Auto Load Responses: 
Font Size: 

December 16, 2013

10:59
A.M.

Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Total Responses: 30

About the hosts

About the host

Host: Thomas Boswell

Thomas Boswell

A Washington Post columnist since 1984, Thomas Boswell is known for the many books he has written on baseball, including "How Life Imitates the World Series" and "Why Time Begins on Opening Day."

About the topic

Washington Post Sports Columnist Tom Boswell answered your questions about the Redskins, the Capitals, the Nationals, the rest of D.C. sports and more.

Past Ask Boswell chats
Q.

Romo strikes again!

Just amazing -- he is an artist.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Perfection. I watched in amazement.

In a short time frame, Romo Does It Again with late game INTs and Ovechkin scores in last minute AGAIN to save Caps.

Has anyone in Dallas noticed that Jason Garrett can't coach and looks scared, too? Oh, yeah, I guess so. (Just so Jerry doesn't notice.)

After Dez Bryant acted the fool a few weeks ago, Garrett did nothing. So, this time, Dez just walks up the tunnel with more than a minute left.

Next week's marquee: Divas vs Dopes?

– December 16, 2013 11:00 AM
Q.

On second thought...

It's easy to blame Snyder because of his reputation, but I'm not so sure what he did in this current mess. Shanny has been leaking and too candid this week, publicly poking his boss. If it's mostly about RG3, why not work things privately? We really haven't seen "bad Dan" lately.

A.
Thomas Boswell :

This certainly feels like it's more on Shanahan. Dan's kept as hands off as he could. Who knew that being really nice to your QB was a way to wreck your franchise. Seriously, a lot of owners have a strong connection with an undisputed FRANCHISE QB -- which is what RGIII was last year. Are you really interfering (much) if you spend some time and attention on a QB that nobody disputes is your future? But that did tend to feed into RGIII's sense of the dramatic and Shanny's need to be the absolute boss, keep all his players a little on edge.

Shanny's an artist in these back-room situations -- always has a game plan if things twist a different direction. In the end, I think he gets paid to go away. 

It IS amazing how much things have deteriorated -- to the NFL world watching from outside -- in the last eight days. It's gone from bad season but maybe a fixable situation to Absolute Disaster to regime change -- and the trigger was the story that Shanny "almost quit" because of the Snyder-RGIII relationship.

– December 16, 2013 11:00 AM
Q.

Nats Opening Day Starter

Howdy Boz, Just wondering who you think should get the nod. Strasburg is still the marquee name on the staff, but J Zimm proved his mettle on the field last year. And yeah, I'm eagerly awaiting Spring Training.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Jordan Zimmermann will probably get it after 19 wins, deserves it, I assume, if everybody's healthy. But I doubt that Zim would mind much if Matt Williams set it up some other way for some other reason. Nats not a high-drama or refuse-to-share-credit team.

It's going to feel like a loooong winter not just because Skins were so bad so soon but because the coach search, the next few weeks of leaks, slimes, are exhausting to fans even if they try not to listen.

It's like every Sunday at 11 a.m. one side or the other leaks unattributeds, but detailed, character attacks on the other side. If it were happening 1,000 miles away you'd just laugh, shake your head and say, "Well, no need to pay ANY attention to THAT team."

Somehow I suspect DC will find a way to avoid that option.

– December 16, 2013 11:00 AM
Q.

From Little Napoleons to Tall Tacticians

Just finished your book "Why Time Begins on Opening Day" and am curious which type you think Davey was as the Nats Manager and what type Williams will be? How 'bout a short answer here; perhaps with columns sometime this winter? I think of Davey as a Tall Tactician with a bit of Uncle Robbie thrown in. I suspect that Matt Williams will also be a Tall Tactician (more so than Davey perhaps), but I suspect there will be just a bit of Little Napoleon in him as well.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

The best managers often are a mix. Davey had the inside-baseball stat side (Taltician), the help-a-rookie comfort-a-vet side (Uncle Robby) and, to a lesser degree, because he'd been a good player himself, a touch of Peerless leader. What he probably lost along the way before he got to the Nats was the Little Napoleon piece of the puzzle -- the fire, the in-your-face during games with foes. He certainly had that for a long time.

We'll have to wait and let Williams define himself. Should be fun. He got some Tactician, for sure, and Peerless Leader ( hard stare when he wants it, looks like he'd have an all-time "crusher handshake" like Chuck Tanner if he wanted to use it.)

