Ask Boswell about the Redskins, Washington sports

Nov 07, 2011

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

Past Ask Boswell chats

Thomas, Beck seems nervous, has poor accuracy, and seems unable to stretch the field. In an attempt to salvage the remaining 8 games, do you think a switch back to Rex is a consideration? We can admit that neither man has the tools to be a premier QB, but at this point, watching Beck is painful. Does Rex have any answers? Thanks

I just finished watching the tape again. If Grossman had played, he'd have been sacked 5-6-7 times. Beck, if nothing else, goes a good job of sensing when to yell "Fire" and get out of a crumbling pocket. He ended up "running" four times __all would have been Grossman sacks.

Beck won't throw the ball deep. Doesn't seem to trust his arm, not enough "mustard." It's painful to watch. But, with the line this banged up, I think you need mobility and Shanahan knows it. JMO, but if you think yesterday was bad __and it was__ it would have been a jail-break stomping with Grossman as sitting-duck taget.

That said, Beck was lucky he didn't have another interception or two. But his receivers were awful. In 1Q, Helu drops an easy pass for a third-down conversion. 2Q, Davis drops another. 4Q: Davis pretty much drops the little "look in" pass on 4th and two. There are others. Of course, Beck never saw Gaffney open deep __waving his arms__ because he's too busy looking for a dump pass to get the ball out of his hands before the world crumbles around him.

An ugly choice. Biut one that Shanahan, or the Shanahnas picked themselves. They were wrong. Both are bottom five in the NFL QB's, if that. Backups, yes. Starters? No. Might Beck improve? Maybe. But can you wait for that? And he'll never get much better, imo. 

who should be released immediately: Brandon Banks, Austin, Josh Wilson

Banks had a terrible day. Muffed punt at his own 3 yard line that he never should have touched and another fumbled punt, untouched, in the 4Q.

The new rules on kick off returns really cut his value and put pressure on him to try to prove he's worth his spot. So, he probably tries to do too much. But that's just an excuse. Those two messed up punts could easily have handed the 49ers 10-to-14 points and the final score would have been much uglier.

retired the #37 worn by the best CB ever to play for the Redskins Pat Fischer? Come on now. Mr Fisher should be in the HOF and was a superior CB to Darrell green. Green was faster but you could always count on Pat to make the play and neutralize the play. And Boz you should be working towards getting #37 into the HOF!!! Shame on you.

Pat was near-great and amazing for his size. Talk about tough. But I wouldn't say HOF. But, I'll admit, that standards for the NFL HOF are vague, if they exist at all, at many positions. Who lobbies best. Whose team won the most. Etc. 

Since the Nats are a year away, do the pursue Grady Sizemore as a stop gap and if he plays well trade him and get value like Matt Capps?

Forget Sizemore. He's had two bad years in a row __when he's played. In more than 200 ABs last year, he did almost nothing and stole 0 bases. Zero. Don't waste the time.

If you want an under-the-radar CF who switch hits, led the league in SB this year w 49 and 81 SBs the last two years with a fantastic SB percentage, look at Coco Crisp. Problem: his career on-base percentage is a hair below league average. But he's played for playoff teams and covers ground in CF. No, I wouldn't go after him. I'm just saying that there are solid players who aren't hurt and who still have their tools that I'd put far above Sizemore. Crisp is a $5M player.

Love to see B.J. Upton signed as a free agent CF if he ends up non-tendered by the Rays, as seems likely.

Why are the Nats looking for a #3 starter? It seems like they have more than enough pitching between strasburg, zimmerman, wang, detweiler, lannan, peacock, milone.

The Nats don't HAVE to get another starter now that they signed Wang for reasonable money. That was a very good move. He'll probably either be a younger Livan equivalernt as an innings eater or else improve one more level and be pretty good. A lot of his numbers his last nine starts looked far more like his two 19-win Yankee years than you might expect. Bu8t he doesn't throw as hard now, so I don't think he'll get back to that.

