Posted by Will Brinson
The Washington Redskins hit an (arguable) low point when a botched extra point cost them a shot at overtime with the Buccaneers on Sunday. The answer to that, clearly, was an organizational facelift cutting punter Hunter Smith, who missed the hold on the play.
It was kind of a dumb move, frankly, because Smith shouldn't be holding the ball on kicks anyway -- that job should go to Rex Grossman. Since, you know, having a backup serve as something more than "rumor machine for Donovan McNabb" is generally a good idea. But Smith was holding and he botched the hold and now he's out of a job.
As he told SportsTalk (via Mike Jones at TBD), his release probably involved Mike Shanahan trying to send a message to his players and it' probably "political."
"I think after you play in the NFL long enough, you realize it's a very political institution," Smith says. "I don't write it off to politics, but someone does have to pay the price in because we would win, or possibly tie the game if I catch the ball."
Smith also wondered if he was a "scapegoat" for the Redskins loss, which certainly seems to be the case in this situation.
"In the NFL, there are a couple of different types of teams out there," Smith said. "There are some teams that display undying loyalty to their coaches and players, and other teams that tend to want to make a statement during a time of tragedy that's going on by making an example of somebody and partially blame them for the loss. I'm not saying the Redskins are like that, but I think in this sense, it does come down to that."
It's pretty obvious that it comes down to that -- the Redskins are losing, losing bad and no one in the D.C. area really cares for them right now.
Unfortunately for Shanahan and the current regime, simply putting a punter out on the street isn't going to do enough to cover up all the other problems with the organization right now. In fact, one could argue it simply accentuates the issues.
UPDATE: On Wednesday, Mike Shanahan’s said Smith’s release had nothing to do with the botched PAT.
“I told Hunter, I said I admired the way he stepped up and blamed it on himself,” Shanahan said, according to the team’s website. “I said it was a combination of the snap and the hold, but Hunter's the type of guy that took full responsibility for it. 'For that,' I said, 'I was gonna keep you just for the way you handled yourself.’”
So why, then, was Smith dismissed?
"Over the last twenty punts I think he's had two that we'd consider the hangtime that we want," Shanahan said, "so that's why we'd make the change. It had nothing to do with the hold."
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