Now that we have all had a chance to digest the loss to the Giants, re-fill the tissue box, and contemplate our fandom, let's get back to business.
This isn't your grandfather's Redskins(sorry Bill Ward). We are NEVER going to be the HOGS again! Hell, we'll be lucky if we can return to piglet status during this decade. We may never see(at least in our lifetime)another Hall of Fame head coach. We may never experience three Super Bowl victories by three different quarterbacks in a 10 year span. We will probably never get to experience a team run by a man as great as Jack Kent Cooke....but all is not lost.
Dwelling on the past will only delay the future. This is something we can not afford. For the most loyal of fans, the future can not come fast enough. I imagine it to be the same for the 2014 Washington Redskins as well.
I always believe in delivering the bad news first, so it can become digested, processed and then shit out; allowing us to move on to the good.
First, let's start with expectations. It is my opinion that expectations were set too high this season. We were coming off a three win season, and embarking on a journey with a first year head coach, who runs a system quite different from our previous regime. Our quarterback was returning healthy, but he had basically wasted year two of his development, and was tasked with re-learning the position as well as a new offense. Our offensive line was not addressed properly this offseason, and looking back on the performance of the unit in 2013, this was not acceptable. Our defensive secondary was relying on many of the same players that made us the laughing stock of the league the prior year, and our defensive line was full of aging vets, who's injuries were catching up to them. If this doesn't send shivers down your spine, you may just not have a pulse.
As mentioned above, you can not have a solid foundation, without a base to build that foundation on, and that base for any successful team is the offensive line. Although we invested two picks in the 2014 NFL draft to help improve the unit, these picks were made for the future, not the present. Instead of going after a young, quality free agent offensive tackle, we decided to invest millions of our free agent dollars in two new wide receivers. To help put this into perspective, DeSean Jackson is going to cost the Redskins an average of 8 million over three years. Offensive tackle Anthony Collins is costing an average of 6 million per year. Rodger Saffold is at an average of 6.2 million per year, and Michael Oher is a modest 5 million per year. Center J.D. Walton, who the Redskins had on the roster late last season, signed with the Giants for an average of 2.5 million per year. Lichtensteiger, who is 29(2 years older than Walton) is averaging 3.4 million per season. Now, let's look at the big picture. For the money we are paying Jackson, Lichtensteiger and Chris Chester(4 million per season), we could have signed Michael Oher, J.D. Walton, inserted Josh LeRibeus to play right guard, and drafted Jordan Matthews(3 games, 11 receptions, 113 yards, 2 TD) or Allen Robinson(3 games, 12 receptions, 154 yards), and still had money to upgrade at safety and defensive line. Just for comparison sake, DeSean Jackson has 15 receptions for 207 yards and 1 TD on the season.
Although we addressed free safety with aging vet Ryan Clark, we have no long-term security at either safety position. Meriweather is another suspension away from being thrown out of the league, and Clark is likely in his last year before taking on his new role as an analyst for ESPN. We have already see the results of below-average safety play in the first four games of the season, and I don't expect it to get much better as the season continues.
Injuries - No team can account for injuries, and very few can overcome significant ones. The Redskins have been hammered with key injuries early in the season, and although these can not be the only reason for our early demise, you can believe it plays a big part. Losing Griffin is a huge blow to the offense. Losing Reed(yet again) is detrimental as well. Lauvao, Paul, Jackson and now Trent Willimans are dinged up on offense, and although not a lot has been made of it, Lichtensteiger isn't 100 percent. On defense, it's almost just as bad. As if the loss of Hall for the season wasn't enough, we are getting slaughtered along the defensive line. Cofield's absence may have the most profound effect on the unit. He is a man amongst boys in the middle, and our rotation hasn't been the same without him. Orakpo is playing with a cast, Hatcher is about 75 percent and Bowen may not see another down in a Redskins uniform. When injuries pile up, the losses usually double the wins.
Now onto the fun part.
It seems as though we made a good hire in Jay Gruden. His candor, demeanor and football savvy are a breath of fresh air for a franchise in need of a true leader. Gruden is an innovative offensive mind, who can put his team in situations to take advantage of mismatches all over the field. His offensive is disparate in comparison to what we saw under Mike Shanahan, and it should yield us great rewards in the near future; but be weary that any change will take some time to yield results. Patience is the key here.
Although I believe we should have addressed the offensive line in free agency, we do now have more weapons on offense than we ever had in DC. We have a thoroughbred running back in Morris, who can easily handle 20+ carries a game, and can get double-didget touchdowns. We have three illustrious receiving threats in Garcon, Reed and Jackson, and a solid jack-of-all-trades in Andre Roberts. Moving forward, with either a healthy Griffin, or a competent Cousins, we have no excuse why we can't put points on the board with relative ease.
We are free of cap-gate. It may sound like an excuse, but believe me, it significantly hurt the team over the last two years. It's the equivalent of stripping a major college football team of 10 scholarships per year for two years.
Finally, we have our full complement of draft picks back. We'll have our first, second and third round picks for the first time in quite a while. Both unfortunately and fortunately, we may have a high first round pick in 2015, and although this is not what you aim for as a football team, it may help us acquire an impact player at a position of great need. An aside being that a possible trade of Kirk Cousins could potentially net us another draft pick within the top 100 if he plays well in Griffins' absence.
So, if we can put the bad behind us, and focus on the positives, the future may just look a little brighter than the doom and gloom that's been thrown around here lately.
Hail to the Redhearts!