However, the Nats have been circling Yu Darvish for about five years. Every time Kasten saw the amabassador to the U.S. from Japan (Riozo Kato), he'd say, "When can we get Darvish?" Ironically, Kato is now the commissioner of baseball in Japan (I wrote about it).

If you are looking for Nats targets, look at Darvish. Young, hard thrower. The price would be high because of the "posting fee" to get him from his current team. And Matsuzaka's semi-failure __relative to paying $102M for him__ has made people shy of starting pitchers from Japan. But that might help open the door a bit for the Nats. Believe me, he's been on the Kasten, Bowden, Rizzo radar for years. 

OK. Eight games into the season the Redskins look offensively inept. Sunday, Beck threw 47 times and averaged only a little more than 5 yds. per pass. I realize Moss and Cooley are injured. Hightower, the same. Shannahan has hand-picked about 33 players on this rooster. It seems we don't have any tangible offensive weapons. If you were head coach, what would you do to improve the offense?

Many teams have had success, including a couple that went to the Super Bowl, with below-average QBs from Joe Kapp to Trent Dilfer. You reduce the offensive package, concentrate on ball-control passing, don't try to prove you're still an offensive-genius coach and play offense "not to lose." The offense is worse than bad at producing yardage and points ; it's KILLING the team with turnovers. Job One is to have a positive turnover-ratio in the second half. That's possible. The Skins are in the top half in every defensive stat. And they get enough turnovers, though they think they should get more with as many legit "hitters" as they have.

Run mo0re. Not as much as S.F. runs. But a lot. You may say, "They don't run the ball well either." No, they don't. But they don't turn it over when they run. It helps set up manageable third-and2-3-4 situations.

Look, they can't get worse. So, get boring. Help the defense stay off the field. SF has a 60-40 run-to-pass ratio. The Skins are more than 60-40 pass. That's ridiculous. Run blocking is easier for every lineman that even lived than pass blocking. They ALL have a weight advantage and love to pound on the front seven for other teams. They are 20-30 pounds bigger. So, go 50-50 runs andx passes as a goal. That wouldn't make the Shanahan "system" and "scheme" look brilliant. But you might win some 17-16, 19-13 games.     

He should know what he's getting into, thanks to Jim, but somehow his selection doesn't make myheart beat any faster. I love going to ball games and live w/in walking distance of Camden Yards, but they sure are trying had to drive me away.

I know Dan. We went to the same college, though not at the same time, and we have mutual friends. He's never smart. In Boston, he wasn't a "people person." That may even be an understatement. That's a market where the constant media and fan obsession makes it necessary to be a talker, a BSert. DD is a brainy guy. He's bringing some new stat theories with him that he's developed in the last year or so __just his spin on Moneyball stuff. You can say, "That's yesterday's news." And you'd be right.

DD wanted to get back in the worst way and prove that Boston wasn't a true test of his ability. I didn't think he'd ever get the chance. Too many people just smack their foreheads when you mention his name. But he got it. Good luck to him. But he had to land with a down-and-out franchise that wanted a GM who'd let Buck have authority. That's what they got.

I was wholly unimpressed with LSU and Alabama, especially quarterback play and offensive performance. It was not just a matter of good defenses making the offenses look bad. But since Bama lost to #1, they will be the highest rated one loss school, probably ahead of some undefeateds. Fair or unfair?

Let me take that a different way. For many years I've watched big "national" college games on TV and muttered constantly, "Every college defense is pathetic, unless they are worse than pathstic. Nobody can tackle. NOBODY. All the talent wants to play offense or gets  moved to offense." It's a long-term trend that has hurt my enthusiasm for the sport. It's been a 47-45 sport that's out of proportion.

So, I enjoyed watching a low-scoring field goals only game into OT. But then I taped the game and watched it in 90 minutes with all the boring stuff avoided. If I'd watched it in r5eal time, I'd have turned it off. No action! See, no matter what you do, you can't please me.   

