Appreciation and optimism are the key words of the day, even despite the injury to our franchise player. The future is bright for the Washington Redskins.
1. I feel great about the ride we just got off of that was the 2012 Washington Redskins season. The injury to our franchise player is tough to swallow, but that is the way this game goes. I hate to be so cavalier about it, and I know I missed out on a week's worth of armchair coaching and doctoring, but I can't get over the sense that we got just about all the toothpaste out of this tube. I am intentionally glossing over the debate over whether or not Griffin should have been in the game at the end because I feel like the game we were playing in was worthy of the approach taken (by everyone involved). Now that the NFLPA has essentially determined that there is no actionable event here (the whole situation is like the gray area of murky water) we have to move forward with the process of building this team.
2. I promised to pass this story along, as it blew me away just a little bit. My brother Joe, who is a huge soccer fan and was watching his favorite team AC Milan last week, was tuned into the Spanish-speaking channel that was airing the AC Milan vs Juventus match. Why he watches with the sound baffles me, but he does. One of the players went down with an apparent knee injury and had to be carted off the field. While he could not understand much of anything that the Spanish-speaking announcers were saying--about a game being played in Italy, mind you--he clearly picked up them mentioning Robert Griffin III multiple times. That is crazy.
3. This Redskins team is better than it was a year ago. The quarterback position alone makes that statement true--and it does not just apply to Robert Griffin III. There is depth now at the most important spot on the field. You want a silver lining? Kirk Cousins is going to get a whole offseason to work as the starter. He is likely going to get an entire training camp to work as the starter. Does that make it suck less that Griffin has to spend the better part of a year at the age of 22/23 rehabbing a knee that is going to have question marks tattooed on it for the rest of his career? No, but it allows for the kind of preparation necessary to make Cousins the kind of player he will need to be by the beginning of September. Based on what we have seen so far, there is reason to hope that our starting quarterback in 2013 will help us win games. We now have the opportunity to increase the value of our player. You could argue that the opportunity to make Cousins a topnotch starter is absolutely integral to the long term plans for this franchise. Whether he plays for us or he nets us some valuable resources in a trade, it would seem that 2013 will definitely be a year when we further our overall rebuilding process. (Please don't take this to mean that I think Cousins is "as good" as Griffin. I just think we could be doing far worse and I like the idea of investing 6-8 months or longer on the development of a key asset on our roster.)
4. My guess is that some of you are still very much upset about the potentially career-altering injury suffered by our quarterback. It is not that I am not upset--rather, I just don't disagree with the kind of all-in thinking that was employed in a playoff game. This wasn't Strasburg--the Strasburg analogy will come next year when Griffin is coming back from the injury. Once he started the game, you kind of knew that he wasn't coming out of the game unless he was physically unable to walk. That is football, for better or worse. That is how people in that industry operate, for better or worse. There is an entire industry built around the second-guessing and Monday morning quarterbacking that naturally follows. I understand that there may have been an opportunity to give Cousins more time to work, and I know that those who watched on TV saw things that I did not from my seat in the stands. Still, I am a thousand times more pissed about the field conditions than I am about the coaching decisions. We're talking about one of the most profitable sports franchises on the planet. The Washington Redskins make money hand over fist. This isn't a high school practice field that gradually wears away to nothing by the end of the season and everybody just accepts it. I am telling you all that I believe the Redskins ABSOLUTELY had a chance to keep the condition of the field at an appropriately high level. This decision would have to have been made in early November, when the weather still allowed for new sod to take. I am left to assume that Dan Snyder preferred to save the money because, unlike his players and coaches, he wasn't thinking about winning the division and hosting a playoff game. I expect this will be a story that gains traction this offseason. How in the world can you sleep on the importance of field conditions? I hope I am wrong about the short-sightedness of the organization's decision regarding re-sodding the field in November. I hope that there was a problem with the soil or that some expert concluded that it wasn't feasible for some botanical reason that I am too dumb to know about. My gut says that they just made a completely stupid mistake that potentially was directly responsible for the injury to their star player. Stay tuned.
5. I wrote earlier this season that there is a difference between "having a good season" and "getting hot at the end." At the time, it was easier to differentiate between the two because neither designation was yet in play. From this side of things, I can honestly say the line between the two is far thinner than I ever believed. Put simply, my expectations for the 2012 season have been exceeded. How they did it has fallen a bit to the wayside. The spectacular nature of the late season run was as exhilarating as it gets. The early season's sluggish play and the corresponding losses keep the whole picture from looking great, but come on...ten wins is ten wins. (Yes, I know I am really saying this to myself from two months ago.) One could make the argument that "lightning in a bottle" is not something you can build on, as it is more of a phenomenon than true team improvement. I am not making that argument. I think there is plenty to build on from 2012 into 2013. As for missing Griffin in the early goings of next season or longer, my honest gut sense is that 2014 was always going to be the season where this team became a true Super Bowl contender, mentioned in the same breath as the top teams in the league. This is where the Strasburg analogy will really come into play. Next season needs to be spent ensuring Griffin's full participation in the 2014 season, whatever they determine that plan should be. The Redskins would do well to take a page from the Nats' playbook here--the decision should be made at the top and should be unwavering, whatever it is. Coming back too soon and doing too much upon his return are the Scylla and Charybdis of Griffin's 2013 season. We can be a winner with what we have and with what we add this offseason--we have to keep the long view with this team though and ensure that we hit the 2014 season with the kind of team you would expect to have after 20 years of rebuilding. (Only partially kidding...)
6. There will be no shortage of topics to discuss in the coming weeks and months, but I thought it appropriate to note that the day we all had last Sunday was not lost on me, or my fellow tailgaters. I am sure that many of you feel the same way. From the time I woke up last Sunday morning to well after the final whistle, I was thankful for ten wins...for a division title...for a home playoff game. I was thankful to be relevant again as a team and fanbase. It is easy to get wrapped up in the sorrow that goes hand-in-hand with losing a playoff game. It is easy to play the "What if?" game while second-guessing any number of people (I chose the Dan Snyder and the groundskeeper above). But more than anything else, I refuse to let any feeling other than gratitude and appreciation permeate. It was a hell of a ride. We beat the Cowboys on national television TWICE. We won in spectacular fashion some days, and even got a Victory Formation in there a little bit. Young players contributed in the most meaningful ways possible. The future is bright, even despite the injury to Griffin, which is simply saying a ton. I just can't get over the fact that we have turned a corner here and there is little to suggest that we will simply revert back to where we were a handful of seasons ago. Our window is just starting to crack open. Enjoy this time!