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Inside the Numbers - Why the 49ers are a Contender
by Chris Russell
Nov 22, 2014 -- 2:07am
The San Francisco 49ers and the Washington Redskins get together on Sunday at the brand new Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. 
The Redskins are off of one of their worst losses of the season and I have to say it like that because there have been so many bad losses over the years, that it is hard to put anything into context. 
I believe last Sunday to a (1-8) Tampa Bay Bucs team was the worst  in a really long time, because the Giants home loss was on a short week and the Redskins were extremely banged up.
In last Sunday's 27-7 defeat, they had one player of any significance coming into the game that was injured (Logan Paulsen) and he played. Of course, they were already without and will be without DeAngelo Hall and Brian Orakpo for the season. 
Because of how poorly Robert Griffin III played, that will be the memory that everyone is left with. It wasn't all his fault, and that is a fact. 
I suppose I could compare last Sunday to the abysmal effort against the Chiefs in the snow last December, but that was a better opponent and the day of the infamous Mike Shanahan - Dan Graziano bomb that imploded that morning. 
It doesn't really matter. It was a terrible loss. NO other way to say it and I have no idea what I can say to make it better. 
With that as a backdrop, we go "Inside the Numbers" for the (6-4) San Francisco 49ers and the (3-7) Washington Redskins at 4:25 ET on Sunday from the home of Super Bowl Fifty  in February 2016 and WRESTLEMANIA in 2015.
I. The 49ers have been very good because...
*They don't turn the ball over and they have an identity on both sides of the ball. They play tough and physical and can run the ball down your throat. They win on the road, and create turnovers. 
**In other words, they do not beat themselves.  That's evident by the fact that San Francisco has the fewest amount of turnovers since 2011. They have 55 turnovers and have thrown 26 interceptions which are both number one in the NFL. 
**The Redskins have 54 turnovers since the start of 2013. Put that in perspective. In two additional football seasons, the 49ers have ONE MORE turnover than the Redskins have had since 2013 started. 
II. There's a Draft in here. 
San Francisco actually selected 12 players in the 2014 draft, along with making several trades to give them flexibility and ammunition.  They made seven of those choices in the top four rounds. 
They chose seven defensive players and five offensive players, including Safety Jimmie Ward out of Northern Illinois with their first round selection. 
Former Redskins Executive Trent Baalke (the 49ers GM) also added key defensive backs Antoine Bethea and Chris Cook (injured). Baalke added two wide receivers (Stevie Johnson and Brandon Lloyd) for virtually nothing and signed a former 2nd round offensive tackle in Jonathan Martin to the fold for a conditional pick. 
In 2013, San Francisco added 11 players via the draft, with six coming on defense and five on offense.  In the first four rounds, they made six of those selections. 
With their first round selection, Baalke chose FS Eric Reid with the 18th overall pick. This was in a trade with Dallas as the 49ers gave up their  30th overall pick in the first and a third round selection to draft a player they targeted. 
In 2012, the 49ers only chose seven players after moving all over the draft board  with four on offense and three on defense. Only three of those picks were in the top four rounds. Their first round pick was on a wide receiver bust. 
In 2011, the organization chose ten players with five players on offense and five on defense with four of those choices coming in the top four rounds. That was the draft year for Colin Kaepernick. 
In addition to an exchange of 2nd round picks for Baalke and Jim Harbaugh to move up to grab Kaepernick, the Niners gave up an extra fourth  and fifth round selection.  Seemed like a pretty reasonable deal at the time and a home run now. 
Aldon Smith was the first round selection that year, and we all know how talented he is when he's not being a complete idiot. 
In 2010, San Francisco chose eight players with five on offense and three on defense including injured stud ILB NaVarro Bowman and very productive starting offensive linemen Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis. Both of those picks were in the first round.