I need a new team to follow; my current team has been a disappointment or worse most of the past 20 years. Any suggestions???

The Ravens are a ton of fun. I'll watch their tape after this chat. We don't cover them and shouldn't. This is the Redskins town and always has been. But that doesn't mean you can't enjoy a well-run generally admirable team that's 40 miles away. 

Flacco and Jason Campbell showed identical career stats, and improvement, since they came into the league. I wondered if either or both would ever step up a level from "decent but limited" to "good QB" who can actually help TAKE you someplace, not just go along for the ride. 

Flacco may have taken one of those steps last night. "Drop one perfect TD pass from me? Okay, I'll just throw you another one on the other side of the field and will win in the closing seconds THAT way." Flacco actually beats the Steelers twice in the last seconds on the road. That'll change the way your teammates think about you and play for you. 

The Redskins have almost zero NFL talent on offense. Looking at who they put on the field yesterday, who would another team take, maybe Williams and Davis, that's it. What could any NFL coach do with that collection? I'm ready to give Shanny the coach another year to see what he can do with some more talent.

Right now, the Redskins have the least talent I have ever seen on a Washington offense since the '61 team of Bill McPeak that went 1-12-1. Sure, I was a kid, but who "knows the game" better than kids? You eat it morning, noon and night, every second your parents aren't making you study. When you are 10, you know every player in the league. That team lost by scores like 35-3, 31-7, 20-0, 24-0, 53-0, 17-6, 27-6.

Then they beat Dallas 34-24 in the last game of the season to avoid going winless and all was forgiven. Hey, I was a kid. You "forgive" easy.

BUT as our story on Sunday by Rick Mease showed, the personnel on this team, is aalmost all picked by Mike Shanahan the defacto GM. These are his guys. They were "available" because they didn't seem to have much talent, by and large. But he thought they "fit his system" and, hey, the Shanahan scheme can gain 400 yards a game with high school players, right.

Guess not.

Shanny has a LOT more years here. He's not going anywhere. If Snyder fires him, he'll be the Peter Angelos of the NFL __nobody with any reputation at all will work for him. Snyder knows what that feels like because he hit bottom before with Zorn when nobody else wanted the job. You couldn't GIVE it away. So, suddenly, they moved their new O coordinator up to coach! Snyder doesn't ever want to go back that low again. He's got Shanny. And he has to let the hand play out. Not 2 or 3 years. More like the full contract. Everybody can scream all they want, Shanahan isn't going anywhere. And there isn't anybody __unless they live within 100 miles of DC__ who thinks he can't coach. He can. Maybe not as well as his rep. Maybe the non-Elway Shanahan is just a pretty good coach and a pretty poor talent evaluator. But we're going to find out. Because he's going to be here a long time __at least as the Redskin organization measures time!   

Any reasons to watch the 'Skins the rest of the season? We already know the defense can do enough to keep it close and the the offense can't do anything. They will need turnovers and field position to win a game. And by the way, there's no QB of the future to groom either.

I really blew a chance to finish my column this morning on the proper note. Because "everybody" still remembers the end of the Gibbs era, this whole area still has the fever for GREAT football. It was so wonderful when we had it that we want to get it back TOO soon, TOO fast and without enough delayed gratification. This is an area with five million Dan Snyders, not one. Everybody wants the same thing: The Return of the Real Redskins. It doesn't work that way. It is a long project.

When I watched the tape, I enjoyed the defense. This was a 6-10 team last year and, far more than than, it was been a 7-9 team ON AVERAGE for the last 20 years combined.

That's reality. Either watch it with sensible expectations, look for progress, enjoy the wins and laugh at the loses __and hope for better times. Or stop making yourself miserable and don't watch.

What brilliant advice! I'm sure, if I were, for instance, a lifelong D.C.-area  school teacher and just a fan, I wouldn't be able to follow it. 

