Taking a look forward, while seeing what went wrong or right during the season, for each position. Today: quarterbacks.
Pending free agents: Colt McCoy
2015 cap hits:
Best bargain: Well, last year it had to be McCoy. He counted only $640,250 against the cap in 2014 but pulled off the biggest win of the season in the Monday night game at Dallas. McCoy played in five games and completed 71.1 percent of his passes, with four touchdowns and three interceptions.
The review: Griffin’s dislocated ankle didn’t help, causing him to miss five games (and crucial development time). However, there was frustration with him before he got hurt, dating to training camp, over his inability to do what the coaches wanted – and when. And at his poor decision-making on the run. So his inconsistent play after his return, in the coaches' minds, was not about his injury but about where he was at as a quarterback. Cousins had a chance to wrest the job away from him, but he showed a penchant for interceptions and an inability to respond to in-game adversity. Teammates liked what Cousins offered, but those turnovers prevented him from getting another chance – even though the coaching staff still liked him. McCoy looked good at times; his poise and experience helped. But he’s not a long-term solution.
The outlook: They should be having an open competition for the job. Whether or not that transpires remains to be seen, but at the end of the season it is what coach Jay Gruden said was the plan. I doubt it would sit well with other players if it doesn’t transpire that way. And the best thing for Griffin would be to go out and earn the job. If he’s good enough, then he can show it. If he’s not good enough to beat out Cousins and McCoy, then that’s a bad sign. This is a huge offseason for Griffin, who clearly trains hard but now must focus it in the area the coaches want: film study, pocket work. There is doubt among coaches that he can develop the necessary instincts in the pocket. The tough part for players and coaches is the fatigue that has set in with all things Griffin. It’s not always of his doing, nor is it always his fault, and he lost control of this train a while ago. But it is something that coaches believe takes away from the team. For Griffin to improve, he must show better instincts and accuracy from the pocket and, if on the move, make more big plays. (Griffin's rating on plays outside the pocket was 60.5.) The real key will be to strengthen other parts of the team so the Redskins can compensate for any deficiencies at this position -- or simply to provide more help. A second year in Jay Gruden’s system, plus having an experienced quarterbacks coach in Matt Cavanaugh, can’t hurt. Though there is concern in the organization at almost every level that Griffin will ever fully develop, his talent will tempt them into another season. It's tough to discard someone with his ability a year too early.
Key questions: Will they trade either of the quarterbacks? It’s hard to imagine them trading Griffin. As long as the owner remains firmly on his side, then he’ll stick around for at least one more season. At one point during the season, one opposing front office executive said he thought Griffin might fetch a fourth-round pick. That’s about what others have said Cousins is worth as well, though his value might be lowered to a fifth. Another question: Will they pick up Griffin’s option? The deadline to extend his contract to a fifth year is May 3. If they do so, the contract would be guaranteed for injury only – but it would be good to have him earn a new deal. His play the past two years does not warrant a big bump in salary. If he plays well? Hand it over. Will they re-sign McCoy? It makes sense, but it would also make sense to see what else was available.
Stat that must improve: The Redskins had the second-worst percentage of coverage sacks in the NFL (28.6), according to ESPN Stats & Information. That stems from quarterbacks holding the ball too long, of course. Of the bottom 10 teams in this category, only two made the playoffs, but one happened to be Seattle. For what it’s worth, in the six games in which Cousins was the predominant starter, the Redskins ranked 22nd. So there was an improvement, but not a huge jump. McCoy and Griffin both had a penchant for holding on to the ball.
Stat that surprised me: The Redskins were 15th in the NFL in passer rating at 88.8. Also, the Redskins ranked fourth in yards per passing attempt (8.16).
Free agent options: Cavanaugh has ties to recently released Josh McCown, having coached him in Chicago (where he had his best season two years ago). But there’s really no available player who would cause great excitement. And the draft is not deep at this position. So the answers here are to keep building and hope one of their passers (read: Griffin) pans out.