There’s a deep issue with the 2011 Redskins that goes far beyond a five game losing streak and a 3-6 overall record. Amidst the losing, a few common refrain are that “at least we’re on the right track,” and “the right people are in place,” and “things are different now,” and that “the team just lacking a quarterback.”
Sometimes, there are things that seem so obvious to you that no one else in the world seems to believe. The thing in this case is: it’s not a case where no one in the world believes the Redskins fans who use the above phrases are being delusional; it’s actually a very common position amongst league insiders and other fanbases that the Redskins are going backwards. But still, I think a lot of the Redskins Hog Heaven readership, who have plenty of complaints about the Redskins from this season and the recent past, would agree that the team is moving in the right direction. It’s increasingly more clear to me that the Redskins are not building anything special in Washington.
The Redskins coaches are not to blame for the travesty that is the injuries to the young building blocks they have tried to put in place. Leonard Hankerson’s season ending injury is not the fault of the coaches, and neither is Jarvis Jenkins’. It sure seems like, on limited evidence, that the Redskins hit in rounds 1, 2, 3, and 4 in the 2011 draft, with a number of upside prospects taken later that seem unlikely to develop into starters, but all could contribute.
The Redskins front office and coaching staff are to blame for two major issues: poor talent evalutation, and a complete lack of organizational perspective. Any continued dysfunction from the Cerrato era has stemmed from this group’s inability to evaluate talent and decide exactly what direction to take with the Washington Redskins. The poor talent evaluation may or may not remain a long term issue: the 2011 draft suggest that there are people in the organization who can identify college players who can help the Redskins. Every player taken in the first four rounds has exceeded year one expectations except Jenkins, and that was specifically due to injury.
But when you look at the Redskins talent evaluators, you realize that they have been horrifically bad at evaluating players they have seen a lot of. Among the conclusions that the Redskins have reached since the end of the Vinny Cerrato era:
- Jason Campbell is not a franchise quarterback, and is a poor fit for the pass-first, misdirection-based system run by Kyle Shanahan
- Donovan McNabb can come in and lead the team for at least three seasons, and can play in this system at a pro bowl level
- Ma’ake Kemoeatu can come off an achillies injury and anchor the middle of the Redskins DL
- Albert Haynesworth isn’t a player who can contribute on the field, but can serve as an example off the field of the standard we will hold our “stars” to
- Andre Carter can transition to 3-4 OLB and use a similar skill set to what he used at DE
- Sam Bradford was the best college QB to come out in years, a guy worthy of at least exploring a trade up for
- Trent Williams was the best offensive lineman in the 2010 NFL Draft and the best fit for the zone blocking scheme
- Jammal Brown was a injury prone OT who was healthy enough to trade for, shift to RT to best use his abilities, and then give a large extension to on the open market after the season
- Casey Rabach was the best guy for the job of Washington Redskins Center in the 2010 season, worthy of a 3 year extension
- Will Montgomery had to be a better option at Center than Rabach in 2011, a change that had to be made
- Edwin Williams couldn’t hold a 75 man roster spot and Chad Rinehart was useless, though Artis Hicks was worth $3 million a year as a starting guard
- Donovan McNabb did not exemplify what we need in a Washington Redskins quarterback, at least not in the way that Rex Grossman does
- Mike Shanahan has a pretty good reputation with QBs and he’s confident enough to bet that reputation on John Beck and Rex Grossman
- Carlos Rogers didn’t play consistently enough in 2010, and shouldn’t be re-signed
- OJ Atogwe is the missing piece of the secondary and worth a sizable contract
- Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen will make complete the Redskins defensive line, a $66 million dollar investment
- Rocky McIntosh deserves to come back on a short term contract and get a starting job immediately
- The Redskins kept 8 WRs, in order to protect the roster spot of Donte Stallworth
- The Redskins did not keep Keiland Williams, who was immediately picked up by Detroit. Ryan Torain needs a roster spot
- Torain, who almost did not make the team, is a player who can block Roy Helu from playing time
- Rex Grossman did not exemplify what we need in a Washington Redskins quarterback, at least not in the way that John Beck does
- Actually, let’s just take this quarterback situation week-to-week
All of this ignores the talent evaluations that the Redskins have gotten correct in the last two years, none more significant than the 2011 draft. It also includes Anthony Armstrong, Graham Gano, Sav Rocca, and Brandon Banks. It includes a good find in bargain basement FA signing Kory Lichtensteiger and UDFA TE Logan Paulsen. It includes the concept that Santana Moss can play out of the slot.
