Ask Boswell: The Washington Redskins

Dec 31, 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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...only 14 turnovers in 16 games. And just 5 INTs by Griffin. Much easier for a young team to find success when they can take care of the ball so well. Very, very impressive.

That's a new Redskin record for fewest turnovers in a season. And, looked at coldly, that's probably the biggest reason they are 10-6.

RGIII and Morris either passed, ran or caught the ball on exactly 800 Redskin plays this year. RGIII had only 5 interceptions and only two lost fumbles. Tony Romo (what a dog under pressure) had 19 interceptions. Morris only had three LOST fumbles. Brandon Banks, who almost never touched the ball all season, had as many fumbles (four) as Morris in 311 runs plus catches.

I assume this will co ntinue to be a characteristic of the play of RGIII and Morris. But I don't think the Skins will have only 14 lost turnovers in a whole season again for quite a while. It's remarkable bordering on amazing.

Tom, Thanks for article. Morris is a beast and our offensive line is not as bad as most people said it would be prior to start of season. But the credit goes to RGIII who gives us so many weapons with the pistol.

It's amazing that nobody seems to have any answers for the Pistol, a formation that has been used in college, high school and even kids leagues for over a decade. It's a wonderful offense, like all the triple option ideas of the last 50 years. But one reason that you saw the Wishbone, the Veer and all the other versions of the option attack is because teams learned how to crimp them a bit.I'm sure the Skins have some nice wrinkles. But they don't pull guards or trap block.

DeMarcus Ware looked like he was caught in a revolving door all night.

Jaws points out that the Skins only average 6 or 7 true  zone read option plays per game. But the threat of it, RGIII exceptional commitment to ball-handling and the sense that, as you say, the Skins have "so many weapons" is why they lead the NFL in rushing.

When a team is No. 1 in the NFL in rushing AND has a team QB rating over 100, that offense is so EFFICIENT that it is going to be hell to stop. Seattle may do better, but they won't smother it either.

Last night, I was tempted to nominate Tony Romo as Redskin's MVP, but not even I'm that mean. So, how many rookie records did this team break this season? And, how many rookies broke other records? I've lost track.

It is incredible. I'm still catching up with all the records.

BTW, this is the first time in Washington history that two teams in MAJOR sports have finished in 1st place __Skins in NFC East and Nats in NL East. Hard to believe. I triple checked it. And it was almost three teams since Caps were second by only two points in their division in '11-'12.

(Sorry, DCU, much as everybody enjoys them, does not play in a "major" league that is the best in the world in its sport. People always want to nit pick about this. Take baseball as an example. MLB is the No. 1 league in the world. Japan is No. 2. Who is No. 3? I have no idea __which would it be among the pro leagues in Korea, Mexico, Venezuela, the Dominican, the top Cuban league, etc? Well, that's where American pro soccer is __back in the pack. Is it the third-best league in the world? So, love DC United all you want, but just don't tell me that their league is on the same level in its sports as the NFL, MLB, NHL and NBA. See, on 4 hours sleep, I got that off my chest. LOVE to United and its fans who are great. But just can't jam 'em into these discussions because it seems like it would be nice to do it. It is not THE elite league in its sport. And the Skins, Nats, Caps and Wiz DO play in the elite leagues in their games. Well, maybe the Wiz should be moved down to a lower league. But that's another discussion.)

One other cheerful point. If the Skins beat Seattle, that means the Nats, Caps and Skins will all have reached the round of eight in their sports in '12 (plus a few days in '13 for the Skins). No wonder you see so many smiles.

Now if the dopey NHL owners would call off their lockout __and this is ON the NHL owners who already have major concessions in their pockets in THIS negotiation, but want MORE__ then the Caps and Adam Oates might have a chance to play a semi-season. The Skins won a Super Bowl in an abreviated season. And they got to keep the trophy! Nobody even remembers. Come on, Ted, how about fighting to get some hockey back on the ice.



