1. It wasn't a catch. Not sure what else there is to say, besides this: as much as I despise the Dallas Cowboys, I can't tell you how much respect I have for what they did on that play. It's fourth down, with the entire season on the line, and two yards are needed to keep the party going. Instead of turning to the offensive line and running game that has carried them all season, they tell Dez, "Go up and get this for us." Except for the small matter of the fine print as it pertains to catching balls in the NFL, Dez makes a hell of a play. Forget the way the Cowboys were gifted with a terrible call against Detroit. This was not a make-up call. Dez straight-up did not catch the ball. Until they change the rules, that will never not be true. On the other hand, they went down swinging with their best player, and that is something you can't take away even from your most bitter rival.
2. Well, I was wrong. Add it to the miles-long list of things I was wrong about. Rex Ryan WAS given a head coaching job, and he doesn't have to travel far to get started. I spent much of yesterday with an Atlanta Falcons fan who was certain Rex was going to come to Georgia and do something with their defense. His logic was that Rex had an offense with major pieces in place and plenty of potential. The defense in Atlanta would be his to craft into something great. from something...less than great. Instead, Rex took the team with the solid defensive roster in place and the unsettled offense. I have to say that I really like this decision. Rex is a defensive-minded guy. In order for him to be a successful head coach, he has to have a good defense. That is what is expected of him. He knows that he can walk into the building in Buffalo and immediately play solid defense. It doesn't hurt that the weather is an extra defender in Buffalo, while the dome in Atlanta evens the playing field out way too much. Finally, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones have shown what they can do, and it hasn't set the world on fire. It would be a long putt to expect a defensive coach to gamble his livelihood on that side of the ball carrying him until he could get a defense together. As much as I wanted Rex Ryan to come to D.C., that was clearly never going to happen, putting it firmly on a long list of Redskins things I root for that have little to no chance of ever happening.
3. Dick LeBeau...anyone? Could any of us have any problem whatsoever with Dick LeBeau coming to shape the Washington defense? In any other universe, I would speak for everyone and say that 100% of us would be ecstatic to land him, despite the wacky departure from Pittsburgh.
4. I continue to have thoughts about the "new direction" of the Washington Redskins. The first thought we all have is, naturally, "Is this really a new direction for this team?" There aren't many fairer questions to ask, in my opinion. This franchise, in addition to hiring plenty of assclowns, has also hired plenty of competent professionals. The problem has been the manner in which they did--or did not--allow those individuals to do their jobs. As far as McLovin' is concerned, the team has yet to prove it can stand aside and let people operate, so we can't judge the hire for some time, other than to say "it has all the makings for a positive turn for this franchise."
5. We know the Redskins are going to have money to spend, and we know there will be some shiny objects available in free agency. Some of these shiny objects will even be at positions of need for the Redskins. This offseason is simply chock full of opportunities for the Redskins to commit to a new way of doing things. In the past, there was always a rush to figure out how much of our available salary cap space could be spent to bring in the best free agents--or in other words, how far the money would go to bring in players from the outside. The truth is that at least some of that money needs to be earmarked for guys on the roster right now. The decision to extend a contract out for some amount of time, especially when the current contract might not be up, is one that requires skillful, clever maneuvering. It requires a bit of a longer view on the return you get from that kind of a move. Maybe the salary cap savings aren't immediate, but the roster stability it creates allows for other moves to be made around it over the course of the next few seasons. Maybe the message it sends to the young players creates an atmosphere that makes these players want to stay, and makes other good players want to come. A lot of times, you have to play out contracts because of economic reasons, but that is not the case for every player. Successfully tacking on years to current contracts keeps the heart and soul of a team together. For a team in desperate pursuit of both heart and soul, this kind of job has to be done carefully and expertly.
6. The commitment to the meat and potatoes of the roster is what I am most interested in seeing out of McLovin'. I believe the Redskins have done a much better job in recent years (versus the early Snyder years) of keeping their own guys. A major impediment to keeping top talent is being able to draft it in the first place. It is hard to retain a player you never drafted because you didn't have a first round pick in multiple drafts. That begins to change this season, as the new regime is armed with a full slate of picks and money to
burn spend. To me, the identification of players in-house that we want to keep for as long as possible is as important a job as any for McLovin', and one that his predecessors have not done well. A systematic approach to signing and resigning these guys is as important--if not MORE important--than figuring out how to scrape enough nickels together to sign big names in free agency. By always having at least an idea of how and when you are going to approach players to keep them around for three years out or longer plays directly into the manner in which you draft new players as well as the thought process you bring to each free agency period. You might be thinking, "But Ken, surely the Redskins have been doing this already...surely they have had these kinds of plans and ideas." I am just...not...so...sure. My biggest hope for the McLovin' era is that the middle of our roster becomes our strength--not just the career backup types, but the players who will someday be counted on to step up and be starters. Assuming we do a better job of selecting who our frontline players are, a strong middle tier makes a team extremely competitive all season long.