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Old 07-09-2010, 03:28 PM   #1
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Football Outsiders Picks Redskins to Make Postseason

NFC East Projected Mean Wins

1. Philadelphia Eagles 9.3 wins (SB contender prob. 26%)
2. Washington Redskins 9.2 wins (SB contender prob. 26%)
3. New York Giants 8.7 wins (SB contender prob. 22%)
4. Dallas Cowboys: 7.5 wins (SB contender prob. 8%)

****

I have also attached the entire chapter essay, written by Mike Tanier. It's a very good read, though it takes pretty much 80% of it to poke holes in our long term future, ignoring any substantial defense of the really high projection for this year.

It's the second straight year that the essay for the Redskins has nothing to do with the current roster, but in a way, I think, the national media still sees the Redskins as a team on a treadmill of the same mistakes, and as this essay points out, they ARE still making the same mistakes that they were seven years ago.

One way to change our plight would be to actually change the way that we build teams. But unmentioned by the article: if the Redskins can win in consecutive years, that would shut up a lot of the same story lines we've had to read forever.

Quote:
For a few months, the addiction cycle seemed to be broken. It appeared that the Redskins were finally clean.The Redskins have been the NFL’s unrepentant junkies for over a decade. They pursue quick fixes every offseason, enjoying a brief, expensive rush as they inject high-priced free agents and big-name trade acquisitions straight into their lineup. By December, they are almost always strung out, their roster bloated with over-the-hill veterans, their bench depleted by draft indifference, their salary cap situation tenuous.

The 2009 season typified the team’s Requiem for a Dream approach to personnel management. The $100-million Albert Haynesworth deal provided heady, headline-grabbing thrills in March and made the team a fashionable playoff pick, but the team shambled dopesick through the season’s final four games.

By that point, injuries had whittled the roster down to a collection of rookie free agents and no-name veterans, with Haynesworth a flabby non-factor and Jim Zorn reduced to a lame-duck figurehead with no roster or play-calling authority.

Vinny Cerrato’s dismissal at the end of the 2009 season signaled a possible end to the downward spiral. Observers like Marty Schottenheimer (who once spent a year on the Redskins roller coaster) believed that Cerrato, not owner Dan Snyder, was the impatient, freespending enabler who supported the Redskins’ free agent habit. With Cerrato gone, Snyder steered clear of Julius Peppers, Karlos Dansby, and Anquan Boldin, the top veteran prizes available this winter. The Redskins were finally off the horse and ready to commit to long-range rebuilding and careful roster management under new coach Mike Shanahan and executive Bruce Allen, football lifers with experience in successful organizations.

Then came the Donovan McNabb trade. Cue the Velvet Underground
soundtrack. Recovery just wasn’t in the works for the Redskins. The Cerrato-to-Allen/Shanahan regime change was supposed to represent a clean break from the past, but Snyder handled it in his inimitable style. The owner courted Shanahan before Allen, undermining the new executive’s authority before he was even hired. Snyder added his signature touch of class by pursuing both very publicly in December while Zorn twisted in the wind.

Shanahan represented another splashy, attention-seeking coaching hire in the mold of Steve Spurrier and Joe Gibbs. The only reasons to suspend skepticism about Shanahan in the wake of so many big-name coaching failures were his solid reputation, his decade of success in Denver, and Cerrato’s firing. Allen may have been selected after Shanahan, but at least he was a bona fide general manager, not a company man with a weakness for overpriced veterans. Shanahan and Allen offered hope, but hope fades quickly inside the Beltway.

On the very day of Shanahan’s first press conference, Clinton Portis ripped Jason Campbell (still the team’s starting quarterback at that point) on ESPN radio. “Jason couldn’t take control of the huddle … That’s not his character. You can’t place so much on someone who’s not ready for that situation,” Portis said. The comments were part of an extended rant in which Portis defended his privileged relationship with Snyder (they apparently ended up at the same restaurant drinking wine “numerous times,” but only coincidently) and suggested that he’d grudgingly tone down his bromance with Snyder if a coach found it threatening. “If you didn’t want me going to sit beside him during practice when I don’t have anything to do … then OK, cool, you say that, and I’ve got to abide by that,” Portis said, sounding like someone who is neither OK nor cool with being told where he sits.