But that is an incredible list of wrongheaded talent evaluations, and even with some more recent successes, it totally dismantles any semblance of confidence that any rational person would have in the Mike Shanahan Redskins, and their ability to move in a positive direction. The only thing left, re: the Redskins are actually good evaluators of talent, is irrational hope.
The sad thing with the Shanahan’s and the Snyder’s and the fans is that the other problem is even more blatent and even more difficult to ignore. I would argue that this is the one that the national observers are doing a better job of ignoring. The complete lack of perspective demonstrated by the Redskins since the end of the Cerrato era began immediately. There wasn’t even a short layover. The firing of Cerrato and consequent hiring of Bruce Allen represented a great opportunity for the Redskins to get on the right track. Except, not even two weeks later, we found out that Allen was being brought in not to run a football organization and find the right guy, but as an executive with experience handing personalities like Mike Shanahan, who had agreed even before the firing of Cerrato to come be head coach of the Redskins. The Redskins hired a famous, re-tread head coach even before they let go of their lame duck GM and current staff. What could possibly go wrong there?
Dan Snyder hired Mike Shanahan and brought in Jim Haslett to coach the 3-4 defense, who Shanahan hand-picked. He also brought in his son Kyle to coach the offense; this is where Kyle wanted to be most, which I suppose was really the important thing in all of this. You’d be hard pressed to convince me at this point that the Redskins were on the right track, and we haven’t even reached the point where Snyder gets out of the way and lets these people torpedo the franchise.
The worst thing that Dan Snyder has done in the last two years is that he’s climbed into the background and has not offered his opinion on the current state of the Redskins. See, the Redskins need a strong personality to handle the public perception of the team. Snyder was right to give up control of the day to day operations of the organization, but the people handling the day to day operations now aren’t convincingly competent. Snyder needs to publically throw his support behind the current operation. If, in fact, he supports the direction the franchise is taking. The worst thing that could happen to the Redskins is for Snyder and Allen to fall asleep at the wheel under the belief that Shanahan just needs more time to turn this thing around. The Redskins have competent hires in the front office left over from the time Joe Gibbs walked the sidelines, but the recent hires have not added anything to the organization except problems.
It is never too early to start moving in the right direction, but the 2012 draft figures to be a pivotal point in the history of the organization. The person in charge of that draft should be the person tasked with the long-term rebuilding of the franchise. It’s increasingly obvious that Mike Shanahan does not fit this description.
If the Redskins retain Mike Shanahan, there’s a very reasonable expectation for immediate improvement in 2012. That would be the whole goal of having Shanahan back. Take the current team, correct the superficial issues, find the right quarterback for the job, and the results should be instantaneous. Except that in 2010, the result was supposed to be a “future is now” team lead by Donovan McNabb and a strong defense. In 2011, the issues were supposed to get fixed and the rest of the team was supposed to lead Rex Grossman and John Beck to victory. If 2012 happens to follow suit, the Redskins will have a different quarterback, but that quarterback will struggle with the “complication” of the Redskins overly-vanilla offense and the defense will decline because the Redskins “needed to invest their resources” to fix an offense. They won’t have the right parts in 2012 either.
The Redskins aren’t going to have the right parts because Mike Shanahan is masterful at deflecting the blame towards things the Redskins have no control over. The Redskins, right now, are in far worse position than they ever were under Joe Gibbs or Jim Zorn or Vinny Cerrato. They don’t have a lot of talent age 25 or younger. They’re not deep at all on offense. Their nose tackle suggested that things could get “historically bad” over the next seven games. The rest of the season is sure to be wasted thanks to injuries and awful planning, mostly at the QB position. 2012 is a very critical offseason, and Dan Snyder and Bruce Allen must decide if the guys who put them in the current position are truly the best men to lead the Redskins through a trying time.
I don’t think the Redskins are short on excuses for the performance of the team. But I know for a fact that they do not act like an organization on the right track or one that has the answers. There’s still time to get smart, forward-thinking people in charge of this operation in a year where the team’s franchise quarterback will surely be available when they pick in the first round. Are things different now than they were three years ago? I’m sorry, but I’m just not seeing it.