Washington Redskins: How an inept culture has dismantled the historic franchise
The Washington Redskins are a storied franchise that has had their share of historic moments. Most of their success was in the days of Joe Gibbs’ first coaching stint in which the team won three Super Bowls. Recently however, Washington has been on a downward spiral that has included multiple failed re-build attempts. This team is subject to a lot of media attention due to their polarizing name, location in the nation’s capital (they really play in Landover, Maryland), and some of the rash decisions that have been made by upper management since 1999. The ineptness of both their owner Daniel Snyder and his henchman Bruce Allen has accelerated the Redskins into a streak of continued mediocrity.
Reasons why Washington is not moving in the right direction:
Culture that is prohibitive of a consistent winner:
In 1999 when the team was sold to Daniel Snyder, hope surrounded a fan base that had some dominant teams in the 80’s and 90’s. Snyder took a huge role in instituting an aggressive approach to free agency that led to the acquiring of future Hall of Famers Deion Sanders and Bruce Smith. Unfortunately for the Redskins, Deion Sanders would not last more than one year in Washington and some of the other big-time signings made in the early days of Snyder’s ownership did not lead to the construction of a championship team.
This nasty habit of overspending set a precedent that has impacted both todays team and teams in the past 20 years. Ownership is exceedingly inept in this area and seems to consistently go over the personnel staff’s head when presented with the possibility of bringing in a big name, big contract player who could sell them some tickets. One of the more notable overspendings in LEAGUE history was when the Redskins broke the bank for Albert Haynesworth, a Defensive Tackle who made his name with the Tennessee Titans. He was signed to a seven-year, $100 Million dollar deal that Washington would come to regret. Haynesworth struggled to get anything going and was eventually shipped off to the Patriots where he also fell victim to his own poor play.
In more recent times, we have seen the Redskins continue this trend of large spending on Josh Norman, Terrell Pryor, Paul Richardson, Landon Collins, and some smaller named players that have been overpaid. Luckily, Landon Collins plays all over the field with a certain leadership element and adds a lot to this underperforming team.
It seems like for every big contract hit (Garcon, Djax, and hopefully Collins) there is multiple bad decisions that sets the team back. This trend from the upper management compromises the teams cap space and sacrifices what could be allotted towards gaining depth and quality starters but is spent however on big name players who do not always work out. If the Redskins want to alter their culture, their spending habits need to be changed. Elite franchises such as the Patriots, Packers, Saints, and others only spend large amounts when bringing in a player that they KNOW will help the team win on and off the field, and therefore they minimize their margin for error. The Redskins margin for error is larger because of the idiotic motions that the front office puts in place to sell tickets.
Daniel Synder’s inability to depose Bruce Allen has also had irrevocable effects. Snyder should have gone all in on cleaning up the front office instead of taking the half way approach when he hired Scot McCloughan as GM and moved Allen to team President. Scot McCloughan was not perfect by any means and had his fair share of mistakes, but he brought an organized and non-biased football mind to the table that the Redskins have lacked for a while. Under his leadership, the Redskins brought in a cornerstone piece in Brandon Scherff. But McCloughan also had some awful decisions, such as Josh Doctson, that ultimately lead to his termination.
Firing McCloughan was the right decision, because even though he was a different breed than Allen, he seemed as if he was not going to be able to bring in the right players due to some of the decisions he made in the past.
The Redskins would later make Doug Williams the VP of Player Personnel and kept Allen at his spot of team President. Williams has done a good job thus far, as he has played a vital role in bringing in players through the draft process from his position in the organization since the 2018 draft. At his position atop the personnel department, Williams has done a good job adding talent to this team and has had the results that would suggest he could become General Manager if Snyder ever moves on from Allen and decides to fill the GM spot.