How accurate do you think that Kilgore's projections on the upcoming raises of some of the Nationals are? I would be delighted to see RZimm get $12 mil, Morse's salary tripled, and Clippard's quintupled (he was the most underpaid National of all this past year IMHO). He left out Storen, so what's up for him?

Haven't seen it but we talked about that, among other things, a few days ago. I'm sure he's got it right.

The Nats are a tough tough news-hound team during the off-season with Mike (Run Silent) Rizzo at the wheel. I'll try to provide as many totally incorrect guesses as possible. 

I keep thinking how much Davey wants Bryce Harper to pan out fast because he LOVES big-ego and big-talent players. Eventually, Davey always wants to run a Pirate Ship. Nats fans don't sense that. But they will. Stuff like the bullpen guys adding $800 million to the lottery prize in Philly by switching the numbers __Davey loves players who do that stuff and don't worry about "what if somebody gtets mad at us." When Werth organized the Let Teddy Win revolt, with the bullpen tackling all the other Presidents, I'm not sure the team itself was "in" on that. It's the kind of stunt Davey would love and it somebody in a suit, even Rizzo, said, "Your clowns just ruined out best gimmick," Johnson would probably laugh in their face.

Nats fans don't know WHO they have in Davey yet. Remember I told you: All his good teams end up flying the skull and crossbones and having fueds with their main rivals. When he took over the flatline Oriole after '95, he brought in an all-outlaw coaching staff __everybody who knew how to cheat, pull a prank, play  a little dirty (like Davey did, according to Elrod). He wants a band-of-brothers __like the Smurfs prank on the rookies last year on the trip to NYC. Davey doesn't do it. He stands back and lets the team dream up its own crazy stuff. But, within certain limits __and I've never been able to figure out what they are!__ he lets 'em do what the hell they want to do as long as they take the same swagger on the field. He wants 100 mph fastballs and guys like Harper who m ight have an edge. But he also had a Dudley Doright everywhere  __Carter in NYC, Ripken in Baltimore and Z'man here. He's fine with them, too. 

You wrote, "He's never smart," and then wrote, "DD is a brainy guy." You mistyped -- it happens -- but what did you mean to say?

Thanks. Dan Duquette is very smart. That's his strong suit. Anybody who covered him in Boston will line up to tell you what they thought his weak suits were __there was a media concensus by the time he left.

You'll notice thatsuch an extreme consensus is often wrong. I think he'll be interesting to watch.

Fair enough. Defense wins championships, old school, smashmouth football... And so forth. Four missed field goals. No touchdowns. Shaky at best quarterback play. It was a grinder, but there was a great deal of spin in the immediate aftermath telling me why I was supposed to respect the game and - potentially - welcome a rematch for the overall title. No thanks - I'd rather see some contrasting styles and - maybe - a Cinderella with a puncher's chance (even if the SEC pounds them into submission), but then I guess I just don't "get" what makes college football so great.

I have to laugh every time I see a team that's fight for No.  1 and they seem not to have taken into account that, at the biggest moment of their biggest games, they might actually need a good field goal kicker! They get so used to running up the score and weak foes that they forget that once or twice a year, they'll actually have to play a close game.

I know you and your co-workers get a lot of grief in the comments section for stirring up trouble where fans think there is none or for being critical instead of cheerleading. But I just read a well-regarded national columnist who credited the 49ers for their deep coverage yesterday, dictating John Beck's short passes. Now I know that national columnists can't possibly watch and dissect every game every week, but it made me appreciate what the local media does, the attention you give to the home team. Of course, I'm one of those readers who thinks you shouldn't be homers and cheerleaders anyways (not that there's much to cheer these last 20 years). So thanks for watching the game three times each week to break it down for us. I can barely watch it the once.

The 49ers played tons of soft zone coverage and challenged the Skins to build long drives without mistakes. SF was correct: The Skins stopped themselves, time after time, as much as the 49ers stopped them.