With time, I think managers have become somewhat less pure types and more well rounded. But it was fun when so many seemed to fit in baseball-never-changes slots.

– December 16, 2013 11:06 AM
Q.

Shanahan staying?

Could the rumor that Mike Shanahan might stay with all new coordinators possibly be true? Sounds preposterous given the situation, but weirder things have happened with the Redskins.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Nothing is too weird for the Skins. But that would be one of the all-time long shots at this point.

At this point, every word and act should be read as meaning something else. That's what often happens (in all sports) when teams or regimes as crumbling.

It's nice that Cousins gave such a good account of himself. RGIII's best one-game yardage total is 329. In his two starts Cousins has thrown for 329 and 381 on Sunday. OTOH, RGIII has had a QB rating better than Cousin's  94.8  in 13 of his 28 career starts. RGIII once had 382 yards passing and running.

Yardage totals can be misleading. Still, it has to help Cousins confidence to have fat stats. Althoguh offense in the NFL is very hard to stop these days. On Sunday, here were some other passing yardage totals: Brady 364, Tannehill 312, Foles 428 (!), Cassel 382, Romo (358), Flynn (299, and a great comeback job for Pack), Ryan Fitzpatrick 402 and Brees 393.

Wow. Guess that's what happens when you play under flag football rules.

I watched the game again just focusing on Cousins. Those were three really bad turnovers and he could have had two or three more. He had his arm hit and the ball fluttered straight up, just no Falcons around. Two Falcons got hands on a pass near their own goal line. One side-arm throw and a miscommunication produced two passes that were only near Falcon defenders. Presumably some of that gets worked out with more playing time. But he has shown a turnover tendency along with his ability to get the ball out fairly quickly and go through his progressions further than RGIII.

A couple of times he read the blitz well. A couple of times not. The sack/fumble came when the Falcons sent eight men and the Skins had three receivers out man-on-man. But the final TD to Moss was a nice pick-up of an eight-man blitz.

Also the 53-yard TD to Garcon was vs. a five-man rush. He beat pressure nicely on the sideline pass with 28 second sleft, too.

On the final two-point play he might have flushed out of the pocket a little quickly just as Morgan flashed open at the goal line. But that's a tough split-second decision. They used a similar formation to the Moss TD, then sent a m an in motion to balance the formation and allow Garcon to work the right side. 

Cousins had several little silly mistakes that probably are rust. He got a bad five-yard delay of game penalty when they had first and 10 with less than a minute left. They scored anyway but a big five yards to give away. He also pulled out from center too soon --  IOW, he got overanxious or else  he forgot his own snap count. Every the officials grinned when he called it.

All in all, he looks like a potential NFL starter, but probably not a top-half-of-the-league. Of course too early to tell. He may get better the more he plays. Or the league may figure out his tendencies. He gets to face an awful Cowboys defense next week and a probably demoralized Giant bunch to end the year.

In this game, he did throw several passes just a little behind receivers, always with poor results, including the awful throw for the clean pick that was returned to the Skins one-yard line.

Look forward to seeing more of him. Perfect for a crazy DC debate. He's just good enough to be part of a QB controversy -- for now anyway. Lets see what the next couple of weeks bring.

Oh, two RGIII came over to give him a kind word after bad plays and both times Cousins slid sideways on the bench 6" -- fast -- to get away from him. RGIII's not used to this Bad QB etiquette. (I am.) You give the starter a word or smack after his best plays, but only after everybody else has had a chance to do it and be inconspicuous. Do NOT get "in the frame" after he makes a mistake. Don't try to show what a good teammate you are after he screws up. The last thing he wants to see is YOU.

– December 16, 2013 11:28 AM
Q.

Espi on the bench

I love the idea. But based on Boras' quotes, seems like it is more likely he is traded the second Rizzo gets an offer he likes. Do you like him as the utility infielder as well or see him elsewhere next year?

A.
Thomas Boswell :

It will be tough with his personality type. But it may be hard, or impossible, for Nats to get what they think is decent value in return. I suspect that Williams, who may not be as touchy feely as Davey (I don't know this for a fact yet) may have no problem letting everybody know where they stand and expectiong them to act in ways appropriate to their role. Danny needs to understand, and Boras' comments seem to indicate that he probably does, that he played himself back to the minors -- nobody did him wrong -- and he didn't play himself back out of the minors. His talent is real. But so is his mega-slump. 

