It's time to sharpen our pencils and get our wish lists together for the holiday season. For Redskins fans, we have yet another year where we can't really depend on Santa to bring us a postseason berth. That would take some direct intervention by Jesus himself. I have some good news there guys. I was eating an egg and cheese sandwich this morning and I could swear I saw Jesus' face on one half of the bread. Being a religious man, I of course ate the sandwich very quickly with my eyes closed using only my right hand and standing on only my left foot while chanting, "Jesus, please let us make the playoffs."
So we got that going for us.
Here is my first crack at a wish list for us--please add on in the comments section. Since the 2010 campaign is far from over (schedule-wise), I have not limited my wants and/or needs to just things for 2011. (FYI, I think the proper pronunciation is "Twenty-Ten", and "Twenty-Eleven"...does it bother anyone else when someone says, "Two Thousand-Ten" or is it just me?
Ten Yard Fight -- 10 Chances To Make One Good Point
1. No blow-out losses to the Giants please. Last year, the Giants stunk out loud down the stretch, finishing the season 3-8. And yet, they laid the wood to us Ron Jeremy-style at FedEx last winter in what was one of the worst games I have ever witnessed as a season-ticket holder (prior to the Philly game a few weeks ago). I trust the severity of this distinction is not lost on all of you out there. The fact that we split with Philly is at least partially helping to cushion the blow we took recently. Staring down the barrel of two meetings with New York has me a little anxious.
2. Am I totally alone in wishing for 4-2 in the NFC East? I realize we all want to win against our divisional opponents, so I assume that the 2011 draft order has not begun to affect your leanings at this point. Of all the things we could do that I could point to this upcoming offseason as "progress" and "improvement", a winning record in the NFC East would be my favorite thing to trumpet. It matters. With a split against New York and a sweep of Dallas, we would have taken care of business in our division, while still probably missing the playoffs. Anyone besides me looking forward to spending February and March considering that if we beat Detroit and St. Louis, we may have hosted a playoff game at FedEx?
3. Perry Riley's redemption. We need young linebackers on this team. We need them to learn now, and we need them to be ready next season to play bigger roles. As I have already said, I refuse to hang a loss on a penalty made by a rookie linebacker who seemed to be playing hard whenever he got on the field (and yes, after the first foul, I was watching him.) I don't know if Riley will crack our starting lineup next year or ever, but the fact is that we look thin at linebacker in the short and long term. H.B. Blades is not the answer. We don't have enough draft picks to upgrade our linebacking corps next year, in my opinion. So Riley's immediate development is crucial to understanding what we will have in place in 2011. I can already hear Troy Aikman coming through my TV set next season...as we take on the Cowgirls in Dallas: "Did you see that play by Perry Riley? Hard to believe that just last year he was having trouble cracking the special teams lineup and now he has his THIRD sack of the game!" (Wow...even I can't believe I just wrote that.)
4. Sign Hunter Smith to an extension. I am most happy when turnover is at a minimum on our critical Special Teams positions: punter, holder, kicker. He is relatively young (for a punter) at 33, and he is a great holder. The battery of Smith and Gano could be kept together for at least another 3-4 years I would bet. With Gano and Smith locked up, we would have stability where we have previously had chaos, incompetence and lunacy. I am not calling either the best at their position, but together, they could grow into a dependable duo that we could rely on as the rest of the team comes along.
5. Bring back McNabb. I said it. As underwhelming as #5 has been for us this year, I remain unconvinced that we could do better than him in the short term (next season) without burning precious draft picks. Let me be clear when I state that I don't think Bruce Allen is very seriously considering NOT bringing back Don Burgundy. Between the draft picks already spent and the contract extension, it is clear that our front office has an easy decision ahead of it. A thought many of us have echoed: it is refreshing that stability from one season to the next would be prioritized over pure performance and stats. Besides, Donovan can't be worse next year...can he?
