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It's Hard To Believe, But Only Three Years Ago...

That the Washington Redskins hit rock bottom as a franchise Sunday came as little surprise, as they have seemed to be executing a plan to get there over the last few years.

But the speed in which they did it is still amazing.

Think about it: Just a little less than three years ago, the team had won the NFC East. The team had gone 9-7, finished the regular season with 4 straight wins, and 5 of their last 6 to win the division. They had a sharp young offensive coordinator in Sean McVay, and the fruits of his hard work and imagination were obvious: QB Kirk Cousins threw for over 4,000 yards, the running back committee of Alfred Morris, Matt Jones and Chris Thompson rushed for 1,457 yards. There were dangerous receivers in Jamison Crowder, Pierre Garcon, Jordan Reed and DeSean Jackson.

The team had weapons. It was entertaining to watch. And despite the loss to Green Bay in the first round of the playoffs, the future looked bright for the Redskins. They had to shore up defensive issues, but they had an offense that seemed as if it could score on anyone.

That was only three short years ago. Compare it to what was on the field yesterday.

Yes, you can point to injuries and bad luck and all sorts of reasons to rationalize being down 40-0 to a 4- win team and losing your fourth game in a row on your way to a 6-10 record. But that’s the nature of the game. A lot of teams encounter this without having a weekly search to see who can be found on the streets to be your starting quarterback.

It’s managerial malfeasance to fall this far in so short a period of time. Consider, if you will, if the team had just made these five moves in the last three years. Then tell me where you think the team would be today:

  1. Sign Kirk Cousins to a long-term deal at the end of 2015. Am not saying Kirk was the greatest to ever play, but you need stability at QB and the Redskins backed themselves into a corner. They had no plan B. If you keep Cousins and add more offensive linemen, the offense still scores a lot of points, and you pay less than you would looking for a new QB in 2018. Then you develop a quarterback succession plan through either the draft or trade so that plan B isn’t to hope injury-prone Colt McCoy has a good game in relief. Keeping Cousins also means you don’t trade for Alex Smith and give away in the deal a young defensive back in Kendall Fuller who will probably make the pro bowl this year.

  2. Keep Sean McVay: If you work in an organization, you know who is doing the work, and everything I’ve read and seen suggest Jay Gruden is a fine person who gives a good quote to the media, but the Joe Gibbs-like gene of burning the midnight oil and leaving no detail uncovered seems to have skipped over him. Now that you see what he’s done with the Rams and the lack of preparation this year’s Redskins team has, you have to wonder if the innovation and hard work came from McVay and others while Gruden took the credit. Many a company has had to make the hard choice of firing the senior executive at the top because they knew the junior guy was the future. The Redskins needed to do that, or at least sign him to a long-term deal with the promise of making him the next head coach. Instead, they let him get away, and with it, a lot of excitement around the offense.

  3. Sign Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator. The Redskins have acquired this season a lot more defensive talent, but the parade of defensive coordinators the team has elevated to that position have done less with more just about every year. Phillips was a proven talent who would have gotten a lot more out of the defense, because he’s done it at just about every place he’s been. You would also have a veteran presence on the staff that could help a young guy like McVay if you chose to make him the head coach. But the Redskins passed on him and could have had him not once, but on two different occasions.

  4. Give the keys to the car to Scot McCloughan. He was getting results. He didn’t hit on all his draft choices, but he was transforming the team with what he called “tough guys” and he was a football guy. People believed in him. You do these four things, and you end up with stability at QB, confidence in your defensive coordinator, continuity in your general manager, and an exciting young head coach. But in order to accomplish any of that, you would have needed to do one more thing:

  5. Firewall Bruce Allen from the operation. Notice I didn’t say “fire.” It has appeared to me that Allen is pretty important to owner Dan Snyder in trying to get a great deal on a new stadium, and if one of your potential locations is Virginia, you don’t fire the brother of a former Virginia governor and former U.S. Senator from Virginia. I get that. You need all the political firepower and relationships in the Old Dominion you can get. But Allen seems to be a classic bureaucrat who doesn’t make tough decisions, wants to be the face on camera, wants credit for everything, and will look you right in the eye with a smile on his face while telling you something somewhat less than the truth. You can’t have this person being team president and expect any meaningful change. He’s the kind of person you see in companies who creates drama and won’t hire someone really smart for fear they will be a threat to their position. Which may be why Allen didn’t sign Cousins when he should have, didn’t try to get Wade Phillips, didn’t try to keep McVay, and probably felt threatened by McCloughan, thus forcing him out.

If these five things had been done – and none of them would have been that difficult to accomplish – I’d argue this year’s Redskins team would win the NFC East again, given how down the rest of the division is. Would they win a playoff game or two? I’m not going that far, but they’d have a chance. They certainly wouldn’t be down 40-0 to a team with only 4 wins on their own home field in December. And it wouldn’t be in front of a crowd so small you could get tickets a few minutes before the game for $10.

But they didn’t. And here we are.

In only three years.


Comments 1

Guest - Bruce (@brm90) (website) on Tuesday, 11 December 2018 08:46
Mediocrity? No, Misery.

The rare periods of success were only blips on the sustained period of misery that marks the Dan Snyder regime.

The rare periods of success were only blips on the sustained period of misery that marks the Dan Snyder regime.
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