We have just suffered through a five and 11 season–my question is did the team improve, tread water, or sink even lower overall?
To answer this question, I think we need to look at all the components of the franchise separated from one another and compare them not only to last year, but to at least the last five years. I know this seems odd, but I believe it is necessary to get a truly objective view on how the franchise is progressing or regressing.
Let us go with a top down format and start with ownership…
Dan Snyder is still the majority owner of the Redskins; nothing has changed here except that Danny boy seems to have continued to keep his fingers out of the day-to-day operations. It is hard to tell from the viewpoint of a fan as to whether or not he has become more active in other areas, which brings us to…
The general manager, Bruce Allen who is still doing the little things to try and improve the Redskin's fan experience. I'm sure those who visit FedEx appreciate the new Jumbotron's and the attempt to modernize the stadium. There is not a lot to work with when it comes to the home of the Redskins, but I do believe that Bruce has had some good ideas and I have to give credit to Snyder for opening his wallet to make them happen.
Obviously, there is still a lot of work to do here and ultimately the Redskins experience is not going to be in the top tier until we get a new stadium inside Washington DC. Here is hoping that ownership and management have the skills, connections and resources to make this happen.
Since Dan and Bruce are largely out of the public eye and are letting their actions do the talking now, I think that the face of the Redskins has improved. We are still far from being respected, but I don't think we are being laughed at as much as before.
Overall ownership and management have improved significantly in the last couple of years from where we had been for the last 10.
The vice president of personnel is now Mike Shanahan. Some NFL observers believe that one of the major contributing factors for Mike Shanahan's firing from Denver was his handling of personnel procurement. He also was underperforming wins wise in a relatively weak AFC Western division. After being fired, he was not immediately hired by another team as he had taken himself out of football for a year.
I suspect that the reason for his one-year hiatus was to give the Redskins brass the opportunity to hire him without looking as fickle as ownership has been in the past. Jim Zorn never was going to be the coach of the Redskins once Shanahan became available in my opinion. There has been much talk in the media that Mike Shanahan has been coveted by Dan Snyder for a long time.
The treatment of Jim Zorn was embarrassing to the franchise, they could've done better; but in my opinion, they did not do enough when it came time to replace the personnel guy… Vinny Cerrato.
In the last decade or so “the one who cannot be named” was largely looked upon by Redskins fans as the single most destructive factor to the franchise. My personal opinion of Daniel Snyder was largely tainted by his unwillingness to remove this tumor from the franchise. His constant “deer in the headlight” visage and his unbelievable statements that showed no grip on reality were a never ending nightmare.
Still though, there are players who are significant contributors to the team today that were brought in under his watch… Chris Cooley, London Fletcher,and Santana Moss are all fan favorites. But the list of players brought in that did not contribute and/or embarrassed the franchise is much too long... We all know who they are, and in the interest of looking forward, I will not name them here.
For the last two years Mike Shanahan has been THE personnel manager. The 2010 off-season was in a few ways worse than the previous decade, but overall on par with years past. The 2011 off-season was the strangest for the NFL in memory. The free agency period occurred after the draft, personnel offices all over the league were probably severely affected by this. Yet the Redskins managed to pull off one of the best off seasons in this writer's memory (with the exception of the New Orleans Ricky Williams trade). Shanahan traded back repeatedly and up once to rake in a dozen players who all made the team in some way. Free agents were reasonably priced and contributed significantly.
The team still has many holes to fill, needs depth, and desperately needs a quarterback and a leader on offense.
There have been rumors of a shakeup at the coaching level; in my opinion, this might be being misread and that the shakeout may occur in the scouting department. Shanahan left the scouting department mostly intact these last two years, this may have been a mistake.
The personnel department has been erratic these last two years but it has been a slight improvement over the previous regimes. If the 2012 off-season is nearly as successful as this years, then I think it will be safe to say that we have achieved a significant upgrade... But I think it is too early to tell.
The team has all new coaching with a few exceptions. Mike Shanahan is a head coach who comes in with some questions… is he wearing too many hats? Can he still be considered a top-tier performer? Has he surrounded himself with enough talented assistant coaching?
I think the biggest questions for Redskins fans presently are
is Kyle Shanahan an effective offensive coordinator and wound he have this job if his father were not head coach?
Does Danny Smith need to go?
My personal opinion is this; I think we need a real general manager in charge of personnel.I do not think that Mike Shanahan can be considered a top-tier coach any longer, he is a good coach and that might be all we need. I do not think that he has assembled an above average coaching staff, there are some obvious deficiencies that are being illustrated on the field. This is a very poor team when it comes to route running by wide receivers, tackling by just about the entire defense, and poor offensive line play. All three coordinators need to improve on their average quality of work, especially Kyle Shanahan because of his unique position. Like it or not, he will receive more scrutiny because he is Shanahan's son, he also seems to abandon the run too easily. The defensive coordinator has the most talent on the team by far but has yet to be able to get the most out of them. I do not think that we game plan effectively for our opponents and seem to lack the ability to make adjustments during the game.
I am also disappointed to see that this team still resembles the Keystone cops with its play on the field at times. There are still too many delay of game penalties and the offense refuses to operate with any kind of pace. Our head coach makes very poor decisions when it comes to replay challenges and the team as a whole manages the clock and timeouts poorly. The last game of the season illustrated this far too painfully.
Even as sub–par as this performance has been, I think it is still his average when compared to the last five years or longer. We have to go back to coaches like Norv Turner and Marty Schottenheimer to find any consistency in game management. Even the second tenure of Joe Gibbs had problems on game day–remember the two timeouts called in a row?
Lastly, we must examine the roster of players. We have very few known entities on the team right now. It is a very young roster and so it would not be fair to many of the players to make judgments on their ability.
But when I look at most of the youngsters, I sadly have to admit that I am not seeing consistent improvement. Trent Williams, Branton Banks and Anthony Armstrong all seem to be going backwards. Too many promising players are ending up on the injured list. It is a little worrisome that all three running backs have missed time to injury or can't seem to carry the load (Royster was on a IV during his performance in the last game)
Each player or position could be argued ad nausea, but overall I think it is really too early to tell what the real talent level of the team is right now. As we all know thanks to Dennis Green and others you are what your record is… and five and 11 is just a bit worse than six and 10.
I don't feel that our current roster is worse than what we have had in the past; my gut tells me that we are a bit better but it has yet to be shown out on the field, but I'm not drinking the Kool-Aid, we need more talent.
So in conclusion, the Redskins have shaken things up from top to bottom. For some it has been painful to watch, for others it has been fun... It all depends on what matters to you the individual.
Although I could nitpick every single aspect of the organization, and I have some severe dislikes when it comes to some of the individuals, I will say that I feel better about this team now than I have in quite a while. But we need to finish the process quickly; I personally do not buy into the claim that it should take five years to turn this around. There has been plenty of roster churn in the first two years and if the proper decisions are made as they have been made with other franchises we should be closer than we are right now. Mistakes have been made, but that is water under the bridge, I hope that the franchise can correct those mistakes and get us back into contention next year. Anything else has to be considered a below average performance, there are just too many other franchises turning around faster than us. I know we started a lot worse off than many, but in the game today I don't think that is a real reason for mediocrity.