The Nats will not give up on him quickly or cheaply, imo. They are very good talent evaluators. His defense makes up for some of his hitting problems. And if he ever gets it figured out at the plate, he'll be a very good player -- for somebody somewhere someday. JMO.

– December 16, 2013 11:34 AM
Q.

Shanahan Walked Out of His Press Conference

He can't even defend the mess he puts on the field. Seriously?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Well, maybe he figured he couldn't top his epic presser in the middle of last week! I AM glad that, even if it suited his own prupsoes to put it out there, that he DID go on record saying the obvious -- he's the one most to blame for not talking RGIII out of the Seattle game. The player and doc get a slice of blame. But, come on, as (almost) everybody said then, there has to be a football adult in charge at that moment. That's Shanny. He's right to want to "kick himself."

In the game story that day I wrote that if RGIII's career was significantly impacted by that injury it would go down as one of the worst coaching blunders of this period in NFL history -- because he was so obviously a compromised player.

The better Cousins play, the more it underlines "Why couldn't you put him in against Seattle when it was 14-0." Yes, easy hindsight. And it's also easy to forget how much of a leader -- a force of will -- RGIII was during that 7-0 run. Even when he was ginping he was feared. A lot sure has changed.

Oh, one other point on Cousins. RGIII has repeatedly overthrown deep balls all year, sometimes airing the ball out 65 yards on the flay but also missing his open man. Cousins hit Aldrick Robinson for 62 yards on a pass that went 54 yards in the air. Looked like he threw it almost as far as he could. One yard further and it hits him in stride for an 80-yard TD. But still a wonderful pass. And better to be a hair too short of perfect for 62 yards than a hair too long for 0 yards.

– December 16, 2013 11:42 AM
Q.

Houston as a trading partner

Cousins, Shanahan, and Shanahan go to Houston. A haul of draft picks (although probably not a first rounder -- at least not this year's first rounder) go to Washington. Makes sense to me. Unfortunately, I see a minor conflict of interest in the person who has the power to negotiate that trade.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

If either Shanahan ends up in Houston, THEN you call them to work a trade because, presumably, the Shanahans know Cousins best and may value him more highly than anybody else. He's certainly easy to like -- knows the right things to say, likes to compete, doesn't look like a tough guy but is. Beat out Foles at Michigan State; Foles transfered to Arizona.  

– December 16, 2013 11:44 AM
Q.

Going for 2

Everyone likes it until it doesn't work and then we question the lousy play call. Other than that, it works out great.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

A little odd to retweet yourself! But...

NFL 2-pt success rate = 44.8%. So only go 4 it if u think u'r underdog. Skins outgained Atl 476-243! PLAY OT.

If Skins trailed by 3 w 0:18, 4th & goal at 2-yd line, EVERYBODY says, "Kick FG. Go to OT." It's IDENTICAL. A so-what game. But play right.

It's not an awful call. Obviously 44.8 percent  is close to flip of coin. As Dan Steinberg points out the Falcons were a TD favorite entering the game. You're in Atlanta. Maybe a near 505-50 deal is OK. I think that, except for the SEVEN turnovers, the Skins dominated the Falcons. I think that should guide the decision. Hey (as Shanahan would say) we're handling 'em. Lets just go to OT and beat 'em.

There's one more twist  -- and EVERYTHING these last few weeks with have "twist" and spin. If they make the two-point conversion to win: Mike looks gutsy, Kyle looks smart, Cousins (their guy) is the clutch hero and the team approves because, hey, most of 'em just want to get back on the plane in one piece. Who needs extra football in a 3-11 season?

If this call came in an important game between two 10-3 teams, I'd say it was a show of little confidence in your own team, an attmept by the coach to thrust himself forward unnecessarily as hero and a bad call (even if it worked). In this lame game between 3-10s, okay, who cares. 

– December 16, 2013 11:52 AM
Q.

Cowboys

As a Philadelphia Eagles fan, I have to say next week will be one of the extraordinarily rare days where I cheer for Washington. Go Kirk!
A.
Thomas Boswell :

How bad can the NFC East look in one day!? Eagles lose by 18 to Vikes without A.P. Eli Manning looks like career implosion with five INTS and no TDs vs Seattle. Skins have seven turnovers to fall to 3-11. And Dallas blows a 26-3 lead because the Cowboys are, and have for a long time been, the team that now consistently Loses The Big One (and plenty of the medium-sized ones, too) because they are awful under late pressure.

