Monday, December 15, 2014

Washington Redskins - Change and Growth?

Yet another week, yet another Washington Redskins embarrassing loss.
Wherever you go, there you are. - Some asshole somewhere, sometime.

Like much of the past two decades, the Washington Redskins have dissolved into a puddle of obscurity before season's end. There were bad plays. There were bad penalties. There were bad attitudes. There were bad play calls. There were bad decisions by players. There were bad decisions by coaches.

In New York, Washington was bad like they have been in Washington. Like they were in Indianapolis before that. San Francisco before that. Minnesota before that. Wherever they go, there they are.

The problems are bigger than any one person, or any one group. The Redskins are bad by collection--and I mean that more than saying it's on everyone. I mean--literally--the pieces that the Washington Redskins have collected have made them bad. From hiring GM's, presidents, assistant presidents, public relations, coaches, assistant coaches, scouts, free agents, to drafting players. The Redskins have--for all the hate I have in the world for a term ruined by internet--failed, at building anything other than an inflatable practice-bubble a-la Mike Shanahan and making a complete mockery of the very name they vehemently attempt to defend.

Daniel Snyder has not built himself anything but a national embarrassment. He has turned the Washington Redskins into a circus rather than the football franchise and dynasty it appeared Jack Kent Cooke and Joe Gibbs had begun to establish in the 1980's and 1990's. The head coach turnover rate is a mockery, and the fact that Dan Snyder continues to surround himself with best friends and yes-men shows exactly why he--and the Redskins football team by association--will continue to fail.

One of the biggest problems with the Washington Redskins is Senior Vice President (who also somehow runs the Public Relations department as well as the social media platforms) Tony Wyllie. Wyllie has been nothing but confrontational in his entire tenure, and that was poetically on display following the Redskins' week 8 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. Wyllie famously shoved McCoy away from a post-game interview on the field, shouting "no means no!" He later tried to explain he did not want McCoy missing Jay Gruden's post-game locker room speech, but that begs the question - why did you make the situation so difficult? All Wyllie had to do was step in, tell McCoy "your coach is about to speak to the team, this interview is over." What he did was shove the quarterback without McCoy realizing who it was and causing a major scene on national television and becoming the butt of more jokes.

Then we have Bruce Allen, who notoriously suggested publicly when "sworn in" to the Washington Redskins front office that he would always be accountable and available to media, has all but shied away from football matters when approached by a microphone or recorder. Perhaps it was the fallout of everything that happened with Robert Griffin III's injury and the poor handling of the young quarterback's image, but that Allen has not been available or accountable publicly has caused the fans to question the integrity of a man who they thought was "all in" for them.

The scouts? The drafts? I should not have to go into depth to explain to you why there is nothing to be proud of in either department. The scouts have been lauded for their intelligence and talent evaluation. There have been rumors to suggest they have been overruled time and time again in the past. It may still be happening. So why do these people even have a job if nobody is letting them do their work?

The Washington Redskins have failed to build. Few players in Washington have been developed. When you look at the players drafted in the last decade, few have grown into stars for the team. Some have gone on to other organizations and rebuilt themselves as reliable, capable teammates. You can not have this many regimes and keep having the same results and blame it on the players on the football field any more than you blame everyone from the top down.

The only brightness in Washington is to realize there is a foundation to build upon. This is a strong organization with a ton of influence, money, history, fan support, and (despite the discussions and debates) a name and image which resonates proudly with fans of the team and even fans of the sport.

The same can be said of the talent on the field. Robert Griffin III has come under intense fire from every angle by people suggesting he is not capable of playing and succeeding in the National Football League. Others who say he just can not do it with Jay Gruden. Others who say he just can not do it with the Washington Redskins. He has a strong foundation from which you can build, and all of the athletic tools you look for in a professional athlete. Question his durability, but it is not as easy to question his ability. RGIII is not flawless. His mistakes on and off of the field are not to be ignored or denied. But you know what he can do athletically, and you know that you can coach him to become a polished professional quarterback. That is exactly why the team must re-brand themselves and in doing so, re-brand RGIII the football player.

I do not mean re-brand by changing names and changing logos and changing uniforms. The Redskins need to re-brand themselves as a football team devoted to winning Lombardi trophies and dominating the scoreboard. The Redskins need to re-brand themselves as an organization to be an ideal destination for hungry, talented players. It may seem like a tough task, because it is. However, the blueprint is not far from home. In fact, the blueprint lies with the professional basketball counterpart in the Washington Wizards.

John Wall, much like RGIII, was highly touted in college and entering the draft. He had limited experience, he was young, and he came with questions. His durability was tested, his growth and ability were questioned, and many outcast him for not being the one-man championship appearance that some insane, manufactured image suggested he would be.

I do not know where John Wall is headed in his future, but it looks bright. I do not know if Robert Griffin III can put it all together the same way John Wall did. But when you see those flashes and you consider he is still in the early stages of his "put-it-together" years, you would hope you can achieve something with the kid in the near future. It paid off with the Wizards, in large part because the team re-assessed how they branded themselves and the players on and off of the basketball court. The Wizards re-committed their focus to being all about basketball, and brought in help from big guys to depth to smart draft picks to veterans in order to help Wall grow on the court and start to show the world who he is off the court. The Wizards are developing players with excellent, capable leadership, a front office who realizes they need to push the on-court product, and trust.

Of course, you only do this if you believe it can work with Robert Griffin III, and that means assessing the mistakes he has made, and continues to make, and figuring out if you can work those issues out. Maybe the coaches decide they can not, or do not want to, but for a guy who was not in a pro-style offense, did not have a second offseason and battled through his rehabilitation period to be on the field with teammates, and then lost the opportunity to work on his timing with receivers this season due to his injured ankle, perhaps the opportunity is deserved to give everyone a fair chance. But you have to build a team around him. You have to tailor to his strengths. You have to let him be himself. You have to make Washington Redskins football the priority and focus.

Maybe that's all wishful thinking and too much to ask. But the simple fact that the Wizards did it and they are practically your roommates in professional sports suggests it can be done. If not? Wherever the Redskins go, there the Redskins will be... a mockery.

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