So many of the mistakes this team made last year were totally avoidable had there simply been someone around to say, "This just doesn't make any sense." As far as I can tell, given the structure of decision making in this organization, such a person does not exist. The Redskins compartmentalize decision making to a fault, so much so that Assistant Coaches are making uninformed half-decisions about players who, once picked for Washington Redskin duty, are signed ludicrous contracts or acquired by means that border on clinically insane.
Cases in point: Adam Archuleta, TJ Duckett, and Brandon Lloyd. I've pined endlessly about the mistakes made regarding all three, but it boils down to merely a few factors: 1) over paying for players, 2) filling "needs" that don't exist, and 3) not evaluating the players holistically.
Adam Archuleta satisfies all three. As the highest paid safety in NFL history, he was guaranteed to fail from the beginning. Virtually no one could have satisfied that pay check. In fact, given the definition of "best" and its logical relationship with "highest paid", there is exactly one person in the NFL (and I don't know who that person is) who might be capable of justifying the pay we offered Archuleta. His replacement of Ryan Clark is the main (in a number of) factor(s) that turned a top 10 defense into an embarrassment. We filled a "need" for a reliable cover safety with an unreliable cover safety. Finally the coaches failed to recognize that Adam Archuleta possesses a certain skill set (or lack thereof, specifically) that lends itself to strong run defense but is soft against the pass. The coaches seemed bewildered, and genuinely pissed off, that their over priced safety with a career high 1 interception and 6 passes defensed was getting lit up like a christmas tree by opposing WRs.
TJ Duckett satisfies 2 1/2. Needless to say, sacrificing a 3rd (and 4th?) draft pick for 132 yards and 2 touchdowns is foolishness. It might've made sense had we been able to keep TJ Duckett in the long haul, but his contract was voidable after this year. This organization's treatment of draft picks makes me wonder whether our coaching staff treats them as schoolyard children treat "cooties". As far as how much we "needed" TJ Duckett, we needed him enough to deactivate him for 6 games and not give him a single carry in another. His season high was 7 carries. Was Mike Sellers incapable of filling the role of "unused big running back"? If we want to trade for a player just to not use him, I suggest we simply stick with what we've got. We can not-use Rock Cartwright just as easily as we can not-use TJ Duckett, sans the draft pick deal. I give TJ Duckett a 1/2 on our overly-focused recruitment of him because holistically he isn't a "complete" back. He's good for short yardage but isn't a full-time RB. The coaches knew this, obviously, as they didn't use him full-time. Their failure was acquiring a guy in a panic -- due to the Portis injury -- who didn't even fill the need that panic demanded. If you really need to replace Clinton Portis, you don't do it with a large, short yardage running back.
Finally Brandon Lloyd, who gets a 2. He is halfway towards being overpaid, though he could certainly still earn his salary. If we view 2006 in isolation though, the only conclusion is that he was overpaid; 1.5M+ should account for more than 23 receptions, 365 yards, and the same amount of touchdowns as the Red Snapper. I'll give him a chance to earn his ever-growing salary. He also halfway satisfies our "need" complaint. What we needed in 2006 was a compliment to Santana Moss, someone who could draw double teams away from the Moss-Monster so that he could go be Superman. Instead we picked up Lloyd's questionable hands which did little besides frustrate 'Skins fans throughout the year. Concluding (with apologies for length), Brandon Lloyd was a key example of this franchise making compartmentalized decisions without viewing a player holistically. As was pointed out in this WaPo article, the coaching staff was asked by Vinny Cerrato to evaluate Brandon Lloyd the player only based off of film. As we now know, there is a lot more to Brandon Lloyd than merely dropped balls; chronicled in the above article is also his combativeness with coaches and teammates. Well documented in San Fransisco as well. Yet the coaches, when evaluating Lloyd, were not asked to consider any of this.
All of these criticisms, overpaying, filling false needs, and failure to view players holistically, are solved by one person who operates independently of team President Joe Gibbs, "Vice President of Football Options" Vinny Cerrato (essentially our personnel guy kind of sort of), and Dan Snyder. Someone to run Quality Control on decisions and to coordinate when a coach says "I want player X" and Dan says "I want to pay player X". Someone who can say "despite our need for this player, what you are offering is too much." Someone who can say, "though this player is the best WR available, he has character issues and isn't nearly good enough to correct for them." Most importantly, someone who can say "draft picks do not have cooties."
This seeming disconnect between our decision to acquire a player and the amount in money or draft picks we're willing to shell for them (and there is no logical relationship between these two decisions, currently) could be ameliorated with a General Manager. A GM could autonomously quality control our decisions, could assist with personnel decisions while also insuring against blatantly boneheaded moves. I can forgive Vinny Cerrato, Gregg Williams, Joe Gibbs, Dan Snyder, and everyone else for making individual personnel mistakes. What I cannot forgive are blatantly wrong decisions listed here: paying Adam Archuleta more than anyone else in history (and replacing Ryan Clark), offering a 3rd round pick for TJ Duckett and then not using him, and asking your coaches to evaluate free agents without considering character concerns. Those mistakes are totally and completely preventable.
For now we hope that our coaches, as good as they are, learn from the mistakes of the 2006 offseason and approach 2007 with a renewed sense of restraint, reason, and accountability. At five wins we've got a long ways to go.