– December 16, 2013 11:54 AM
Q.

Going for the win

You've got to think that the Shanahans had been waiting all season for that situation and thought they had a plan that gave them a better-than-50/50 shot at scoring two points. Of course, they probably planned to have RG3 and his running skills there to execute the play, but c'mon, they were excited to give it a shot! Seriously, I liked it. Notwithstanding your stat that the NFL-wide 2-point success rate is 44.8 percent, the 'Skins could reasonably have believed that *their* chance at success was over 50 percent, in which case it makes sense to go for it. It also spares both teams the added risk of injury that comes from playing overtime, not an insignificant consideration at this point in the season.

A.
Thomas Boswell :

Oh, I'm probably just insisting on it too much because, at my house, I said, "Bad decision" before the play.

If it works, then everybody says, "We KNEW we had the right play for that spot."

(They NEVER totally know they have the right play. They THINK they probably do. Until, ooops, they don't. How many are blitzing, from what angle, etc.)

– December 16, 2013 11:57 AM
Q.

Who are the Yankees?

Boz, The Yankees have now been outbid in consecutive offseasons by the Pirates (Russell Martin), Mariners (Robinson Cano), and Royals (Omar Infante) - two of these for their own players, all in positions of need. Jacoby Ellsbury is a good player who'll likely age well, as speedy outfielders tend to do, but who knows how much gas Beltran has in the tank - postseason aside, he's gone from being a stellar defender to a total liability. Shortstop is a combination of Brendan Ryan (OPS last year: 529) and whatever remains of Derek Jeter - management is *hoping* their third baseman is suspended all year, but there's nobody else to play their, as yet - their "slugging" first baseman has declined in OBP and OPS each of the last four years - their star pitcher is coming off his worst season ever, has 2800 IP on the odometer, and 3/4 years remaining at $23/25M - and they currently only have two starters on the roster who were league average or above last year. Schadenfreude aside, WTH is going on with the Yankees? Is .500 even a reasonable projection?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

You saved me a lot of words! That's my analysis. Ironically, the Ultimate Zone Rating folks and others who grade ever defensive play like to contrast the 20-best and 20-worst plays in a season of Brendan Ryan and Jeter (a few years ago) to illustrate what they consider the HUGE gap between an amazing defensive shortstop (Ryan) and a hideous one-of-the-worst-ever in many yeaars shortstops -- Jeter.

I spent the time looking at all 20+20 = 40 plays of both.  Ryan's certainly much better. But, to my eye, not nearly as much better as the Believe My Defensive Metric folks want us to believe. Wish I still had the link.

Here's a fun link on the recent fielding debates -- what the terminology and methodologies are. Now you'll know all about BIS!

Here is the Grantland link on Jeter vs Ryan.http://es.pn/198SCKN

And you wonder what I do on cold winter days.

– December 16, 2013 12:05 PM
Q.

World Series or..... No don't do it.

Boz, it seems that the national baseball media is jumping on the Nats bandwagon again. I think they've improved the rotation, the bullpen and the bench from last year. That and the maturation of Harper, health of Zimm, hoped for continued hitting from Span, etc. certainly gives one optimism. But, are we being set up again? At this point of the offseason, looking at the moves the Nats have made and the rest of the division (I'll leave it at that) have made, how do our guys stack up?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

The Nats have improved. Fister could work out very well. And the Braves have lost McCann and Hudson. They aren't finished for the winter but I'd say the Nats chances in the N.L. East look quite good -- a year-long battle with Braves.

BUT the Nats still have two obvious problems -- an overall mediocre bullpen (17th in pen ERA of 30 last year) with a finesse closer at the back end (not my favorite thing in October, if you get there) and they have a first baseman (LaRoche) who may rebound toward career norms -- 25 HR and 85 RBI -- or be in a garden-variety getting-old career slide.

They could be very good. But I suspect that plenty of people will be smart enough -- this time -- to realize that they also might only be pretty good. How many rookie managers have ever gone to the World Series in their first year, for example. I don't know. I'll have to look it up.

Nats should be exciting. But by the time the off-season dust settles I suspect that most will realize that 6-to-8 teams can win it all on paper and a couple of others will probably materialize next year that aren't expected. 

It's Z'mann, Gio, Strasburg, Fister, Detwiler and the plausible development of Harper that makes them for real. But "for real" and even making it to an NLCS are two very different things.

