December 6, 2010

Have the Redskins Really Changed the Culture Under Mike Shanahan?

A column for SB Nation DC
Things are certainly souring quickly on this new era for the Washington Redskins under Mike Shanahan. A pair of early season wins over Green Bay and Philadelphia brought hope that Shanahan and Son were turning the page on a decade's worth of futility in the Nation's Capital. However, a loss in Detroit and a beat down at home against the Eagles on Monday Night Football quickly sent expectations out the window. It's only gotten worse after a pair of gutless defeats in the past two weeks. Anyway you spin it, it's the same old Redskins.
Shanahan's grace period won't last long after his Redskins dropped their second consecutive divisional game in blowout fashion to the New York Giants 31-7. They were outplayed in every facet of the game from start to finish, and minus a swinging gate play to end the first half, it wasn't much different than last year's shellacking under the much-maligned Jim Zorn.
In fact with each passing week, I'm having a hard time distinguishing between this year's Redskins and last year's. No, I didn't expect a magical Super Bowl run out of this team, but I did hope to see a solid effort put in every time Washington took the field. Instead I have a terrible feeling the Redskins haven't been emotionally invested in a game since before their bye week. Again, let me reiterate: I don't mind the losing. It's just the way the team has been losing which stings. The culture simply hasn't changed like we were promised, and that's what hurts.
We were promised a new brand of football where the team would play 60 minutes and take pride in their performance. I'm not seeing that from these guys. The down and out mentality the franchise claimed to have cast off is still present and seems to have eaten at the very core of a once-proud organization, regardless of the changes.
It's easy to point fingers amidst the carnage, but I think the situation runs deeper than the mismanagement of Dan Snyder, the micromanagement of Mike Shanahan or the cardiovascular endurance of Donovan McNabb. Obviously, none of those problems have benefited the Redskins, but they don't quite touch the heart of the matter. The simple truth is that many of the core players on this squad just don't know how to win anymore.
One or two wins can't erase the memories of seasons worth of mediocrity from players like Santana MossLondon FletcherRocky McIntoshCarlos RogersChris Cooley and others. A few devastating losses will swiftly bring those memories back to the forefront. Many players on the roster are incapable of sustaining success on the football field for a full season, and after losing to the lowly Lions for the second straight season, they lost confidence.
Of course, the Redskins as a whole aren't very good, but you can't name another team who manages to make more untimely errors than Washington. And it isn't just one or two players - it's an epidemic plaguing anyone and everyone. False starts turn third and shorts to third and longs, missed passes by McNabb, dropped passes from numerous receivers when McNabb does deliver on target, missed tackles, over pursuit from the linebackers and the list goes on. The inconsistent play is found from top to bottom, from the opening kick-off to the final gun. The Redskins don't believe in themselves and the countless self-inflicted wounds attest to their lack of faith in themselves and the system.

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