Ask Boswell: Redskins, Nationals and Washington sports

Dec 02, 2013

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

What do they play the rest of the season for?

Mike Shanahan's job.

And Snyder does not like being made to look foolish. These are national TV defeats this season, including losing to the Vikings without nine starters. He can stick with Shannahan if the Skins just wion a couple of games, maybe even just one. But if they lose out, it's going to be tough. He fired both Spurrier and Zorn after seasons when they finished 1-6.

I think they'll get a win or even two and the discussion/decision can be made less emotionally. But there are no easy wins on the road in the NFL, not ever Atlanta and NYG.

And they are playing for themselves, too, of course. 

I sure hope RGIII either learns to run faster (he is routinely caught by defensive ends) or he learns how to pass better. Because right now the last player you want as a franchise player is a running QB who can't run.

One Giant player last week said that RGIII was still "faster than 90 percent of the guys in the league." That leaves >100 who are faster. Again last night you could see often he was in the path of potential injury. Even after he runs out of bounds. What is it with FedEx, they can't even make the sidelines safe when they have a running QB. Get that fixed, too, for crying out loud.

RGIII is fast enough to be a normal QB who runs to gain time to look for more receivers. But, right now, he is not a QB who should flush, then RUN, which is what he does time after time. That's not the answer.

Tom, I am a DC native and life long fan of our teams. Started going to Skins and Senator's games at Griffith Stadium with my Dad. I am firmly convinced that Snyder only owns the team to enrich himself through marketing/radio media, etc. My question: What conditions need to be in place for Dan Snyder to move the team to another city, such as Los Angeles? What about a fan-led buyout? I am not asking because of the Redskins name issue, it's about the team's performance over the past 20+ years. Thanks, Ken Thomas

Sorry, technical difficulties. I'm starting to feel like Wilbon who never seemed to have a chat without a 20-minute delay. I always thought he went out for milk at the Safeway and came back.

Nobody wants to win more than Snyder. He wants to win TOO much. That's probably his biggest problem, or one of them -- institutional concern about how upset he'll be. Not that he'll be screaming mad, just "what's he thinking? What will he do?"

I understand how it might seem that he's trying to "enrich himself" because he is such a ferocious marketer and often shameless about prices. But that's just one side of his nature. He HATES losing and he hates looking foolish. And sooner or later it damages the business, too.  

Does Mike Rizzo feel a bit burned by the fact that his last two "filler" fifth starters, Dan Haren and Edwin Jackson, performed below what he had hoped? Would this make him less inclined to venture into that market for a third year and instead try in-house solutions like Jordan or Roark? Or is that too thin a margin in starting pitching for a pennant contender?

Yes, they seem a little gun shy to me. I wouldn't want to make the same mini-mistake three times in a row. BTW this is the third computer I've been on. Now the I-pad mini gets its chance to sync with chat link.

Hi Tom, Can we please forget about the Redskins? They don't deserve our time at this point. I'm worried about the Nats. No left-handed relief. No starting pitcher signed. Standing pat in my opinion would be a mistake. I worry the Lerner's unwillingness to spend is hurting again. I'm of the opinion that "worth" has nothing to do with contracts. It's what teams are willing to spend ie Javier Lopez. Tell me I'm worried for nothing. Redskins-who

I almost agree. It's time to look more at the Caps, who had a wonderful OT win the other night after getting a short-handed goal with a minute left! That just doesn't happen. Fall behind 2-1 inside the 2-minute mark, then get another life short-handed?! Exceptional goal by Backstrom, then Ovechkin, his confidence all back together, scores the winner.

Also, Wiz are looking good enough that it starts to worry me. Every time this happens the rug gets pulled out. But Wall, after a poor start, his picked it back up after the Nene remarks and is playing the way he did late last season to get his max deal.

Too early to be concerned about the Nats off-season but not too soon to keep a sharp eye on it. They have to do more than stand pat. Need LH reliever absolutely, though perhaps in trade and, imo, another starter.

One good thing: This seems to be a buyer's market for free agent starting pitchers. You're right, it's time to start turning more attention to that, though the macabre Skins season is fascinating in its sad way.

Good morning, Tom. In the many articles on the Nats' search for another pitcher to shore up their starting rotation I rarely see Bronson Arroyo's name come up, but he looks like a great fit for the Nats. (Durable and reliable, and probably could be had for a 2 yr deal at a rate the team could afford.) I know he's 37, but there is no reason to think he doesn't have something left in the tank. Do his recent stats indicate something else? Because ownership doesn't seem to be considering him.

