It seems that somebody said lately Mike and Kyle Shanahan were unwilling to make adjustments to their offense to accommodate what players do well. I can’t seem to remember who it was, maybe some bitter, washed-up quarterback.
But it you look at the evidence objectively, you will find that this is just not true. Here is one example of a pretty major adjustment that was made to cater to the abilities of one of their players. This is the article from late last season.
During the live chat at the Giants game, the topic of why the ball is pitched to Roy Helu on many plays instead of Helu getting the ball via the traditional handoff. Mike Shanahan was asked about this during his Monday press conference.
“It kind of had to do with some of his skills [and] just looking at him and how he handles the toss,” Shanahan said.
He then went on to give the details of what the advantages of the pitch as opposed to the handoff:
Well, when a guy gets a toss, you have a little more separation between the offensive line. You have the option with his speed to go outside or, if they over-pursue, he’s a little bit more downhill. He can cutback without pressing the line of scrimmage.
The second part is interesting; the initial comment is revealing.
Prior to Helu, Shanahan’s primary ball carriers with the Redskins have been Clinton Portis, Ryan Torain, Keiland Williams, and Tim Hightower. They may occasionally have received a pitch on a play designed to go to the outside. But on every play designed to go inside and most going around end, the ball was handed off. Over the past few weeks, however, and particularly on Sunday, Helu has started getting the ball on the pitch more and more regardless of where the play is heading.
The thing is, the conventional wisdom is that the offense of Mike and Kyle Shanahan is set in stone. They are supposed to be too stubborn and have egos too big to adjust the offense to the skills of a given player. You adjust to what they want or you are out the door.
But the Shanahans thought that Helu’s skill set, his ability to cut in the open field and his knack for being able decide where the opening in the defense is would be best utilized by pitching him the ball. So they made the adjustment to the offense.
And that, of course, is something Mike and Kyle don’t do. Except when they do it.
By Rich Tandler
Despite some buzz that many of you apparently picked up over the last 24 hours or so, there do not appear to be any coaching staff changes imminent on the Redskins’ staff, at least not at the top or at the coordinator level.
The chatter about change seemed to emanate from a few different places. One was speculation by NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi the Redskins’ coaching situation was “worth watching”. Don Banks of SI.com said that we should “keep an eye on Washington for the surprise factor” when it comes to coaching changes, including changes at the top. In other words, Banks also was dealing in unfounded speculation.
Then at Mike Shanahan’s Thursday media availability, Joe White of the AP asked Shanahan if he felt secure in his position given the two straight seasons of double-digit loss totals. White prefaced his question by saying that it was just one he felt he had to ask; call it a fishing expedition if you want. Shanahan replied, of course, that he believes he is secure and that he hopes that Dan Snyder feels the same way.
So, none of the coaching change talk out there comes from any reporter digging out any solid information. That doesn’t necessarily mean that nothing will happen. Things could always change and it’s possible that planned changes are being kept under tight wraps. But for the moment, anything out there along those lines is based on guesswork and not on hard reporting.
Last night I had the pleasure of talking with the guys on Ballhogs Radio and the topic turned to something that also was brought up in the press box while the game was unfolding on Sunday. The question is whether or not Kyle Shanahan got too pass happy during the second half of the win over the Cardinals.
So that this can be discussed in terms of the facts and not impressions at the time, I broke down the runs and passes during key periods of the game. For context, the league as a whole is averaging 55 percent pass plays so far this year and averaged 53 percent passes during the 2010 season. The numbers exclude four kneel-downs by Rex Grossman, one in the first half and three while in victory formation in the second.
For the game, the Redskins rushed 31 times (42%) and passed 43 (58%). The ratio was nearly even in the first half as Shanahan called 19 runs and 21 passes. The running game was working well, with the Redskins picking up 115 yards on those 19 carries (6.1-yard average). Rex Grossman averaged seven yards per pass attempt and he did have those two interceptions.
The second half was more pass happy as they had 12 rushing attempts and 22 passes, a 32% to 68% ratio. They picked up 63 yards rushing in the second half, averaging 5.3 yards per carry. Grossman passed for 144 yards, 6.5 per attempt.
The Redskins led 10-7 at halftime, and the missed opportunities have been well chronicled. They had one drive in the third quarter with that lead and they passed twice (one was the 40-yard rollout-throwback to Fred Davis) and ran twice in a four-and-out series. After they punted, Arizona drove in for a Beanie Wells touchdown to take a 14-10 lead. After the kickoff, the Redskins did go pass happy. The drive lasted five plays with four passes (one of which ended up drawing a 23-yard pass interference flag) and one run and ended in a punt.
They ended the third quarter with six passes and three runs.
Washington regained possession at the Arizona 44 at the start of the fourth quarter. They had three scoring drives during that quarter.
During a drive to a field goal to cut the Cardinals lead to 14-13 they passed three times and ran three times.
After Kevin Kolb hit Larry Fitzgerald for 73 yards and a touchdown to give Arizona a 21-13 lead, the Redskins took possession on their own 27 with 10:52 left to play. They ran four times and passed eight times during their 73-yard drive that culminated in Grossman’s 18-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss on fourth down.
After an Arizona three and out, the Redskins got the ball at their own 36 with 4:20 left. During the drive to what proved to be the game-winning field goal they called two runs and five passes.
In the fourth quarter they ran nine times and passed 16.
You can draw your own conclusions as to whether or not Shanahan went with the pass too much. The second-half ratio jumps out at those who want to make the case that they were too pass happy. Keep in mind that they were behind for about 15 of the final 30 minutes, although never by more than one score.
It will be interesting to see how this aspect unfolds as the season goes on. There is more reason now to have confidence in the rushing game than there was after they averaged 2.9 yards a carry against the Giants.