- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 6, 2011

It’s all coming apart for the Washington Redskins. You can feel it with every incomplete pass, every stuffed run, every missed tackle, every senseless penalty. Mike Shanahan’s grand plan, whatever it was, is looking more and more like the jottings of the Nutty Professor. Maybe it’s time to start calling him Sherman instead of Shanny — and calling the Redskins the Klumps.

The Klumps lost to the San Francisco 49ers 19-11 Sunday at FedEx Field and, frankly, it wasn’t that close. The week before, it was Buffalo 23, Klumps 0. Ask yourself: Have the Klumps — I mean the Redskins — ever seemed further from winning a football game? Victory is so distant, it might be beyond the reach of the Hubble telescope.

What makes it even harder to stomach is that the 49ers were in the same place the Redskins were a year ago — 6-10 and searching for answers. In fact, they were worse off than the Redskins, hypothetically, because they fired their coach and, because of the lockout, weren’t able to spend the offseason at the Jim Harbaugh Football Academy.

It doesn’t appear to have hurt the 49ers. They’re 7-1 and probably the biggest surprise in the league. The Redskins, meanwhile, are 3-5, losers of four straight, and beginning to raise eyebrows of a different sort — for the sheer ineptitude of their offense as much as anything.

Seven days after suffering the first shutout of Shanahan’s head coaching career, they managed only a franchise-record 59-yard Graham Gano field goal for the first 58 minutes and didn’t get inside the San Francisco 30 until their final drive, when the Niners were merely backpedaling. The 2011 Redskins haven’t drowned yet, not officially, but as Trent Williams put it, “It’s up to our neck.”

It was hard to tell, watching John Beck and Co., whether they were trying to score or merely trying to keep the quarterback from being sacked 10 times again (as he was against the Bills). Beck rarely held the ball for long, being content to dump it off to receivers for short gains that generally led to punts. A byproduct of this Small Ball was that rookie Roy Helu, a running back, set a club mark by catching 14 passes (for 105 yards) — and bumped Art Monk (13 on two occasions) to No. 2. Swell, just swell.

Of course, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, thanks to a wave of injuries, is functioning with less than a full deck. Indeed, three rookies got their first NFL starts Sunday — Helu, wide receiver Leonard Hankerson and left guard Maurice Hurt, who began the season on the practice squad. By afternoon’s end, right tackle Jammal Brown (groin) was out and Sean Locklear, who had filled in on the left side the previous two weeks, was in. In such situations, simplicity is the key. There’s never any excuse, though, for being simply awful, which the offense has been for the past month.

With the Redskins forced to “go young” — younger than Mike Shanahan ever imagined — the coach’s mantra has changed. He’s no long talking about this season very much. Instead, he’s talking about “young guys” who are “gaining valuable experience” so they can become important contributors “down the road.” That’s a big change from October, when the Redskins were 3-1 and leading the NFC East.

Shanahan is right when he says that nobody expected a Redskins renaissance “to happen overnight.” But folks did expect that, by the middle of Year 2, the offense wouldn’t look so “ragtag” (Shanny’s word for Sunday’s performance). He is, after all, one of the great X’s-and-O’s men of his time (and is paid handsomely for it). Is this really the best he can do midway through his second season - dink, dunk, punt?

It’s reasonable to ask, too, how a seventh-round pick (Hurt) who wasn’t even good enough to make the final roster could end up starting at left guard in Week 9. It suggests the Redskins aren’t just the victims of bad luck (in the form of injuries); it suggests they’re also the victims of atrocious planning. Let’s not forget, they’ve lost only one guard this year: Kory Lichtensteiger. How do you lose one guard and end up starting a practice squadder in Week 9? Answer: By (a) not carrying any backup guards on your 53-man squad and (b) misjudging the ability of center Will Montgomery to help out at the position in a pinch.

So the Redskins‘ losing streak is at four. They have a worse record at this stage (3-5) than they did last season (4-4). And their next opponents, the 1-7 Miami Dolphins, suddenly don’t look so beatable after bludgeoning the Kansas City Chiefs 31-3 on Sunday.

Yes, it’s all coming apart for the Redskins. They seem destined, in these remaining weeks, to be reminded of all the things they’re still missing — a quarterback, a stable offensive line, a go-to receiver … you can go right down the list. For the Redskins, it’s already Next Year.