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Looks Like Someone Has a Sixpack of the Mondays

Redskins are enjoying the silence this offseason, as Scot McCloughan builds from within. That's...just...crazy...enough to work.

Matt Hazlett/Getty Images

1. Everything doesn't have to have a Redskins tie-in, but I would be lying through my teeth if I told you I wasn't thinking about some of the losses I have witnessed at FedEx last night as I watched the NCAA Tournament. With :44 seconds on the clock and Northern Iowa staked to a 12-point lead, the graphics guys in the truck are moving your team through to the next round. The announcers are helping the losing squad (Texas A&M) take stock of a great season. The fans are preparing their postgame party spreads. Just to put a positive Redskins spin on this, I recall a game that was for all intents and purposes over. We were hosting the Dallas Cowboys, and the score was tied at 19 with six seconds on the clock. Bill Parcells had just sent in Mike Vanderjagt to attempt a 35-yard field goal for the win. I remember being glued to my chair, hoping for a miracle, but resigned to the fact that this one was over. The rest, as they say, is history. Troy Vincent, Sean Taylor and Nick Novak teamed up to snatch that win from the jaws of defeat in a way you just don't really ever see. Poor Northern Iowa.

2. When you're talking about kids playing a sport for their school, you really don't want to be in the business of assigning a ton of blame. After all, those students are back in class this week, getting back to the preparation for lives that will most certainly not include professional basketball. That said, when you lose a game at the end like Northern Iowa did, the fact is that you must have done something to help the other team. How many losses can you remember by Redskins teams in the last decade or two where we were the other team's MVP? For many NFL fans, the Redskins have been grouped into that bucket of "losing" NFL teams...the kind of teams that you learned to expect losses from each week. Stupid penalties, incredible poorly-timed turnovers and mental errors trip up these kinds of teams. If we're being honest, we earned our way into that group. This is one of the biggest changes I am seeing in the culture of the Redskins. Is it happening overnight? Nope, and as recently as the first half of last season, you still saw this team serve as its own worst enemy.

3. It isn't just about things happening between the whistles. Listen to the sound of our offseason thus far. You hear that? It is as close to silence as you can get while still making a tiny, barely audible sound. (Ahhh, yes, an Audible reference.) McLovin is hard at work building the innards of this roster, and he is doing it by addressing what is already inside. By my count, the Skins have retained the services of 13 players that were on the field for us last season. That's almost 25% of your opening day roster. Employing some fuzzy math by combining that group with last year's draft class (guys who made the squad) and this year's draft class--like I said, fuzzy--and you start to see what our guy is up to. Prior to betting heavily on the prized members of this (or any) year's free agent class, McLovin is paying full attention to getting the core right.

4. The core, by virtue of it being the freaking core, implies pieces from within. You can augment a core in free agency. You can complement a core by signing a top player, but you can't build a core through free agency. Further, you can't build a proper core when huge swaths of salary cap space are committed to players coming in hot from other cities. You might be able to still field a starting roster capable of winning games, but when you choose to spend lavishly on other people's players, you are left woefully underfunded in your pursuit of special teamers and role players--players you can't truly contend without. You have to be successful in identifying those kinds of players on your own team. The best teams in the league are doing it--and they are also identifying every other team's top core players. Put simply: the better you do at retaining the players that comprise the bottom half of your depth chart, the bigger the impact of any individual addition closer to the top of the roster. Of course, the proof will be in the pudding come September, but it says here that McLovin has wasted ZERO time the last two offseasons picking and choosing from his own roster who he wants to build this thing around.

5. I hear people quickly suggest that the activities this offseason suggest that the Redskins are "not quite ready to contend yet." The thinking seems to go, "McLovin is in the weeds finding backup linebackers and potential special teams standouts, and not looking to add that one difference-maker." I think I would like to strenuously object to that logic. Unexciting does not equal noncompetitive. We are just getting accustomed to the notion that there is a different way to build a team than by collecting a bunch of shiny toys. Just because we have not broken the bank on a free agent doesn't mean that we aren't thinking we can win next season. You might actually consider that our odds of winning improve if we correctly identify who the core of our team is and keep them in the fold. The biggest thing to me about building your roster in this fashion is you are constantly spending time and energy assessing your own players to determine who is and who is not essential to your future. That analysis informs the organization when it comes time to make all-important draft decisions. Anyone can get excited about raw stats: size, speed and strength. Adding those traits is generally a good thing, but if all you are looking for is numbers, you stand a pretty good chance of swinging and missing. You have to add the right player, not the right stat. I believe you learn who the right players are by studying your own locker room. You can say that there has been nothing too fireworks-worthy in our free agency strategy thus far, and not many people would disagree with you, but is that the goal?

6. This week, I think any suggestions for The Audible's alternate reality should be focused on the kinds of moves that either were or were not made that would not have been (or were not) considered major headlines. For example, what if we kept Ryan Clark after the 2005 season instead of letting him go up the road to Pittsburgh? Kevin, Tim and I look forward to reliving some of the more terrible decisions made in the Vinny Cerrato era. One thing is certain: it sure does help to underscore the job being done by McLovin. This spring might be quiet, but we are building to a thunderous autumn. That's when good teams make noise.