The breakdown is this. San Francisco has selected 48 players since 2010 with 24 on offense and an equal 24 on defense. They've made (you guessed it) 24 picks in the first four rounds of the draft since 2010. 
On the current 53-man roster, San Francisco has 26 drafted players and 23 players acquired via free agency, with four via trade.  20 of those 26 drafted players that are on the current San Francisco roster were selected since 2010. 
In that same time frame, the Redskins have only made 42 selections compared to the 49ers. 
In 2010, they selected six players with five coming on offense and one on defense. Only two of the six players were drafted in the first four rounds because the Redskins traded their 2nd round pick to Philadelphia for Donovan McNabb and did not have a 3rd round pick because of the wasted pick in 2009 for Jeremy Jarmon in the supplemental draft. 
In 2011, Washington ended with 12 selections with six on offense and six on defense. Only four of those choices came in the top four rounds. 
In 2012, they made nine selections with six on offense and three on defense. Two of the three defensive picks were in the 7th round.  Four of the nine picks were in the top four rounds. 
In 2013, the Redskins had seven selections with four coming on defense and the other three on offense.  Only three of the selections came in the first four rounds because they did not have a first round pick as a result of the Robert Griffin deal. 
In 2014, Washington had eight selections with five on offense, two on defense and one on special teams. Four of those eight choices were in the top four rounds of the draft, with again no first round pick because of the Griffin deal. 
Out of the 42 picks, the Redskins spent 25 selections on offense and 16 on defense with the one pure special teams pick.  62 % of their choices have been on offense with 38% on defense. 
17 of the 42 selections came in the the top four rounds of the draft. 
Just to recap, since 2010 San Francisco has had 48 selections with 24 on each side of the ball and 50% of those choices coming in the top four rounds of the draft. They have have 26 players on their current roster that were acquired via the draft, and 20 were taken since 2010.
The Redskins have had 42 selections with 25 on offense and 16 on defense plus one pure special teams pick.  Only 40.4% of those choices (17/42) came in the top four rounds.
On their current roster, the Redskins have 23 players via the draft and 29 via free agency, one via trade.  Washington has 14 offensive players on the roster via the draft since 2010 with eight defensive players for a total of 22 players drafted since 2010 on current 53 man roster. 
The Redskins have 43.3 % of their current roster via the draft and 56.6% via free agency and trade, which also includes college free agents and undrafted players like Darrel Young, Logan Paulsen, Chris Baker, Will Compton and Nick Sundberg. 
The 49ers have a pretty ironic 49% of their current 53-man roster via the draft  and 51% by free agency or trade. 
The reason for doing this extensive breakdown is to prove an overall point. The Redskins have gambled and lost badly. San Francisco traded just one less pick for their "franchise" quarterback but it was an enormously less cost than the Redskins did in terms of overall picks and placement of selections.
Just the difference in the overall amount of selections, 48 to 42, gives San Francisco an enormous advantage. They have made plenty of mistakes as every team has. The difference? They have core veteran players from before 2010 that are still contributing along with more draft picks on their current roster than the Redskins have and a whopping edge in drafted players taken in the top four rounds. 
If the Redskins had even half of the disparity between the two organizations, they could have a top end safety or right tackle or offensive guard. Perhaps a great inside linebacker to go along with Keenan Robinson. 
If that was the case, Washington might be (4-6) or (5-5). Instead, they're done like a turkey dinner. 
The bottom line is this: if you have eight plus draft selections every year and you have any clue as to what you are doing, you will win consistently in the NFL. Especially if at least half of those picks are in the top 125 or so of the draft.  You have room to make mistakes. You are only going to hit on roughly 50% of your draft picks, so it stands to reason that if you have more, you increase your odds and depth. 
This is why the Redskins are in the constant state of turmoil that seems never-ending and why the 49ers despite their own drama and issues, are poised for another run at the Super Bowl. 
Chris Russell - -