Apparently, Arroyo wants and will get a multi-year deal. The Nats think he's 37, not that great to begin with and that, by '15, they'll have better options from within their own system. So why give a multi-year deal to an elderly pitcher?

What a game! In the end special teams decided it -- Alabama missed three FGs and had one blocked, while Auburn's punt unit consistently pinned Alabama inside their own 10. (Not that it mattered much on the 99-yard TD pass), and then of course there was Auburn's missed FG return. That was definitely more entertaining than anything I watched on Sunday.

That was as amazing a finish as I've ever seen to any game in any sport. And it was a night-long loss for Alabama special teams.

At my house we were screaming for Michigan to "Go for two" to beat Ohio State. Didn't work. But a great game. The whole days was nuts. I thought just what you did -- in 10 or 15 years will college football Saturdays be as big or bigger than NFL Sundays? In part because the college game -- in which nobody has actually tackled anybody in 10 years -- remains exciting and the NFL, with all its problems, falls back a level.

BTW, I was amused to see all the NFL flacks on the pre-game Sunday shows saying that Mike Tomlin didn't do anything "on purpose." Just a little mistake, you know? If I ever rob a bank without a masket and am caught doing it on camera, I want Tom Jackson, Mike Ditka and Boomer on my jury. They raced one another to see which could declare Tomlin "innocent" the fastest.

If Shanahan is let go, as he should be, I can already see where Dan Snyder will turn. Instead of going for a solid up and coming assistant, he will make a splash, by turning to a certain coach who has had tremendous success in college, but might be getting burned out on his current job, because the fan base expects only perfect seasons. Nick Saban.

Well, Saban already has the special teams part of the Skins job locked up.

I counted the bounces on the Kyle Nelson snap. Pretty sure it was five. He was such a great kid afterward talking about it. He said the Giants hadn't thrown him off by yelling things. Or, rather, he said they didn't do anything the Skins hadn't prepped for. So, that's different, maybe.

Hard to believe that Sanata Moss, moving a few yards forward after catching a punt, is a dramatic improvement in the special teams punt return game.

Back to your question, that NFL thing didn't work out too well for Saban in Miami -- 9-7, 6-10 and out -- in '05, '06.

That guy Spurrier sure is hot at South Carolina. Once played in the NFL. Maybe he's just the right guy for the Skins! Somebody, mention it to Dan, you know, just for a reaction.

Knowing Dan Snyder's M.O., he's got to be itching to fire this coaching staff. If this was Norv Turner, he'd already be packing. Personally, I think Snyder should let Shanahan play through his contract but don't extend him. Considering the coaching carousel under Snyder's ownership, he's got to be pulling his hair out wondering who to turn to next. There's no Joe Gibbs in waiting this time. I suppose he could make a play for Cowher or Dungy but I doubt either of those men would be agreeable to Snyder's "business" model. Where does this franchise go from here?

Don't look for the iuys who look so happy on TV -- Gruden or Cowher -- to be interested in the Skins job. If you are as good as Gruden on MNF (I know, some don't like him but I do), why would you ruin that gig to be just another 100-hour-week lunatic in the NFL. Better to PLAY a lunatic in the booth than to actually be one in real life as a coach.

Give them some love! This team really could be the third best team in the East. Of course the East is terrible, but still! The Gortat trade especially looks great at this junction..

About time the Wiz caught a break, like the weak East. Nene and Gortat work well together and along with Webster and Ariza really give them a sane adult core to balance out young-player mistakes. Hope Porter works himself into shape because they need help off the bench. Wall and a Beal return from injury are the key to keeping it interesting.

What's heartening (there you go, premature enthusiasm) is the relative rarity of late collapses recently. They still cannot play defense -- terrible FG percentage against them, a measure of efficient shooting on both 2s and 3s by your foes. And a top team like the Pacers toys with them.

But there's progress! The law of averages may be catching up with Ernie. You can't always be wrong. If you just last long enough, you'll eventually have some things work out your way. Maybe he just had an unlucky decade.

Seriously, the Gortat trade after the Emeka Ocafor injury was just what a good GM pulls off. He HAD to make a deal to save his sseason and probably his job. But he made the RIGHT deal.

After Kilgore's column, I've drunk the kool aid. I'm in for Cano. Do you see it happening too?

Adam made a very convincing case that there actually WAS a case to be made for Cano to the Nats.