Hey! Stop laughing at me now. Hear me out. Lets look at the NFC. Minn@GB and Sea@Was. Even though Minn beat GB at home Minn has to go to GB and winning there could be a tall order. Its probably going to be a taller order for us to beat Seattle but they still have to travel clear across the country and it can be done. We win and GB wins that sets up Was@Atl and GB@SF. Nice revenge game and very winnable. I really do not think it really matters who wins between GB & SF cause they are both beatable and GB would have to come to DC.

I've been thinking along the same line, though perhaps not as much as you are. Seattle isn't the same monsgter team away from its incredibly loud home field. It would be fitting if the Skins got revenge for the two playoff games that lost in recent years in Seattle. As I've said, Joe Gibbs really thought the stadium decided at least one of those games. 

Atlanta hasn't exactly proved itself big-game ready either this year or in the past with Matt Ryan at 0-3 in his playoff starts (from memory). They're good. They won the 1st meeting and gave RGIII his concussion. But that would be a competitive game.

Now drraming about going to the Super Bowl __as I said with the Nationals__ take 'em one at a time and don't set yourself up to be too disapppointed. I doubts the nats were experienced enough to get that far and I feel the same about the Skins __and the Skins defnse, though im proved, is still a potential weakness.

But, hey, if you aren't going to dream about what's possible this morning, when are you ever going to do it? It's my job to analyze. It's your job to do, and feel, whatever you want! And if you want to say, "Super Bowl Super Bowl!" go right ahead and yell it.

They sure can't yell it in Dallas this morning.

Last week I asked you about signing Kai Forbath long-term, I blamed myself at halftime for jinxing it! How do you think the Redskins match up against Seattle? Does the Seahawks having Russell Wilson and running a (sometimes) similar offense help prepare the Seattle D better than any opponent the Redskins have seen this year? Adam, Westfield NJ

The Simple Rating System at ProFootballReference would show that Seattle is a 5.8-point favorite next Sunday, even with the game in D.C.

Considering that RGIII isn't 100% (obviously), I'd say that is about right. That doesn't mean the Skins can't win. Of course they can. But recognize what a big job it is.

But as much as any team in the NFL, the Seahawks are creatures of their home field where they have a +129 point differential. On the road, they are only 3-5 with a +29 point differential. And +43 of that was in one game against the lousy Bills.

At FedEx, the Skins are 5-3 and +29 points.

Still, to be realistic, the Skins have been winning mostly close games, or close until late, in their 7-[0 run while Seattle has dismantled some pretty good teams (including 49ers) in their 7-1 run.

Going to be a helluva game.

Tom, I can't understand why the Nats have allowed all three of their lefty relievers to depart without serious efforts to re-sign them. All three were solid contributors last season. (Sean Burnett got $8 Million for 2 years from the Angels; Tom Gorzelanny got $5.7 Million for 2 years and Mike Gonzalez $2.2 Million for 1 year, both from the Brewers.) The Nats have signed Zach Duke, and they're apparently working hard to land J. P. Howell -- but several teams are in the mix and it's not a done deal. Davey loved having three lefty options in 2013. Why did they let all three walk? Even if they get Howell, the duo of Howell and Duke appear to be a step down in quality from the 2012 threesome. Are the Burnett-Gorzelanny-Gonzalez deals over-valued, or is that just where the market is now, and do the Nats have a potential problem in the making? This seems to be the only obvious hole in their roster, and it could be a significant one.

Gorzelanny and Gonzalez did good jobs, but they are pitchers you should be able to replace, and Duke probably can do one of those jobs. Burnett was very valuable as a Nat. I think the Nats have been a litte too confident that the "splits" of their RHed relievers say that they get LHed hitters out well. Ahhh, I prefer to go with the wisdom of the last 100+ years that it's a real good idea to have a tough late-inning lefty who can domitable key sluggers on other teams, not just "have good splits."

The Nats BETTER add Howell or trade for a quality LHer, imo. They definitely should not think that their winter is over and a success. It's not yet. It's been nice with Spoan and Haren. But you're right, imo, they need that LHer. 

DeAngelo Hall covering Dez Bryant: Can we call it "When Knuckleheads Collide"? Hall can be really good, but he can also get beaten badly enough and often enough that it seems like a big gamble to put him on Bryant one-on-one. I guess everything's going Jim Haslett's way these days.