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Too Much Attention, Too Many Headlines
by Chris Russell
Nov 17, 2014 -- 10:53pm
ESPN 980
ESPN 980 Galleries Perhaps one day the Washington Redskins will be like the New England Patriots. It's probably asking too much, but you know, doing things the right way on the football field and then being strong enough and mentally tough enough to get past what you do wrong off the field. 
I shouldn't hold my breath. They have a extremely long way to go. You don't build the "Patriot Way" overnight or by putting jersey sales ahead of football wins. 
The Patriots are far from perfect. Everybody remembers "SpyGate" and the Aaron Hernandez arrest for murder in the summer of 2013. The Patriots gave that low life a lot of guaranteed money. 
The kind of scandal that has hovered over the Patriots is something that would suck the life out of a franchise, in any sport. Think about it. We're not talking about 'he said, she said' issues. We're not talking about social media posts that ignite  a firestorm and cause a major issue during a team meeting the morning after an awful loss. 
Nope, we're talking about cheating and murder. 
Could you imagine how the Redskins would handle cheating to the level that the Patriots did? Oh wait, that's right. They did try and "cheat" in the NFL's eyes, and were whacked with a 36 million dollar cap penalty split over two years (2012 & 2013). 
They said they didn't know until the last minute. On the eve of free agency. Yet, having already pulled the trigger on the deal with St. Louis for the # 2 overall pick, the Redskins still felt they needed to spend sizable money on Josh Morgan and really big money on Pierre Garcon. 
They didn't take the time to buy a stud safety or cornerback and they had already spent good  money on Stephen Bowen & Barry Cofield the year before, along with re-signing Adam Carriker. 
They didn't bolster their offensive line, because they were convinced they could get cheap, system guys. 
They won the division after a (3-6) start because Robert Griffin III was executing a brilliant scheme built by Mike and Kyle Shanahan and he was thinking less and reacting more. He was executing brilliantly. 
This success made the franchise's upper echelon decision makers that were never going anywhere get drunk with delusions of grandeur. Instead of building on a foundation and bolstering the offensive line , secondary and pass rush - the Redskins nickel and dimed everything  and thought they had solved the answer to all of their woes and the national debt to boot. 
They thought that by having a stud talent at quarterback, it would  fix everything. We see how that has turned out.  
More importantly, the Redskins have invested in too many personalities  that say the wrong thing or send the wrong message far too often.  
Their true understanding of what it takes to be a winner is completely misguided and it has created acrimony and animosity in so many ways over the years.
The Redskins have always lived on the edge and tried to make the big splash and along with that came wanted attention, a wanted spotlight  and a very much desired focus on the brand. 
Why? So the brand could explode and become astronomical. To make even more money than they already have.  It's a classic case of going to a buffet when your not that hungry and slamming down three heaping plates of grub.  You can't resist temptation. 
Eventually you rip at the seam. Quickly, you explode because the feeling is not right. It's uncomfortable. In the fish bowl that is the NFL, you don't have an ocean to swim into and far too often, the Redskins have not filtered the water. 
The Redskins have invited this type of never ending circus in Ashburn, Landover and wherever they go. 
If they identified and selected players that have tremendous football instincts, football IQ's and bland personalities that never say anything on camera or on social media, the Redskins would be boring AND I guarantee you they would win more football games. 
Like the Patriots do. Every year. Year in and year out.  It's not just because of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. 
They say nothing. The Patriots are essentially robots. It's the culture that has been created and you are expected to adhere to.
This isn't a Robert Griffin III "threw his teammates under the bus" story. He didn't. I WAS THERE. I knew exactly what Robert was trying to say, and did say, but he still should have held back. 
The problem I have is DeSean Jackson adding fuel to the fire this morning and now it is a full -scale disaster. You can't add fuel to the fire if you are Jackson, even if his message was not directly at anybody specific. 
Griffin took PLENTY of blame. For those that were at the press conference and actually know Robert Griffin III, you know this to be true. 
The problem is, because of his history (where he hasn't always said the right thing) he has no rope at all. Especially after a dreadful loss. 
I am just waiting for Pierre Garcon's head to explode because of his lack of opportunity and frustration with everything, but I believe Garcon checked out emotionally long ago. 
The Redskins signed Albert Haynesworth and Donovan McNabb and even DeAngelo Hall way back when , because they couldn't resist their talent or their marketing power. Only Hall had the mental tenacity to dig deep and stay without making a clown out of himself. 
When was the last time the Patriots  had an explosive press conference or one of their players took to social media to sand blast others? 
It just doesn't happen. They're more interested in handling things internally and winning football games. 
I love Jay Gruden's honesty as a member of the media, but trust me on this, his bold and brutally honest assessments will not work long term here in Washington. Why?
You have to have really, really thick skinned players that can handle that kind of verbal critique. I've found the Redskins locker room, with limited exception, to be extremely thin skinned and very sensitive to criticism or negativity. 
I'm guessing and I am probably right, Bruce Allen did not give one ounce of thought to this issue. It could drive a major divide now and down the road. Again, the Redskins invited this. 
How do you get better and move on? You have to be a mature adult. You have to block it out. You can't  let headlines destroy the mission. You can't let quotes bring you down. The Patriots have these type of personalities that can absorb anything. 
The Redskins have a very small handful of guys that are good at this. The rest? They are the furthest thing from living the "Patriot Way."  
Chris Russell - -