The Campbell comments soon became irrelevant, but the irony of Portis’ filibuster was hard to ignore. The Shanahan press conference was a carefully orchestrated show, with Allen making the announcements and Snyder all but hiding behind a potted plant to illustrate his new inconspicuousness. At nearly the same moment, Portis was illustrating why Joe Gibbs once called him an “assistant GM.” Whatever new professionalism the Redskins hoped to project at the start of the Shanahan era would be slow to take root.

For a few weeks, though, the Redskins really changed. They sat out the giddy first days of free agency. They made minor, targeted moves, signing tackle Artis Hicks while re-signing starting offensive linemen Casey Rabach and Mike Williams. All signs pointed to a patient rebuilding program, or at least the start of one. In his CBSSports.com column, Clark Judge praised the Redskins for doing “the unthinkable, the unimaginable and the damn-near-impossible when it comes to free-agent spending: just saying no.” “When the Redskins hired Shanahan, people wondered how
long it would take before he would make a difference. I think we just got our answer,” Judge concluded. Then the Redskins traded for McNabb, and we got a different answer.

In the short term, McNabb will improve the Redskins. His DVOA and DYAR (8.9% and 619) were only slightly better than Campbell’s (-1.8% and 335)
last season, but our stats only tell part of the story. McNabb provides deep passing ability that the Redskins have lacked and desperately needed under Campbell. McNabb had effective weapons like DeSean Jackson
in 2009, but he spent most of his career throwing to mediocre receivers, and the Redskins offense will get much better if he can get as much from Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly as he got from Reggie Brown or Todd Pinkston in years past. His leadership skills were ridiculed to comical lengths by the Philly media, but his Pro Bowl and playoff pedigree give him much more clubhouse credibility than Campbell ever had, and he was enthusiastically embraced by his new Redskins teammates. Most importantly, he has a decade of experience in a system similar to Shanahan’s and will be able to transition smoothly into the new offense.

Campbell had learned so many offenses, dating back to his Auburn days, that indecision and confusion were setting in. One of Portis’ main complaints was the difficulty Campbell had getting the play in, a problem compounded by the fact that four different coaches had play-calling input last year.

Now for the long term: McNabb is 33 and injuryprone, having played all 16 games just once in the last five seasons. His scrambling ability has declined sharply – he’s run for just 287 yards in the past two seasons – and he is going from one of the better offensive lines in the league to one of the worst. Some of McNabb’s worst games have come after the Eagles
were forced to plug in unprepared offensive linemen: The two Cowboys games at the end of last season (after Jamaal Jackson was hurt) and his 12-sack game against the Giants in 2007 (Winston Justice’s first start) are obvious examples. In Washington, he’ll face the kind of pressure he felt in those games every week unless first round pick Trent Williams develops immediately and Shanahan can work some kind of blocking magic at the
team’s other trouble spots. McNabb is in the decline of his career, and every sack will accelerate that decline. McNabb cost the Redskins money, but he also cost them draft picks: a high second-rounder this year, a
third-rounder in 2011. The Redskins spent a decade throwing around second- and third-round picks like arcade coupons, using them to sweeten trades for veterans or to move up to select players like Campbell they later have no use for. The Redskins had no second-round pick in 2009; no first-rounder in 2008; no second-, third-, or fourth-rounder in 2007; no first-,
third-, or fifth-rounder in 2006; and so on. The Redskins squandered a half-decade’s worth of productive, homegrown, moderately-priced players in their pursuit of big-name veterans.

