- The feel-good offseason for the Washington Redskins continues as fans of the burgundy and gold—for the most part—are buying into the Ron Rivera-centric model that Dan Snyder has put in place. We have all generally agreed that a new owner would top our wish list, but that kind of wishing is reserved for fairy tales. In the world we live in, the owners of the teams we root for are not pieces that can be interchanged or swapped out. The announcement that the Redskins would be going to a coach-centric model is really one of Dan Snyder’s best moves as owner of this team—from both the philosophical point of view and the execution of the plan. I’ll give him that credit. Strong veteran head coaches have been acting as CEO-types for quite some time in the NFL, buoyed by front offices that play a supporting role in the scouting and acquisition of personnel. Dan Snyder has sold a couple of different organizational structures since purchasing the team, but really they were all owner-centric. The traditional general manager-led structure has been in place—in name only—here in town for quite some time. Vinny Cerrato and Bruce Allen were the men publicly tasked with leading the franchise, but everyone has been fully aware that it has been Dan Snyder behind the curtain. I have argued that it was Vinny and Bruce who gladly stood between Snyder and the harsh criticisms that are heaped upon a billionaire who has no idea what he’s doing. Instead of decision-makers, we got bullet-takers. Both Vinny and Bruce were pumped so full of rhetorical lead that their tenures came to extremely hard stops...brick walls, in fact. Unfortunately for us fans, those brick walls were spaced out ten years apart from each other.
- When we have changed head coaches over Snyder’s stewardship, I have found myself energized as a fan because a change in coach is typically the kind of spark that signals new possibilities for professional sports teams. We learned, however, that for the Redskins, changing the coach was never really a solution, because it almost never fully addressed the root cause of our problem. The Redskins aren’t the only sports organization to have terrible leadership at the top, so I don’t pretend that we are so unique in our problem. Steve Spurrier and Jim Zorn were not great hires, which led to their time here being...uhhh...not great. Mike Shanahan, Marty Schottenheimer and Joe Gibbs were great hires, but each faced challenges when it came to Snyder’s reliance on Vinny and Bruce. Joe Gibbs may have had the most room to operate because he was revered by Snyder. Ironically, his ability to do more with less may have made Snyder and Vinny feel like they were more successful in their roles than they actually were.
- I find it somewhat ironic that twenty years later, Snyder has professed that we will move forward with an organization led by a head coach and not a strong GM. It was his firing of Charley Casserly and retention of Norv Tuner that got this whole thing started. We fired one of the most respected general managers in the game (rational souls can disagree about his career GM abilities, but none of us can argue that Casserly wasn’t/isn’t highly regarded and loved around the league) and hired Vinny Cerrato. That happened. An owner is entitled to having his people, of course, so the roller coaster ride began.
- This all leads me to a place where I know that a simple coaching change is not a real reset for a team under a Dan Snyder-type owner. It was the change in bullet-taker that represented turning points, and those guys sold us the promise that came with new coaches. Instead, this is really only the third true reset we have had, with the firings of Vinny Cerrato and Bruce Allen providing the first two (technically Cerrato was let go twice, but he refused to quit Danny and came back quickly after only one year of Marty). The Ron Rivera Era (RivEra?) represents the third fresh start we as fans have gotten under Snyder. He is not just a coaching change. He represents a new organizational structure that has been put in place. Looping back to the first point, this coach-centric model excites me because of the coach that we are centered around. I have no idea if Rivera can take this roster to heights that Jay Gruden and Bill Callahan were unable to help us reach. I think he can, but that is not really what I am spending my time getting excited about these days. It is the possibility that now exists with a man like Rivera being in charge that gets me pumped. Culture has been the number one problem for the Redskins, with the toxicity and chaos from Monday through Saturday routinely showing up between the whistles on Sundays. That is Rivera’s wheelhouse, and that is where he is already starting to make his mark. The hiring of Jennifer King to be the league’s first full-time African American female assistant coach is a big deal and is something that should be happening in the nation’s capital. I know it seems like a little thing that won’t lead to wins during the season, but we are smarter than that. The Redskins have done almost every little thing wrong under Snyder. We need to start re-stocking the cupboards with good decisions that positively impact the community around us...one at a time. If we do enough of these things right, we earn the right to shed some of those dysfunction and chaos labels. This is the area where Rivera can do the most cleanup where it pertains to the mess Snyder has made. This is what will create a world of possibility for the Redskins that did not exist under Bruce Allen, who routinely found the wrong way to do things. (Don’t take my word for it...ask all those who voted him as the least trustworthy decision-maker in the league.)
- Now that we are all resigning ourselves to the likelihood that Snyder will never sell the team, is it just me or will the success of the stadium experience at Audi Field for the DC Defenders of the XFL (and all of the feel-good stories pouring out of Audi Field) shame Snyder into thinking about...selling? No? Okay...just checking.
- Here are some notes that we will pick up and run with tomorrow night in the basement...I guess Quinton Dunbar got the memo that he is our best cornerback and in a contract year. His situation will be monitored closely as he intends to sit out OTA’s...Will Jordan Reed ever play another down for the Redskins? He has 10 million reasons to try and get cleared, but as we talked about last week, there is a growing consensus that his concussion history should keep him from ever playing again...What actor should play Alex Smith when they make “The Alex Smith Comeback Story” into a movie? We all know that Matthew McConaughey is a big Skins fan that would potentially be up for it, but the last time I checked, he was ice fishing. I think Kit Harrington would be great because of his ability to play a character who comes back from an injury that should have been career-ending (or in John Snow’s case, watch-ending). Ryan Gosling could pass for Alex, but can he pass like Alex?...Vernon Davis’ retirement is another reminder that we, uhhh, have no tight ends. So I leave you with this question: If we traded out of #2 overall and netted a starting offensive lineman, a starting defensive back and a starting tight end in the first two rounds with the picks we acquired in that trade, would that be enough for you to trade away the rights to Chase Young? (Last week I was firmly in the trade category, and this week I am wavering.)
Looks Like Someone Has a Sixpack of the Mondays
The Washington Redskins are already better than they were at the end of last season...can it last, and more importantly, what does being better mean when no actual football is being played?!?