Column: 49ers represent what Redskins could have been

There’s a gold mine by the San Francisco Bay … but it could have been near the Chesapeake Bay instead.

As I pointed out in this week’s NFL Recap, the 10-1 San Francisco 49ers’ prime-time dismantling of the eight-win Green Bay Packers was incredibly impressive. It was also just the latest chapter of their yearlong evolution from doormat to juggernaut.

Of course, here in Washington it’s hard not to notice the Niners look eerily similar to what the Redskins were trying to establish just a few short years ago — and Kyle Shanahan won’t let us forget it.

“Last year, never once throughout the year did you ever feel like the defense was against the offense or vice versa,” Shanahan said to Peter King of NBC’s Football Night in America, regarding the Niners’ four-win 2018 season. “Never once did I have an owner crushing me with, ‘Hey, we gotta change this guy.’ I mean, everyone here really just believed in each other. That was really tested with some of the times we went through but I think that was the neatest thing about it.

“We knew we had the right people around. We just had to get a couple difference-makers and stay healthy.”

As ProFootballTalk points out, that’s not just praise for 49ers owner Jed York, who gave Shanahan and GM John Lynch each the unusual security of a six-year deal in 2017. It’s a direct shot at Dan Snyder.

Shanahan has been fairly outspoken about how little he enjoyed his four years as the Redskins’ offensive coordinator and how he and his father, Mike, got a raw deal from the embattled Redskins owner. One can tell Shanahan’s success out west — which includes a swagger-filled, 9-0 shutout of the Redskins at a rain-soaked FedEx Field last month — is all the sweeter because it runs concurrently with the ‘Skins’ continuous search for true rock bottom.

That dichotomy couldn’t have been greater Sunday. The Niners handed Aaron Rodgers his worst game as a pro, stymieing the future Hall-of-Famer in unprecedented fashion, all while Jimmy Garoppolo posted a near-perfect 145.8 passer rating. That came hours after the Redskins barely beat a bad Lions team starting a scrub backup QB (Jeff Driskel), scoring their lone touchdown on a broken special teams play while their supposed QB of the future’s most notable play happened on the sideline.

Even if it wasn’t directly stated, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell what the goal was for the Shanahans here: Mike wins big with the Redskins for a few years and hands the baton off to kiddo Kyle to keep the good times rolling and jump start his son’s head coaching career. Bemoan nepotism all you like, but there isn’t a ‘Skins fan alive who wouldn’t take an extended extrapolation of that magical 2012 season with Robert Griffin III doing all the things we see Lamar Jackson doing up the road in Baltimore.

The scary thing is the famed Shanahan offense isn’t even the most impressive part of the Niners’ turnaround. We knew the Shanahans could put together a dominant run game and get the most out of the talented-but-inexperienced Garoppolo, but that defense is surprisingly stifling. Allowing only 136.9 passing yards per game in today’s NFL is incomprehensible. Before his season-ending injury, Kwon Alexander might have been the best value free agent signing at his position since London Fletcher came to Washington (and in San Fran, they spell his name right).

The 49ers are investing in the right things, including winning at the line of scrimmage. Lynch and Shanahan have had four first-round picks in the last three years, and three of those picks (shoo-in Defensive Rookie of the Year Nick Bosa, Mike McGlinchey, and Solomon Thomas) are linemen. Even before their arrival, the Niners took three linemen in the first round of the 2015 and 2016 drafts.

Meanwhile, the Redskins’ five highest-paid players aren’t faring so well. Josh Norman, the NFL’s highest-paid corner, is so bad at that position he’s been demoted to special teams, where he’s not even trying anymore. Ryan Kerrigan is in the midst of his worst season as a pro and Sunday’s concussion leaves his ironman streak in jeopardy. Brandon Scherff is also in the midst of his worst pro season, the oft-injured Paul Richardson is ineffective even when he plays, and Morgan Moses has seemingly forgotten how to pass block.

The Redskins seem to have hit with first-round D-linemen Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne in successive seasons and before this dud of a season, Scherff was a two-time Pro Bowler at guard, so the Skins have tried to be better built at the point of attack.