6. No Detroit and/or St. Louis on the schedule next year. HAHAHA...saying that out loud or even writing it puts me one step closer to being locked up in an asylum. But seriously, I am done with the Detroit/St. Louis era. It has come to be synonymous with crappy football. Next season, the NFC East plays the NFC West I believe. So we can't dodge the Rams. In fact, it appears likely that we will travel to the dome in St. Louis next year to play the Rams. If we stay in 3rd place in the East though, and the Lions stay in 4th place in the North, we would not get them on our schedule in 2011. That would be a huge win for us. Not because we shouldn't be able to pound the Lions, but because we have proven that we can't do it. And somehow getting both the Rams and the Lions on our schedule makes us all feel good about things when we have absolutely ZERO reason to think that. And then when we lose to one or both of them, the curtain is completely pulled away and we are left looking at a team that we recognize as one that is incapable of competing with even the bottom-feeders of the NFL. I know what some of you are thinking: "Isn't that good to know? If we can't beat them, we don't deserve to consider ourselves contenders for anything." I am tired of knowing. I choose the bliss found in ignorance. I choose the Matrix.
7. Short of calling for Bruce Allen to truly blow things up, this offseason should be the one where we let some players go who have become the faces of our craptastic ride the last handful of seasons. These players won't necessarily be done in the league either. I just think it is time to move on. Shanahan will have had a season to see how individuals fit into his style. There are not many (or any) contracts that we will be forced to swallow and when the new CBA gets hammered out, we could be looking pretty solid on the books. Get ready for at least some sacrilege (though this list is hardly shocking these days): Santana Moss, Clinton Portis, Casey Rabach, Derrick Dockery and Mike Sellers on offense (roughly half of our opening day starting lineup); and Andre Carter, Carlos Rogers, H.B. Blades, Phillip Daniels and Byron Westbrook on defense/special teams. God, it is even depressing to try and come up with a list of names to cut that would shock people...cutting, releasing or simply not re-signing these guys would not be very shocking at all. But you get the idea. This house does not need a coat of fresh paint. It needs some new walls, floors, windows, etc. Two names that I left out that might be obvious or not: Haynesworth and Heyer. One I think should definitely be gone...the other I am not so sure. Your call which is which.
8. I don't want to hear about what defensive scheme we are running next year. I want to hear about how our defensive coaching staff is deploying our best players to put them in a position to succeed. This offseason, I will be hard-pressed to get into a 3-4 vs. 4-3 debate...because I don't care. I want to know that on 1st and 2nd downs, we have a base defense that features Orakpo, Landry and some other playmaking DE or LB yet to be named. And I want to know that on 3rd downs, we have a plan to get off the field in a variety of scenarios. Call me Captain Simple, but this is all I want, and I don't care if it is a 3-4, 4-3, 4-6, 4-4, or 3-3-5 (a Madden favorite). Whether Haslett is guilty of trying to fix something that wasn't broke or not, he obviously failed to put a top defense on the field. That is what we have gotten used to in recent years, and that is what we need to get back to immediately.
9. To replace all those guys I have suggested jettisoning, we obviously will need to hit the free agent pool pretty hard. As opposed to the way we have done it in previous years, here is my list of priorities (in this order):
- 5th or 6th year player who has started more than 50% of his games in the last 3 seasons
- Can we sign him to a 4-5 year contract with reasonable terms?
I look forward to adding a group of guys in search of a fresh start in a new system, handpicked by Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan based on their belief that they fit into our system. I think there will be a gigantic class of these kinds of free agents. We'll talk more about this next week before the Bucs game. Talk about a team that embraced the "out with the old, in with the new" philosophy.
10. I wish for a full recovery by Robert Henson, the middle linebacker that arrived on the scene with gusto at the end of training camp this season. He is the closest thing we have on our roster to an heir to London Fletcher. Talk to folks around the team and they will tell you that few guys have studied harder and asked more questions over the last couple seasons. There is a reason they have kept him around the team this year, despite his season-ending knee injury in the last preseason game. Especially if Haslett comes back in 2011, Henson would be like a free agent acquisition at the linebacker spot for the Redskins. While I grant you that until he receives a baptism by fire on Sundays in meaningful games, we won't fully know what we have on our hands, I am optimistic that Henson is a player that we could rally around for years to come. We'll have to conveniently forget that Cerrato drafted him I guess!