It has also been rumored that Snyder plays a huge part in the decision-making process and does not always free up personnel members and the coaching staff to do their jobs. Him and Allen NEED to step back in order to allow success from any staff that is in place. Daniel Snyder should know by now that his constant meddling is not positively impacting this team. He is nowhere near qualified to make big time football decisions, and therefore has no business telling others how to do the job that they are there to do.
Poor Coaching and execution:
After an embarrassing 0-5 stretch, the Redskins finally parted ways with Jay Gruden on the morning of October 7th. Jay Gruden has had some good moments as head coach, but ultimately did not have what it took to overcome the putrid culture that radiates down from the top of the organization. Gruden also struggled to get this team playing at a high level due to his inability to make accurate adjustments at halftime, inconsistencies on a game to game and season to season basis, and how some players did not respond to his leadership style that was outlined in a recent Josina Anderson report. That report regarded a player stating that “Too much laziness and stubborn **** going on around here. Folks not taking **** serious. Looking at snap chat during practice…”
This aura that was established by Gruden makes some games seem like the energy is almost nonexistent from the players. In week one of this season, they came out on fire in the first half versus the Eagles with each side of the ball clicking and would end up leading the game 20-7 at the end of the second quarter. After the start of the second half, all portions of the team looked like they were going through the motions, as they surrendered the half time lead and ended up losing the contest 32-27. What happened vs the Eagles in week one is not a freak occurrence. Lead squandering’s and poor second halves have been sprinkled throughout Gruden’s tenure as Head Coach. For teams to win and keep winning, they need to stay on top from a demeanor, schematic, and execution standpoint in all four quarters. There is absolutely no space for this team to come out flat after completely dominating in certain parts of matchups.
With the front office parting ways with Gruden, Washington’s next head coaching hire needs to convey a strong leadership quality as well as an organized football mind that knows how to pull out important games and not give up leads. This coach will also need to be able to communicate effectively with Allen and Snyder, but also block out some of the dysfunction that could negatively impact the players.
The Redskins head coaching opening Is not that appealing due to the large amount of dysfunction in the upper management and how consistently they run coaches out of town, but this team has a list of youthful players to work with and has the assets to acquire more. The room for growth among this team mixed with their current cornerstone pieces could end being a major selling point for a big-time candidate.
Continued disarray at Quarterback:
Since Daniel Snyder bought the franchise for $800 Million in 1999, the team has been unable to retain a consistent and successful starter at the Quarterback position. The Redskins have been synonymous with almost a year after year turnover at the Quarterback position, and that has limited the chemistry that is necessary for a team to be in playoff contention.
Starting QBs for the Redskins since 1999:
· Brad Johnson
· Jeff George
· Tony Banks
· Shane Matthews
· Patrick Ramsey
· Danny Wuerffel
· Tim Hasselbeck
· Mark Brunell
· Jason Campbell
· Todd Collins
· Donovan McNabb
· Rex Grossman
· John Beck
· Robert Griffin III
· Kirk Cousins
· Colt McCoy
· Alex Smith
· Mark Sanchez
· Josh Johnson
· Case Keenum
A lack of a franchise signal caller is diminishing for any NFL team, but it has completely debilitated the Redskins at points over the past 20 years or so. Following Robert Griffin III’s magical rookie campaign in which he led the team to a playoff appearance but ultimately suffered a career altering knee injury, Washington found themselves in a difficult position. RG3 did not look the same as he did at Baylor and during his rookie season, and defenses were adjusting rapidly to the zone read and his mobile, improvisational style of play. When combined with his reckless style of play and struggles at points as a passer, we saw the inconsistencies and injuries of the former offensive rookie of the year take a substantial toll on the win-loss of the team. Mike Shanahan would find himself without a job even though that was probably a blessing for him due to the less than desirable culture, and then the Jay Gruden era would commence.
Jay Gruden’s first season as the head coach of the burgundy and gold equated to a 4-12 record and three QB’s taking the reigns as the starter. This season would lead to the exile of RG3 and opened the door for Kirk Cousins. Cousins would be named the starter for the 2015 season. He led the Skins to a 9-7 record in 2015 along with a wild card appearance. In 2016 and 2017, Cousins and the Redskins would miss out on the offseason.
