that the team had turned a big corner.
Cohen: That was a big win over the Packers. That’s my high point, too.
Phillips: I also liked the four game winning streak in September/October. The team seemed to have so much possibility and potential at that point.
Espinoza: High point for me was when Cousins drove down the field and ran in for a touchdown at the end of the Detroit Lions game. It showed so much promise and effort… too bad they lost that game. It was also very exciting to see Sua’ Cravens grabbing that interception on Eli Manning at the end of the Giants game.
Ryan: That Su’a Cravens game-sealing interception was fantastic. It led to one of my own personal Twitter highlights this year, too:
— Chad Ryan (@ChadwikoRCC) September 25, 2016
Henson: My high point of 2016, in my opinion, was the rookie talent acquired in the draft and FA. Guys like Su’a Cravens, Kendall Fuller, Robert Kelley, and Maurice Harris seemed to come around and step up when called upon.
Ryan: What surprised everyone most this year for the Redskins?
Espinoza: Robert Kelley was the team’s biggest surprise and he never turned the ball over. Fantastic possession running back skills that could make more of an impact if he catches the ball better out of the backfield.
Cohen: Rob Kelley for me, too. I remember in the summer Chad offered up an article topic of Rob Kelley vs. Matt Jones for the starting job, and I thought he was nuts for suggesting Kelley over Keith Marshall.
Ryan: That was towards the end of Training Camp, I think.
Cohen: That’s the biggest disagreement I can remember in my thinking compared to Chad’s, and well, one of us was very wrong.
Henson: My biggest surprise? Hands down it was the play of Trent Murphy. He came into camp heavier and was asked to play Defensive End. Junior Galette goes down and he steps in and out plays Preston Smith!
Raposa: Biggest surprise of the season for me was the rise of Trent Murphy and the fall of Bashaud Breeland and Preston Smith. During training camp and the offseason we saw Breeland looking like a guy who could play on Josh Norman’s level… to quickly losing confidence after his matchup with Antonio Brown and having a very, very disappointing season. Breeland did end the season on a high note as he played much better the last few games, but overall had a very forgetful season. Preston Smith was a guy that we all had high hopes for but was pretty much ghost all season, unless he was playing the NFC North. He was overshadowed by Trent Murphy who was supposed to be a Defensive End until Junior Galette got hurt. Trent Murphy pumped out a Pro Bowl quality season on a rotation, and has proved that he’s a guy that can become a core member of this defense. Nobody could have seen that coming.
Duncan: I agree on Trent Murphy. His jump in development was a great surprise and he put together a great season when many had written him off before Training Camp even started. It was a blessing that he improved as a pass rusher this year because the team didn’t get much out of sophomore Preston Smith. Murphy picked up the slack. Looking to see him continue to be a solid player for the Redskins going forward. If Preston Smith has a similar year next season with Murphy continuing this level of play, the defense could be due for special things.
Phillips: My biggest surprise was Jamison Crowder. With Garcon and Jackson back and the #1 draft pick being Josh Doctson it seemed like Crowder was being phased out. In fact, the team didn’t go to him enough late in the season. If everyone showed up against the Giants like Crowder did in that last game, we are talking about the playoffs right now.
Ryan: Alright, we can’t delay it any further. Let’s talk about what we consider the biggest single disappointment of this 2016 Redskins season.
Phillips: Biggest Disappointment to me was Matt Jones. Preston Smith and Josh Doctson are close, but I think we were counting on Jones to be much more than he was. The Detroit game is probably a ‘W’ if he doesn’t play.
Ryan: That was the last game of the season that Matt Jones played, too. Benched, and inactive for the last nine games of the year. Even though Gruden said his number would be called again at some stage. Talk about being in the dog house!
Espinoza: Josh Doctson was the biggest disappointment this season as he was slated to really help out the WR corps, and instead found himself acquiring a nagging injury with no one knowing if it will improve. His busted season and future hangs in the balance next season.
Cohen: Agreed on Doctson. And let me first say that I was a huge fan of this pick at the time. This is a lot about his doubts moving forward, not just him missing this season. He is old for a rookie, and his situation with this injury is very odd. If we never gets back to full speed, that is a huge miss when there were some great OL/DL available. Again, I did think it was the right pick at the time though. Honorable mention to Breeland, but he stepped up at the end of the year, and I’m hoping it was just a one year slump for him.
Henson: My biggest disappointment? The play of Bashuad Breeland was a complete disappointment to me. He looked great in training camp and I felt he and Norman would solidify themselves as one of the best CB tandems in the NFL.
Duncan: This may be a bit of a shocker but I’m going to say Scot McCloughan and his failure to help out the defense over the offseason. Apart from Josh Norman, he signed journeyman players during the free agency and no one that were any impact type players. I’m aware that he prefers to draft his players and that he typically doesn’t make the big splash on Free Agency, but sometimes you do what you got to do to improve the team. And time will still tell if the Josh Doctson pick will turn out to be a bust or not, but Scot passed on a great crop of defensive talent to draft at that 21st overall pick, one player in particular being standout defensive tackle Chris Jones. He traded out of the 4th round completely and finally drafted a defensive lineman in the 5th round (Matt Ioannidis) after missing out on all of the top talent in the deep pool of defensive linemen. I have no doubts about Scot as a GM or talent evaluator. He’s surely one of the best in the business, but I think he didn’t do a good job in that respect. Defense has got to be the focus of this offseason. Even an average defense would’ve gotten this team to the playoffs this year.
Raposa: My biggest disappointment this season was the overall production of the defense. What we saw at training camp and the offseason from this defense is not what we actually got on the field. Not only were they bad, but they were historically bad in some areas i.e. stopping teams on third downs. We talked about building a defense that could stop the run a year ago, and here we are today still talking about the same issues. It’s something that 100% needs to be addressed this offseason or we will quickly get deja vu for the 3rd year in a row.
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