…The Road to Returning the Redskins to Relevance

A Piece by Guest Writer, Kevin Cash (@TheRealKACash)

Most fairy tales start off “Once Upon a Time,” and those are usually the good ones. In today’s society most Washingtonian sports fans often start off conversations about their beloved hometown teams with those exact words. For the most part, as of late there has been little to celebrate and much of our glory is located in the past in a land far, far away.  In comparison to fairy tales Washington sports teams have been much like Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. The preceding Disney Princesses share the bad luck, poison, dormancy and just plain ol’ misfortune of the teams located in the Nation’s Capital. But as of late one player has taken the Washington Redskins’ organization, the NFL and the sports world by storm, that player is Robert Griffin III…RG3.  Most recently Griffin has developed quite the following and as it pertains to those fairy tales now is the time the fairest of them all is revealed, the team that has been lying dormant for years has awoken and that glass slipper fits.

The Redskins were once a storied franchise and during the 80’s and 90’s had their fair share of fame and title runs, but over the last two decades the team has fallen into a place of mediocrity at best. Years being at the bottom of the NFC East, constant overspending in the offseason that doesn’t pan out in the regular season and an owner who found himself in the crosshairs of irate fans loyal to the burgundy and gold. To be honest I don’t know when the franchise really hit rock bottom, maybe it was the second coming of Joe Gibbs when we saw a coach who the game had clearly passed by, or the hiring of Jim Zorn, a quarterback coach bumped up to a head coach after a worthy candidate couldn’t be found or maybe even way before that. All I know was the Redskins were bad and for a while it was looking like things would be getting worse before they got better. There are 2 things that are essential to a successful football team: 1.) a good quarterback and 2.) a good head coach and for a long time the Redskins had neither. We saw the likes of Tony Banks, Heath Shuler, Gus Frerotte, Shane Matthews and Patrick Ramsey. There are a few more names I could type but my blood is boiling just going down the list. The motto was true for the Redskins when they say “the team takes on the identity of the coach” because they were indeed washed up has-beens.

Daniel Snyder purchased the team in 1999 and in the infant and grade school years of his ownership made all the football related decisions, employed Vinny Cerrato as the Vice President and the downward spiral had begun. Neither knew much about football and it showed, often signing players who were stars in other places but clearly past their prime when they got here. Big paydays in free agency with no payoff on the field had been the case so much that the Redskins were given the nickname the “off-season champs.” Players wanted to come here but it had very little to do with playing and much more to do with getting that last big payday before riding off in the sunset.

Three years ago Snyder wised up and realized he had to find a few people who knew the game and hand over all duties to them if he ever wanted to see success as an owner. That decision ending up being the best decision he would ever make even though he would have to wait for results. He announced the hiring of Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen, two guys that have a history in the game and they vowed to return the Redskins organization into a winning one again, but most certainly it would take some time cleaning up everyone else’s mess.

Shanahan and Allen would spend the next two years cleaning house of distractions and dead weight and coming up with a plan to rebuild the team while shortening the process. In his first draft as Redskins coach, he drafted tackle Trent Williams to be an anchor on the line and that usually signals the rebuilding process. The acquisition of a quarterback usually follows. However, in his second draft Shanahan didn’t get his man and instead made the safe decision to select linebacker Ryan Kerrigan to partner with Brian Orakpo as pass-rushers in the Redskins new 3-4 defensive scheme. Following the departure of Donovan McNabb, Shanahan experimented with the Rex Grossman and John beck tandem. To say the least, it was another bad year.

However, there ended up being a silver lining in that losing season because Shanahan’s third go-round at the draft was loaded with quarterbacks he could groom into potential  franchise signal callers. Snyder remained patient with Shanahan and Allen and it paid off big time when the Redskins partnered with the Rams on a blockbuster trade that landed the Redskins the number 2 overall pick and sensational quarterback, Heisman trophy winner Robert Griffin.

Despite landing the most sensational prospect since Peyton Manning, the Redskins still were projected not to make any noise this year. Most analysts felt like they were still missing a few pieces on offense and were in a division where they were inferior to the other teams in it. Most were saying this was a 3-5 win team at best; others were more generous putting them around 6-7 wins but most thought the Redskins wouldn’t be relevant for a few more years.

Week 1, the Redskins got off to a hot start and put up 40 points and outshot the Saints, who were one of the league’s most potent offenses the year before. They then dropped their next two games and were back in the “same ol’ Redskins” discussion despite last second comeback attempts being thwarted at the last second. The Redskins flip-flopped wins and losses over the next few games, flopping in most games on their way to a 3-6 record before the bye week. Then the season changed, for the better. Despite Shanahan publicly saying the last few games would be used as evaluation for the future and was scrutinized for pretty much calling it quits, RG3 stood up in front of the cameras and made the statement that would define the upcoming weeks. The new leader and face of the organization vowed that this team was not done and that they would be better. How much better? 3-0 better! The Redskins got back Pierre Garcon and then rolled in back-to-back-to-back division wins against the Eagles, then Cowboys on Thanksgiving, and then the division leading Giants on the Monday night stage. The streak boosted their division record to 3-1 thus far this season, besting last year’s 2-4 mark already.

Now here we are presently sitting in Redskins’ Nation watching, waiting and optimistic about the remainder of the year. Truly impressed and amazed that a team that most had written off before the season even after drafting Griffin III are in the heat of the playoff race. The team is in good shape to win out, finish with a division record of 5-1 and an impressive 10-6 overall record, finishing the year as NFC East Champs. After years and years and years, AND YEARS of mediocrity and losing season after losing season, the Washington Redskins could potentially be in the playoffs this year, a feat that they haven’t done since 2007.

While a playoff appearance this year won’t erase all the bad, inept and lethargic teams we’ve had to watch represent Chocolate City, it certainly will heal those wounds a whole lot faster. A run in our last 4 games would be a 7 game win streak to end the regular season, a division championship, a playoff berth at the expense of sweeping the Eagles and Cowboys, and a noticed served to the division and the league. In order to play good in December and January, a team must be able to run the football and the Redskins can most certainly do that. The pair of sensational, record breaking rookies named Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris gives the Redskins the league’s best rushing attack and opposing team’s nightmares. The Redskins have been revived and this Christmas will be great in Redskins Nation as we have rushed our way back into relevance.

Hail to the Redskins! I’m Kevin Cash and I approve that message.