Zac Boyer will be entering his third season covering the Washington Redskins for The Free Lance-Star this fall. Make sure to follow Zac on Twitter (@ZacBoyer) for the latest updates or e-mail him with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mike Shanahan can put a proven plan into action
As we switch our focus from Mike Shanahan’s comments yesterday back to college prospects—former Auburn QB Cam Newton is expected to facilitate that transition by speaking to reporters today—we can’t let them pass without fully considering the magnitude of what Shanahan suggested.
Quarterback Donovan McNabb, defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth and running back Clinton Portis—each a marquee player for the franchise at one point—all could be jettisoned in the coming weeks. Add the possibility that starters Santana Moss, Rocky McIntosh and Carlos Rogers could leave in free agency, and the Redskins could be on the brink of a more dramatic roster overhaul in Shanahan’s second year than the first.
That those players might be elsewhere next season is not a fresh possibility. We’ve known for months this could happen, but Shanahan gave it a sense of immediacy yesterday.
This quote stood out to me most, enough so that I used it at the top of my story in this morning’s paper.
“We’re going to focus on character and guys that want to be a part of this football team long term,” he said. “We want to try to get younger, but we’re not going to do it all overnight.”
By establishing those guidelines, Shanahan addressed the exact reasons why McNabb, Haynesworth and Portis—and perhaps Moss (turns 32 in June) and Rogers (30 in July)—might not be back.
Shanahan has apparently realized, after analyzing his roster following a 6-10 debut, what successful NFL teams and perceptive Redskins followers have known for some time now.
Sure, every team wants young, character guys who buy into the team concept and are committed to working hard. But the Redskins haven’t backed up those common desires with action. They have relied too heavily on adding free agents instead of grooming draft picks and other young players in their program.
You know how many players on the Green Bay Packers’ 53-man roster on Super Bowl Sunday were draft picks, undrafted college free agents or products of their practice squad? 39. The Redskins’ total for their season finale on Jan. 2: 25.
Packers general manager Ted Thompson explained yesterday that he learned his approach from former Packers GM Ron Wolf.
“He was a strong believer that you build the core of your team around the draft,” Thompson said. “Certainly free agency is another avenue, but you do that a little bit more selectively. That’s just the way we were taught.”
Shanahan already erred in trading two draft picks for McNabb, and the consequences of that mistake will plague the team for years in the form of opportunity cost. Maybe it has taught him a lesson, though. (Granted, it’s one he should have known by now.) Shanahan indicated yesterday that he wants to cease the franchise’s practice of trading away picks.
“A lot of times, Washington in the past has traded away a lot of draft choices and they didn’t have many draft choices, but hopefully with the system that we have, hopefully we’ll have a lot more draft picks,” he said.
That’s a start, but the organization has to follow through. Building through the draft is ideal, but it takes time.
The questions then become: How patient is the fan base? What about the owner’s patience? Would Shanahan survive one or two more seasons without making the playoffs?
Those are the types of issues every losing franchise faces when deciding on a plan. By getting rid of McNabb, Haynesworth and Portis, Shanahan would take a step toward enacting his. How they replace the departed stars, however, will tell us more about the franchise’s direction.