Here is the complete transcript of Greg Cosell’s interview from this morning’s Murph and Mac Show.
Q: What does a Redskins team that was shut out Sunday in Toronto bring to the table?
COSELL: Offensively? I would again answer not too much. And it starts with a revamped o-line that is struggling. And I know I tell you this every week, and every week I just validate it on film – they’re dealing with the best front seven in football. I don’t know what (Ray) McDonald’s situation is. I know he got injured. Is he out or …?
Q: I don’t think he’s playing. He’s got a bad hamstring and he didn’t practice on Wednesday.
COSELL: Yeah, hamstring, you’re usually not back for next week. But still, Ricky Jean Francois, do we go with the French pronunciation with his last name (yes, we do.) I thought he came in and played well. McDonald is having an all-pro-type season, so there’ll be some drop off. But not enough to where the front seven still is not impressive in what they can do. And the Redskins did not run it well last week, and they’re limited at the receiver position. And John Beck – I think they’re a fairly easy offense despite Mike Shanahan being a very good schemer. I think because of his lack of personnel in terms of talent, I think they’re a fairly easy offense to tactically defend. Now, can mistakes be made? That can happen any given week. Look what happened to the Rams vs. the Saints. So any given week, we know something can happen. But if you just look at this game based on tape study and the track record this year, you’d be hard pressed to think that the Redskins will consistently move the ball against that defense.
Q: Tell us a little about John Beck. How good is he?
COSELL: It’s a really hard position, and I’m not trying to defend anybody but it’s really hard. John Beck at his best is a rhythm quarterback. Three step, five step, ball comes out. Play-action, boot action – that’s designed movement off play action. That’s what John Beck is. If John Beck is forced to take deep drops because they’re behind and have to throw the ball at intermediate and deeper levels, then you’ve won. That’s not something he can do with any consistency. He needs to be, as we say, an ‘on-schedule’ quarterback. He needs to be 1st and 10, 2nd and 6, 3rd and 3, and then John Beck’s positive traits can come out. If he’s behind schedule, behind the maker as we say, then he’s not going to well at all.
Q: The Redskins don’t have a big running threat, do they?
COSELL: They don’t have a back you’d consider a great back. Normally with Mike Shanahan over the years the zone scheme has been so efficient that it produces consistency and therefore production. The last number of games they’ve really struggled running the ball. They have issues on their O-line due to injury and moving people around. So therefore they don’t have the continuity. That zone running scheme – that’s like elephants on parade. It’s like synchronized swimming. They move in unison, and they’re not doing that particularly well right now.
Q: Offensively they sound like the Browns offensively. Do they bring anything to the table defensively that might shut down Frank Gore or Alex Smith?
COSELL: Well, they did until a few weeks ago and then they sort of hit the wall a little bit. For their first three, four games their front seven was very, very good and they were getting very solid play from a number of people. That’s leveled off quite a bit. And their coordinator, Jim Haslett, has been known to be very multiple with what he tries to do, and often times there’s a risk factor with that. If there’s a mistake made by one player that’s all it takes. There are busts and breakdowns and that was very noticeable last week against the Bills – there were a number of breakdowns.
Q: I want to talk about Frank Gore and the offensive line…
COSELL: I want to talk about Joe Staley and Isaac Sopoaga!
Q: Yeah, that’s a good call.
COSELL: I gotta tell you – I think Harbaugh is doing as good a job as there is in this league with what he has. And you know how I feel about Alex Smith. It’s not personal knock on Alex Smith. Why do you think Jim Harbaugh is doing what he’s doing? He’s telling you – I don’t have to tell you – he’s telling you what he thinks of Alex Smith. He’s managing him. He’s manipulating him so he can be successful. Look what they did on the Frank Gore touchdown, which they came back to later in the game. You want some real football jargon? We call that a five-man surface. They had five players to the right on the line of scrimmage of the offensive center. Four of them were offensive linemen, and the fifth was Sopoaga. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in the National Football League. I’ve seen five-man surfaces, but they normally have a couple of tight ends as part of it. They had four offensive linemen and a nose tackle.
Q: Are the Niners redefining what you can do with an offensive line?
COSELL: He’s understanding the strengths and limitations of his offensive personnel, and he’s maximizing the strengths and minimizing the limitations. And you know what that’s called? Coaching.
Q: I see. Smith is a top-ten rated QB, but of those top QBs his pass attempts per game are by far the lowest.
COSELL: That gets back to what I just said. I don’t have to tell you what he’s doing or what he thinks of Alex Smith, he’s telling you what he thinks of Alex Smith. But he’s his quarterback. You dance with the girl who brung ya. That’s his quarterback, so what he has to do is he has to game plan every week and line up with Alex Smith and this offense. He’s doing a phenomenal job.
Q: It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Smith down the road if he keeps winning. His contract is up and they have Kaepernick waiting in the stable.
COSELL: We’ll have time on that, because this team, barring a major meltdown, will make the playoffs and then we’ll see what happens. Normally in the playoffs you get in a game somewhere along the line where your offense has to make plays and your quarterback has to make throws. We’ll see what happens.
Q: It would be difficult to imagine Alex Smith losing his job if he led this team to 12 wins though, wouldn’t it?
COSELL: Trent Dilfer lost his job after being the Super Bowl winning quarterback for the Ravens years ago.