But I don't buy it. It would require a truly moronic contract. It's easy to see why a Prince Fielder would get old fast. But you can't always see the wear and tear on the inside. I'd never have guessed that Pujols would break down that badly that fast. It's easy to say, "Cano will be great for five years, so that justifies the awful bad-end years of a deal." That even the early years are no lock. It's the kind of deal you'd do if you thought that the writing was on the wall that you had no chance to sign Harper or Strasburg long term, so you wanted to use that money a different way. But that is NOT the Nats situation. 

But it would be fun to be wrong.

Should it now be a standard practice to intentionally run into -- i.e. make contact with -- an opposing coach if they're in any way on the playing field? Seems the Ravens' returner would've been better off trying to plow into Tomlin to force a penalty call.

That would have been quick thinking indeed.

I get a kick out of the scoundrels. But I also am glad to hear that the Tomlin penalty may be a big one. I enjoy the laugh, and the memory. But you CAN'T allow coaches to act that way. He has to be the rare exception. And, just as a guess, a $100,000 fine to Tomlin and another $100,000 to the Steelers would probably get everybody's attention.

If Kidd got $50,000, Tomlin was a lot worse. He was ON the field on THE play of the game (at that point). And he was three FEET beyond where he was allow DURING play. Kidd was "just" trying to buy time to put in a last-second play. 

OK, the Skins are awful. But guess what so are almost half of last year's playoff teams. Amazing how close the line is between good and bad in the NFL these days. I think even the GMs now just hope their team can stay healthy and get on a run when it counts (like the Ravens last year and the Giants twice recently).

I generally like Cris Collinsworth because he usually seems to say what he really thinks. I was amazed to hear him say he thinks the Skins are going in the right direction and will win the NFC East next year. Of course, I was listening to the replay at 3:30 a.m., so maybe I was hallucinating. But it did stop me for a second. I like the true contrariarn position.

Do you see a scenario in which Dan Snyder could require Mike Shanahan to replace Jim Haslett and/or Keith Burns this offseason? Clearly a change is needed at D Coordinator, given that Haslett has seen his defense regress every year he's been in town.

It's hard to see a scenario in which either should come back. They should be the happiest two coaches in the world that there are four more games to do something, anything, right and save their jobs.

Orakpo had a good night. Build a piece at a time.

I hate when people say the most recent game/play is the greatest of all time. That being said, I think the ending of Saturday's game does rank in the best top ten games/plays of all time. Is it to early to come to that conclusion?

I agree.

And I also hate the "Latest is the Greatest" syndrome. But this one is way up there -- big rivalry, 0:01 left, you think one team has a chance to win, then the other does with a play that, while possible, is seldom seen. Yet it's logical. All the rotund folk are on the field goal team.

Oh, and Chris Davis came within an inch or two of stepping on the sideline. That's a great photo, which I think we ran, of an Alabama tackler diving -- horizontal to ground -- but just can't reach Davis.

That's the title game people want to see!

The way Auburn's luck is running, the third-string tuba player would switch from the band to the team at halftime and quarterback 'em to victory.

What happens when a player does something really dumb, like kick the football after a play, or get an "unsportsmanlike conduct" penalty that really hurts the team. Does he get chewed out on the sideline, told to knock it off, gently reminded that he can do better, or just ignored? The 'Skins are so undisciplined!

Garcon, there's a delay-of-game flag in my soup.

On the Skins, at least right now, Shanny covers for them in the presser. Man, does he know he's on thin ice, or what? He was almost cordial in answering hostile questions after the game last night. Soft voice, reasonable, butter wouldn't melt in the same mouth that was foaming at the officials just minutes before. And you KNOW that's not how he really feels. I felt like calling out "Oscar! Oscar!"

..but how cool would it have been if the Caps video guy did end up playing on Friday? And, could Kolzig have been a candidate for emergency goalie?

He sure looked ready, didn't he. Joe B and Locker said he had the whole act down on the bench, except he forget to wrap a towell around his neck to finish the "I'm ready!" effect.

Do these two high-level defections portend issues with the Caps? Are these just two players trying to shift blame for their own subpar performance? Or is there friction in Caps land -- either with Oates or GMGM?

Oates and GMGM are a totally united front. So there'll be no cracks in that area.

Very interesting to me that two local GM's have EXACTLY the coach they have had their eye on for a long time as a potential rookie coaches -- George McPhee and Oates and Mike Rizzo with Matt Williams. These may not work out like Bethard having his eye on Gibbs. And Oates and Williams were both excellent players. But I always like it when a GM says, "I'm all in with THIS GUY. Even though he has no track record, judge me on him. He can coach."

Hi Tom, The one constant in the Redskins' 15 years of mediocrity has been Snyder. Will he ever hire a real GM to run the team including choosing the coach? Thanks.