You'll remember (I'm sure, yeah, right) that I picked them to LOSE in the NLCS last year in the last chat before the season began. And they didn't even come close to that. In all sports, but especially in baseball, where the post-season is so unpredictable/uncontrolable, just be glad when you follow a GOOD team that really has a chance and enjoy it from late-February until whenever. Don't get too hung up on the win-it-all fetish.

Look at LaRussa's Cardinal teams -- the best ones in regular season, and on paper -- were October disappointments while two of the Card teams that were left for dead in August or didn't look like they belonged in October ended up winning the Series. That's part of baseball.  

– December 16, 2013 12:15 PM
Q.

REDSKINS' RB FUTURE

Hey Boz. The Skins clearly have a number of positions that are lacking in key personnel. With Morris on the payroll (along with the welcome return of Helu this year), RB is clearly not one of them. That being said, Morris is a perfect fit for Shanny's offensive system, but not necessarily every coach's play calling. Assuming Shanahan leaves after this year, what future do you see for the Redskins' running game? Will we need to add RB to the list of positions that need upgrades? Thanks for putting on these chats - some of the best sports reading all week!
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Thanks. Morris is consistently underrated and underused. I'll say that after a two-fumble day. If the next coach doesn't have an offense that fits his cut-back nibble-footed hard-finishing style, shame on him.

In fact, that should be one of the job interview questions: How do we MAKE SURE we get 1,300-to-1600 yards out of Alfred Morris?

– December 16, 2013 12:19 PM
Q.

Signing Jordan Zimmermann

At what point do the Nats (or any team) decide that it makes more sense to rely on young, controllable pitchers than to tie up lots of money and years in an extension or free agent deal? Wouldn't a smart team (with a good farm system) keep trading and promoting to avoid tying up $100-200 million in a starting pitcher?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

The conventional wisdom is that Desmond is harder to replace and more likely to justify a contract extension than a comparably valuable pitcher (like Z'mann).

I'm going to have to think, study, interview on this. My gut is that you do not play a "celebrity premium" with either Desmond or Z'mann. So, "pay your own," especially if the Gio contract is a template. Both get an "A+" for clubhouse character, work habits. If Starsburg and/or Harper ever fully pan out, and neither has yet, then that "premium" with be in the Boras price. ASSUMING that you can sign Strasburg and/or Harper to a long-term extension is MUCH riskier than thinking you can get Z'mann and Desmond done.

And right now Desmond and Z'mann have actually DONE more than Stras and Harp. I think that all the best is still ahead of Strasburg and Harper. But it's still a fact that, if you are determined to keep them, you will pay -- forever -- for those SI covers when they were young. IOW, some tough calls coming.

I suspect that the Lerners long-term thinking is that the team payroll can, eventually, handle as many as five >$100M players, as long as the team is successful on the field and at gate. Werth, Z'man, Z'mann, Desmond, Strasburg, Harper -- I think that's six. And if Stras or Harper ever max out $100M isn't going to be the price. But that'd be a nice problem.

– December 16, 2013 12:28 PM
Q.

Extending Desmond

Have you seen Ian Desmond's tweets about the hot-stove season? He's really into the intrigue of it. My guess is he'd love to be a free agent himself someday and would feel kind of let down to sign a long-term extension and take himself out of the game.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I thnk he's just having a good time in his tweets. I follow his "rumors."

– December 16, 2013 12:30 PM
Q.

Snyder's associates

I often see references to Dan Snyder and "officials" within the Redskins, especially amidst speculation about the coach's future. But who is among the owner's inner circle?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Ah, sweet mystery of life.

– December 16, 2013 12:30 PM
Q.

Ben & Eli

Tom, I know you focus on Washington sports, but please answer my questions. I'm sure a lot of people are asking at least one of them. What happened to Eli Manning? From two-time Super Bowl MVP to a five-interception game, he's been less than good most of this year. Why? When the league's elite quarterbacks are mentioned, why is Ben Roethlisberger's name not up there with Peyton, Drew, and Tom (Brady). His performances this year have been outstanding, and only Brady has been in as many Super Bowls. He was something else last night.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Much of Eli's great rep is built on his two 4-0 Super Bowl-winning runs. He's always thrown a lot of picks. His career QB rating is only 81.4  -- REALLY mundane. Even if you don't love QB rating you can't love 227 TDs to 169 INTs too much. 

With 25 picks, this is his worst full season. But he also had 25 interceptions in '10 -- then won the Super Bowl the next year.