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Three-and-OUT - Preparation or Execution?
by Chris Russell
Nov 17, 2014 -- 11:15am
I've learned my lesson from the signing of DeSean Jackson last spring that you never, ever trust that the Washington Redskins will do what conventional wisdom dictates. 
Hence the reason why I uncomfortably picked them to win yesterday at FedExField and I got burned once again. I tried to remind people that the (1-8) Tampa Bay Buccaneers were a lot better than their record indicated. 
They spent a ton of money in free agency this past off-season on two productive offensive linemen (Anthony Collins, Evan Dietrich-Smith) and a pass rushing defensive end (Michael Johnson) and a high priced corner (Alterraun Verner). 
On top of that they traded for Logan Mankins at left guard and added him  to the mix of Lavonte David, Gerald McCoy, Dashon Goldson, Vincent Jackson  and others. 
The point is that the Bucs were miserably under performing before Sunday, and were ready to finally play up to their skill level. 
They also retained and are getting high end value from draft picks like Mike Evans who they selected # 7 overall. 
Fans who have no clue would blame Lovie Smith for not "motivating" players and "preparing them right" or smart fans would realize that the Bucs were in a good amount of their games and were making one or two big mistakes per game to kill themselves. 
Are you a smart fan or a fan with no clue?
If you are a smart fan, you should continue reading. If not, sorry and Happy Thanksgiving. 
Either way, it's time to play "Three-and-OUT."
1. The Redskins did not get blasted Sunday because they were poorly prepared. That's a complete myth. It has very little legitimacy in my eyes. 
The first reason why I say that is because nobody that makes these comments gets to watch practice and even if we did, we would only have part of the story. 
The next time I see a scoreboard that has a column for effort and preparation will be the first time. 
They got hammered because they didn't execute, in any phase of the game and they are woefully short on "special" players. They don't have great team speed, they don't have depth, and in many cases they look lost. 
Redskins rookie OLB Trent Murphy agreed with my premise, "It's not so much preparation as it is execution. Both teams talked about turnovers all week and they got more turnovers than us," Murphy said Sunday. "We're in the positive, so they just executed better.  We practiced it, we prepared it, we talked about it. We gotta transfer it from practice to the playing field."
Jay Gruden said the coaches have to "find out where the confusion is and why"  and he's right. They have to find out why players making millions of dollars can't do what 25 or so other NFL teams do consistently, and that means understand and apply the concepts of what they practice and teach during the week and  have that translate on  Sunday. 
That has been a major frustration of this coaching staff. The football I-Q for a bunch of players is remarkably average.  A team that commits as many mistakes as the Redskins make week in and week out is not a group that doesn't try - but they are a team that lacks that special intangible that the Patriots, Packers, Seahawks, 49'ers and Cardinals seem to have. 
2. Robert Griffin III is obviously not playing with any confidence. I've seen young players and specifically young quarterback go through exactly what he is going through right now. 
I am not going to beat up Griffin for everything he says and does. The bottom-line is this: He holds on to the ball way too long and that hasn't changed. He misses wide open targets and that hasn't changed. He has a long way to go and days like Sunday validate the belief among the football people that he is not going to be able to take the next step. 
That being said, he does need help. He is right about that. He has many faults and limitations but here's a question. Or three
*Can Tom Compton, Pierre Garcon and Logan Paulsen not take five pre-snap penalties on first down in the first four possessions?
*Can anybody on the offensive line be half as consistent as Kory Lichtensteiger is at center? Lichtensteiger has been the best offensive linemen on the team this year (Yes, over Trent Williams) and while I have a lot more I can say about things that are terribly wrong behind the scenes, I give credit where credit is due. 
Morgan Moses played a decent game on first glance replacing Williams. Unfortunately, the rest of the line outside of Lichtensteiger is the closest thing to shredded cheese in pads  that I can come up with. 
*Shouldn't Niles Paul knock that  terrible throw (and decision)  by Griffin down to live for another day on the first snap? A play which was  a broken  from the start and ultimately turned into an interception. 
3. The defense fell short again in many key areas such as two big passing plays in the 2nd half, failing to create a turnover and once again, not enough sustained pressure on the opposing quarterback. 
I know it's easy to blast Jim Haslett (and lazy) but if you use any common sense, you realize that while Haslett can be better - this always has been a  talent and depth issue and always will be. 
Sure Todd Bowles is working wonders in Arizona, but how is Ron Rivera and Sean McDermott doing in Carolina? How is Rob Ryan doing in New Orleans with a very talented but injury depleted unit this year? Remember how good those defenses were last year? I do. They weren't great because of who was calling the shots and preparing them. They were great because they had talent that performed and executed well.  
It's going to be a really long week and rest of the season. There were some positives to take from Sunday's debacle. 
The running back screen game works extremely well. As you may remember, I was a big advocate of that and thought that's what would make this offense potentially special. I also thought it would be a way to allow Robert Griffin to grow.  
The problem is - the Redskins are hesitant to go with it until they have to. In San Francisco, the first play should be a running back screen and I want to see at least ten over the course of the game to Alfred Morris and Roy Helu. It is the only "concept" as Jay  Gruden mentioned yesterday, that seems to work consistently. 
Chris Russell - -