He tried everything else. Gibbs and Shanahan have been their own GM's. (Schottenheimer wanted to be.)

Snyder doesn't know whom to trust, or trust the wrong people, and he has no football judgment himself, so how is he going to pick a GM? He'd have to have a GM so he could ask, "Who'd make a good GM? Ohhhh! YOU are my GM. Sorry."

Bertie needs Jeeves. Someone who always says, "Sir," but ends up making the decisions.

For all the Edsall backlash, I think he should get some credit for the season since the Terps have had so many key injuries. They lost their Top FOUR wide receivers I think.

When everybody, including CJ Brown, was going down I never thought they'd win seven games. Give credit where due. And they really looked sharp against (lousy) NC State on Sturday.

What is the deal with that "track" that RGIII slipped on? Do all stadiums have this? Just seems awfully dangerous considering the speed players can have when forced out of bounds.

Next week I just expect them to dump a truck full of banana peels over there. It'd be LESS dangerous.

It's been a long night/day. A couple more and outta here.

Have you ever seen any player go down the court with the ball faster than John Wall???

Calvin Murphy? Early Allen Iverson?

Not many. It's possible he's getting slightly more under control. It doesn't help if you get to the hoop and can't make the layup because you're out of control. The shot I want to see OUT of Wall's game is the amazing penetration followed by an acrobatic miss from four feet.

I think you mean "rob a bank without a mask" but I just can't be sure.

I think we got that fixed. Thanks.

Yet losing and looking foolish are the two hallmarks of the Snyder Era. Not even Joe Gibbs could stop that.

That's one of the things that makes the whole era so fascinating. And, as it goes on and on and on, sad.

Bos, Every week in his press conference Shanahan has said the same thing: we're better than our record; we're a good team that hasn't played up to its potential. Besides how self-serving this sounds, is he ever going to get beyond his ego to own up to the fact that this isn't a good team at all, in fact, it's a poor team with a good young quarterback and little else?

Saving that for his memoirs?

Then he should probably not sue season ticket holders, or sue papers that write critical columns, or sue to block a sidewalk from people walking from Metrorail, ... That "looking foolish" has been going on for more than a decade. He doesn't just "look" foolish, he is foolish.

Well, there's that.

Any chance the Nats make him an offer? He was certainly a fan favorite, and it'd be nice hearing more Bob Marley walkup music. Seriously, he's a good pitch caller, and, if not overused, a decent hitter. Not that expensive either. Sounds to me like a great backup catcher... Section 405

He'd be the perfect backup catcher, but I assume he still thinks he can get a deal from someone who wants him to start.

Right Tackle, Guard, Slot WR, DE, ILB, CB, FS That's seven holes that must be fixed (while maintaining other positions) in order for the Redskins to be competitive. Can it be done in one off season?

That high-high-high No. 1 draft pick should help, right?


Every year, I marvel at (and seethe over) how truly big the Giants' players seem to be. They always seem to have gigantic, lumbering sides of beef playing TE, guys almost impossible to tackle when they pluck high passes out of the air. They have huge, sledgehammer running backs. Their wide receivers are absolutely ripped. Bryan Orakpo probably wouldn't stand out in their locker room. He would look like just one of the guys. Has anyone else noticed this? Do the Skins put any emphasis at all on conditioning? It seems to me that so many Skins players have merely average muscle tone whereas the Giants are perpetually sculpted and ripped, which may help them get through the grind of the long season. What say you?

Some teams have decade-to-decade identities. The Giants are one of them. Some change every few years. Like the Skins.

Tom - Have your thoughts on this evolved over the five ears since Mike's retirement?

Anybody who is more than 100 games over .500 in his career should, eventually, be in the HOF. That would put Mussina in for me -- if I voted.

That is a LOADED HOF ballot this year. Maddox, Glavine, Frank Thomas. And a ton of tough decisions, too. 

That's it for this week. Very sorry about the slow beginning. Next Monday -- s-m-o-o--t-h.

How can a coach be a leader when he never talks to a player during the game and always has a look of disgust that radiates negativity? Shanahan needs to be gone. Do you agree????

His demeanor is different with players behind closed doors. They are the people he respects.

Waaaaay, back in my first answer the Glich Gremlins stole a sentence. My point was that the Skins have now lost FIVE nationally televized games and that particularly bothers Snyder (or has in the past) because he not only hates to lose but hates to be made to look foolish.

Thanks again for all the questions. Still reading in hopes of stealing from you. It's appreciated.

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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