Second possession, dropped third-down pass. Fourth possession: Paul makes a bad read on his pattern, Davis drops a pass and Trent Williams nullifies a first-down pass with an idiotic cheap-shot personal foul for getting mad and blocking in the back. Then Williams looked like he alomost got back in Shanny's face when Mike yelled "What!!???" at him, then followed up with a couple of comments.

Fifth possession: Beck doesn't see wide open Davbid for 20+ on third down and throws to "Nowhere, U.S.A."

Second half: Austin insures that Skins will have to punt with a 15-yard penalty for crackback block. It's obvious. He might as well have run over to the official and pulled the flag out of his pocket and thrown it himself.

Dropped "look-in" on fourth-and-two.

There's more. It just goes on and on. SF understood how ragged the Skins are with players changing positions on offense and simply waited for them to self-destruct.

So, you canb storm 'em, like Buffalo and get 10 sacks. Or you can sit back and wait for them to blow themselves up.

So, as you can see, the Skins offense can "do it all."

I think their effort was still NFL-level on Sunday and I think they'll beat Miami.

After that?

It seems to me that last week Beck held onto the ball and actually through downfield -- result 10 sacks and reporters complaining that the Shannies weren't protecting him by short drops and screens, etc. So yesterday, they follow everyone's advice and he looks scred, unconfident and throws the ball too soon, missing open receivers farther down the field. Maybe next week, he splits the difference, and actually looks like an NFL QB. Do you agree?

Actually, no.

But nice try.

What do you think the Nats will do with Norris? It looks like his path is blocked due to Wilson Ramos.

Good teams always have good players who are blocked! That's one reason you know the Nats are probably about to become a good team. Lombardozzi is blocked. Peacock and Milone are blocked. Rendon will start off being blocked. Three years ago, Norris, Lombo, Peacock and Milone might have all been starters next Opening Day with Rendon and Mike Purke being pushed fast to the majors.

BTW, the current Baseball America, on stands until 11/13, rates the Nats as having had The Best Draft in baseball in '11 ahead of the D'backs, Pirates, Rays and Red Sox. 

"The Nats got the best bat in the draft with the No. 6 pick (Rendon)...With his swing, bat speed, hand-eye coordination and strike-zone discipline, it will be a surprise if he's not a .300 hitter." They also rank Rendon as Best Pure Hitter in the draft and the No. 3 "best power bat" in the draft, too. "He should have enough power to hit 25 homers."

Alex Meyer: "is as intimidating as it gets on the mound with his 6-foot9 frame and a fastball that hits triple digits on occasion." But they think Matt Purke is even better. Oh, Berian Goodswin is a five-tool player.

Everybody in the game reads Baseball America, of course, but even they admit that draft6 opiniuons are wrong a spectacular percentage of the time. They even site how great they thought the Nats '07 draft was with Ross Detwiler, Josh Smoker and Jasck McGreay. Then Jordan Z'mann turned out to be the real find.


Taking a long-term point of view, the Redskins offense has been mostly anemic since the 2001 season, since Norv left. There have been plenty of good offensive minds here since then. Doesn't this just come down to a lack of talented players? Poor drafting, player development, and free agents over a decade have got them to this point more than anything else, correct?

Good points.

Just a note. Shanahan has 1 30-point game in 24 games w Skins, Zorn had two in 32 games. In his last three years, Gibbs had 10 30-point games. No, that's nothing at all like Gibbs I. But a lot better than what's followed him in terms of producing points.

Hey Boz At what point do you have to look at Jose Reyes as the catalyst the Nats need? Rizzo specifies a need for a lead off hitter. He's there for the taking, Alderson said that they have a 22 yr old waiting to take over if he leaves the Mets. He won the batting title(!?) 337. Time to turn up the volume on Reyes - he's bigger than Fielder for the Nats. What do you think?

No to Reyes. His attitude was near the center of the Mets collapse to the Phils. Granted, he was younger. But the Nats know, and say, what they need __a CF, preferably a leadoff man, too; and another big-time starter behind Strasburg and Z'mann. Not a prospect. Not a Lannan. Not a Wang who may or may not be more than a 4-5 starter.

