You know when you pass out while watching a DVD after a night of drinking and you wake up on the couch with the menu screen running in loops? If you are hungover enough, you might pass in and out of consciousness for hours before mustering the strength to get up and put an end to the maddening cycle. Some movies are worse than others. Some have absolutely mind-numbing sounds that get repeated multiple times per minute. Shrek ranks among the worst. I can vividly recall one morning years ago waking up in a warm sweat, lacking the energy to get up and turn the TV off. The sound of Eddie Murphy's "Donkey" character jumping up and yelling, "Pick me! Pick me!" echoed between my ears. By the time I put my feet on the ground to locate the remote control (mind you, not to walk to the TV) I was 95% on my way to total insanity.
Don't act like it's just me.
So why do I bring this up today? Well, it is my humble opinion that this should be Vinny Cerrato's punishment for his crimes and misdemeanors on the job the last decade. Just tie him down and make him listen to the Shrek menu looping...for ten years. Then we'll be even. OK...I'm done.
What follows is a healthy blend of wishlist and blueprint for our new GM Bruce Allen to consider. I look forward to hearing what you think about them.
Ten Yard Fight - 10 Chances To Make One Good Point
1) Embrace defensive football - Mike Shanahan is an offensive guy to be sure. Offense is the area of this team that needs the most focus and attention. But that should not coincide with losing focus of who our team is...better yet, that should not coincide with failing to understand who our team is andwhere our strengths lie. You can win with a great defense. A slightly more aggressive scheme and one or two personnel adjustments could put our defense in the elite category. For this reason, I would be okay with using a high draft pick on a defensive stud (more on this in item #2.) Committing to excellence on defense is a path to the playoffs. Assuming Shanahan can wield his powers on offense, we could ride an elite defense into the playoffs and beyond. We are not elite yet though.
2) Rebuild Offensive Line -This one is blindingly obvious of course but we are going to list it prominently nonetheless. I kind of straddle the fence on whether or not to use the #4 pick on an offensive tackle. I think it would be wrong to take a quarterback there, but if a guy like Eric Berry was available, I could easily live with that pick (see above). I always come back to this though: if they say they are going to take the "best player available", fine...but they better be prepared to identify an OL as the BPA if one is there. There are few positions more valuable than offensive tackle, especially for a team with gigantic holes on their line. Inherent in our FO's rating system should be a premium on offensive linemen, as opposed to the discount they seem to have applied to offensive linemen in the past. For example, if say, a tackle and a safety (you know, for example) are rated evenly at the top of a draft, a team like ours should jump to take the tackle.
3) Bring in linebacker depth via free agency/trades (not draft) - Our linebacking corps is deceptively thin. Orakpo is a Pro Bowl OLB, but we all know he is used best as a pass rusher instead of in coverage. London Fletcher is awesome, but not getting any younger. Rocky McIntosh played well this season and--when healthy--is a very solid OLB. As a starting three, they look good on paper, but are we actually paper thin here? I love Chris Wilson but he seems to excel at rushing the passer as well, in addition to being a rising special teams performer. H.B. Blades and Robert Henson continue to provide depth but one wonders if an incoming DC will remain as loyal to these two as the previous regime. The arrival of a new DC is really why I favor bringing veteran guys in. Over the last handful of seasons, two linebackers come immediately to mind as guys who were brought in by DC's that knew them and wanted them to lead their unit on the field: London Fletcher and Bart Scott. Both guys made huge impacts right away on their respective new teams and both guys were hand-picked by a coach who had experience with their tendencies and were comfortable with their ability to implement the system on the field. If, for example, we bring in Mike Zimmer, then I would want to see him target one of the restricted free agent linebackers on the Bengals roster. Brandon Johnson has the best numbers but the truth is I know little about him, Abdul Hodge, or Rashad Jeanty. But Zimmer knows them well. While they don't appear to be Bart Scott/London Fletcher types, they could have a very positive impact on a linebacking corps that needs some help. And with other holes to fill in this draft, I think we are better served bringing in 4th and 5th year veterans who want to compete for jobs instead of 4th and 5th round draft picks who may not be ready to compete for jobs.
