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I Do Not Envy Scot McCloughan

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The Redskins' unexpected success this season has made a few decisions that seemed easy in August look much more difficult now.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Man, it must suck to be Scot McCloughan right now. I mean, not actually; his team is dramatically overachieving and might make the postseason in his first year during what was supposed to be a rebuilding year. He's having a phenomenal year and is actively reinforcing the belief around the league that he's a football genius.

But the problem with overachieving during a rebuild year is it makes it harder to move on from certain players who you would otherwise have let walk without hesitation.

In theory, the best way to rebuild is to be terrible for a few years, accumulate draft picks and young assets that you build up — ideally a top-notch quarterback — then put it all together one year with an influx of veteran talent and leadership, maybe a stud or two at skill positions. That's sort of what the Indianapolis Colts tried to do for this season, adding players such as Andre Johnson and Frank Gore, but they never worked on their offensive line or improved their defense enough, and it also didn't help that Andrew Luck has been a shell of himself.

But I do not envy McCloughan heading into this offseason. There are so many tough decisions to make, far more than there were before the season began, or even a month ago.

Jay Gruden, at times, is a totally inept coach with little tact. He throws players under the bus, he clearly picks his favorites, he wastes timeouts and challenges, he abandons the run and he sounds like a simpleton when he speaks. At other times, however, he calls creative plays, he sticks to his guns in the rushing attack, he admits fault, he makes amusing quips in pressers and he is a decent strategist in most facets of the game. (All offensive strategy remarks can also be applied to Sean McVay.) Rumor is he isn't going anywhere this offseason, but what if the Redskins go 0-5 the remainder of the season and lose a few close games due to poor coaching? That's not to say it will happen, nor do I think he should get fired, but I'm also not convinced he's the coach you want taking your team to the "next level."

And what do you do about the quarterback situation? No matter what you do, it's going to be expensive. It's unlikely Cousins will stick around for a team-friendly 2-3 year deal; based on his recent play, somebody else will offer him an exorbitant contract for five years and he'll be gone. But if the Redskins want to commit to him and be the team to offer him that exorbitant contract, he'll probably stay. Is Washington convinced Cousins is the man for the future? Before you answer, consider how sure you and everybody else was that Robert Griffin III was the man for the future just two, three years ago. Speaking of, do you keep Griffin, with his huge deal? Or do you pay him to not be a part of your team?

You've got to do something about the running backs. Do you re-sign Alfred Morris? There's a pretty good chance somebody will offer him more than the Redskins will, and most of those other teams didn't just spend a third-round pick on a running back. At the beginning of the season, that was a tough question. He hasn't played well and the Redskins looked ready to pass the torch to Matt Jones, but then Jones kept fumbling and Morris had a bounce-back game against the Giants.

Decisions will need to be made about Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, either this offseason or next. Jackson shows his incredible value when he's healthy and can get free, but he also turns 29 today and that speed and explosiveness won't last forever. Garcon has been the team's most reliable receiver for years, but he's been reduced to a less athletic — albeit healthier and less penalty-prone — version of Jordan Reed. Oh yeah, and what about Reed, or other tight ends? Reed is a free agent in 2017, Logan Paulsen is one in 2016. Niles Paul and Derek Carrier are under contract until 2018. Do you feel confident letting Paulsen walk and going into next season with Paul (who has one season of at least 10 catches under his belt), Carrier (who has 25 career catches) and Reed (who has missed 14 games in less than three seasons)?

Then there's the defense: You've got to get more pass rushing, but do you re-sign Junior Galette? You should probably replace Perry Riley as a starting inside linebacker, and if so, do you demote Riley or cut him? Keenan Robinson has generally been pretty good, but he's started to fall off some.

Terrance Knighton is in Washington on a one-year deal and will likely be quite expensive to re-sign; do you re-sign him, or do you plug Chris Baker in at the starting nose tackle position and let Knighton walk? If so, you have to add more depth along the defensive line.

And what do you do about the secondary? Bashaud Breeland is the only real lock to be a starter next season, though Dashon Goldson will probably return for another season. Jeron Johnson appears to have overcome some early hiccups and is contributing on defense and special teams. Will Blackmon filled in admirably when called upon, but is he worth bringing back at a higher price point? Chris Culliver is likely going to start again next season, but he was mostly disappointing when healthy.

General managers go through stuff like this all the time, and by all accounts, McCloughan is one of the best in the business. He's certainly proven as much in his time in Washington. But the significant fluctuation in quality by many players and various members of the coaching staff makes this situation especially difficult to assess, and McCloughan does only have this one season to go by.

Before the season began, it was expected McCloughan would overhaul another dozen or so starters from the 2015 team in crafting the 2016. Now, there will still definitely be significant change, but things are much less certain as a whole.