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Inside the Numbers - Bucs @ Redskins - The Bruce Allen Experience
by Chris Russell
Nov 14, 2014 -- 2:42pm
ESPN 980
Perhaps this isn't fair, but I believe it is already time to panic for the Redskins. Not for this year, but also for the next few years ahead.
Sure, anything is possible, but I am specifically talking about the lack of quality depth, cap space and resources available to give legitimate reason and hope for the Redskins to return to glory.
Sure, they might make the playoffs (somehow) and win a division title again sometime soon (like they did in 2012) but they are not set up to take that next big step like some other poor teams could be. 
For instance, the Colts had one awful year (mostly because of Peyton Manning's absence) and landed the number one overall pick (Andrew Luck) and haven't looked back. They did it largely because of smart personnel moves like not holding on to Dwight Freeney who was no longer productive, retaining Reggie Wayne, re-building the offensive line and hiring a defensive minded head coach. 
Oh..they also hired a personnel guru in Ryan Grigson to run the show, from a very stable and successful organization like the Philadelphia Eagles. 
The Kansas City Chiefs were (2-14) in 2012 and with a culture change (Andy Reid) and a couple of dynamic building blocks (Jamaal Charles, Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, Eric Berry) took off last year, because they got steady and reliable quarterback play, excellent special teams and solid line play on both sides of the ball. 
There are very few teams that have been consistently poor in the NFL over the last four or five years and in some cases longer.
Two of them play on Sunday at FedExField. The Tampa Bay Bucs (1-8) and the Redskins (3-6). 
With that as a back drop, let's go "Inside the Numbers for these two teams that each need a win and a lot more help from there. 
I. A lot of futility in the standings: 
The Redskins are (27-46) since 2010 and if you include 2009 to make five full seasons plus this year, they are (31-58). 
The Bucs are (26 - 47) since 2010 and  (29-60)  since 2009 to give us the five full season plus this year mark. 
The Oakland Raiders are (24-49) since 2010 and (29-60) since 2009 to give us our five full season plus this year data.
The St. Louis Rams are (26-46-1) since 2010 and (27-61-1) since 2009 to give us our five full season plus this year record. 
As you can tell, the Redskins are the best of the worst  in terms of this group, and I suppose that counts for something but there was a reason I wanted to try and focus on this. 
All four of these teams have an interesting connection to each other.  The Rams are only connected by futility because of the Robert Griffin III trade but they have had all sorts of health issues with their quarterback and other key parts of their roster along with playing in the most demanding division in the NFL. 
II. The Bruce Allen factor
Since leaving the Oakland Raiders for the Tampa Bay Bucs after the 2003 season, the Raiders are (49-119) which is simply hard to fathom. 
While Allen was in Oakland from  1996 - 2003, the Raiders were  (64 - 64) and made the playoffs three times. 
While with Tampa, from 2004-2008, Allen's teams were (38-42). 
As we mentioned earlier, the Bucs since 2009 and Allen's departure are (29-60).
What does this tell us? A couple of things. Allen came here with (record wise) below average credentials and a combined record of (102 - 106) as a high level executive. 
How much control he had before arriving in Washington is subject to debate to a large degree, but it is widely believed in almost every league circle that Allen yielded top and ultimate control to Al Davis in Oakland and Jon Gruden in Tampa. 
Of course, his first four years in Washington, Mike Shanahan had ultimate control with Allen very involved in the process on many ends, as he presumably was in Oakland and Tampa. 
III. Why does Oakland and Tampa's record since Allen left matter?
It does to a large degree in my opinion and I would assume in  many opinions it does. Why?  
Because it shows me that either they (Oakland & Tampa)  are sorely missing Allen's bright mind as a salary cap guru and whatever he contributed in terms of personnel OR and this is where it gets very tricky. 
Did Allen's management input and philosophy (along with Davis' & Gruden's involvement) leave both the Raiders and Bucs in awful shape? 
Certainly you can make the argument that some of the Raiders woes are a result of an old team that got really old and could never recover.
Clearly you can't blame Allen for the last few years in Oakland but it is reasonable to say the the four or five years after he left, was partially attributed to the mistakes that the Raiders made while he was a senior executive. 
In the five seasons right after Allen left, the Raiders were a robust (20-60) from 2004-2008.
As for Tampa, it has been those five full seasons since Allen (and Gruden) were fired, and they have not made the playoffs in that time. 
Again, what you do while you are with an organization shapes in a lot of ways what your organization will be like down the road. 
If you understand football and drafting, along with building depth in a hard cap era, you understand what I mean.
IV. What does this mean for the Redskins?
Well, again the Redskins are (27-46) with Allen as Executive Vice President and General Manager for the first four years and now President/General Manager this season. 
Allen is not going anywhere, anytime soon. He has at least a year-and-a-half of job security and very likely more than that. 
Given the track record here, it is more than fair to believe that things will not get better anytime soon and for those of you that ache to make changes to coaches or executives, the grass isn't always greener on the other side. 
Allen has proven that during and after every stop of his NFL career.
V. If there is ever going to be a week for the Redskins special teams ....
The Bucs have a pretty good returner in Marcus Thigpen who had a 53-yard punt return against the Falcons last week  and a good young placekicker with a lively leg in Patrick Murray.  Murray has four field goals of at least 50 yards this season.  Murray is only (9-14) on the year. Their punter, Michael Koenen has eight punts downed inside the 20, which could be ugly for the Redskins offense. 
The problem for the Bucs has been a blocked field goal in Cleveland, a blocked punt in the same game, and at Atlanta in week three, they allowed a 62 yard  punt return for a touchdown to Devin Hester.
The Redskins have been awful in every area of making big plays on special teams. Just as a point of comparison, the Eagles have five special teams touchdowns this year, while the Redskins have a total of FIVE since 2005. 
The last time the Redskins returned a kickoff for a touchdown was October 31, 2010 in Detroit (Brandon Banks). The last time they returned a punt for a score was October 26, 2008, also in Detroit (Santana Moss). 
The last time the Redskins blocked a punt was December 24, 2006 in St. Louis (Vernon Fox). They did block a field goal attempt in 2012. 
By contrast, they allowed a 102-yard kickoff return for a score in week three (Philadelphia), a 74-yard punt return for a touchdown last December 8th (Kansas City), a punt block for a touchdown to start this season (Houston) and just for good measure, missed an extra point attempt in that game and had two field goal attempts blocked in the same game last November 3rd. 
And you want me to blame Jim Haslett for all of the Redskins problems? 
VI. Tell me something good: 
It's not all bad, as much as it seems it is. 
1. Alfred Morris had a season-high 92 rushing yards (19-92) last week and looks for his first 100-yard day since last November 7th. He does have three rushing touchdowns in his last six quarters of football. 
2. The Redskins are first in the NFC and tied for first in the NFL in yards per play at 6.2 per play. They're first in the NFL in yards per first-down play at 6.42. The offense is also first in the NFL in average yards after catch (6.9) and first in the NFL in yards after catch (1,460).
3. The Redskins defense is fourth in the NFC in sacks at 23, and second in the NFC in least first downs passing allowed.
4. Tress Way and the punt coverage unit rank first in the NFL in punt average (48.2) and have the longest punt recorded in the league (77 yards). They're also third in the NFc in net punting average at 40.5. 
5. DeSean Jackson is first in the NFL in yards per reception (21.8) and is tied for first in the NFC for longest reception (81).
Chris Russell - - 

