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With another Monday night meltdown, more questions about Redskins’ direction
The word was embarrassment, and it wouldn’t be the last time it would be uttered deep within the confines of FedEx Field on a Monday night.
That was the ninth game of Mike Shanahan’s tenure as the Redskins‘ coach, and it was understood the team would need to endure significant growing pains if it was to shed the perception that it was the laughingstock of the NFL.
Yet there was that word again Monday, creeping into Shanahan’s postgame eulogy after a 27-6 dismantling by the San Francisco 49ers under the “Monday Night Football” spotlight.
While the score wasn’t as gaudy, the loss was just as thorough. The Redskins gained only 190 yards, by far a season low, and were held without a touchdown for the first time in almost two years.
And, as was the case each of the previous two weeks, the defeat can be considered among the team’s worst under Shanahan. That begs the question: Which direction is this team headed?
“You guys have been with me since I’ve been here,” Shanahan said to a dozen reporters at Redskins Park on Tuesday afternoon. “You guys can understand where I was at the start and where I’m at right now. I don’t have to go through any stats. You guys can look at that and draw your own conclusions.”
That trouncing at the hands of the Eagles in 2010 was supposed to define rock bottom for Shanahan’s regime. Hamstrung by a roster of aging veterans and misfits, that game also marked the last time the Redskins would hand out a truly onerous contract — a five-year, $78 million deal to quarterback Donovan McNabb, who would play just four more games for the Redskins before being cast off to Minnesota the following offseason.
But the Redskins continued to experience their growing pains. In 2011, while dancing between Rex Grossman and John Beck as their starting quarterback, Beck was sacked 10 times in a 23-0 loss to the Buffalo Bills in Toronto in Week 8. Last season, the Redskins were defeated 21-13 by the Carolina Panthers, who had won only one of their first seven games.
That loss spurred the seven-game win streak that carried Washington into the playoffs and inflated expectations heading into this season. Those expectations were far too lofty; in the past two weeks alone, losses to the Minnesota Vikings, who had won one of their first eight games, and the Eagles, who were unstoppable for the first three quarters, have exposed the Redskins‘ host of weaknesses.
Those defeats could also be considered among the worst under Shanahan. That a third consecutive performance entered that discussion on Monday is not the sign of a team making progress.
“Everyone’s tired of losing — us, fans, the media, everybody,” quarterback Robert Griffin III said Monday. “One thing that we’re not is quitters.”
Since the start of his tenure, Shanahan has maintained that the Redskins are improving. Roster depth, which was sorely lacking in his first year, has improved to the point where players released by the team are working out and signing elsewhere. The running game has been ranked No. 1 in the league for a large portion of the past two seasons — though, after gaining just 100 yards against the 49ers, the Redskins have fallen behind the Eagles entering Week 13 — and most importantly, the team appears to have a franchise quarterback in Griffin.
Still, for the second time in three years, the Redskins are 3-8. Shanahan, with a 24-35 record in the fourth year of a five-year contract, didn’t want to discuss the direction of the franchise when asked Monday, citing a preference to do so when the season ends and a desire to focus on the upcoming game against the New York Giants.
“I think the players are smart enough to understand that if you are 3-8, everybody is playing for their jobs,” Shanahan said.
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