But as Shanahan pointed out, there’s value in having a culture conducive to winning — and no matter what Bruce Allen thinks, the Redskins sorely lack what is prominently on display in up the road in Baltimore and across the country with their old coach in San Francisco.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

© 2019 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

<p><em><strong>Ravens 45</strong></em><br />
<em><strong>Rams 6</strong></em></p>
<p>Remember a few months ago when Baltimore was calling its offense &#8220;revolutionary&#8221; and we were wondering what the hell that means? This is what that means: <a href="https://www.espn.com/chalk/story/_/id/28108572/ravens-qb-lamar-jackson-favored-las-vegas-win-mvp">Lamar Jackson is the MVP favorite</a> and the Ravens are <a href="https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2019/11/21/ravens-running-game-atop-the-nfl-across-the-board/">by far the greatest running team we&#8217;ve ever seen</a>. And Monday night, <a href="https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/28126139/safety-eric-weddle-says-share-ravens-intel-rams ">Eric Weddle stood idly by</a> and watched it happen to the slowly sinking Rams.</p>
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 25: Quarterback Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens scrambles against the defense of the Los Angeles Rams during the game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 25, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Getty Images/Sean M. Haffey)
<p><b><i>Packers 8</i></b><br />
<b><i>49ers 37</i></b></p>
<p>San Francisco kicked off <a href="https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2019/11/20/49ers-could-be-starting-a-historically-difficult-stretch/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a historically difficult stretch</a> in style, with a primetime pummeling of the Packers (try and say that three times fast), sacking future Hall-of-Famer Aaron Rodgers five times and holding him to <a href="https://twitter.com/ESPNStatsInfo/status/1198821020423077889?s=20" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a historically inept</a> 104 passing yards on 33 attempts (an awful 3.2 yards per pass). This top-ranked 49ers pass defense is for real and the main reason why this is a legit Super Bowl contender.</p>
<p>So, Green Bay better hope their path to the Super Bowl somehow stays east of the Mississippi River because <a href="https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2019/11/18/packers-change-west-coast-travel-plans-for-this-week/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">no matter what they do</a>, they&#8217;re 0-for-West Coast.</p>
SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA – NOVEMBER 24: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, #12, of the Green Bay Packers is sacked by defensive end Nick Bosa, #97, of the San Francisco 49ers during the 1st half of the game, at Levi’s Stadium on Nov. 24, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Getty Images/Ezra Shaw)
<p><b><i>Cowboys 9</i></b><br />
<b><i>Patriots 13</i></b></p>
<p>In the battle of the top team in total offense against the top team in total defense, defense won. Yes, Dallas got screwed with <a href="https://twitter.com/themanacho/status/1198760625146671104?s=21" target="_blank" rel="noopener">an awful tripping call</a> on the last drive, but an offense with that much star power (pun intended) should be able to muster more points, even against a New England D that&#8217;s given up 14 or fewer points in every one of their 10 wins (<a href="https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2019/11/24/jerry-jones-vents-about-coaching/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Jerry Jones agrees</a>).</p>
<p>Speaking of which &#8230; the Patriots have an NFL-record 17 straight seasons with double digit victories and now have 21 straight home wins. This franchise is video game good, while Dallas is still living in the past by looking at the Pats and asking, &#8220;<a href="https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2019/11/20/jerry-jones-remembers-bill-belichick-making-a-job-pitch-wonders-what-if/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">what if?</a>&#8221; Which is America&#8217;s Team, again?</p>
New England Patriots’ Brandon Bolden, rear, tackles Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard after a kick in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP/Elise Amendola)
<p><b><i>Jaguars 20</i></b><br />
<b><i>Titans 42</i></b></p>
