Ask Boswell: The Washington Redskins

Dec 24, 2012

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

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Earlier I had asked you about the Skins 2012 rookie class being the best. I apologize, but I was not refering to the Redskins all-time best rookie class. I was alluding to the NFL draft class of 2012 and the Skins having the best of all the other teams.

I sure looks like it, doesn't it! I'd take RGIII over Luck or Russell Wilson. And Morris, Forbath, etc., make it even more special.

Chatters, let me know if there are other legit contenders.

Sorry for a slow Xmas Eve start __technical difficulties --really!


I can't help but be struck by the fact that next Sunday's game will fall one day short of the 40th anniversary of the Redskins' 26-3 win over Dallas in the NFC title game, a big turning point for the franchise at the time. One of my earliest football memories is the Kilmer-to-Taylor bomb that blew that game open. Any memories you care to share about that game? Also, you mentioned in your column that the Skins had never finished at home with a game to decide the NFC East title. Wasn't the 1984 game with the Cardinals (when Art Monk set the single-season receiving record) just such a game? Merry Christmas.

Great memories of the 26-3 game. I was a rookie reporter and, for that game, quote fetcher for the vets, if I remember correctly. On the Kilmer-to-Taylor bomb, our photog Dick Darcey was tipped to the play in advance by friends on the Skins. (That happened in those days.) In the press box, we saw him sprinting down the sideline before that play, with all his equipment, so he could be right where the pass landed. The Post beat guys were saying, "Look at Darcey." And the pass __in his photo the next morning__ looked like it was dropping right into the eggs on your breakfast plate!

Let me toos in something I put on "comments" on my column this a.m. The '84 last game of the regular season and the '79 last game __in Dallas__ are most like the one this Sunday night. 


The '79 Cowboys-Skins game was IN DALLAS (like the '39 game was in New York vs the Giants), not in D.C. As I mentioned in the story that it was a HOME game that made the feeling of anticipation so great. (But I SHOULD have mentioned that '79 game along with the '39 game.)  
In '84, the Skins didn't ENTER the last week in a winner-take-all situation for the final game. In '84, entering last week, Skins 10-5, Giants, Dallas, St. Louis all 9-6. Giants had tied breaker on Skins (better conference record at 5-3 vs 4-3). But Giants lost to New Orleans on Saturday which made Skins-St. Louis winner take all on Sunday. So there wasn't a whole week anticipating one game then. But there is now. 
I think the right way to say it is that there has never been a whole week of anticipation for a winner-take-all game in D.C. for an NFC East or NFL East crown. But there were times when it happened on the road __'79, '39 (and also '38 at the Giants and '37 at the Giants). And as for '84, that game became winner-take-all on Saturday before the Sunday Skins-Cards game. 
All help appreciated! I remember all those games, bu the NFL tie-breaker system will make ya crazy. Thanks.

Boz, It appears to me that the winner of the Cowboys - Redskins showdown not only wins the division, but the loser is will likey not go to the play-offs at all. Dallas is mathematically eliminated with a loss. The 'Skins could only get in with a loss if the Bears and Vikings also lose. But how can the Giants get in? Assuming they beat the Eagles, they'd need the Bears and Vikings to lose for sure. But what about the outcome of Dallas v. Washington? It seems that the Giants would have to pull for the Redskins. If the Cowboys lose, their 8-8 record would be worse than the Giants (assuming the Giants beat the Eagles to go 9-7). But if the Redskins lose, their 9-7 would trump the Giants' 9-7 because of the division record tie-breaker. So should Giants fans break out some burgundy and gold on Sunday night if the Bears and Vikings lose?

1) It looks like the Skins BETTER win. You're correct that BOTH the Vikings and Bears would have to loss for the Skins to get the wildcard after a defeat to Dallas.

Chicago (9-6) is AT Detroit (4-11) at 1 p.m. So, if the Bears  win, the Skins would already now that they have to beat the Cowboys to make the playoffs __and that they can ONLY make it, in that scenario, as NFC East champs.

Green Bay is at Minnesota at 1. GB still has to care about that game to have a chance to finish aheads of 49ers for No. 2 seed in NFC and a bye. Don't like GB's chances of getting that jump to No. 2 since 49ers get Arizona in SF.