McNabb, though an upgrade, is just the latest in a long line of short-term solutions. Just months after overhauling their front office and coaching staff and promising to start clean, the addictive behavior returned. Just as Portis overshadowed Shanahan’s press conference, Haynesworth cast a pall over the McNabb party by publicly thumbing his nose at the team’s offseason workouts. It was another discouraging reminder of how quickly Redskins acquisitions reach their expiration date. McNabb obviously won’t become a Portis, Haynesworth, or DeAngelo Hall-type distraction; he’s no clubhouse politician or malcontent. He won’t be calling out teammates or skipping workouts anytime soon. But he is very likely to become an injury-prone siphon on the salary cap in the near future; probably
not 2010, maybe not 2011, but all too soon.

Once the Redskins took another toke of the veteranmarket, they couldn’t stop themselves. Larry Johnson and Willie Parker arrived just before McNabb, joining Portis in a three-headed backfield that would have terrified
the league in 2006. Bobby Wade and Joey Galloway arrived a few weeks later as votes of no-confidence to stalled receiver prospects Kelly and Thomas.

Galloway, 38 and coming off a seven-catch season, is a vintage Redskins acquisition; it’s as if Cerrato left instructions on his desk that Allen and Shanahan were forced by some blood oath to carry out. By the
time 33-year-old defensive end Vonnie Holliday and 34-year-old backup linebacker Chris Draft joined the fold, it was hard to remember that the Redskins were thought of as a disciplined team committed to a youth
movement as recently as April 3. The team that needed
to get younger somehow got older.

All of that veteran wallpapering comes with an upside. The Redskins should reach the playoffs this year: They are better than they were last season, and they weren’t as bad last season as their record suggests. They fell well below their Estimated Win total of 7.3 in 2009, underperforming because of Zorn’s dreadful coaching and some special teams lapses. Zorn’s ineffectuality as a leader and strategist was evident in early season losses to the woeful Lions (the Redskins were 2-of-10 on third downs, committed 97 yards in penalties, and allowed three straight drives for a combined 41 Lions offensive plays) and Chiefs (eight three-and-out drives against an opponent that couldn’t score a touchdown). If Shaun Suisham could kick straight, the Redskins would have beaten the Cowboys in Week 11, and the Saints in Week 13. The switch from Zorn-Campbell to Shanahan-McNabb will get the Redskins to snap back to that seven-win level and then buy them an extra win or two.

A schedule full of Rams, Buccaneers, and Lions gives them another boost. The NFC East will have a down season, and the Redskins get two meetings with the McNabb-less Eagles, who are actually rebuilding instead of signing 34-year-old backup linebackers. The Redskins will have an offense close to league average and a solid 3-4 defense that has the right personnel for the system. Haynesworth tried his darnedest to be an offseason-long distraction, demanding a trade in June, but the Redskins defense can survive without him. Barring a Week 1 McNabb injury, the Redskins are a safe bet to compete for a wild card, if not win their division.

But the Redskins haven’t built a true contender. They’ve built another version of their 2005 team, which went 10-6 in Gibbs’ second season. Gibbs promoted 35-year-old Mark Brunell over former top pick Patrick Ramsey that year, and Brunell had a 23-touchdown season. Eager to take the next step, Snyder and Cerrato added Antwaan Randle El, T.J. Duckett, Brandon Lloyd, and Adam Archuleta to the roster, even though Gibbs and his staff had no use for any of them but Randle El. The other three ate up cap and roster space, the Redskins fell to 5-11, and Brunell’s injuries led to a premature start of the Campbell era.

The 2010 Redskins have even worse long-range prospects than their 2005 counterparts, who at least surrounded Brunell with a young group of offensive weapons, had a pair of bookend offensive tackles in their prime, and possessed a few other assets. This year’s Redskins have an alarming number of players who are about to simultaneously grow old, and that’s not even counting lunatic acquisitions like Galloway. McNabb, Portis, Johnson, Parker, Santana Moss, Rabach, Philip Daniels, and London Fletcher are all at or approaching the downside of their careers, with Andre Carter and Derrick Dockery not far behind them. There are few obvious successors to these key players on the roster, and with training camp bloated with Galloway and Holliday types, it will be hard for the team to find and develop quality replacements. In a few years, Shanahan will be fired, McNabb will return to Philadelphia to retire with the Eagles, and Snyder will stand next to Urban Meyer heralding the start of another new era.