Lets give Hall a standing ovation for one day! Come on, we can do it. He "held" Dez to 4 catches for 71 yards. Of course, for a season, that would be 64 catches for 1,136 yards. But lets pretend that's the greatest coverage job in history. It balances out some rough treatment for DHall.

Also, whose idea was it to put Hall back to return a punt! THAT is a knucklehead move. He fumbled as soon as he touched it and the Skins were lucky to recover. That's not Hall's problem. He should never have been back there, though he's a "Lemme in, lemme in, coach. I'll break a long one" guy.

Skins go 5-1 in division. Boys and Eagles going in the wrong direction. Next few years set up real nice.

And Jerry Jones knows it. Long after the game, I was surprised to see how candid he was in his post-game press conference. How ridiculous is that, an owner calling his own press conference after every game when he's the last one to know that he's 10 years behind the curve in personnel decisions, but still calls the shots.

Anyway, here's what he said. What he should have said at the end is, "The most obvious solution is probably the correct one: I should fire myself." But he didn't say it. Here's what he did say: I am impressed with the way that the Redskins are put together, across the board,” Jones said. “They’re going to be formidable as the Cowboys look to the future. We have to look where we are within our division. We’ll look and see just exactly how to approach a team that has some players they’ve got and good coaching they’ve got. We have a big challenge ahead of us. They are in the tournament, and we’re sitting at home. This is very disappointing. We have players that have also fought hard all year, but [we] did not get it done.”

Where do you think he was in the game, 50% on that knee? And how much improvement can we hope for in another week?

I'd say 80% maybe. Shanahan said, half-joking, that he looked he'd gone from a 4.3 40 to a 4.5. Try 4.7 or 4.8. He's STILL fast and shifty for a QB. And he's got a world of guts. But I don't see how his knee can get much better when he's practicing every week then playing on Sunday. 

Of course that bye week before the Super Bowl would help. (Just kidding.)

How do you just *not block* the Cowboys' two best pass rushers (Ware and Spencer) and not get burned? How do you keep running Morris and Griffin to *the same spots* on every play and pick up ten yards again and again? Is this "Damn Yankees" come to life?

No, it's the greatness of the option offense. I mentioned it once, which was probably once too often, but I was a mediocre-to-bad option QB at (then-named) St. Stephen's in Alexandria for Sleepy Thompson, riding the bench more often than not where I belonged. But even I could fool better athletes when running the option. I'd see this great hole __created by the system__ and invariably use my "speed" to turn it into a three or four yard gain, then get blown up. It took other teams, as early as freshman and JV ball, about two series to say, "Make the QB keep it. God, is he slow."

The FIRST rule of the option is that you run right AT the best defender on the other team and, if you run the option right and time your handoff (or fake) and your pitch (or fake) properly, the guy sholuld be helpless the large majority oif the time. In recent times, you watched Navy run a different versiuon of it to perfection for years.

It's not a fluke. It's not "Damn Yankees." It's a great offense __though the Skins don't really USE it that much because you don't want your QB to be demolished.

Boz, If I got in a time machine and went back to December 31, 2011 and told you to bet your house that both the Redskins and the Nats would win their respective divisions, and if I even showed you the Post press clippings to prove it, would you have done it??? Furthermore, if I traveled to December 31, 2013, what is your guess regarding what the talk would be about? Thanks for your input each week. It has added to the fun that has been this remarkable year.

I'd have said that the "clippings" from the future were a fake!

Within the next THREE years __'13-'14-'15 seasons__ I think you will see either the Nats (further along the talent curve) or Skins in a World Series or Super Bowl. Folks, that is an aggressive prediction. There is a LARGE jump from "making the playoffs" (or even winning 98 games) and getting to the Series or the Supe.

Go crazy (but don't BE crazy).

I see it but can't explain how they're doing it with no pass rush and a suspect secondary. I would say Haslett was a genius if I understood what he was doing. What's the answer?

I watched the tape again  last night from 3-to-4:15 a.m. How can you sleep? Haz is sending people from every angle except "above" and "underneath."