As for the Giants, oh, my God, my brain can't cope wityh that on Xmas Eve! It does look like Giants might be rooting for Skins. But the Giants have been so awful __classic post-Super Bowl Let Down as season has slipped away from them__ that they may have just as much trouble beating the Eagles next Sunday as the Skins did yesterday.

And the Skins BARELY avoided OT on Sunday. A lot of reporters wondered if Andy Reid would have gone for two-point conversion and a win if EITHER the lousy pass to Maclin or the DROP by TE Evan Moore at the goal line had made the score 27-26.

Then, afterward, NO reporter asked Reid! Since that choice never arrived, they (imo) forgot to ask. I'd still like to know which he'd have done. In his last home game as Eagles coach (probably), I think maybe he would have gone for it. Not "probably," but maybe.   

It has been so long since we've had a reliable kicker (and QB), yet we finally get both in the same year. What is Kai's contract status? Do the Redskins lock him up this offseason?

Forbath is a rookie so I assume there's no problem.

He has been amazingly accurate on kicks between 40-49 __11-for-11__ and 1-for-1 beyond 50.

This has been the year of LOOOONG field goals. St. Louis has seven of >50 yds and and Minn rookie Blair Walsh has 9 of >50 yards after a 56-yarder yesterday.

But Forbath's consistency __and enough length__ has made him a crucial piece in 9-6 for a team that's had so many close games.


It appears to me that when RGIII is a running threat defensive teams must limit their man to man coverage since they have to turn their backs to him. If he still wears a brace next week, will this have a major impact? I'm not sure what coverage the Cowboys prefer.

I watched the film again this a.m. and thought that RGIII looked MORE mobile, especially in thje pocket, than I thought during the game itself. Encouraging. But he definitely slowed down and ran out of bounds on one 5 yd run. I suspect the Cowboys will think that he's unl;ikely to run much. I disagree. With another week to heal and so much on the line, I think you'll see a couple of designed runs in the 1st half to let the Boys know that RGIII still has plenty of speed. Just a guess.

But I don't think a team would feel the need to use a "spy" to mirror RGIII in light of the knee brace and injury.

The game’s turning point came when after the Eagles took the opening kick matriculated down the field scored and stopped the Skins on their opening drive on a 4th & 1 but on the Eagles subsequent drive fumbled the ball away (Kerrigan). This is when the Eagles lost the wind beneath their wings and the Skins caught on fire.

That was a big, big play. Kerrigan has quite a motor and his speed, relentlessness made the play. But Foles KNEW Kerrigan was right behind him and should have been more "ball conscious."

I think the "turning point" didn't come until the Eagles blew two clean chances at TD passes in the last 30 seconds. The wind was back in their sails then! The throw to Maclin was really bad by NFL standards __a 17-yard duck.  And the quick look-in pass to Moore was almost perfectly in the gut and he just dropped a sure TD.

Thanks, Iggles. It's been that kind of (bad, luckless) season for them and, the last 6 games, "that kind of (good play, good fortune) season" for the Redskins.

Its a good thing that the Redskins don't listen to the media comments about their talent or capabilities. What were they... Anywhere from fighting for the #1 pick (which they wouldn't get anyway) to being lucky if they would be 8-8 or gawd forbid 9-7. Yet here they are at 8-6 and if (no when) they defeat their hated arch-rivals (and sweep the season series) will win the NFC East title. Just about the only people who believed in the Redskins were the Redskins and their most loyal fans. Did I believe that they would accomplish what they are about to do on Sunday night? To paraphrase the late great George Allen "53 men playing together CAN'T lose!" You tell them George. I know he will be looking down on our next game and doing what ever he can.

I didn't see too many 9-6 predctions. I pointed out that, with a winning season was certainly possible, you had to say any such thing against the background that NO rookie QB who had been picked either No. 1 or No. 2 overall (Luck, RGIII) had EVER had a winning record! The best was Shaw at 5-6-1 in the last '50's.

After Game I, when everybody "upped" their predictions after seeing RGIII vs Brees, I think I did, too. THAT DOESN'T COUNT! So, put me in the "wrong" column. I'd have said 6-10 or 7-9 was what history suggested and 8-8 would be remarkable __and a "first." TILT! So much more fun this way.