There are two sad elements to the Redskins plight. The first is that some in the Redskins organization will feel vindicated when the team loses in the second round of the playoffs. Snyder and others will convince themselves that they made all the right moves. Allen could win Executive of the Year if he takes the team from four wins to ten. There will be a lot of backslapping for a very small accomplishment. And of course, that will only encourage Snyder and company to climb back on the horse.

The second is that so many of the Redskins problems are obvious and avoidable. Anyone who looks carefully at the roster can see long-term disaster brewing, and it doesn’t take much imagination to find healthier alternatives to the path the Redskins chose. The Redskins could have Jake Delhomme or Derek Anderson as their starting quarterback, with second-round pick Jimmy Clausen waiting in the wings. Or, they could have given Campbell another year, used their second-round pick on a defensive playmaker like Sergio Kindle, and let their defense win a few games while Shanahan made tough decisions on offense. Heck, they could have
pulled the trigger on the McNabb deal but held off on all of the Parker-Johnson-Galloway nonsense, increasing their odds of finding a great young back or receiver who will improve as McNabb fades.

The Redskins just can’t do that. They keep seeking short-term dividends
that aren’t worth the long-range consequences. Of course, that’s exactly the kind of trade-off addicts make. In March, it looked like Allen and Shanahan could make a difference. Now, they’re stuck in the same web that snared Gibbs, Schottenheimer, Spurrier, and Zorn. Snyder drags good football people down with him. This year, the high will last past August, but the crash will come before February. And next year’s hangover will be as bad — or worse — than the last ten.
Mike Tanier, Football Outsiders Almanac 2010
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Old 07-09-2010, 04:01 PM   #2
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Re: Football Outsiders Picks Redskins to Make Postseason

i just deleted a bunch of comments on this article. i like footballoutsiders for their stats but i find this style of writing to very unfocused and confusing. he spends the majority of the article painting a very dark picture then says we will make the playoffs and have a chance to win the nfc east. but then says shanahan will be gone in 3 years, mcnabb back to phily and we are left with the DS and urban meyer.

where is the harm in signing the likes of galloway, parker, johnson to min contracts outside of maybe they take up one of the 53 spots instead of an undrafted FA rookie invited to camp? we didnt give up any draft picks for them so how did it increase our chances of not finding a great young runningback or receiver? what, b/c this great young undrafted runningback that grows on trees outside his house will have to compete and earn a spot? if hes great and young, he will beat out parker.

i just dont see why this guy has so much hate for galloway to repeatedly refer to his signing as evidence of doom and gloom. maybe he is the lunatic.i just dont get it. moss doesnt seem like a veteran leader for our receiving core, galloway is going to be like a second coach out there. if we dont think he will contribute on the field, we can cut him or offer him a consulating position. thats what he is here for anyway, to show the young receivers how to train, study and work like a professional.

What were our special team lapses? I cant think of one punt or kick return taken to the house against us last year. not to say there wasnt one, but i cant think of it.

but we are a safe bet for a wild card spot or win our division? i dont mind hate, we went 4-12 but keep it consistent.
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Old 07-09-2010, 04:19 PM   #3
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Re: Football Outsiders Picks Redskins to Make Postseason

What's particularly stupid about this piece is that he automatically assumes that because we signed a bunch of veteran dudes, that necessarily precludes younger players from making the roster.

If the Galloways and the Vonnie Hollidays don't show in camp that they are worthy of one or two more years in the NFL, then they'll be history. Bringing in Galloway and Bobby Wade is a good way to find out if Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas are capable of stepping up. In their third NFL season, if a direct threat to their job security doesn't get them going, nothing will.

And is he actually serious in suggesting that we'd be better off with a combination of Derek Anderson and Jimmy Clausen instead of Donovan McNabb? You can't go saying shit like that and expect to be taken seriously as a writer. I mean WTF.
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Old 07-09-2010, 04:23 PM   #4
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Re: Football Outsiders Picks Redskins to Make Postseason

Garbage.