4) Trade Santana Moss on draft day -This one is going to rankle some folks, including me to be honest. But the notion that there are players on this team that are "untouchable" or "untradeable" has hampered our ability to get better at times over the last decade. Santana Moss can still play, and is still valuable. This is precisely why it makes sense to trade him. A smart team (and probably a good team) could snap him up and utilize him right away. The Redskins could secure a much needed draft pick in the 2nd or 3rd round (is that too greedy?) to use on an offensive lineman who should be able to come in and contribute right away. With Devin Thomas, Malcolm Kelly, Marko Mitchell (even despite that awful drop at the end of the Chargers game), Chris Cooley and Fred Davis in the fold, as well as a few free agents available to Shanahan to consider for veteran depth, trading Santana Moss makes a lot of sense.
5) Cut ARE - Do I think he can still play in this league? I guess, sure. But where is his spot on our roster, and whose playing time does he continue to eat into? I just don't see him as a guy who should be returning kicks or taking reps away from what is clearly the future of this team. I always come back to the fact that the Steelers let him go by the way...I never got the sense that they "lost him to us."
6) Hold one game every year at RFK - Start with a preseason game and then turn it up to a regular season game. Hold a lottery among season ticket holders for the tickets. If Buffalo can play a game in Toronto and the NFL can make teams host home games overseas, we can have a game at RFK. I am a season ticket holder and I am 100% okay with the fact that I may not be able to go to the game. In fact, I would love to see Dan Snyder adopt some Ted Leonsis-esque tactics to keep out opposing fans for the RFK affairs. Imagine tapping into the magic of RFK once a year. It could be huge. Snyder could still host tailgating and game-watching at FedEx on the day of the RFK game. Bruce Allen knows RFK well. His father had some incredible moments there. Don't be afraid to wake those ghosts up and enlist their assistance in our cause (Lord of the Rings-style).
7) Draft RB/QB in 4th/5th rounds - Shanahan can find talent at the running back position in the middle of the draft. There will be a guy sitting there at some point who is from a smaller school, without the wear and tear of a big conference back, that can come in and play for us right away. As for picking up a QB this late...I wonder where Dan LeFevour (Central Michigan) will go in the upcoming draft? This is the kind of guy I am pulling for Shanahan to get (cough...Danny Rouhier..cough), but I fear he might be gone by the 3rd (I can live with figuring out a way to get him there, too.) I think Shanahan should earn his money in the middle of the draft by finding a RB and QB he can "coach up."
8) Implore Mike Shanahan to revolutionize a two tight end set - This is a fanciful wish I know. But we have two guys who can get out there and make plays from the tight end spot. That is what most people define as "a strength." Good coaches/organizations maximize their strengths.
9) Retain Jerry Gray somehow...I love him as a coach -Have you heard him in post-game interviews? Have you heard his players talk about him? I am extraordinarily wary of stopping short of cleaning house. But there is something about this coach that makes me love him. I have publicly pulled for Mike Zimmer to be brought in and I'll stick to that, but I do believe there is a way to increase Gray's responsibilities and impact on this franchise without making him defensive coordinator. Of all of these, this suggestion could turn out to be one of the more important ones I feel.
10) Change uniforms back to retro ones we wore in Sean Taylor's last season: Mustard yellow pants, white/burgundy tops, Gold helmets with the Circle R on them (pictured below). Stuff like this matters. It works on a number of levels. It is part of sweeping change. It contributes to the changed perception of our team from the inside and out. Does it make people magically able to catch and throw? No. But I think it's cool, refreshing, and fun. It is time for everyone to see this team differently. Making this change contributes to that goal.
I am certain that all of you have plenty of additional suggestions as well as critiques of mine. Which one do you like the best? Which one(s) do you find idiotic?