<p>We live in a world where the usually-boring Tennessee Titans scored four touchdowns in six plays and Ryan Tannehill is a fantasy football gem playing like an MVP candidate. What a time to be alive.</p>
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – NOVEMBER 24: Quarterback Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Tennessee Titans jumps over Tre Herndon #37 of the Jacksonville Jaguars for a touchdown during the first half at Nissan Stadium on Nov. 24, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Getty Images/Frederick Breedon)
<p><b><i>Seahawks 17</i></b><br />
<b><i>Eagles 9</i></b></p>
<p>Philadelphia had a late run to make the playoffs last year, but apparently that magic left with Nick Foles. All that&#8217;s left is <a href="https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2019/11/23/nelson-agholor-denies-having-burner-account-that-rips-carson-wentz/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">anonymously trashing Carson Wentz on Twitter</a> while he confounds anyone who clings to the belief he&#8217;s the same MVP-caliber player he was before he tore up his knee. This dude might have more in common with RG3 than just his draft position.</p>
PHILADELPHIA, PA – NOVEMBER 24: Tre Flowers, #21, of the Seattle Seahawks heals in an interception on a pass intended for Jordan Matthews, #80, of the Philadelphia Eagles during the fourth quarter at Lincoln Financial Field on Nov. 24, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Seahawks defeated the Eagles 17-9. (Getty Images/Corey Perrine)
<p><b><i>Steelers 16</i></b><br />
<b><i>Bengals 10</i></b></p>
<p>Another reason Mike Tomlin should win Coach of the Year: Without JuJu Smith-Schuster or James Conner on offense, he won a game with a man named Duck playing QB. Yes, Cincinnati is terrible but Pittsburgh even being in contention for the playoffs under these circumstances is incredible.</p>
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Devlin Hodges, #6, runs the ball against Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Sam Hubbard, #94, during the second half an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP/Gary Landers)
<p><em><strong>Giants 14</strong></em><br />
<em><strong>Bears 19</strong></em></p>
<p>A week after getting shutout on the stat sheet, Khalil Mack set up a touchdown with a strip sack of Daniel HIT IT MAESTRO!</p>
<p><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/uB1D9wWxd2w" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p>
New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, #8, escapes the grasp of Chicago Bears outside linebacker Khalil Mack, #52, during the second half of an NFL football game in Chicago, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019. (AP/Paul Sancya)
<p><b><i>Panthers 31</i></b><br />
<b><i>Saints 34</i></b></p>
<p>Another day, another bad beat for New Orleans on <a href="https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2019/11/24/al-riveron-on-new-orleans-dpi-call-replay-showed-clear-and-obvious-evidence/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a pass interference call</a>. This time, Joey Slye choked, Drew Brees led his 50th fourth-quarter comeback and the Saints now have a chance to go marching into a division title with a win over Atlanta on Thanksgiving Day.</p>
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – NOVEMBER 24: Alvin Kamara, #41, of the New Orleans Saints is tackled by Eric Reid, #25, of the Carolina Panthers at Mercedes Benz Superdome on Nov. 24, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Getty Images/Chris Graythen)
<p><b><i>Raiders 3</i></b><br />
<b><i>Jets 34</i></b></p>
<p>The Jets have held 30-point leads in back-to-back games for the first time in franchise history, and are unlikely winners of three straight games after scoring 34 in each of them. It&#8217;s too late to catch the Patriots and Bills in the division, but a .500 finish for Gang Green could inspire some confidence a healthier Jets roster in 2020 could do some damage.</p>
New York Jets running back Le’Veon Bell, #26, reaches toward the end zone as he is forced out bounds by Oakland Raiders’ Erik Harris, #25, during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP/Adam Hunger)
<p><b><i>Dolphins 24</i></b><br />
<b><i>Browns 41</i></b></p>
<p>For the second straight week, Cleveland stained a much-needed victory with <a href="https://twitter.com/H_Grove/status/1198648162807881729?s=20" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Mason Rudolph-related shenanigans</a>. Even Bruce Allen can&#8217;t think this culture is any good.</p>