Shanahan basically said that you have to confuse Romo or he'll eat you up. They blitzed from the outside but, far more than usual, from up the middle and that bothered him, including the last pick.

I guess, after eight years in the NFL, the idea that teams can blitz up the middle, too, is kind of a complex concept for Romo. I;m sorry, he really doesn't impress me, for a player with his raw talent, arm and ability to buy time with his elusiveness. He's like the NBA shooter who lights it up from outside EVERY TIME when his team is 20 points behind, but when his teams gets within realistic range, like a few points, he suddenly shoots 25%. He sort-armed his second interception. On the final killer interception, he was flat out duped by Jackson fake blitz, then drop into coverage __which is as basic as it gets in the NFL (at least one backer is doing it on almost every play). And he had happy feet in the pocket by the third quarter. That's what pressure-up-the-gut does.

Other than that, happy holidays, Tony.

Boz; When this season is looked at, how many people will actually consider that the Redskins got, as it worked out, both a major scheduling break (The Week 10 bye) a perhaps unprecedented bounce from Thanksgiving Week followed by the 11 days they got before playing the Giants on December 3rd??!? I keep looking at that part of the schedule and just believe that the combination of bounce and rest was the tipping point that went in the organization's favor.

Yes, I agree. 

But I think they also won seven games in a row. You're right. It helped, maybe it helped quite a bit. But scheduling can only do so much. Every franchise has years when things fall into place __like a 6th-round draft pick gaining 1,613 yards. Gulp, okay, maybe not THAT "into place." But this definitely feels like one of those years for the Skins.

Still, they've done this with RGIII getting KOed from two games, missing another game and being less than 100% in two others! If he's just a little more careful with his body in the future, he might actually have a season sometime where he plays 16 games at something close to good health.

Happy New Year Boz and HTTR! 3 questions: (1) Are RG3 and AlMo the greatest rookie QB/RB duo in league history? (2) Who wins a title first, the Skins or the Nats? (3) Do the Skins have enough on defense to weather an onslaught from the QB's that they'll have to face to win a title? The QB's in Green Bay, New England, Denver and Seattle won't be as generous as the Dallas QB. Cheers!

Your first question is a GREAT one.

Anybody know if there has even been a ROOKIE combo comparable to a 1,600-yard rusher and a >100-rated, 800-yard rushing QB!!!???

As for the other questions, I don't think there is enough coffee in the world to make me alert enough this a.m. to get those answers correct!

With all joy to the Redskins, couldn't the Nats sign LaRoche and keep Morse as their number one guy off the bench, sending Moore to AAA to play every day?


HAPPY NEW YEAR, Michael Morse!

Eh, no, that won't be happening. Morse has a .857 OPS in three years as a Nat. Just for reference, I just looked up the all-time career OPS leaders to see who had lifetime marks of .858, .857 or .856.

Wade Boggs, Honus Wagner, Joe Cronin, George Brett and Al Kaline __all Hall of Famers.

Can we give The  Beast SOME RESPECT around here, people.

But I know where you are coming from __everybody weants to see LaR, Morse and Moore ALL back. The problem is that MORSE knows how good he is. After what he's done for three years, you can't say, "Go sit on the bench. And smile." 

I thought that the playoffs were set up that (like this year) if two teams from the same division could not face each other until the conference championships. So why is Minn going to GB instead of coming to Wash and Seattle going to GB?

Come on, the NFL playoff structure has always been a farce. Everybody just PRETENDS that six teams can all end up at 10-6 (or whatever) and that somebody DESERVES to be higher seeded because they scored more points against common opponents in the third quarter.

We all agree to clam up and not say, "This is a ridiculous arbitrary capricious way to decide who's better." That would make Faith Hill furrow her brow. Can't have that. So, everybody says, "What a great league!

I just checked. There actually WERE four teams with 11 wins and five with 10 wins. Come onb, who knows which really deserves to be seeded where.

So, to (sort of) answer your sensible question with my off-the-wall answer, in a league this goofy, why shouldn't the Packers and Vikings play two weeks in a row?