He should stick to doing math and give up writing.
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Old 07-09-2010, 04:25 PM   #5
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Re: Football Outsiders Picks Redskins to Make Postseason

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Originally Posted by over the mountain View Post
i just deleted a bunch of comments on this article. i like footballoutsiders for their stats but i find this style of writing to very unfocused and confusing. he spends the majority of the article painting a very dark picture then says we will make the playoffs and have a chance to win the nfc east. but then says shanahan will be gone in 3 years, mcnabb back to phily and we are left with the DS and urban meyer.

where is the harm in signing the likes of galloway, parker, johnson to min contracts outside of maybe they take up one of the 53 spots instead of an undrafted FA rookie invited to camp? we didnt give up any draft picks for them so how did it increase our chances of not finding a great young runningback or receiver? what, b/c this great young undrafted runningback that grows on trees outside his house will have to compete and earn a spot? if hes great and young, he will beat out parker.

i just dont see why this guy has so much hate for galloway to repeatedly refer to his signing as evidence of doom and gloom. maybe he is the lunatic.i just dont get it. moss doesnt seem like a veteran leader for our receiving core, galloway is going to be like a second coach out there. if we dont think he will contribute on the field, we can cut him or offer him a consulating position. thats what he is here for anyway, to show the young receivers how to train, study and work like a professional.

What were our special team lapses? I cant think of one punt or kick return taken to the house against us last year. not to say there wasnt one, but i cant think of it.

but we are a safe bet for a wild card spot or win our division? i dont mind hate, we went 4-12 but keep it consistent.
I share a lot of your reactions to an article that was written with a slant. The leveraging of short term contracts to non-impact veterans fits nicely with the narrative of a team that keeps making the same veteran mistakes.

In reality, there's going to be just as much turnover next year in the roster as there is this year. I think the greater point, which could have been better stated, is that with just two draft picks in the top four rounds, there's no way off the vicious cycle of signing veteran players to plug holes.

Basically, with these veteran signings, two things can happen, neither of them good. They either drag down our performance this year and aren't retained, or they actually have a random good season at the end of a long career and then we either: retain them or have to replace the production. Either way, the winning would be built on unsustainable practices.

If Thomas and Kelly were to carry the load instead of Galloway and Moss, then we don't need to change a thing, obviously.
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Old 07-09-2010, 04:28 PM   #6
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Re: Football Outsiders Picks Redskins to Make Postseason

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If the Galloways and the Vonnie Hollidays don't show in camp that they are worthy of one or two more years in the NFL, then they'll be history. Bringing in Galloway and Bobby Wade is a good way to find out if Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas are capable of stepping up. In their third NFL season, if a direct threat to their job security doesn't get them going, nothing will.
Okay, I'll play Devil's Advocate:

Let's say that Galloway and Vonnie Holliday perform well in camp, displace guys like Thomas and Carriker, and help us fulfill a 9 or 10 win projection and make the postseason.

It's March 2011: what do you do with the receiver and DE positions?
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Old 07-09-2010, 04:36 PM   #7
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Re: Football Outsiders Picks Redskins to Make Postseason

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Okay, I'll play Devil's Advocate:

Let's say that Galloway and Vonnie Holliday perform well in camp, displace guys like Thomas and Carriker, and help us fulfill a 9 or 10 win projection and make the postseason.

It's March 2011: what do you do with the receiver and DE positions?
If guys like Galloway and Holliday, at this stage of their careers, displace Thomas and Carriker, then Thomas and Carriker weren't the long term answer anyway. We would have needed to replace them in 2011 regardless, so we'd be no worse for wear.

Shanahan's method of creating the competition just helps you find out about players faster.