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry scores a 7-yard touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, in Cleveland. (AP/Ron Schwane)
<p><b><i>Broncos 3</i></b><br />
<b><i>Bills 20</i></b></p>
<p>Buffalo stampeded Denver by holding the Broncos to <a href="https://twitter.com/pfref/status/1198709464842604544?s=20" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a historically awful passing day</a> and pounding the rock with Frank Gore, who passed Barry Sanders for third in career rushing yardage and cemented his status as the league&#8217;s most underrated RB all-time. Give the Bills props for being 8-3, but the next five weeks will tell us whether they&#8217;re fraudulent or firmly entrenched as the top AFC wild card.</p>
Buffalo Bills running back Frank Gore, #20, runs against the Denver Broncos during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP/John Munson)
<p><b><i>Colts 17</i></b><br />
<b><i>Texans 20</i></b></p>
<p>In a game that gives Houston the inside track to the AFC South title, the Texans <a href="https://twitter.com/NFL_Memes/status/1197672801731317761?s=20" target="_blank" rel="noopener">showed up like Mortal Kombat</a> and got a <a href="https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2019/11/22/late-fumble-should-have-triggered-a-formal-replay-review/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">far-from-flawless victory</a> that had fans in Indianapolis throwing down their proverbial controllers and wishing for a reset button.</p>
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, #4, looks to throw as he is chased by Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle Denico Autry, #96, during the first half of an NFL football game Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019, in Houston. (AP/Eric Christian Smith)
(1/14)
<p><em><strong>Ravens 45</strong></em><br />
<em><strong>Rams 6</strong></em></p>
<p>Remember a few months ago when Baltimore was calling its offense &#8220;revolutionary&#8221; and we were wondering what the hell that means? This is what that means: <a href="https://www.espn.com/chalk/story/_/id/28108572/ravens-qb-lamar-jackson-favored-las-vegas-win-mvp">Lamar Jackson is the MVP favorite</a> and the Ravens are <a href="https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2019/11/21/ravens-running-game-atop-the-nfl-across-the-board/">by far the greatest running team we&#8217;ve ever seen</a>. And Monday night, <a href="https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/28126139/safety-eric-weddle-says-share-ravens-intel-rams ">Eric Weddle stood idly by</a> and watched it happen to the slowly sinking Rams.</p>
<p><b><i>Packers 8</i></b><br />
<b><i>49ers 37</i></b></p>
<p>San Francisco kicked off <a href="https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2019/11/20/49ers-could-be-starting-a-historically-difficult-stretch/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a historically difficult stretch</a> in style, with a primetime pummeling of the Packers (try and say that three times fast), sacking future Hall-of-Famer Aaron Rodgers five times and holding him to <a href="https://twitter.com/ESPNStatsInfo/status/1198821020423077889?s=20" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a historically inept</a> 104 passing yards on 33 attempts (an awful 3.2 yards per pass). This top-ranked 49ers pass defense is for real and the main reason why this is a legit Super Bowl contender.</p>
<p>So, Green Bay better hope their path to the Super Bowl somehow stays east of the Mississippi River because <a href="https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2019/11/18/packers-change-west-coast-travel-plans-for-this-week/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">no matter what they do</a>, they&#8217;re 0-for-West Coast.</p>
<p><b><i>Cowboys 9</i></b><br />
<b><i>Patriots 13</i></b></p>
<p>In the battle of the top team in total offense against the top team in total defense, defense won. Yes, Dallas got screwed with <a href="https://twitter.com/themanacho/status/1198760625146671104?s=21" target="_blank" rel="noopener">an awful tripping call</a> on the last drive, but an offense with that much star power (pun intended) should be able to muster more points, even against a New England D that&#8217;s given up 14 or fewer points in every one of their 10 wins (<a href="https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2019/11/24/jerry-jones-vents-about-coaching/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Jerry Jones agrees</a>).</p>