The deal for RGII just keeps looking better each week, either because of his increased value or because the value of the 2013 first rounder (no better than 21st overall) keeps dropping. As much as we love RGIII, did you ever think the trade would ever come close to making sense on the NFL's (outdated) draft value chart?

I was in favbor of the trade at the time. I thought RGIII had as good a chance to be truly great as anybody I'd seen come out of college in many years. But it was still a huge gamble to trade away 17 1st-round draft picks. And I didn't think he'd be this good __and this transformative in terms of leadership and inspiration__ this quickly.

Every time the (7-8-1) Rams see RGIII, they must hate life. Sam Bradford had a decent year __21 TDs, 13 INTs and 82.6 rating. But.....

The Redskins believed in the Redskins. The Redskins fans believed in the Redskins when no one else would and that includes the Washington media. Even after they went on their 6-0 run most of the talking heads on ESPN and the NFL network would invariably choose Washington's opponent until last night's game.

Oh, the Redskins FANS believed at 4-12, 6-10, 5-11 and 3-6? You mean the ones in the empty seats at FedEx or the ones who gave their tickets to fans in other team's jerseys? Please. Maybe YOU believed. Congratulations! Glad that 18-39 doesn't phase you!

However, I completely agree that it is delicious to listen to the national experts, especially ESPN __each and every one of whom INVENTED football, including the ones who never played__ as they STILL talk about the Cowboys, Cowboys, Cowboys and try to figure out whether it's Alfred Morse or Alvin Morris.

BTW, just glanced at some final NFL stats.

Morris was SECOND in the NFL to Adrian (Not Human) Peterson is rushing yardage (ahead of Marshawn Lynch) and SECOND in the NFL in rushing TOUCHDOWNS with 13, behind Arian Foster.

RGIII was third in QB rating (102.4) but BARELY ahead of Russell Wilson (100.0). I'm not so sure what the correct ROY voting should now be. But the top three should be RGIII, Wilson and Morris with Luck a wonderful fourth.

Oh, and Tony Romo DID lead the NFL in SOMETHING __interceptions (19), tied for No. 1. Congrats!

It was great to see every seat in the house filled for once and the crowd seemed to be loud, but how did it compare to those big games at RFK, when the fans were so loud they affected the outcome?

As John Madden always says, RFK was The Best in the NFL. It's not fair to compare. The accoustics at FedEx, and the bouncing stands at RFK, will never let it be a fair comparison.

But FedEx was very loud last night, lot of chanting, and, looking out over the crowd, I had to SEARCH to find a Cowboy jersey in the sea of Skins colors. Very different than all the Giants, Eagles and Ravens jerseys at recent games __lots of  'em. Pokes were total no shows. The Boys don't travel well __or not last night. Aren't they "America's Team?" Don';t they have fans EVERYWHERE?

Oh, that was before they went 128-128 the last 16 seasons. More congratulations __to Jerry Jones__ who has proved that no brand is indestructible.

It isn't talked about much, Boz, but back in the '80s, there were at least three occasions when Bill Walsh threatened to leave the 49ers because of Eddie DeBartolo's complaints that he wasn't getting "enough credit" for the Niners becoming what they were then. At those points, Eddie came to grips with what Walsh meant to the organization, and was able to check himself. The last couple of years, the Washington area has seen The Danny recuse himself publically--admittedly, more than a spate of bad press may have helped that along and it cannot be for certain that he won't attempt to get involved (Raise his profile) again; but the lower profile has been to the organization's benefit. The point being of this...especially after he left Tony Romo and Jason Garrett to face the press after the game...when is Jerry Jones going to understand that Dallas is NEVER going to be a serious contender until he puts some form of buffer between himself and the football operation??!? He can hold onto all the organizational titles he wants, but as long as he runs the day-to-day of the football operation, there will always be a point in big games where...something goes horribly wrong??!? This week, it was the three Romo picks. Last week, it was Colston's fumble rolling to the Dallas 2 before Jimmy Graham fell on it. By no stretch of the imagination am I a fan of the Cowboys, but that organization's greatest problem is an owner who believes that he's Al Davis in his prime...when Jones isn't even Davis PAST his prime with the Raiders.