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In Order to Take the Next Step...
by Chris Russell
Nov 11, 2014 -- 6:09pm
ESPN 980
For the Washington Redskins to get out of their twenty year mostly undisturbed nap of futility, a few things have to happen and occur quickly. 
The problem is, I have very little confidence that they will. I can't imagine that you have a lot of faith either. 
Sorry. I want to believe but it is really difficult. 
As the organization enters their final seven games of the season at (3-6) with a great opportunity  ahead (Tampa) to at least get the ball rolling, Dan Snyder, Bruce Allen and Jay Gruden have to be wondering why do other teams get it right and we don't? 
That doesn't mean one year, that means being a consistent playoff contender. Never mind winning championships. That's an unobtainable goal for the short-term future. Instead, they have to get the ship sailing smoothly. 
They do not need to blow everything up. They need to add. They need to supplement. When it became evident that the front office would be reorganized, it was very clear that Bruce Allen was going to elevate himself to the all powerful center of the organization. 
There was never a moment where Allen feared for his job or thought to himself "maybe Dan Snyder is going to give someone more power" because Allen convinced Snyder that he had already done that twice with head coaches having all the juice.  Joe Gibbs and Mike Shanahan had some success  but it was far from sustained. 
I cannot deny the facts. That is the truth. Instead, Allen convinced Snyder,  who he is very close with, that he could do everything. He could be the President, the Executive Vice President, the General Manager, the Executive Publisher  of and the great purveyor of all things burgundy and gold. 
What many do not know, because they rarely see or hear from Bruce Allen, is that he has an enormous ego. Most of us do.
Most of us do not run the Washington Redskins. The Redskins need less "I" and more "We."
There's  two more  problems with this situation. The one person in charge of everything philosophy didn't work.  The natural reaction would be to change that method of thinking, right? Nope. They kept the same exact philosophy that has landed them in trouble OR at least greatly contributed to the problems.
The second part of the problem is that Snyder entrusted the organization to somebody who had never run the complete show and the most critical element of the show by himself. 
I understand that in most companies in America, promotions occur and fresh blood is pumped into a leadership position that might be new. The problem with that is if you have the track record within the company that Allen has had during his time in DC, you almost assuredly would not promote him. You would hire somebody different. Somebody with a more proven track record to do the job that you are bestowing. 
That's a fact. Or at least common sense. 
If Snyder would have made this decision to entrust Allen with the whole castle in late 2009, fans would have been somewhat skeptical but raw sewage would have been a more popular choice than Vinny Cerrato. 
The Redskins should hire a rising young executive to be the football department head. They should hire somebody that has been the Director of Pro Personnel with a successful team that believed in young free agents that play with their hair on fire to SUPPLEMENT a philosophy that ALL good football organizations are built and layered through the annual draft. 
The Colts did it with Ryan Grigson, who was with Philadelphia. The Seahawks did it with John Schneider. The 49ers with Trent Baalke and I still give credit to the Falcons for hiring Thomas Dimitroff from the Patriots. 
This person has to know very little about the business and financial side, because Bruce Allen and Eric Schaffer are MORE than capable of handling that part of the business. They haven't been perfect by any means (I will expand on this in another post) but they are more than qualified and competent. 
This executive has to work hand in hand with Director of Player Personnel  Scott Campbell and  Director of Pro Personnel Alex Santos to  bridge the gap between the coaches and executive branch, which includes Dan Snyder because his wishes and desires can  EASILY (and have been) be facilitated through Allen. 
If the Redskins do not want to bring in somebody new from outside the organization, they should find a way to make it work with A.J. Smith to be at Redskins Park full time and year-round. 
Smith is not with the organization everyday, but he has the technology to watch anything and everything that the coaches and front office can see via a digital I-pad. 
Talk to any scout or personnel guru, and there is NO substitute for being on the ground in person to see what the tape doesn't show you and then build your knowledge base with the tape. 
From what I understand, Smith is open to a more active role in contributing to the Redskins football side like he did in San Diego and to a lesser degree in Buffalo. 
Smith learned the craft under the great Bill Polian and the late John Butler. He  valued draft picks as a means to build an organization. The Redskins have treated draft picks like they're carrying the Ebola virus.  
That philosophy preceded Allen, but he has done absolutely nothing to change it. It's possible, under Allen's guidance, and whatever other factors were involved, it has been worse. 
Smith would be a much more qualified  candidate for the position than Doug Williams would be because he has done it before, but as Jason Reid pointed out on ESPN 980 Monday night - we have no idea what Smith's input on free agency and the draft has been the last few years. 
I believe he has significant input and sway with Allen, and that is how Allen justifies the current structure. If that is the case, and when you remember some of the failures late in Smith's San Diego tenure, I don't know if that is truly going to fix the mess. 
I don't think it could hurt and the Redskins certainly would not be any worse, but would they truly get better? I don't know, because nobody knows exactly what evaluations Smith made and how much of his input was applied. 
One other element to this equation is this: The Redskins were woefully thin under the old structure which featured Morocco Brown in charge of pro personnel and Santos under him. The Redskins then promoted Santos to replace Brown and keep him from leaving for Cleveland, which triggered another pro scout (Matt Holland) to leave for the "Dawg Pound." 
Sure they replaced the body, but they did not replace the experience and the savvy that Brown brought to the table.  
In essence, you have Bruce Allen who is doing the grand emperor role for the first time, a first year head coach and a first year Director of Pro Personnel, along with your Director of Player Personnel (Campbell) on the road for four months out of the year, visiting the top-150 or so in person for the draft.  
Your only true NFL general manager is not in the building for half of the year and you have no money to roll over to really infuse the roster with experienced and veteran talent. 
The Redskins personnel structure was not good enough under Mike Shanahan, Vinny Cerrato and Joe Gibbs. That has been proven by the bottom line. I believe it is worse now. The problem is - if you are not willing to deviate from your philosophy, you won't ever change. 
The Redskins are still unwilling to change. Until they  do so, they will always take on water and slowly sink to the bottom. 
Chris Russell - -