Now I'm not saying you jettison a rookie because he was beaten out by Joey Galloway. But by the time you hit your third year, your development chances are done. Put up or shut up time.
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Old 07-09-2010, 04:39 PM   #8
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Re: Football Outsiders Picks Redskins to Make Postseason

For the record I think Devin Thomas will do pretty well in Shanahan's system and will send Galloway packing. But I like the idea of giving him some competition to keep him motivated.
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Old 07-09-2010, 04:41 PM   #9
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Re: Football Outsiders Picks Redskins to Make Postseason

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If guys like Galloway and Holliday, at this stage of their careers, displace Thomas and Carriker, then Thomas and Carriker weren't the long term answer anyway. We would have needed to replace them in 2011 regardless, so we'd be no worse for wear.

Shanahan's method of creating the competition just helps you find out about players faster.

Now I'm not saying you jettison a rookie because he was beaten out by Joey Galloway. But by the time you hit your third year, your development chances are done. Put up or shut up time.
I agree with your conclusions.

Which, of course, is Tanier's main point: if Galloway and Holliday are anything more than one-year roster fillers that do a little bit of pushing in camp and a lot of scout team work, then they will likely enter 2011 as the best of a bunch of bad options for a team desperately trying to hold on to a singular playoff berth while fighting off the same effects of age that the early decade Raiders had to.
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Old 07-09-2010, 04:44 PM   #10
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Re: Football Outsiders Picks Redskins to Make Postseason

I would not be surprised if the Skins make the playoffs and go deep into it.
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Old 07-09-2010, 04:44 PM   #11
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Re: Football Outsiders Picks Redskins to Make Postseason

The faulty premise in his argument is that we'd have to endure some sort of a "loser's curse" if we made the playoffs, caused by the fact that Snyder likes to jump into our business when the future appears bright.

I think he's wrong: I doubt Dan Snyder cares about the day to day operation of the team. However, Shanahan more or less has the same track record, so that, in my opinion, might be what gets us.
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Old 07-09-2010, 04:45 PM   #12
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Re: Football Outsiders Picks Redskins to Make Postseason

But we had no picks, so the only option we had was free agency. And beyond, McNabb, who else have we signed who is gonna cost us arm and leg? Also all these vets probably won't get long term deals. We will have to fully rebuild at one point.

Pretty poor logic to deem Galloway a "vintage" Redskins' signing. We aren't overpaying and we are bringing in cheap competition.
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Old 07-09-2010, 04:48 PM   #13
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Re: Football Outsiders Picks Redskins to Make Postseason

On a personal note, I am unsold on our positioning as the 1a. team in the division to Philly's 1. Their Dallas projection is built on the back of a horrid projection for their offensive line depth and age, but it seems to me that even though that probably will be a banged-up, terrible disgrace of an offensive line, their defense has a lot more upside than that projection allows for, and given Romo's ability to make the first guy miss consistently, I don't see a bottom ten unit on that side of the ball until Jon Kitna takes the field.

If Dallas jumps to the top of the projection, we go from prohibitive favorite to a very fringe playoff contender, in the same boat as Philly and New Orleans -- which is tough competition, plus we'll need to hold as many tiebreakers as possible against Minnesota/Chicago/Green Bay.
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Old 07-09-2010, 04:58 PM   #14
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Re: Football Outsiders Picks Redskins to Make Postseason

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I agree with your conclusions.

Which, of course, is Tanier's main point: if Galloway and Holliday are anything more than one-year roster fillers that do a little bit of pushing in camp and a lot of scout team work, then they will likely enter 2011 as the best of a bunch of bad options for a team desperately trying to hold on to a singular playoff berth while fighting off the same effects of age that the early decade Raiders had to.
But that wouldn't be a function of the decision to go out and get Galloway this year, that would be a function of finding out that Devin Thomas just flat out sucks.

It's just we'd learn that this year instead of next. Tanier is questioning the decision making of Shanahan and the front office, suggesting that bringing in these vets for the quick fix is more of the same.

It's not at all. It's partly designed to find out about the current roster sooner rather than later.
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Old 07-09-2010, 04:59 PM   #15
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Re: Football Outsiders Picks Redskins to Make Postseason

So this guy has us better than the Giants and Dallas???? Um I don't think so. Right now those teams are better than we are. End of discussion.
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