But, looking ahead at future possibilities, how good to the Seahawks look right now! I'm pretty sure that their margin of victory in their last three games is the largest in NFL history in a three-game span. Isn't it now +120 points in thopse three wins. Got back in time to see some of the 2nd half vs 49er! OMG, just stomped 'em. Wow, that's going to be some "wildcard" team after, I assume, they beat the Rams next week.  

Considering the controversy about Tim Tebow's talent or lack thereof as a QB and Matt Leinart's lack of success in the NFL and even going back to Doug Flutie having to prove himself in Canada before he became an NFL QB, why are so many Heisman winners less than successful (or at least less successful than one would expect them to be). For that matter, Christian Laettner won all the college basketball awards but was a good but not great basketball player. Can you explain? And thank you for chatting today. I appreciate it very much & wish you a happy holiday!


In all major sports, there is a big difference in the style of play between college and pros, just as their in a jump in talent from high school to college. HT winners, like Tebow, often don't play in classoic Pro-style offenses. Or they don't have NFL size or skill sets. Decade after decade you hear people say, "Oh, he's a great athlete. He'll overcome all the naysayers." But you keep seeing flops.

There was an interesting story last week listing all 32 NFL teams and explaining why NONE of them would want Tebow on their team in any QB capacity next season. It was pretty convincing. I'd like to see him get one more decent shot at a job, but I can't identify a "fit" either.

Pretty amazing considering Tebowmania last year at this time and now "Is Tebow's Career as an NFL QB Over?" 

Lets assume the Redskins defeat the Cowboys & win the division. Then they win in the Wild Card round and at least almost win in the Division round if not win it. This will make Kyle one hot commodity in the off season. Several clubs pursue him to be their head coach. What does he do? Does he leave and become a HC or does he stick around a couple of years until daddy steps aside and just becomes the team president/personnel manager? Does Kyle really want to leave RGIII and go to a team with a QB that is not nearly as talented as RGIII?

Well, let 'em beat Dallas first!

I don't know. Tough to turn down an NFL head job. But I'd guess he'd want to finish out this five-year run with his dad to see if there is a Super Bowl visit in it. (Never say "Super Bowl win" or "World Series win." That's a complete jinx.) Not many sons would pass up that experience/memory, though I suspect Mike would say, "Do what's best for you."

Tom, I have heard reports that many voters are leaning to Andrew Luck as rookie-of-the year over RG III and Russell Wilson. Even though Luck has been leading a worse team to the playoffs than the other two quarterbacks, the statistical advantages that Griffin and Wilson have in the major categories are significant. If Luck wins, the issue of race will unfortunately be raised, and it may be legitimate. Do you have any feel for how your fellow sportswriters view this competition among the three quarterbacks?

Anybody who would vote for LucK (or Wilson) over RGIII just isn't paying enough attention to the facts.

Indy has been outscored 329-371. They are as lucky as any 10-5 team you will find. Yesterday, Luck was 17-for-35 for 205 yards and the game-winning 4Q TD top beat KC 20-13. Great. Congratulations. But that's a mediocre game against a horrible team. RGIII just dominates on passing num,bers, even leaving out his rushing yardage.

There's an unconscious linkage between them becaise they went 1-2 and have both had excellent seasons. IT'S NOT CLOSE. It's RGIII.

I'd put Wilson ikn the real battle with RGIII with his 98.0 QB rating and 25-10 TD-to-INT ratio, plus his running and his team's 10-5 record. I'd still go RGIII.

And what about Alfred Morris, especially if he gets 1,500 yards? Not for MVP but for 2nd or 3rd in MVP?  

Hail to the Redskins, but explain again what happens if they lose to Dallas? How do they still get into the playoffs?

If they lose, they pray __for the Lions (!) and Packers to BOTH win over the Bears and Vikings.


What a game (though ultimately it didn't mean that much in the standings). Is Dez Bryant our biggest concern next week? Please tell me that the Skins find a way to stop him and come out with a playoff birth.

Tony Romo is always the key to Dallas. He's a great (statistical) QB with a 96.1 CAREER rating. But he has also has as many bad-judgment choking-dog moments as any almost-top-level QB in big games. Which guy shows up? Or in what parts of the game do the two different Romos appear? 