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A HELL of a Weekend
by Chris Russell
Nov 03, 2014 -- 11:30am
ESPN 980

The Redskins are back from Minnesota where I thankfully was able to sleep in until 6 AM Sunday before the chaos of a week that I will never forget and hopefully will never experience again went into over drive.
ESPN 980 Galleries
First it was Britt McHenry's report from ESPN that said Robert Griffin III had alienated the locker room and that an incident on Friday in the locker room was directed at Griffin.

As I said several times Sunday on ESPN 980 and our Redskins Radio broadcast, that is not true.

Are there members of the organization that are not in love with Robert? Yes. This has been true in small numbers for a long time. It is NOT a locker room that is anti Robert Griffin III.

In every work environment, you have individuals that are close and those that are not. It doesn't take a lot to drive a spike through the heart.

Again, to be clear, there are members of the organization that are not smitten with Griffin. It is not a wide spread issue, based on everything that I know.

I would say as I have always said, the coaching staff is not sold that Griffin is the absolute best option for the Redskins to win every week. That doesn't mean they don't realize his talent, but talent has to be formed into talent and consistent execution. That's the reason for that.

Any issues that this coaching staff has with him is purely football, and I believe they have every right. That's why they were hired.  

While dealing with that, the Redskins early team buses crashed on a Minneapolis highway not far from TCF Bank Stadium.

The details are slightly different depending on who you talk with, but many members of the organization that I talked with personally described a very lucky turn of events that prevented complete disaster.

At this point, it doesn't matter what happened, everyone on the buses ultimately were safe but there are necessary changes and improvements that must be made. The Redskins almost suffered an unspeakable tragedy and you know who I blame this on? The National Football League.

You might be saying to yourself, WHAT?? I say let me explain.

They require police escort motorcades for every leg of the trip and I have been on these buses for more than five years.

I was fortunate to not be on these buses, Sunday morning. Trust me when I tell you, this should happen more often than it does.

This is not a Washington Redskins issue. The NFL requires this and because there is very little margin for error, this was bound to happen.

When the Redskins leave Redskins Park, there are five buses. Bus number five leaves first 15 minutes ahead of bus number four, which usually carries our entire Redskins Radio Network crew.

Another series of buses then leaves 15 minutes after that which carries coaches and players. Because of staggered times of departure, this first part of the journey is not as dangerous, but still has some potential for major issues.

