February 14, 2011

Character Counts In Redskins Rebuild Effort

A column for SB Nation DC.

It has been said that drama finds the Washington Redskins. Dan Snyder is suing a newspaper, Albert Haynesworth is suffering from the ill effects of road rage, and even in an offseason devoid of free agency, the Redskins have taken center stage. Without a doubt, drama is the key word-but let's be honest-they bring it upon themselves.

The Redskins modus operandi has been to lure fans back to FedEx Field year after year with marquee names, promising they will be the ones to restore success to a woebegone organization. Each splash brings a rush of excitement which comes crashing down by midseason amidst the realization that mediocrity reigns supreme. The results of this cavalier approach have been disastrous as Washington has never made it beyond the divisional round of the playoffs since Joe Gibbs' first retirement.

We could argue for the entire offseason about what ails this team. There's no shortage of ideas on what the Redskins must do to win on the football field and succeed beyond the annual offseason spoils. Fortify the trenches, build through the draft, snag that elusive franchise quarterback, implement a system with staying power; all of these philosophies possess their merits and you can find supporters for just about any theory under the sun. Analysis comes from just about everywhere these days and I'm sure I've heard about 100 different formulas on what it takes to become a winning franchise.

But in football there isn't any one way to win. The Redskins of old had a tremendous offensive line. This season, the Packers didn't. The Patriots and Colts have based a decade of winning upon the draft and it didn't hurt that they bagged franchise quarterbacks along the way. Meanwhile the Ravens and Buccaneers got by with solid, dependable veterans under center. The Rams made their mark on offense while the '85 Bears won with defense. Terrell Davis carried Denver to the Super Bowl in '97, but the Steelers weren't riding their 23rd-ranked rushing offense to a berth in Glendale.

The point is that there isn't any one thing which these championship-winning teams had in common aside from the actual accomplishment of winning a championship. Title runs come in all shapes and sizes; they aren't limited to one breed of team. The current state of the NFL is a testament to this. A commitment to a particular brand of football is important but innovation and flexibility within such a system are just as crucial.

However, on-field excellence isn't what I'm getting at. The other side of the blueprint to success is more clear cut and less debatable. A high level of character is essential to providing a stable locker room where ego is downplayed and vocal leadership maintains order. A delicate balance is necessary to affirm such stability exists year in and year out. And at this juncture, the Redskins haven't learned to embrace a culture that fosters such a balance.

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