The Redskins’ fans that were lucky enough to be around for the good times in Washington in the 80’s through the early 90’s were the lucky ones. The Hogs, the Posse and the vaunted Skins defense, combined with three Super Bowl wins, captivated fans around the world . It’s hard to believe the Redskins were once widely viewed as a well-run organization on and off the field.
Unfortunately, the glory days seem like a distant memory. Sadly, this year has been a wakeup call for many. Although Washington has drafted well over the last couple of seasons, the culture is at a stalemate and the coaches have only compounded the teams’ issues. This year’s issues seem to lead directly to HC Jay Gruden and Defensive Coordinator Greg Manusky’s inability to keep pace with the rest of the league. These two are on a long list of failed hires by team owner Daniel Snyder.
Many could argue that Marty Schottenheimer, who coached the team for only one year in 2001 and promptly ousted underperforming GM Vinny Cerrato, had this team on a fast track to success. It was well documented that Snyder believed he could do a better job with the roster as opposed to Schottenheimer. Snyder denied Schottenheimer’s request for control over players & personnel and promptly fired him after an 8-8 season. Both the media and fans were shocked and believed Schottenheimer should have been given at least 2-3 seasons to build a winner.
Fans had high hopes for the return of revered coach Joe Gibbs who made his second stint as the Redskins coach in 2004. Sadly, he left coaching for the second time in 2007. Although the tragic death of Redskins’ safety Sean Taylor weighed heavily on Gibbs, which ultimately was the precursor to his untimely departure, some believe that Gibbs wasn’t happy with the direction of the team and meddling of Snyder.
Admitting There’s a Problem
In 2010, Snyder hired Mike Shanahan as the coach and executive vice president, giving him significant control over the roster and staff. It was well documented that Shanahan wanted to trade for former Broncos QB Jay Cutler, as opposed to trading the farm to move up to the #2 overall selection for Robert Griffin III, in the 2012 NFL draft. Fans are well aware of how that coach/player saga ended. But one thing remained the same; Snyder shifted the blame to the coach and staff, rather than realizing his ego and personal relationship with Griffin compromised the situation.
Fast forward to present day, with current Redskins’ President Bruce Allen, who also acts as the team’s General Manager. Allen has only compounded the issues that owner Daniel Snyder has created. Many believe that Snyder’s admiration for Allen stems from Allen’s father George Allen’s accomplishments when he coached the Redskins from 1971-1977. Furthermore, some believe that the looming potential D.C. stadium deal hinges on Bruce Allen’s political connections.
Allen has the reputation as a difficult executive to do business with. Many agents and GMs around the league have shied away from interacting with Allen based on his inability to compromise. Allen is the NFL version of your 90-year-old Grandpa haggler who thinks everything (and every player) is over-priced. His stubbornness and old school ways have led to over 40 Redskins’ employees resigning. His reputation as a micro-manager is well known and some have even have gone on-record that he is unrelenting in his poor treatment toward colleagues.
It came to a head with the firing of, former President of Business Operation and COO, Brian Lafemina. It is believed that Snyder, along with Allen, refused to heed the advice and make necessary changes to improve fan approval through game day experience, ticket sales, improved attendance and social media marketing.
One thing fans agree on is that Snyder needs to take a long look in the mirror and reconsider the role of Bruce Allen. Admitting that there’s a problem and taking the steps to fix it must include moving on from the old ideas that Bruce Allen brings to the table. This team needs some drastic changes and it starts with owner Daniel Snyder.
Handing the Reins to the “Football People”
There’s something to be said for those who understand the game, as well as the ins and outs of the modern-day NFL. Let’s refer to these individuals as “football people”. The Redskins do have football people in the building that are ready to step up. Current, Senior VP of Player Personnel Doug Williams and Eric Schaffer who serves as the Senior VP of Football Operations/General Counsel, are both qualified to replace Allen and should seriously be considered. As far as the open General Manager vacancy, Redskins’ Director of College Scouting, Kyle Smith, is the unanimous choice in this writer’s opinion. Respected pro and college scouts, around the league, agree that Smith is a great talent evaluator and ahead of his years when it comes to football operations.
Finding an Identity Through Innovation
The best idea is to promote current Redskins offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell to replace underperforming Jay Gruden. It’s been reported that this week’s matchup versus the New York Giants will determine Gruden’s future as Washington’s Head Coach. This could be an ideal try out for O’Connell with the Redskins potentially sitting at 0-4 if they lose a 4th straight game.
O’Connell could and should be given the opportunity to show what he can do as the teams HC and primary play caller. His time as a quarterback in New England gave him the opportunity to play and be coached behind, arguably, the best quarterback in Tom Brady and head coach, Bill Belichick, of all time. Learning situational football would be his biggest takeaway during his time in New England and this is exactly what the Redskins need. An in-season change, such as this, has less to do with the Redskins’ short-term success, and more to do with gaining insight into O’Connell’s ability to lead this team with an innovative style going forward.
The lack of in-game adjustments are well documented with Gruden at the helm. During his time as the head coach, Gruden has fallen short as a leader and game manager. He seems to have an excuse for the team’s lack of game execution after every loss, but doesn’t seem to believe in adjusting his style to fit the modern day NFL. Gruden is playing checkers when the rest of the league is playing chess
Although O’Connell is the supposed play caller, it’s evident that Gruden is still the man calling the plays and it seems he has been reluctant to give up those duties. Some argue that O’Connell’s age and lack of experience make him a risky choice as the next head coach, but what better way to find out with a season in which everything has gone wrong.
This team whiffed on the last opportunity, when they lost former Redskins OC Sean McVay to the LA Rams, who hired him as their HC after the 2016 season and later appeared in Super Bowl LIII. Granted, the Redskins made the playoffs with Gruden when McVay was the OC, but the first-round exit showed they weren’t close to being a true contender. Many around the league believed in McVay, but Washington refused to see the talent they had in front of them.
If this team shows zero improvement under O’Connell, then the Redskins could turn their attention to innovative and highly sought after, Kansas City OC, Eric Bieniemy or another up-and-comer this offseason.
One thing is certain, the Redskins need to try something new and innovative and it starts with removing Allen from the day-to-day operations over team & player personnel. In addition, with a league favoring offensive production, putting their faith in an offensive minded head coach such as O’Connell this year and possibly beyond, could be just the gamble that ends up bringing this team back to relevance.
By Adam Aniba
Follow on Twitter @TheBandGreport
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