The real problems start when the Redskins arrive at  the road city airport and also when leaving the stadium after a game to head back to the airport.

It is at that time that you have FIVE luxury buses trailing each other in extremely close fashion.

It is a frightening experience, especially with a lot of traffic and congestion. Often times, when leavin a stadium after the game, fans are in and around the streets in close proximity of the buses and there is very little margin for error.

I can't tell you how many times we have stopped short and I have thought we were going to crash into another bus. It happens almost every trip. Anybody on these buses would tell you the same thing.

If you want to know the absolute truth, I thought about this exact scenario on Saturday upon arrival in Minnesota. The bus in front of us stopped short and my bus almost plowed into the back of the other bus.

This may seem dramatic, but it is not. The worst part is that you have police officers on motorcycles trying to squeeze by buses at a very high rate of speed with extremely limited room on roads and shoulders of highways after executing their assignments.

As in football, when you play with fire you will get burned. That's exactly what happened on Sunday.

As to why I blame the NFL? In my opinion, there is absolutely no need for this. The buses will get to their location in due time. The Redskins as do every other team fly privately. The team is in NO danger of missing their flight.

When we get to the road city, players are given at least two-and-a-half hours off before evening meetings. Again, there is absolutely no rush.

The buses that crashed on the way to TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday left FOUR hours before kickoff. There is a second set of buses that leaves three hours before the game starts from the hotel. Again, no rush to get anywhere.

After the game, buses pull out approximately one hour after the game. Traffic is usually lessened by that time, but not by much.

Once again, the Redskins as does every team, fly privately and their chartered jet is going NOWHERE until the team is on it.

The only part of the trip that the NFL does not require a police escort is upon arrival Dulles after the flight home. At that point, buses trail each other out and back to Redskins Park.

Honestly, I never worry about this leg of the trip. I do about the others.

In my opinion, and this is only my opinion, based on five plus years of being in these situations, there is absolutely no need for the type of motorcade that is set up at the rates of speed that are common.

If you have one or two police cruisers (in cars) leading the way, that is fine. If buses have to stop at lights, so be it.

I know you don't want to snarl traffic in downtown areas, but there are multiple ways that you can accomplish getting to the hotel or stadium without putting anybody's life on the line.

Trust me, Sunday's incident could have been a lot worse. It could happen on every trip.  

There was another report that centered around Robert Griffin III starting, from Adam Schefter of ESPN.

I have been up-front on this issue and wrote about it before the Dallas game, but it certainly held true for Minnesota.

I believe, based on many people that I talked with, that if Jay Gruden was making the call entirely on his own, he would have waited until the Tampa game. This was partially to give

Griffin more time to recover and more importantly practice, but also to make the environment (opponent, location) a little more conducive to success.

However, there are many issues at play here. After writing my initial report, which was based on speculation on my end AND talking to some people, it was made clear to me last Monday morning in Dallas by somebody very close to Dan Snyder that he had NOTHING to do with the decision then and in the short-term future.

This high ranking member of the organization did allow for the scenario that Bruce Allen was heavily involved in the decision. As he should be.

The ONLY issue I have and anybody should have is this: Did Bruce Allen say to Jay Gruden - You have to play Robert Griffin III or else. I would hope not and I don't believe that happened, but I can't rule it out.

Just like I can't rule out this: Even though Dan Snyder is not directly involved in the process, I know three things.

1. Snyder's patience has been running very thin with all the losing, as you can imagine.

2. Snyder loves Robert Griffin III, as he should, and wants to see a return on the very costly investment.

3. Bruce Allen and Dan Snyder are extremely close. It is absolutely logical to think that Allen confides and discusses these very important issues with Snyder and then Snyder's thoughts and wishes influence Allen's input or decision making authority.

In addition, the Redskins need to see Griffin play against tough defenses in hostile environments for as much as they possibly can because they have to make a decision by early May of this off-season on a potential fifth-year option for 2016.

It's not a slam dunk call. Trust me on this.

Griffin played better than I thought he would and appeared to show very little sign of struggles because of   his injured ankle, but perhaps was fatigued in the fourth quarter. That's understandable.

Just like it should be understandable that the defense was gassed. Oh wait, that's right! That's an excuse and there are no excuses, from what I have been told.

That fatigue, and some of the indecisiveness that led to five sacks is a major reason why I thought the Redskins would require Griffin to get more practices under his belt after six weeks
of not facing live bullets.

They chose to not that, for whatever reason they have and it almost worked. No matter who made the ultimate choice, and I do believe it was a collaborative decision that was strongly influenced from Bruce Allen and the logical connection to Dan Snyder, the Redskins were able to justify the decision by some of the good that Griffin put forward.

Some of the bad? That justifies some of the criticism and questioning.

Either way, here's the reality. The Redskins are (3-6) but lucky that Sunday was just a loss in Minnesota and not a catastrophic loss and moment in American history.

Chris Russell - -

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