I try never to miss one of Randy Galloway's wonderful "Jerry, will ya please quit, ya b um ya" columns from Ft. Worth. They are an endless wealth of details on Jerry's Latest Stupid.

With 274 yards on the ground the Skins are turning back the clock on the NFL by like 30 years. It should be interesting to see how other offenses react starting next season.

It was a stompin'.

Other defenses are already putting 8 and something 9 men in the box. Are they going to find a way to put 12 in there.

NFL geniuses think you can't run a formation as compact as many of the sets the Skins use because it pulls so many huge defensive people so close to the ball __no room to create eunning room. Of course, the Skins have plenty of spread sets. But they sometimes have only one wide out who's split a significant distance. And they still find a way to run.

There's a defense for everything. Or there always has been. But it doesn't always get discovered quickly. And fine system still work well. But the first year __like this year with RGIII and Morris__ has a special magic feel that the defense are scared, rather than trying to instill fear.


Earlier in the season I thought Fletcher was perilously close to being a liability on the field. Now hes playing like he is five years younger. What happened?

Last night, Fletcher "only" had 11 tackles, two sacks for minus 22 yards, two other tackles for loses, three QB hits and a pass defended. Hall of Fame.

Da Skins and Nats had a great 2012. Even DC United and the Caps had a decent 2012. How do you think the Wiz boyz feel being at the bottom of the barrel while their brothers from other (sports) mothers did so well this year? Motivated or depressed?

The Wiz? Who are they?

When a team goes a third of a centruy without a single season over .550, I forget who they are. That is my RULE.

"....the modest Morris, who is a kindred spirit to humble, tumbling, clawing Larry Brown, the supposedly undersize runner who led the Redskins to a Super Bowl 40 years ago." For some odd reason, when I see Morris from the rear - in a scrum or making a cut - I see 43 - Larry Brown. I was 12ish when he and OJ were always battling for supremecy as halfbacks. You captured in words what I have been seeing - thanks.


I forgot to include my favorite graph on Morris lasts night. It just got lost in my editing shuffle. (You realize that at 21-18 there was also an entire Redskins Lose column already nearly finished. The lede was: "When you dream, you open the door to nightmares." And if Romo hadn't thrown that pick and dhad led them back to win, we'd be talkin' a different talk.

Anyway, my lost stuff on Morris:

The legal definition of "cruel and unusual punishment" may soon have to be changed under U.S. law. Surely, there should be room somewhere to include "the way the Redskins use Alfred Morris.” His runs involve so much punishment that they must be a crime against somebody. But since Morris, so far, has always gotten up intact and the yardage totals he has amassed give profound pain to foes, maybe No. 46 is the perpetrator.



So, is it official - both ROYs wear DC uniforms?

I'd vote for that!

Is there one city with bigger stars as young - who'd a thought Ovie would be the old man here, in each sport?

You're right. Washington, with Morris added to the list (and Wall perhaps subtracted eventually) has the most/best young stars in multiple sports of any city.

How does a DB that we all thought was toast for so long have such a super game? Does he turn it on and off, play up to the competition? Is he hurt (was he hurt)?

He's a high risk player with huge self-copnfidence. He believes he can have big games against big foes. And last night he did. 

(We'll leave it at that.)

Caps are no longer the only winning team in town, plus who knows if there will be any hockey at all this season? The Wiz? There still seem to be organizational issues at every level. Redskins now join the Nats at not only being enjoyable for local fans to watch and root for, but they are both relevant nationally (for good reasons.)

Ted needs a reality check. He needs to be an owner who is trrying to get his sport back on the ice.

The REAL fiscal cliff may turn out to be the one that the NHL chose to push itself off.

That's (more than) enoughfor today! That's for all th great questions and enthusiasm. These certainly are fun times. Happy New Year __though the one we're leaving was awful damn good! Cheers to all.

Wilbon just said that the Skins-Seahawks game is the "NFC Title Game." Thoughts?

What, the (7-1) Bears aren't going to be in the NFC title game?

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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