The Washington Redskins have not been to the Super Bowl since after the 1991 season, when they beat the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVI. They haven’t been to the playoffs since 2006, Joe Gibbs last season the second time around. They have been looking for the path back ever since.
Futility has its benefits, if you can take advantage of them. In the Redskins case, they used multiple draft picks to move up in the first round of last year’s draft to select Robert Griffin III as their next “franchise quarterback.” I put that phrase in quotations because the organization really hasn’t had a franchise quarterback since Lawrence Taylor broke Joe Theismann’s leg. Even then, some would argue that designation on Joey T. was inappropriate.
Anyway, the Griffin era begins Sunday. It’s a time of excitement, of possibilities, of hope. But it’s also a time for caution. Griffin is a supremely gifted athlete, but because of roster inefficiencies he’s not surrounded yet by a strong enough cast to really, sincerely think that this team will be much better off this season than they were last.
Sure, Griffin opens a world of possibility at the quarterback position. He’s an automatic upgrade over Rex Grossman and John Beck from last season. But the team failed to upgrade his offensive line in the off-season. They are relying on a pair of second-year players and a fourth round draft pick at running back. They acquired a pair of wide receivers that could possibly have been products of the systems and quarterbacks they played with.
In other words, there’s still a lot of work to be done.
On the other side of the ball, the Redskins front seven looks to be stout and deep. But the secondary, which was a question mark coming into the season regardless, is now depleted, losing their two best players to injury and suspension. Players slated to be backups, players the team wanted desperately to replace in the off-season, are now starters again.
The coaching staff and executives should be given credit for replacing some of the malcontents and problem-makers from the previous regime. They are getting “their” players. They have made strides in some areas. They’ve fallen down in some others. How the parts jel remains to be seen. How Griffin progresses is a key. If they can protect him long enough for him to be a difference-maker might be the biggest question to be answered all season long.
For two decades, the Redskins have operated as if they were one player away from contending. Bruce Smith. Deion Sanders. Adam Archuleta. Albert Haynesworth. Donovan McNabb. Each of these players were supposed to be “the one” that pushed the Redskins over the top to be legitimate Super Bowl contenders again. Each were supposed to elevate the team into a position that long-time fans believe is a birthright.
But not since the 1980s and early ’90s has this team been able to return to that glory. Will Griffin be the player that leads them back? It probably won’t be this season, not with all the holes that still remain on the roster. Mike and Kyle Shanahan bought themselves two, perhaps three more years when the team selected Griffin No. 2 overall though.
Let’s root this season for Griffin’s development, poise and health. Those should be the goals of this season. Don’t buy into team-friendly media type’s hyperbole that this team could win 10 games or contend for the playoffs. Just don’t do it. Root for competence. Root for development. Root for health. Hopefully over the next few seasons Griffin will grow into that leader, that player that carries this team — with a talented supporting cast — back to the playoffs.
Let’s hope Griffin doesn’t merely get added to the list of players that were supposed to be “the one.”
Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Nats and the Caps, and previously wrote Nats News Network and Caps News Network. Dave’s first sports hero was Bobby Dandridge. Follow Dave’s Redskins coverage on Twitter @RedskinsDSP.