<p>Speaking of which &#8230; the Patriots have an NFL-record 17 straight seasons with double digit victories and now have 21 straight home wins. This franchise is video game good, while Dallas is still living in the past by looking at the Pats and asking, &#8220;<a href="https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2019/11/20/jerry-jones-remembers-bill-belichick-making-a-job-pitch-wonders-what-if/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">what if?</a>&#8221; Which is America&#8217;s Team, again?</p>
<p><b><i>Jaguars 20</i></b><br />
<b><i>Titans 42</i></b></p>
<p>We live in a world where the usually-boring Tennessee Titans scored four touchdowns in six plays and Ryan Tannehill is a fantasy football gem playing like an MVP candidate. What a time to be alive.</p>
<p><b><i>Seahawks 17</i></b><br />
<b><i>Eagles 9</i></b></p>
<p>Philadelphia had a late run to make the playoffs last year, but apparently that magic left with Nick Foles. All that&#8217;s left is <a href="https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2019/11/23/nelson-agholor-denies-having-burner-account-that-rips-carson-wentz/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">anonymously trashing Carson Wentz on Twitter</a> while he confounds anyone who clings to the belief he&#8217;s the same MVP-caliber player he was before he tore up his knee. This dude might have more in common with RG3 than just his draft position.</p>
<p><b><i>Steelers 16</i></b><br />
<b><i>Bengals 10</i></b></p>
<p>Another reason Mike Tomlin should win Coach of the Year: Without JuJu Smith-Schuster or James Conner on offense, he won a game with a man named Duck playing QB. Yes, Cincinnati is terrible but Pittsburgh even being in contention for the playoffs under these circumstances is incredible.</p>
<p><em><strong>Giants 14</strong></em><br />
<em><strong>Bears 19</strong></em></p>
<p>A week after getting shutout on the stat sheet, Khalil Mack set up a touchdown with a strip sack of Daniel HIT IT MAESTRO!</p>
<p><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/uB1D9wWxd2w" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen"></iframe></p>
<p><b><i>Panthers 31</i></b><br />
<b><i>Saints 34</i></b></p>
<p>Another day, another bad beat for New Orleans on <a href="https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2019/11/24/al-riveron-on-new-orleans-dpi-call-replay-showed-clear-and-obvious-evidence/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a pass interference call</a>. This time, Joey Slye choked, Drew Brees led his 50th fourth-quarter comeback and the Saints now have a chance to go marching into a division title with a win over Atlanta on Thanksgiving Day.</p>
<p><b><i>Raiders 3</i></b><br />
<b><i>Jets 34</i></b></p>
<p>The Jets have held 30-point leads in back-to-back games for the first time in franchise history, and are unlikely winners of three straight games after scoring 34 in each of them. It&#8217;s too late to catch the Patriots and Bills in the division, but a .500 finish for Gang Green could inspire some confidence a healthier Jets roster in 2020 could do some damage.</p>
<p><b><i>Dolphins 24</i></b><br />
<b><i>Browns 41</i></b></p>
<p>For the second straight week, Cleveland stained a much-needed victory with <a href="https://twitter.com/H_Grove/status/1198648162807881729?s=20" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Mason Rudolph-related shenanigans</a>. Even Bruce Allen can&#8217;t think this culture is any good.</p>
<p><b><i>Broncos 3</i></b><br />
<b><i>Bills 20</i></b></p>
<p>Buffalo stampeded Denver by holding the Broncos to <a href="https://twitter.com/pfref/status/1198709464842604544?s=20" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a historically awful passing day</a> and pounding the rock with Frank Gore, who passed Barry Sanders for third in career rushing yardage and cemented his status as the league&#8217;s most underrated RB all-time. Give the Bills props for being 8-3, but the next five weeks will tell us whether they&#8217;re fraudulent or firmly entrenched as the top AFC wild card.</p>
<p><b><i>Colts 17</i></b><br />
<b><i>Texans 20</i></b></p>
<p>In a game that gives Houston the inside track to the AFC South title, the Texans <a href="https://twitter.com/NFL_Memes/status/1197672801731317761?s=20" target="_blank" rel="noopener">showed up like Mortal Kombat</a> and got a <a href="https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2019/11/22/late-fumble-should-have-triggered-a-formal-replay-review/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">far-from-flawless victory</a> that had fans in Indianapolis throwing down their proverbial controllers and wishing for a reset button.</p>

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up