Today it seems like the D.C. area has collectively turned into an episode of CSI. Only rather than analyzing DNA for clues, we're parsing over Mike Shanahan's postgame quotes to determine whether the Redskins coach just declared the 2012 season dead.
There has already been some backtracking out at Redskins Park, how saying "now we get a chance to evaluate players and see where we’re at" is not an admission that this year's playoffs are out of reach. Regardless, they are his words so we should really look at what the statement means.
Mike Shanahan is setting the stage for another season, for him to be here another season.
Why would he feel the need?
Let's go back to the narrative before the Redskins dramatically moved up in the draft to acquire the Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, a.k.a. Robert Griffin III. If the Redskins turned in another frustrating loser of a season, this might be the end - in Washington, that is - for the man that once coached John Elway. Sure there would be a contract to eat, but that's never been an issue for this ownership.
Then we have the big trade, shipping oodles of high draft picks to St. Louis for the No. 2 overall selection, which would be used on a rookie quarterback. The storyline then changed. No longer was Shanahan in danger of being Dead Coach Walking because a losing record would be brushed off as collateral damage for a young franchise passer's growing pains.
Under normal circumstances that would indeed be a legitimate angle. Too bad RGIII is not normal.
This is the potential issue for Shanahan's job security. The high percentage throwing, shake and bake runner of a quarterback is clearly not holding the team back (if one of those coach's tape mavens wants to say otherwise, speak louder cause I've heard no such talk to date).
Sure there are injuries to blame for the 3-6 start, especially on defense, but this is the National Football league. Bumps, bruises, and broken bones are baked into the season-long cake, which are an issue for all 32 teams to varying degrees and a recipe for disaster for those without proper depth.
The pure joy of watching the specialty sock wearing and ubiquitous pitchman put on a burgundy and gold uniform gave many a jolt of optimism not realistically felt here in years, decades perhaps. RGIII helping to put 40 points in the season opening win at New Orleans or racing a billion yards down the sideline to seal the victory over Minnesota only raised the excitement level around the Beltway to levels not seen since realistically the Joe Gibbs 1.0 era. For the first time since (depending on one's perspective) Brad Johnson or Mark Rypien or Joe Theismann or Sonny Jurgensen, the Redskins had a true game-breaking quarterback that could help this team win right now.
In the process, at least over the first eight games, RGIII's presence and charisma also covered up all the Redskins other issues, like lacking a No. 1 wide receiver or legitimate starting talent at either safety spot. It goes for right tackle, inside linebacker and corner (though DeAngelo Hall has done his best to remind us) or even whether the team has the proper personnel for the 3-4 defensive scheme. Obviously, Shanahan doesn't believe he currently has the needed bodies to run a legitimate NFL offense unless a Magic 8-ball told him the wishbone is the wave of the future. We already knew some or most of this to be true. We just didn’t want to focus on them glass-half empty side of the equation when Griffin had us drunk on excitement.
The one area nobody is concerned with is at quarterback. That might be why Shanahan, perhaps before a feared second half slide turns into reality, is getting a head start on evaluating everyone else on the roster before everyone else starts asking questions again. Like why do the numerous issues exist in the first place or who's to blame and worst of all, whether in this election year it indeed should be time for change.