I think Big Ben is one level down from those others. I suspect off-field issues have dampened enthusiasm for him outside Pittsburgh. They've dampened mine. But he's a tough cuss and so agile for his size. (Reminds me of a much bigger better Bobby Layne.)

– December 16, 2013 12:36 PM
Q.

Nats' catchers

Hi Tom. With the Washington semiprofessional franchise in a state of, let's call it disarray, I'm very excited to welcome the reporting of pitchers and catchers. Are you comfortable with the Nats' catching situation? I like Ramos, but his injury history worries me, and I don't see a capable backup on the roster. Your thoughts?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

No, I am absolutely NOT comfortable with the Nats catching situation. They never mention it as a need. For the reasons you mention, it is a NEED. Not a luxury. Miguel Olivo, Wil Nieves, John Buck (probably unlikely) are among several vets on the market.

Nieves was an awful hitter with the Nats. The last two years, he's hit .299 with a .704 OPS. And most of that was with Arizona, you know, the team where Williams was third base coach. So, maybe that'll give us a hint of what Matt thinks of Wil because I doubt that he'd be a break the bank addition. I suspect they are aiming higher.

Just so they ARE aiming! If you are a contender, you don't go into a major-opportunity season with a really good but MUCH-INJURED catcher and a bunch of rookies behind him.

I don't think Kurt Suzuki has been signed either.

– December 16, 2013 12:42 PM
Q.

Shanny next year

I hope Sonny is wrong and Shanny is out and a new coach is in for next year. I hate the turnover but I see other teams (Chiefs and Eagles) with new coaches and they are doing pretty well. Would you like to see Shanahan stay or go?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

I assume that has already been decided. When you see so many slash-and-burn character-attacking stories involving ALL of the key actors on both sides, the people involved are ALWAYS going to assume that "it" is coming from all those awful people on the other side.

I seriously doubt that Mike Shanahan, Dan Snyder, Kyle Shanahan and Robert Griffin are the four worst people on earth. Why, I assume some of 'em are okay, except when you put 'em together and try to blend them in the burgundy-and-gold madhouse. But too many sharps knives have been thrown -- and stuck in too many backs.

We're now officially at the All My Deadskins stage. I fully expect to discover, in true soap fashion, that Mike's evil twin (Pike), thought to have been drowned in a typhoon in 1977, has actually been coaching the Skins since the Raven game last year and that Mike will soon escape from his captors on a desert island and will reappear in Ashburn any day.

Then Dan will say, "I've been suffering from amnesia since the day I fired Zorn. You say WHAT has happened to my team!?"

And the new Skins era of empire will begin.

Okay, probably not. But maybe they can get a second-round pick for Cousins. 

– December 16, 2013 12:49 PM
Q.

Werewolf

Fun fact: Jayson Werth batted just .211/.318/.352 in his first 92 games with the Nationals but is .300/.384/.485 in his 268 games since.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Yup.

– December 16, 2013 12:50 PM
Q.

I'm with you, Boz

I saw your tweet stating the Skins should have kicked the extra point. I thought I was the only one. The radio crew thought it was great, but why? It appears the success rate for two point conversions is about 50 percent at best; those are basically the same odds of winning in OT. In fact, I think the odds for OT are slightly better. You've been moving the ball better all day than Atlanta; hope that continues in OT and go for the win then. What I really don't get is, this is somehow seen as a positive thing to do when you're 3-10, but it's something out of the question if you were, say, 10-3. If it's the best way to win, do it in either case. But if it's, then why do it yesterday? Obviously, none of this matters much, but it's a nice break from speculating on the end of the Shanny soap opera.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Thanks.

In the Skins case, why don't we call it what it is: A Dope Opera.

– December 16, 2013 12:51 PM
Q.

What does it prove?

The idea that Cousins' play yesterday "proves" Shanahan right about the efficacy of the offense as designed is laughable to me. I watch the game and see mediocre team out game planned and in an immediate hole, as they seemingly always are. Then, after successful adjustments and decent quarter of play, I see a team out in-game adjusted at halftime. I see a team with dreadful special teams and a bad D that can occasionally string a decent half together. Whoopideedoo! Shanahan is right about it all! Is that what the owner signed up for? Four years later you'll have worse special teams, worse defense and an OK offense. You'll have three losing seasons, and a 3-6 start in the one winning season. You'll have no depth at any position to be excited about, other than QB. Is that what fans expected?

