Errors in defeat point to fixes needed for 2011

The players left with regret, hope and anxiety. They also left with yet another loss, which seemed to douse their optimism only temporarily.

And for the second straight year they finished with double-digit losses. The latest: a 17-14 defeat to the New York Giants. That left the Redskins at 6-10, in last place in the NFC East for a third straight season and with lots of work ahead.

But that work will mean numerous players left the field with the Redskins for the final time.

"It's a matter of the unknown," Redskins fullback Mike Sellers said. "There's going to be changes, obviously. Hopefully I won't be one. You play like it's your last game, so walking through the tunnel again you take one more look around. You never know what's going to happen."

Considering many expect this to be one of the more plentiful free agent classes in history, the Redskins will be busy.

"It's going to be a circus," Redskins corner DeAngelo Hall said. "It's going to definitely be an opportunity to get a whole lot better."

And the Redskins no doubt need to get better. They improved by two games over last season. They finished with the NFL's worst-ranked defense. They lost more home games (six) than they had since they lost all of them in 1994.

Yet as in many of their games, they could have won the finale. But the same old flaws surfaced: Graham Gano missed a 30-yard field goal in the first quarter; quarterback Rex Grossman threw one interception and lost two fumbles; and receiver Santana Moss lost a fumble at the New York 10 in the fourth quarter.

That sums up how a team can lose five games by three points or less in a season.

"We were so darn close in so many games," center Casey Rabach said. "We have to build on that."

But good teams win close games, so the Redskins also exit with numerous problems to solve, starting at quarterback, where they must decide what to do with Grossman, a pending free agent, as well as Donovan McNabb.

"Nothing is out of the realm of possibility right now," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. "I'm not going to say one way or another because I'm not really sure myself."

Still, despite the losses and other issues from McNabb to Albert Haynesworth, the players exit with a much different feeling than a year ago, when nobody knew who would be the coach -- only that it wouldn't be Jim Zorn. This year the coach is set.

There's no guarantee that Year 2 is better than Year 1. But the players believe that will be the case.

"It was just one of them seasons," said receiver Santana Moss, who finished with 93 receptions, second most in Redskins history. He's a pending free agent who said he wants to return. "We had so much in mind what we wanted to be, and we couldn't get it accomplished. You can look back and see it's the start of something to work on. Even though we didn't get the job done, we still started somewhere that we can now build on."