January 21, 2021

OPINION: Changes needed throughout entire organization, including fan base

Mercifully, the Washington Redskins 2014 is over. You and I don’t have to watch this dumpster fire anymore. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that without a ton of major changes — personnel, coaching, administration, fan base — we could see a repeat of just about every season since Daniel Snyder took over this franchise 15 years ago.

This organization is 7-25 the past two seasons. That’s an indictment of the entire organization and an indication that changes are needed wholesale — once again.

The real change needs to happen with the man who signs the checks, but that’s not going to happen. So once again, the cards need to be reshuffled in hopes of finding people who can win despite the worst ownership in sports.

PERSONNEL

The Redskins have finished last in the NFC East six of the past seven years. That affords a team a lot of high draft picks. Unfortunately, they’ve found a way to squander most of that, with a  good chunk of those picks going to St. Louis for the right to draft Robert Griffin III, a player who this team has ruined right before our eyes, through faulty injury diagnosis and treatment, then forcing to play in a system that ignores his primary talents.

RGIII is one of the problems for this team, but not the biggest in my opinion. The biggest problem is with the offensive and defensive lines.

NFL teams, the good ones anyway, are built from the inside out. The big guys that play in the trenches on both sides of the ball are the foundation for everything else. For much too long, this franchise has tried to take the “easy” way out, drafting and signing skill players, but ignoring the infrastructure in which they have to play.

It has been a recipe for disaster.

The Redskins are currently slated to pick fifth in next year’s draft. If a franchise-altering offensive tackle isn’t available in that slot, they should trade down for multiple picks and concentrate the bulk of the draft on big, athletic offensive linemen.

They should concentrate their free agent efforts on defensive linemen. Not necessarily pass rushers because in Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy, they have a couple of really good ones. But they wasted money on Jason Hatcher and Stephen Bowen. That money should be invested in a pair of run-stuffing defensive tackles.

And the defensive backfield, except for Bashaud Breeland and perhaps David Amerson, needs to be completely overhauled.

Which leads us to…

COACHING

I don’t think Jay Gruden is going to be fired. I think he’s got a lot to learn about being an NFL head coach, but there’s some reason for hope from him. I think the team needs to hire a full-time quarterbacks coach. Not having one this season was a huge oversight. Gruden might have thought that as head coach he’d have enough time to mentor his quarterbacks, but obviously that didn’t happen as well as it should have at the NFL level.

In the NFL, the position coaches act as a buffer between the head coach and the players. It’s a safety mechanism for both sides. Removing that layer of insulation hurts the relationship when there’s friction or changes need to be made. Gruden’s relationship with Griffin is a big part of what needs to be fixed on offense. It seems like this is a conversation we’ve had for a couple of seasons now.

Griffin might be at the make-or-break point of his career. Is he satisfied with cutting commercials and being a spokesman or does he really want to be a long-time NFL quarterback and willing to put in the study time necessary?

However, where changes need to be made is on the defensive side of the ball. Jim Haslett has to be fired. Raheem Morris needs to go with him. Haslett hasn’t produced a defense with the Redskins that finished in the top half of the league in points allowed since he got here — and it’s usually in the bottom third. The yardage numbers have been skewed by how poor the special teams have generally been.

His schemes allow for DBs to play loose at the line, but still get beaten deep on a regular basis. Tight ends are allowed to run freely though the middle of the field, with obscure players often putting up Hall of Fame numbers.

Week 4: Giants second-year TE Larry Donnell scores three of his six TDs for the season (7 catches for 54 yards).
Week 12: Indy third-year TE Coby Fleener has four catches for a ridiculous 127 yards and two touchdowns.
Week 15: Eagles third-string TE Zach Ertz catches 15 (15!) passes for 115 yards.

Those performances are the high(low) lights but just the tip of the iceberg.

ADMINISTRATION

Look, I love a coming-home story as much as the rest. And Bruce Allen does wonders within the organization with regards to alumni and marketing. But he’s not a player personnel man. If he’s been the one making the calls on personnel and the draft the past five seasons, he’s failed miserably.

If the organization wants to keep him in a marketing/cap manager capacity, very well. But they have to find better staff in all phases: amateur scouting, pro scouting, development…everything. A.J. Smith, Allen’s second in command right now, isn’t the answer. When he was G.M. in San Diego his teams routinely underperformed and were generally underequipped.

Of course, they were also coached by Norv Turner, so he had that going for him as well.

Anyway, the Redskins need to find management that can draft and develop offensive and defensive linemen. They need shrewd talent evaluators at the pro level. They need businessmen that can manage their finances better than throwing good money away at over-the-hill overpriced free agents.

And they need to bring in someone willing to stand up to the owner and say “no”. They need to find the best person they can that’s willing to tell the owner to stay in his owner’s box or his office at Redskins Park and not be chummy with the players and jeopardize the administrators and coaches relationship with the players.

Easier said than done, I know.

FAN BASE

This organization is lucky that the fan base has blindly followed its dysfunction for so many years. Glimpses of promise have routinely been crushed by even deeper disappointment. Long-time season ticket holders are starting to allow their tickets to lapse. Those that stay are subjected to the worst game-day fan experience in the league.

It’s miserable and embarrassing being a fan of this team. Everything it does — EVERYTHING — is a compete and utter mess, sending fans spiraling further down in the incessant sinkhole of shame, frustration and disappointment. Some are fed up. Some continue, knowing their loyalty won’t be rewarded. Still other follow blindly thinking their self-sacrifice will make winning that much sweeter.

It won’t. This organization is incapable of getting out of its own way. Fans that subject themselves to it are as much responsible for their own unhappiness as the organization is.

Outside of the beltway, this organization is a joke — when it’s not just an afterthought. The team likes to say this organization is about history, tradition and pride.

But those are just marketing words right now. The organization has done nothing in the last 15 years to add to the legacy. Rather, it has destroyed what George Allen and Joe Gibbs took 30 years to build.

Folks, make them prove it. Stop rewarding bad decisions, bad effort and bad faith with your passion, money and time. Hold this organization accountable for their actions and make them prove that they are worthy of your loyalty — not the other way around.

Your life will be so much better without the excruciating agony of the Sunday Redskins experience. You’ll live. I promise.

About Dave Nichols

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Washington Nationals, Capitals, Wizards and Mystics. Dave also covers national college football and basketball and Major League Soccer for Associated Press and is a copy editor for the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, WA. He spent four years in radio covering the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland football and basketball teams. Dave is a life-long D.C. sports fan and attended his first pro game in 1974 — the Caps’ second game in existence. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveNicholsDSP

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