A.
Thomas Boswell :

The case for firing Shanahan, and it is a very strong one, is that he changed your defense, then built an AWFUL one with a hand-picked DC who now has had 12 lousy defenses in a row. He neglected special teams. And he admits that he got your 1-1-1-2 franchise quarterback badly hurt with an AWFUL coaching decision.

Only two teams in the 16-game era have allowed 500 points on defense. The Skins are on pace for 496.

Also, the Skins have been outscored by 129 points. That is the worst point differential for a Skins team in 52 years.

The corretiton question is not "how can you replace Mike Shanahan?"

It's more likely that the correct question is:  "Strictly on the coaching and team-building merits, without even factoring in personality issues, nepotism or conflict with RGIII, how can you possibly have him back?"

That's it for today. Thanks for all the -- almost too many -- good questions.

– December 16, 2013 12:59 PM
Q.

QB Gurus: The Shannys?

Correct me if I'm wrong -- didn't Shanny and Mini-Me (Kyle) opine that John Beck was a fabulous, FABULOUS, QB prospect? Isn't that Maximum Possible Error? I just point that out because everyone seems to assume that they're gurus in this area . . . and their record is not beyond question.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Remember, Shanny says that he tries not to tell the truth. I suspect Beck is an example of a player about whom he never said one true word. Even when he said he would "stake his reputation" on the words that followed. (I tend to watch his pressers as mordant stand-up comedy not communication.)

– December 16, 2013 1:01 PM
Q.

Bring on the shootouts

It seems like the Caps have had a renaissance between the pipes. Neuvirth gets good enough to let Varlamov go, then Holtby outdoes Neuvirth, then Grubauer comes along and is more credible than a young goalie probably should be. How much of this is due to Kolzig? He doesn't seem to be getting much credit.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Jeez, the Caps get neglected again. I hate that. What a wonderful comeback from 4-1 in the 3rd period yesterday. There's some luck when three goals all go in from that range. BUT they had traffic in front on all of them and had a lot of other good chances. 

They earned their luck.

New Year's Resolution: More Caps.

– December 16, 2013 1:02 PM
Q.

Always Interesting

I don't have the actual numbers, but my sense is that among secondary stats ( i.e. not the score), turnovers and especially turnover margin in NFL games are the strongest indicators of wins and losses in all of sports. Essentially you don't win if you turn it over a lot more than your opponents. I am simply amazed that the Skins could have SEVEN turnovers and still come that close to winning.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

When I was a "copy boy" at the Post, I went to the Library of Congress, where my parent worked, in '72 or '73 and went through years of NFL games on microfish, or whatever they called it back then (it took forever) to find out what stat most connected to victory. The Post ran a nice little piece on it. NOTHING is close to turnovers in importance. There's like a 20 percent higher coorelation than any other stat. It's always been this way.

– December 16, 2013 1:05 PM
Q.

Washington Sports

Are we reaching the point, hard to imagine in the 90's, where football is no longer Washington's primary sport? Or do fans come back next year same as before? I know I didn't bother to watch the ending of the Skins game Sunday in favor of the Caps/Flyers game, and I'm far more enthusiastic about the Nats and even the Wizards than I am the Skins.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

The Skins are certainly working on it. Give 'em time. Many a golden goose has been killed.

"Those whom the gods would destroy they first make great." In the current saga, it's hard to fiure out to whom that applies most. But this isn't tragedy. It's a lot more bathos than pathos.

Okay, enuff already! Cheers.

– December 16, 2013 1:08 PM
Q.

Caps

So Ovechkin has been amazing this year, and is scoring at a record pace for him. But if he wasn't scoring at that pace, the Caps might be in trouble. They've won eight shootouts among their 18 wins, give up a ton of shots on goal and go through whole periods or games where they look barely interested. While this is kind of the Ovechkin of old, it's not the Caps of the 2008-2010 seasons which could dominate teams. What do you make of this team?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Those are very good points. Ovi's great start my be buying them time to actually play better. 

– December 16, 2013 1:10 PM
Q.

NIeves

Just FYI - Nieves is off the market for the Nats. Phillies signed him a few weeks ago.
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Thanks.

– December 16, 2013 1:11 PM
Q.

Only 2 teams have given up 500...

so you're saying they have something to shoot for?
A.
Thomas Boswell :

Pay the man...

– December 16, 2013 1:23 PM
Q.

 

A.
Host: