Mike Shanahan, head coach, Washington Redskins: Shanahan will have the entire offseason to answer questions about his decision to keep Robert Griffin III in the playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks despite the fact that Griffin’s already injured knee was clearly bothering him from the end of the first quarter on. Those who claim that Shanny would not be under fire if the Redskins had won may have a point, but coaching isn’t just about Xs and Os — it’s also about roster and risk management, and it was clear that the injured Griffin was not at all the weapon he had been when Washington put up a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Griffin couldn’t throw from his plant foot, he wasn’t mobile, and Seattle’s defense started to take advantage. It’s one thing if you don’t have a Plan B at quarterback, but the Redskins did in the person of backup Kirk Cousins, who had played effectively in a reserve role through the season. Cousins came in halfway through the fourth quarter, but by then, the Redskins were down and the Seahawks were teeing off on every play. Given more time to make things happen, Cousins may have done so.
Yes, Griffin wanted to stay in the game, but every player worth his salt does. As the late, great Ralph Wiley once wrote, “A man’s got to know his own limitations. If he doesn’t, his coach should.”
Griffin will have an MRI on that knee on Monday, and Shanahan can just hope that his decision doesn’t have long-lasting implications for his team — and his franchise quarterback.
Bonus LVP: The Washington Redskins grounds crew, and Redskins owner Dan Snyder: The turf at FedEx Field isn’t fit for prison football. If Roger Goodell is as interested in player safety as he claims (yeah, right), he’ll spend some time this offseason looking into why Snyder didn’t spend a little money replacing a turf that Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post said “looks like hell, it spits out debris, it’s got more holes than a wheel of Emmentaler, and it sure didn’t seem to help matters for that franchise quarterback’s shaky knee.”
“The condition of FedEx field doesn’t surprise me,” current Carolina Panthers and former Redskins kicker Graham Gano tweeted during the game. “Most specialists I played against there said it was the worst field they had ever seen.”
Andy Dalton, quarterback, Cincinnati Bengals: When you select a quarterback early in the second round, as the Bengals did with Dalton in 2011, you have to eventually expect him to put up a defining game if you want that pick to retain true value. Dalton, who has thrown no touchdown passes and four interceptions in his two playoff appearances (both against the Houston Texans), has not done so. In Saturday’s 19-13 loss to the Texans, Dalton looked out of place on an NFL field from start to finish. He tried to spilt deep coverage to receiver Marvin Jones, a throw he cannot make consistently, and was nearly penalized by a Kareem Jackson interception. He gave up a pick to cornerback Johnathan Joseph later in the game when he and receiver A.J. Green (who should receive more credit than he does when the Bengals’ offense does run well) had a miscommunication. Dalton frequently missed wide open receivers because he was so locked on to his first read, and the Texans just followed his eyes. They occupied his first targets and blew up the easy screen passes Dalton tried when nothing else would work.
At the end of their second year with Dalton, the Bengals have to ask whether they have a potential game-changer at the position, or whether the best Dalton will ever be is a “game manager,” that most pejorative of quarterback terms. Right now, “game manager” would be an upgrade.
Joe Webb, quarterback, Minnesota Vikings: We feel badly blaming Webb for the Vikings’ 24-10 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night – the third-year man from UAB was drafted as a receiver, and he hadn’t thrown a pass all season. Perhaps head coach Leslie Frazier and general manager Rick Spielman should be in the LVP column instead for failing to give the Vikings a better option in place of Christian Ponder, who could not go after various throwing arm injuries scratched him from the game. Still, Webb could do little as a pure thrower in the game, and after three years in the NFL, that’s on him — he simply didn’t resemble a functional passer in any way. He under- and over-threw targets, bailed in some really weird ways when under pressure, and basically sacked himself at one point. He completed just 11 passes in 30 attempts, and aside from a late touchdown when things were out of hand, Webb had a truly ugly game when he wasn’t running the ball.
With Adrian Peterson in their backfield, the Vikings make things a lot easier for any quarterback. The 2013 draft class isn’t really stacked at the position, but the Vikings would do well to bolster their quarterback rotation with a developmental prospect.
Jermichael Finley, tight end, Green Bay Packers: Finley has been an inconsistent and unreliable target all season for Aaron Rodgers, and he was just that again in the Vikings game. Rodgers, who hit 10 different targets, seemed to understand that, and targeted Finley just three times. On those three targets, Finley caught just one pass for 10 yards. He dropped what would have been a touchdown pass late in the first half, and was missing in action after that. He suffered a hamstring injury later in the game, but had he been completely healthy, it’s questionable that Rodgers would have gone back to him.
The Indianapolis Colts’ pass protection: Andrew Luck was as pressured as any quarterback in the league this season, and while that’s partially a product of the fact that Luck throws so many long passes, it became clear after Indy’s 24-9 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday that the Colts need some real help on their offensive line. Luck was sacked three times, hit at least 10 more times before he threw, and would have been in even more trouble if Luck hadn’t started throwing screens to eliminate the damage. The Colts were something special this season, and they have the opportunity to be even better in time, but general manager Ryan Grigson should be looking hard at offensive linemen in the draft.
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