Last time, Romo barely seemed to be in the state of Texas in the first half, then the Cowboys roared back to makae it (sorta) close at the end.

My guess: RGIII is more consistent, though Romo has heart-stopping crazy moments and the Skins win a close one.

It just doesn't feel like a Cowboy year. They're the team with the trillion dollar stadium and the 50-cent GM (okay, owner who's his own GM). I think that combo is on the down slide. And it'll play out that way Sunday nite. (Pretend I didn't make a prediction. I offer little or no "added value" in that area and never have. I don't really think anybody does. 'That's why they play the games.' And in the NFL, those games turn on a dozen "key" plays that nobody specifically anticipated.

What is the key to beating the Cowgirls?

Turnovers. It's always turnovers. But especially in this matchup. AGAIN the Skins only had ONE turnovber on Sunday. If they have only one (or less) vs Dallas, they will break the franchise record for least turnovers. That's a big part of their (new) team identity with RGIII and Morris handling the b all so much.

Romo has 16 interceptions to RGIII's five. Making stupid careless mistakes and depending too much on talent is the Dallas M.O. If they stay in character...

If the Redskins get into the playoffs, they may end up playing the Seahawks. I have not followed them this season, but they look as they might be a very strong team. What is there to fear about them and how would the 'skins approach a possible game with them if they want to beat them and I am sure they do?

What is there to fear? Right now, just about everything.

The Seahawks appear to be a complete team __all phases. Not "great," but fine a defense, too, with 138 fewer points allowed than the Skins (off top pof my head). Skins probably need their "A" game and a couple of breaks vs Seattle. But the Skins have a very confident locker room right now. Yes, you'd expect that. Butg it's also true. They don't think they are lucky. They think they are learning to win close games, "finish" and that having a great QB just makes everybody better. That combo means you don't want to overanalyze numbers. Such teams are dangerous (especially as underdogs).

So Bos, 1 win, 2 wins, all the way?

Just as I said about the Nationals a few months ago and "win the '12 World Series," I just don't think "win the Super Bowl" is even on the board. Neither team is ready to go that far so soon. (As with Nats, I'd be glad to be wrong.) Neither is experienced enough. But it CAN happen. It's just not LIKELY to happen.

Again, as I said with Nats, don't set yourself up to be disappointed. This is the beginning of an ERA of contention __a window, and a pretty big one__ for both teams.

The Nats were/are a lot closer in ocer-all talent for such a run (98 wins, No. 1 in MLB) compared to Skins (nine teams have better records). BUT no one position in baseball is as important as QB in NFL. Even an ace pitcher can only work one out of every 4 or 5 games. If the Skins get to post-season, RGIII never rests.

Bos, The notion that Luck/Wilson deserve ROY over RGIII is completely irrational in almost countless ways. For starters, RGIII, statistically, has posted better numbers than either counterpart. Once supporters of Luck/Wilson finally concede the stats they often point to what each player means to their team. This is the most confusing of all arguments, lets revisit JANUARY 8, 2011. Not far ago. On that day the Seattle Seahawks won a playoff game and the Colts lost a 17-16 nail biter to the Jets. Certainly there has been some turnover since then, but that was, again, JANUARY 8, 2011. It shows the organizational structure and foundation is there. The Redskins, on the other hand, were completely revitalized by RGIII. Any argument about what someone means to a franchise, a fanbase, a team has to fall in his favor. If he doesn't win the ROY something has gone truly wrong. -Imjustlikemusiq

You've been reading my mind. (It's a quick read.)

It's Christmas Eve and no sign of a deal with Adam. No other teams are coming out of the wood work? Is there really a deadline on this deal? Seriously, I want Adam back. I like Morse, but I love a gold glove more.

No deadline as far as I know. IUf LaRoche falls to Nats at 2-yr deal, I'll be shocked. Pleasantly, but shocked. If Nats reach out to three years, I'll also be shocked. And I don't think they will go 3 yrs __or should. (Of course, I argue with myself quite a bit about this last point.)


How do you think the Skin's bend but don't break defense will do against the semi-hot Cowpokes? We don't hear much about Jarvis Jenkins who is supposed to have a breakout year. Is he still not 100% or what? Thank you in advance. Ed

Jarvis has definitely NOT broken out.