Over his time as a Redskins Quarterback, Kirk Cousins slotted the top two positions among the teams all-time single-season passing yards (‘16 and ‘15). Kirk was a prolific passer for the Redskins at moments, but his mistake ratio was too high, and he struggled to finish in big time games.
Washington obviously saw some of these issues that Kirk presented, and they were understandably careful with giving him a long-term deal. To find a short-term alternative, the franchise’s brass determined that they should give him a series of franchise tags, which would eventually lead to Cousins leaving the team and ending up in Minnesota.
It turns out that the Redskins were in the right by letting him go, as Kirk has pretty much stolen MILLIONS from the Vikings because of his spotty play that is nowhere near what was envisioned. Keeping Cousins was not practical for Washington financially, and letting him go has been one of their wiser decisions under Daniel Snyder.
Washington would augment their QB room with the former Chief, Alex Smith. Smith is a game manager type who takes control of the game due to his accuracy and command of the field. He lit a spark under the Redskins last season and led them to a 6-3 record until he suffered a devastating leg injury.
That tragedy would not only lead to an injury infested and losing season, but would also welcome the start of the Dwayne Haskins era. In the Ohio State products first game, the rookie was put into an inferior position in which he was not prepared during the week, was inserted at about mid-game, and was missing his starting LT, TE, and WR. Haskins needs to play for experience purposes, but that game versus the Giants ended up being an awful decision on Gruden’s part. I was a huge proponent of starting Haskins vs the Giants if, but only if he practiced with the one’s during the week. That didn’t happen, so Haskins looked skittish within the pocket, overlooked simpler reads, and slung three interceptions.
I am a fan of Haskins’ game. He has laser for an arm that can test defenses vertically and into tight windows. He also gets less credit than he deserves mobility wise, as he has shown baseline pocket movement ability and he can also move the chains when needed. Haskins has limited starting experience at a high level, so I need to see him get more comfortable running the offense. He also needs to become accustom to feeling around in the pocket and making well thought out decisions as a passer. The only way for him to learn at this point is to start him. There is the risk of him getting hurt behind the makeshift line, but there is always an injury risk for those who play football.
Experience is the best way to learn, and Haskins is not receiving that. Unfortunately, reports have surfaced that Gruden was not a fan of Haskins during the draft process and that is part of the reason why he did not give Dwayne Haskins the opportunities that the first rounder requires.
The shift from a storied franchise to the league’s basement has left this team with diminishing fan numbers at home games and a lacking crowd involvement. At home games, we aren’t seeing the number of Redskins fans that we are so used to seeing. Fans of other teams can be more prevalent, and their chants can clearly be heard at times. These occurrences highlight how poor this team has been, and how changes need to be made NOW.
There is no more room for the product that the ownership has allowed to be put out. Daniel Snyder must put his foot down and make the changes that are needed to revitalize a fanbase that is starving for the success that the Redskins once had. What we are seeing in the early stages of the 2019 season is plainly unacceptable. The continued injuries and the unintelligent coaching decisions have made it difficult for even the most loyal Redskins fans to keep the TV on during gameday.
The atmosphere that has been established stems from the inadequacy at the top of the organization and has set an ugly losing culture that will be hard to steer away from unless the right moves are made. There NEEDS to be multiple adjustments as well as smart hiring’s to finally get this team on the right track. A losing attitude sticks, but the Redskins have been bringing in talented young players over the past couple of years, have their franchise QB in place, and have some other pieces that are important to the structure of the team. If their leadership continues to add productive players and cuts out the ones who are not there to work hard every day, then this team could finally become a winner. But for that to occur, Daniel Snyder needs to kick his ego to the curb. But unfortunately, that will probably not happen.