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Looks Like Someone Has a Sixpack of the Mondays

The Washington Redskins are in Year Three of a professional-looking rebuild, and their coaching hires from within are the best sign yet of its progress.

NFL: Washington Redskins at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
  1. As the Washington Redskins made moves to promote Greg Manusky and Matt Cavanaugh to their two top coordinator positions, I could hear a very audible silence from the fanbase. At least in the conversations and text circles I was a part of, people seemed genuinely underwhelmed. My number one question: Why?
  2. The hiring of Scot “McLovin” McCloughan two years ago ushered in another in a long line of resets for the franchise over the last 20 years. Past rebuilds directed by folks like Vinny Cerrato and Bruce Allen—and even the beloved Joe Gibbs—were derailed by...well, they were derailed pretty much by choosing unwisely when it came to key decisions. From picking the wrong quarterback, to overpaying (repeatedly) for the wrong kinds of free agents, all the way to the creation and maintenance of a work environment that never seemed to embiggen players (to borrow a word from Jebediah Springfield). We know how that story went, and we know how it persisted across multiple iterations of rebuild attempts. The last two years have been starkly different from that experience. As in other resets, a new direction was established and the Redskins have aggressively pursued it. I think we could have a healthy argument in terms of to what degree it has succeeded, but we are still debating levels of success, which is a pretty good thing. I am not even beating the “We won the division last year” drum at this point, because I think the development of the roster and the coaching staff is the bigger story and is far more important than one season—especially when that one season was the first season of a rebuild.
  3. People are saying we “lost” on coaches like Gus Bradley and Wade Phillips, to name a couple names, but I just don’t see it that way. I don’t doubt for a second that those guys are capable coaches and would have represented an upgrade to what we had last year, but I wholeheartedly disagree on the idea that we lost out on those guys—regardless (irregardless, even) of whether or not those guys ever actually wanted jobs in Washington. To me, the end result (hiring from within), suggests a commitment to the path we set out on two years ago. In addition to developing talent on the field, this organization has attempted to develop talent on the sidelines, and even after jettisoning Joe Barry, the meteoric ascension of Sean McVay to head coaching candidate is a huge feather in the cap of that story. Some will argue that we were relegated to hiring from within, but I think that speaks more to the culture that existed in Washington in the past. If you view the coordinator hires through the lens of entering the third year of a rebuild, it seems intuitive you would conclude the franchise is somewhat happy with the direction it is headed in, and has chosen to keep the train firmly on the tracks.
  4. I can’t help but see the promotions of Greg Manusky and Matt Cavanaugh as leading indicators that we are about to see two other main characters of this story get extended. The extension of Jay Gruden is likely a back-burner matter for the organization from the standpoint of locking him up, but I have argued that it would be a high-profile maneuver that would send strong signals to veteran top-tier free agents looking for a stable landing spot (like a certain quarterback for instance). I do see a Redskins truck full of money arriving at Kirk’s house this offseason. Despite hearing that Kyle Shanahan could be successful in convincing the 49ers brass to give up two first-round picks and gobs of salary cap space to acquire Kirk (seriously, does Adam Shefter also run the Shanahan family newsletter?), I see the Redskins as pretty happy overall with the progress our offense has made. Allowing Kirk Cousins to walk takes a huge bite out of that progress. Even if you aren’t the biggest Cousins fan, you have to admit that you can’t replace the chemistry that seems to exist between Kirk and Jay overnight. At some point, every team faces the prospect of keeping on keeping on, or cutting and running.
  5. At the heart of the debate between Redskins fans who differ in their support of a mega-$$ deal is whether or not getting rid of Kirk would be, in fact, cutting and running. I have a hard time seeing a move to allow Kirk to walk as anything but a step backward. There is nobody currently available in free agency or the draft that you can argue would come in and perform with the same fluency and comfort level in this offense. If we can agree on that (and no, just pointing to Dak’s success in 2016 is not proof that a rookie would come here and be that successful), we should be able to agree that the best opportunity the Redskins have to keep this rebuild on track is to keep its franchise quarterback under center. As I am not one of the guys who wants to base any arguments for Kirk on the similarities between stats compiled by Cousins and Aaron Rodgers over similar periods, let me redirect you to the argument AGAINST Kirk that has been made based on similarities between our guy and Matt Ryan. Just a mere month or two ago, we were still hearing from some that any similarity to Matt Ryan was a dead end street for the Redskins. Without forgetting that Matt Ryan was drafted far higher than Kirk, and that he was expected to perform at a high level earlier in his career than Kirk, the reward that Atlanta is reaping today from its patience with a quarterback that a LOT of people wanted to give up on (more than once) is instructional for the Redskins. If nothing else, Ryan is an example of a quarterback that is clearly talented, capable of filling up a stat sheet and helming a championship offense. I believe that the kind of football Kirk has played the last two seasons is not only very similar to the kind of football that Matt Ryan has played (the good and the bad) but is also good enough to deserve a long-term commitment from the Redskins. I have laid that case out continuously, but Matt Ryan’s first visit to the Super Bowl should really change the tenor of a common criticism we have heard this year.
  6. At the end of the day, staying the course we have set out on strikes me as the most logical answer to any question involving the near future for the Redskins. This is not a team in need of a reset. This offense, in particular, is not at all one you would want to “blow up.” Hiring coaches from within, as well as what I believe will be a doubling down on our own free agents is as good a sign as any that the rebuild you are watching is a professional one. We also know that when it comes to stability and consistency in the NFL, the Redskins haven’t exactly set records. I believe we are seeing a reversal of those mistakes, and I think we are about to reap the benefits that a commitment to stability has provided plenty of other teams over the years.