February 23, 2011

Redskins Roundtable: Offseason Musings Part One

Coverage of the Redskins is in no short supply on the Internet. Various media outlets and blogs do a fantastic job breaking down all the comings and goings involving this team and without them I honestly wouldn't be able to keep in the loop.

I've been writing this blog for a a few years and this offseason, I felt it would be a good idea to bring in some fresh perspectives to the site. So I reached out to a few of my fellow writers and set up the first Redskins Roundtable on 'Skins Talk.

This will be an occasional feature in which four or five extra voices will address some of the big issues facing the Redskins at that particular time. This time around we examine the draft, free agency, Donovan McNabb, and the culture change Mike Shanahan is bringing about.

The Players:

John Pappas-Pappas is the host of Skinscast and a contributor to Hail! Magazine among other endeavors. Shaun Suisham and Graham Gano are his all-time favorite Redskins and he's pulling for Shanahan to draft Alex Henery in the first round.

Brian Murphy-Murf goes by the name Homer McFanboy and is the Editor-in-Chief of Hail! Magazine. He's another member of Skinscast and has been covering Washington area sports for...well, a very long time.

Ed Sheahin-Ed is one of the nicest guys in the business. He covered the Redskins for CBS Sports in 2009 and is now writing for Sports Fan Live.

Rajan Nanavati-Rajan is the Editor at Redskins Gab and is a Virginia Tech alumnus. So he's alright in my book.

Keely Diven-Keely is a contributor at Redskins Gab and provides the female voice for our Roundtable. If you haven't checked out Redskins Gab be sure to do so. They churn out quality content daily.

That's the lineup for this inaugural edition of the Redskins Roundtable. We're breaking this first one into two parts. Enjoy!





1. Heading into year two under Shanahan how much as he actually changed the culture? What should the team's offseason goals be to ensure the Redskins possess a positive mentality come August (or whenever the hell the season starts).

Pappas: It is difficult to argue the culture of losing has changed, based on the season results. Sure, they finished better than the season prior, but Washington fell off the earth in 2010 with a 5-9 finish. Not sure how good we can feel about 6-10.

But there is a definite change in the locker room. Head coach Mike Shanahan has the players on the same page for the most part. What they lack is talent, across the board. With such a good free agent class they can really help themselves, provided the league and players come to an agreement on the new CBA.

Murf: Redskins players want to play for Mike Shanahan. They know he's got what it takes to win at the highest level, so (for the most part) they're willing to put in the work and happily buy into the program. That's a start.

Now the Redskins just need to get younger and more athletic. Shanahan needs to continue to bring in "his" players on offense, defense and special teams.

Oh, and they need to end the Albert Haynesworth saga. Dude's officially become more dangerous off the field than on it. Get rid of the guy now - even if it means you cut your losses and get nothing in return.

Ed: Heading into his second season Shanahan has established himself as the man in charge in Washington. Players tested him right from the start with Albert Haynesworth skipping offseason workouts and showing up to camp out of shape.

For the most part, Shanahan was a strong leader and maintained his composure. With the exception of the McNabb benching in Detroit and subsequent justification for sitting him with the game on the line, I thought Shanahan maintained his leadership skills to the very end.

The Redskins' offseason focus should be on getting younger and hungrier. They still lack hard-nosed, old-school football players who don't play for the money, but for the love of the game. Go out and get LB Tank Carder from TCU or OL Stefen Wisniewski from Penn State. London Fletcher can't play forever. Who will fill his shoes as a leader on and off the field?

Rajan: I think we'll find out about whether or not the culture of this team has changed during this particular offseason.

I really like what Shanahan and Allen did last year, if nothing else, because of the contrast from offseasons past: eschewing the big name free agents and looking for fits from other people's scrap heaps. They signed guys like Ryan Torain, Kory Lichtensteiger, Anthony Armstrong, Brandon Banks, Ma'ake Kemoeatu, and Phillip Buchanon for pennies on the dollar, in terms of NFL salaries. Even trading for Jammal Brown was a solid deal: acquiring a Pro Bowl offensive tackle for a couple of mid round picks.

Now, none of these guys are Pro Bowlers, and some of them may not even be back next year, but the almost "Belichickian" philosophy is sound: find guys who may not be the biggest names but fit your system and have something to prove.

So the question becomes: after a very disappointing season in 2010, do Shanahan and Allen get impatient, dip into Snyder's checkbook, and start splurging on big name free agents in this historically deep class? Is Redskins park going to, once again, become the country club for overpaid underperformers? Or, will they stay the course and keep building a team the way that has proven to be successful for the long term: supplementing smart drafting with smart free agent signings?

If Shanahan and Allen keep looking for guys who are eager to earn their success in Washington, and not just cash in on past accolades, then we know things are changing for sure.

Keely: Shanahan seems to have changed the culture by commanding more respect from the players and taking more control of personnel and strategy decisions than Jim Zorn did.

Shanahan handled players with a borderline “my way or the highway” approach, which didn’t always bring out the best in his team. He clashed with Albert Haynesworth, dismissed Devin Thomas, and benched Donovan McNabb. If Shanahan can strike the right balance between boss and advocate, he should have better working relationships with his most difficult players going into the next season.

2. What should the draft philosophy be this year? Will Washington take a QB or look to fix other holes on the roster?

Pappas: We don't watch enough college ball to have an informed opinion (other than to proclaim we don't like Cam Newton for this team - not sold on him). But they are going to have to invest in a quarterback no later than the second round.

Team Shanahan made it clear they don't like Donovan McNabb for their offense. It's time to accept it and move on. We say quarterback in round 1, and offensive line in the 2nd.

Murf: Start with Donovan McNabb and Rex Grossman. If the front office doesn't believe either of them is the solution, then look at what free agents are going to be available and decide if they're the answer. If not, then take a good, hard look at this particular class of rookie quarterbacks and see if any of them does it for you. If none of the above works ... the team is screwed.

My radar is locked in on Cam Newton and Jake Locker. I can't get past the feeling that one of those two names will be on the Redskins when it's all said and done.

Ed: First and foremost the Donovan McNabb issue needs to be resolved. No disrespect to Rex Grossman, but the Redskins playoff hopes diminish if he's the man next season. With a motivated McNabb in search of some redemption, the Redskins can contend for a playoff spot.

Sounds far fetched? Think about it, the Redskins had a chance to win in the fourth quarter in all but two games (Philadelphia at home on Monday night and the NY Giants in the Meadowlands). I truly believe the Redskins are 2-3 impact players away from contending.

Keely: The Redskins have to use the draft wisely this year. Coming off last year’s draft when Washington had few picks, the club needs to show that it’s capable of making sound draft decisions to build the team for the future.

Resorting to the free agent market has always been the preferred path of the Snyder-owned franchise, but has never paid off. This year, drafting a quarterback should be the top priority. With a class of talented QBs, either Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert should be available to take with the 10th overall pick.

Part two will be up tomorrow.

No comments: