1. Since the NFL has become a year-round circus, most of the more subtle parts of being a rabid football fan have infiltrated even these slower months of the calendar. For instance, holding our collective breath as players risked injury used to be a thing that didn't really heat up until...well, the heat of August. (Admittedly, that was quite some time ago.) Today, we spend our May and June days glued to twitter feeds and breaking news outlets in the hopes that there are no headlines about our any of our favorite players being injured in a practice session where nobody even wears pads. I am sure that this has worked to generate an even stronger passion about the sport, while simultaneously breeding a generation of fans whose entire fanaticism rests on the shoulders of the highest-paid and most elite players. I am not here to judge good and bad--when a player makes $20 million per year, for instance, and an injury forces him off the field or out of the league, it likely leaves a deep imprint on the odds for that team to contend. That's nothing new, but I do believe that the manner in which this is experienced depends on the soundness of the front office of the team you love.
2. As Redskins fans, we became somewhat conditioned over the last 15 years to believe in the promise of top-dollar additions. We went along for the ride each offseason, cheering activity in March and April before crying in our beers in September and October. For a long time, there was little more going on at Redskins Park than an incredibly active hype machine. It is hard to imagine how "over" our season was (according to us) when Robert Griffin III got battered and beaten out of our preseason lineup in August 2015, or when he left that early-season game against Jacksonville with the ankle injury a few seasons ago. For that matter, I recall thinking the sky was falling when Jason Campbell went down (hardly the same as losing a Tom Brady or an Aaron Rodgers). I suppose my point is that for so long, we have been one player deep at so many positions, and for a while that one player tended to be a free agent making top dollar. The only thing that sucks worse than fearing for the knees of a player that we drafted and developed is fearing for the knee of a guy that just rolled into town on a record-setting contract.
3. As much as I like to think I am making sense, trust me when I tell you that I know these ramblings sometimes require as much patience as vision to be able to see the point. Hopefully this will help: the new regime at Redskins Park is creating a reality that is far easier on the ol' ticker. There is no team in the league that is immune from the fallout created by losing an elite player. Talent is talent, and when you lose high-end talent, performance suffers...'nuff said. When your primary source of talent is free agency, your organization is likely not paying enough attention to the development of players at the bottom of the roster. This was the case here for a while. Instead of promoting from within, our M.O. was filling holes with "other guys." Changing that mentality is challenging. You can say the words, "Build through the draft," but actions like the Griffin trade clearly run counter to those words.
4. In Scot "McLovin" McCloughan, the Redskins and their dedicated fanbase have a man that lives those words. I have heard some suggest that the Josh Norman signing represents a return to old ways at Redskins Park. Andy Dufresne might suggest that these folks are being "obtuse." Because of the manner in which McLovin has conducted his business, and the way he has cleaned up our salary cap (including moving forward, as he locks up core players to sensible extensions), he has placed the Redskins in precisely the kind of position to capitalize when a player like Josh Norman hits the market. Thanks to a parade of one-year contracts and savvy veteran pickups, the Redskins roster and salary cap are positioned unlike anything we have seen since the glory days of this organization. It is somewhat of an apples and oranges comparison because of the ways the rules are written now, but from an organizational ideology standpoint, we have not seen footing this firm since Charley Casserly left.
5. Injury news is rarely good news, but when you root for a team that has spent two offseasons beefing up the middle and bottom of the roster with young talent, you tend to find reason to hope when a starter goes down. Middle-out roster composition? Pied Piper would be proud! We aren't "there" yet, but when players like Mason Foster, Will Compton, Jamison Crowder and even Morgan Moses (to name just four guys who might have been left to wither on the bench by previous regimes) are given the room to grow and develop--as opposed to sourcing their jobs from the free agent pool--your team all of a sudden has a higher ceiling. The churn at the bottom of the roster continues as McLovin extends his never-ending search for "his kind of player," and those players come in and get coached up by guys like Bill Callahan. It's what good teams do, and it's how legions of fans find peace when the good teams they root for encounter adversity.
6. On The Audible this week, we will be talking to Mariel Cooper again--the undrafted free agent out of The Citadel (by way of South Carolina State). I understand that I become biased for a player rather easily (appear on our show and I jump in the tank), but I can think of few players that embody what McLovin is looking for more than Cooper. He is smart, strong, super-fast and he is versatile. He plays multiple defensive back roles (in multiple schemes) and he is thirsty to prove it on special teams. When you hear his voice, you will become a fan. In addition to this topic, I thought it would be fun to engage in yet another age-old pastime: making lists and ranking things. We will start by ranking our top five favorite Redskins teams. Note the use of the word "favorite" here. Championship teams are popular, but you might find yourself loving a team for other reasons...let's see how they stack up. This leads me to one of my other favorite topics that we have not spent a ton of time on in the ol' basement studio: favorite all-time players. I think that in order to make it fun, we should agree on a handful of "givens" and try to shine a light on some other fan favorites. Also, I will be trying to keep track of some bullet points! Hahaha...let's see how that goes.