I like it that Davey, in effect, says: I'll play these guys I've gotnow and I think we'll win the pennant.

Great ffor building confidence. If they giove him a big FA or two, he'll be happy to add 'em to the mix. 

The biggest criticism about Shanahan in his later years with the Broncos is that he got too involved in personnel decisions and made mistakes. Hello??? Forget the quarterback problem or whether Kyle should go, the biggest question facing the Skins this offseason will be, will Shanahan will be willing (or forced) to give up his ultimate control over personnel? Isn't that the biggest factor in this team's immediate future?

Personnel decisions have been the Skins biggest issue FOREVER. Remember, Marty Schottenheimer wanted to be his own GM. Snyder wanted Cerrato in the pitcure. Marty was out. Cerrato stayed in the pitcure, to varying degrees, for 10 years. One of the all-time, "Wow, how did that happen" pieces of NFL history. Now, we have Shanahan. If Wilbon were on this chat today, he'd be doing his pattented rant on how NOBODY be both coach and GM, too. That it's almost always a disaster for one man to wear both hats. Etc.

Gibbs I was NOT his own personnel guy. When he came back, he had final say on everything in Gibbs II World. Which worked better?

Three or four weeks ago you entertained a question about succesion at a particular position. You brought up NBA centers. Well, with the exception of one year (the season 1969-1970) the Boston Celtics fielded from 1956-1994 Bill Russell, Dave Cowens, and Robert Parrish. They are all Hall of Famers.

Thanks very much. Cowens is one of the most forgotten great players, imo.

Tom: It's not a fun question, but as you have covered sports for so long, have you ever seen a scandal that remotely compares to the one centered on former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky? The more I read about this, the more it becomes obvious that people knew about the incidents of sexual abuse of young boys (and I mean 10 year olds) and chose to do nothing. Even though he's not directly implicated in a coverup, I don't see how Joe Paterno, who had to be close to retiring anyway, can go on. (Side note: the guy who calls the Ravens games for WBAL radio in Baltimore is also named Jerry Sandusky. The station has been repeatedly saying "no relation.")

I just read the Grand Jury report this morning. It's linked on our web site. It doesn't take that long to read __if you can stand it. I'd say its a document that speaks for itself.

You might look at the part, about mid-way through where Unniversity Police Detective Ronald Schreffer seems to do a thorough investigation of a problem in '98. Then see how Penn State handled it, followed up __or didn't. I wonder if Sandusky leaving as a PSU defense coordinator in '99 was connected? Some will ask, "What did Joe Pa know and when did he know it?" Or did he ever know it? 

If the allegations prove true, what we'll probably never know is "when did Joe suspect?" and what, if anyt6hing, did he do.

If you want to see how to turn around things with the Skins, all you had to do was look across the field at the 49'ers, who've been adding talent through the draft for years and finally came up with a quality (young) head coach. Or you could have watched the Ravens play the Steelers last night and see two teams that have made a total commitment for years to developing their own players, through the draft, undrafted free agents and economical pro free agents, and who picked relatively unknown (young) assistant coaches who they thought were ready to become head coaches. They didn't try to make big headlines with splashy, expensive offseason moves; they just keep building sensibly. And, oh by the way, they keep winning.

All good points. Once a foundation is in place, as it is in Baltimore, the "bad year" is the fluke. The good year is the norm.

The Skins need to stop hosting "Homecoming" games and rubbing our noses in the faded glory. They also need to stop showing newreel footage on the Jumbotron - "Remember when the Skins beat the 49ers?" One measure of fan apathy is how many jerseys in the FedEx parking lot featured a player that played in Sunday's game? We did the count - 1 in 10.

Very interesting. Thanks.

That's it for today. You may want to join Jason Reid's NFL chat which I think starts now.

In This Chat
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."
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