There was a whole lot of "bending" going on in the last four minutes! Folews completed NINE short passes, almost all of them "dumps" in that last drive!

You seldom hear Shanahan second-guess himself but he semi-did on Sunday. Or at least conceded that he'd faced a 50-50 call. Paraphrase of Shanny __NOT verbatim: "Should I have gone for it on 4th and 1 (at Eagles 43 with less than 5:00 left)? Now that it's said and done, it was a good decision. If it hadn't worked, probably not...But maybe I should let you guys (decide that)."

Anyway, you know he's REALLY happy when he almost smiles in public and almost invites the media to evaluate a decision. Ah, good times, indeed.

I think Michael Morse might be poised for a monster year. Is that an argument for keeping him or for trading him when you can get maixmum return?

Stat folks (and me) if pressed would probably say the odds are slightly better than Morse has the big year in '13 than LaRoche (older). But Morse gets hurt more. LaRoche only once ('11).

But you just don't know. Yet, once you've traded for Span, you have to make a decision. The real point probably is: Span BETTER be a good idea. Because you passed up an outfield of Werth/Harper CF/Moore-Bernadina and Morse at 1st base. Or, of course, the same with LaRoche at 1st base and Morse back in LF.

HTTR, but can we sneak in a Nationals question? Is there a better offer out there for ALR, or is he likely to settle for two more years with the Nats?

Where is the 3-year offer from the Orioles? LaRoche might make their lineup a little LH-hitter-heavy but I expected them to get "in it," especially since Buck is a LaR fan. After resigning McLouth, where are they? Lurking? Adam suits that O's ballpark. 

The Orioles just haven't done anything. What's up over there? They aren't going to get Lohse. They have no need for Bourn. And LaRoche at 3-yrs __and giving up a draft pick__ might not be a deal that appeals to them.

After a year when you barely have a positive run differential, you HAVE to try to get better, regardless of whether you won 93, 83 or 75.  

I remember hearing various rumors about the Nats moving their spring training site from Melbourne. Do you know anything further? Where might they be going and when? (I like the Melbourne/Cocoa Beach area, would really prefer to stay there, but....)

They are in Viera in '13. (By '14, maybe Ft. Meyers.)

Do you think the Skins' D can hold the Cowboys offense to under, say, 20 pts next week? They've got Murray back and Dez is scary right now. Hopefully the crowd noise at FedEx will help slow Romo down a bit, but I'm a bit concerned about their O. What do you think?

Get ready for 31-30 or some such. Hey, they almost gave up 27 to the Eagles. Yeah, yeah, now it'll snow or rain or whatever and be 9-7. But this could be another 38-31 game __the Skins specialty.

I know it was a semi-exceptional year for him but is there really no three-year contract out there for LaRoche? Hope the Nats can get him for two but I'm just really surprised there's not more competition.

I'm surprised, too. I bet he's amazed. The four-year deal for that hotdog Swisher (a good hitter, but he sure loves himself) ought to set a better market for LaRoche. I still think he gets three-years and leaves. It'll be fun with either LaRoche or Morse. These are the tough calls that make an off-season fascinating.

That's it until next Monday __New Years Eve__ when I have a feeling there will be things to talk about. And on about four hours of sleep I ought to have some amazingly  scary off-the-wall answers __and typos!


Nats clinch their first division title against the hated Phillies at home....Skins can clinch the division title against the hated Cowboys AT HOME....Can DC sports get any better than this?

Nice point.

I'm concerned about the Redskins taking a huge lead and then losing the game like the Nationals did against St. Louis where the winner moves on and the loser goes home. Please write something that makes it a great night to leave FedEx Sunday, unlike leaving Nationals Park back in October. That was a eerily quiet and frustrating walk after that game!

Oh, you had to bring that up...

But maybe mentioning it is a double-reverse-hex __which would be good, right?!

Thank you, Tom, for answering questions on Christmas Eve. Seattle has lost 5 games. All of the games have been away games, and they have lost to some mediocre teams. Here are the losses in order: @ Arizona, @ St.Louis, @ San Francisco (not mediocre), @ Detroit, @ Miami. It makes a potential Redskins game against them a little more appetizing.

Seattle's home stadium advantage (volume) may be the biggest in NFL or MLB. It killed the Redskins in their two post-season games out there.

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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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